The Domesday survey recorded only one manor in Linstead. This consisted of 80 acres of land with about another 40 acres, which was probably integral with it situated in Huntingfield. There were also 8 acres of Linstead included in the valuation of Withersdale.

St Margaret's, Linstead
The first question that arises from the entry is, where was this small manorial estate, particularly as the modern parishes of Linstead Magna and Linstead Parva occupy together about 1800 acres? The usual explanation of the name Linstead is Flax Farm, but an alternative is Gulley Farm, there being a tributary running northwards down a small valley into the main stream at Linstead Green. This would place the Domesday manor with its centre in the vicinity of modern Vicarage Farm in Linstead Parva parish and its Huntingfield lands extending across the southern stream boundary towards Newall Hall Farm. Evidence of a Roman farmstead has been found to the north of the latter farm suggesting that this block of land was part of a Roman estate, which might have formed the nucleus of the later Saxon manor of Linstead. This northern siting of the Domesday manor also fits with the position of the small Withersdale property, which still exists in Linstead Parva parish. On the other hand, three ‘gulls’ formed by meltwater from plateau ice, meet at the crossroads by Linstead Church, and this is sufficiently noteworthy to give rise to a gulley connotation to describe the community.

The earliest records of manorial holdings in Linstead appear only about 60 years after the Domesday survey, when William de Cadomo gave lands in Linstead to Sibton Abbey. The abbey was founded by William in 1149. He was the third son of Robert Fitz Walter who was reputed to be the brother of William Malet. Malet was tenant-in-chief of Linstead Manor and also held a large number of other manors in the vicinity, including Sibton. Robert had married Sibilla, daughter and heir of Ralph de Cheyney and their descendents took the maternal name of Cheyney.

William Cheyney's bequest eventually formed Linstead Grange, which in the Extents of the abbey of 1325 consisted of 78 acres, mostly arable land. It is reasonable to assume that this grange became the nucleus of Abbey Farm in Linstead Parva after the Dissolution. Therefore, William Cheyney apparently became lord of the manor of Linstead on the death of his father Robert and this was the Domesday manor, which was located in the modern parish of Linstead Parva. In keeping with the pioneering character of the Cistercians it is likely that the new monastic community cleared their Linstead property, setting up the grange on former wasteland of the manor. The description of the abbey's Linstead estate as: "Thirty perches lying detached beside le Grenemere" in 1325 probably referred to what is nowadays still called in Suffolk a 'Grimmer', a very murky green pond. (It might also be an early ,reference to a Green, for the pond just north of Abbey Farm does lie beside Morrell Haugh Green.) The two other Greens in Linstead Parva are of the fairly numerous, but easily overlooked, roadside-verge type, such as Hightown Green at Rattlesden. These two at Linstead Parva, Blacksmith's Green and Collipy's, lie along the fairly busy valley road, with its natural water supply.

The final piece of evidence for the northern situation of the primary manor is the existence of three Greens in Linstead Parva. There are no traces of Greens in Linstead Magna. The greens of Linstead Parva occupy 30 acres which is large in relation to the size of the parish, although the actual area is about the same as that set aside as commons in adjacent parishes The absence of greens in Linstead Magna indicates that the expansion of farming to the south of the manor took place without the creation of a traditional common-right grazing system for the tenants and farm workers.

As to why the Domesday parish was so large in relation to the amount of cultivated land, we could resort to its origins as a large Roman estate, which declined with the coming of the Saxons. The existence of so large a land unit in 1085,of low agricultural producitivity must have had its boundaries established in earlier times when it was much more intensively farmed. Certainly by the time of the Survey the whole area of the Linsteads was far removed from the original primeval forest.

There is evidence from pottery finds in Chediston, that the ridge separating it from Cookley was settled from Neolithic times. As far as Linstead is concerned, crop marks near Magna Farm Cottages indicate an ancient system of small irregular shaped fields, which could be pre-Roman. Similar crop marks delineate part of the irregular parish boundary which runs through the modern fields, without any alignment to modern hedge between Cratfield and Metfield.

Evidence such as this, points to the antiquity of at least some sections of the divisions between parishes in this part of Suffolk.

From the situation of its parish church, Linstead Magna appears to have been based on a manor consisting largely of arableland, which developed after 1085,close to the manor of Cratfield. Perhaps it was an extension of this more densely worked estate into wastelands belonging to Linstead. So far, we have no evidence as to the reasons for the creation of two Linsteads. When a dividing line was drawn, it was probably because the southern portion had grown sufficiently in both wealth and population to support a second church and require separate administration.

All we do know for certain is that two Linsteads had been formed by 1313 when Linstead Magna Manor was in the hands of William de Huntingfield. Its manor house was described as Pondhall in 1421 and was then held by the Everard family. From the name Pondhall the manor house could have been situated at Church Farm, Linstead Hall Farm or Lower Farm all of which are close to the site of the parish church and have several large ancient ponds around them.

William de Huntingfield was also lord of the manor of Linstead Parva. In William's lifetime there was a church in each parish because he presented them both to Mendham Priory. This indicates that the manor of Linstead Magna was financially well established by the latter part of the 13th century. In fact it was probably doing very well because its church was only partly appropriated to the priory.

The final problem to be considered is the siting of the church of Linstead Parva. Bowen’s map of Suffolk drawn up in the early part of the 18th century places its parish church about where Vicarage Farm now stands. He also marked Linstead Chapel where the modern parish church of St Margaret’s stands. As yet there is no visible or written evidence to support Bowen’s mapping of a parish church distinct from St Margaret’s. The name vicarage is not significant in this respect because Vicarage Farm refers to a vicarage which was created at the beginning of the 20th century following the linking of the two Linsteads in one perpetual curacy based on St Margaret’s. The church purchased a house, which had been leased to the vicar.

It may be that Bowen’s parish church had been abandoned by 1700, although he actually showed St Peter’s Linstead Magna, as a ruin on his map. The latter was intact and being used at this time and Bowen could have made an error in using a 'ruin’ symbol for Linstead Magna, which should have been applied to Linstead Parva.

A church dedicated to St Margaret has been the parish church of Linstead Parva since at least the beginning of the 16th century. This conclusion is drawn from wills of this period. On the other hand, although the chancel of modern St Margaret’s dates from the end of the 12th century, the western end was at one time completely ruined, its stone being removed, later to be replaced by brick. The use of brick in the re-building and the style of the windows in the main body of the reconstructed portion, indicate that it was probably brought into use again towards the end of the 15th century.

From its position in relation to the modern parish boundary with Chediston, it is likely that St Margaret’s was originally on the Chediston side. Indeed, Chapel Farm, just across the road to the west of the church, is still in Chediston. In this respect, there was a dispute in the early part of the 16th century between the parishioners of Linstead Parva and Chediston as to whether St Margaret’s belonged to Chediston or Linstead. The Commissioners decided in favour of Linstead but the fact that the dispute was taken seriously suggests that the people of Linstead were in need of a church in the second half of the 15th century and took over the ruined chapel, which had once been used by Chediston residents, and restored it for their services. Chapel Farm at the cross roads points to the take-over of a chapel-at-ease.

Possibly the chapel had been the church of one of Chediston western manors This could have been Hovells or another, perhaps based on the large deserted moated site of The Grove to the north west.

References to a law suit in the 16th century provide evidence for another Linstead manor called Hovells. There was a large manor of Hovells in Chediston, based on Chediston Grange, which extended along the high ground separating Chediston from Cookley. It is possible that the Linstead manor of Hovells was created by the transfer of the western portion of this Chediston manor, including the lands of Valley Farm to Linstead Parva parish. This would account for the odd parcel of land containing Valley Farm which projects eastwards from the parish and the name Morrelhough Green, which is probably a corruption of Hovellhough Green. It appears that parish boundaries were adjusted from time during the Middle Ages to time as the according to the economics of their component estates, but the evidence is hard to come by.

Although all of these events are very conjectural, it can be hypothesised that Linstead Parva and the western portion of Chediston became depopulated sometime between 1300 and 1450. Linstead church and the Chediston chapel then fell into decay This period coincides with the Black Death and the general depopulation that followed. In this connection, in addition to the old earthworks of The Grove in Chediston, there is a large moated site near Grove Farm in Linstead Magna and another set of deserted moats in the south of this parish around the site of the parish church. Local opinion holds that these sites represent centres of farming estates before the Black Death, when the population of the two Linsteads was probably the highest its ever been.

Linstead's nineteenth-century population rose and declined less than most of the rural parishes of the central clays. In Magna, the numbers varied between ninety and 20, reaching a peak of 134 in 1811. It has now settled down at about fifty. Parva, along the valley road, climbed to 227 in 1861, but has dwindled to a hundred or so in 1971.

White's 1855 Directory shows something of the anatomy of this community in its Victorian heyday. Felix Godfrey, in Linstead Parva, appeared proudly as 'threshing-machine owner'. The other villagers then included the victualler of the Greyhound, the blacksmith, the tailor, the boot-and-shoe maker, and a cooper, as well as seven farmers : a community as self-contained as that of the Anglo Saxon one at West Stow, and with of course a great deal more craftsmanship and skill in working the land.

Since then, the decline in numbers may have been accompanied by a decline in sense of community. By 1970 The Greyhound had reverted, through lack of business, to a private dwelling; but cars had already rendered redundant the two old footpaths that converged on the Greyhound across the fields from far-off easterly and westerly farmsteads and hamlets. The small wooden Village Hall, close by, can hardly be reckoned a substitute. Nor is the garage, now occupying (as in so many villages) the site of the blacksmith's shop, a full replacement for the smithy of those days when the routine of the farm, and the management of the fields, were so largely centred on the horses. Tailoring and shoemaking are supplanted by the impersonal reach-me-down of the towns, and coopering has withdrawn to the big breweries. The row of council houses by the automatic telephone exchange and mobile phone mast have stabilised the population but it is probably much lower now than in the late middle ages.

Chapel Farm, actually in Chediston

Chapel Farm: an outpost of Chediston on the Linstead boundary