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Yeoman


A charming little seaside town, with beautifully planned gardens, a pier and stretches of golden sands-such is Southwold, which, standing upon a hill but a stone's throw from Dunwich, the ancient capital of East Anglia, has prospered exceedingly, whilst its once famous neighbour has practically disappeared. Not that Southwold has been without trouble of its own, as much money has been expended in protecting the town from the forces of Nature, when the sea has been lashed to fury and storms have played havoc with the coast; whilst in 1659 a terrific fire destroyed the market house and town hall, besides between two and three hundred dwelling-houses and the major portion of goods belonging to the inhabitants. This immense conflagration not only ruined over three hundred families, but also: caused damage to the extent of some £40,000, which amount, tremendous even in these days, was at that time colossal. Because of this catastrophe a great number of people left the place never to return, whilst the loss of so many buildings failed to improve the town from an architectural point of view. Fortunately, however, the magnificent old church of St. Edmund was spared, and this noble edifice, with its hundred feet tower, is a place of absorbing interest, and the Mecca of everybody except the most casual visitor.

Consisting of chancel, nave with seven bays, aisles and South porch and Western tower, the latter containing a clock and eight bells, St. Edmund's, the register of which commences in 1602, stands in an attractive position facing trimly kept greens, whilst in its churchyard a number of rose-trees, planted in rows like sentinels, make a splash of colour infinitely pleasing and original. Outside the gates are the ancient stocks, and in the churchyard itself is the tomb of Thomas Gardner, the famous historian of Dunwich, who passed away in 1769, and is buried between his two wives, the epitaphs of whom begin with "Honour" and "Virtue," thus giving point to the quaint verse which adorns his stone:

"Between Honour and Virtue here doth lie
The remains of old antiquity."

Another grave of interest contains the remains of Agnes Strickland, authoress of an account of the Queens of England, who died in 1874. A magnificent South porch, on the door of which is some fine carving, including the head of St. Edmund, leads into the church, and above this is a chamber supposed to have originally been used as the town arsenal. In this is a very real reminder of the past in the shape of a massive iron-bound chest. Worm-eaten it is indeed, but this is not to be wondered at, for it is believed that the chest was here at the time the church was erected-that is, some four hundred and fifty years back, when nothing but the best was considered good enough and things were made to last. The roof of the chancel is beautifully decorated with figures of angels holding scrolls, whilst its deep blue colouring, in which silver stars are gleaming, is almost awe-inspiring in its splendour. On the South wall is a monument to Jenney, the widow of Captain James Welsh, R.N. She died in 1832, and it is recorded that "Her Manners were Elegant, Delicate, Social. Her Conduct Religious, Charitable, Affectionate"-a tribute which scorns somewhat strange to modern ideas.

Perhaps some of the finest work is in connection with the screens, which are some of the most magnificent, not only in the Eastern Counties, but in all England. Wonderfully carved and painted with, amongst other figures, representations of the Prophets and Apostles, they never fail to excite the admiration of the spectator, and go to prove how competent were the craftsmen of old. Another example of the skill of these men is seen in the pulpit, which, although restored and repainted some years back, still retains more than a trace of the ancient glory it originally possessed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the font, which formerly had various carvings on its eight sides-carvings which have disappeared these many years, probably owing to the activities of Will Dowsing, who also destroyed a large number of "superstitious pictures," as he termed the stained glass windows. However, some ancient pieces of the latter were discovered centuries later, and can now be seen decorating a window m the South aisle. In this aisle are several floorstones, one of which bears the following:

"Here lyeth The Body of Mary Rich Relict of John Rich of London gent who Departed this Life the 29th of November ann 1677 aged 77."

The vestry contains a chest, on which is a very fine representation of St. George and the Dragon. There are also some excellent old stalls with the usual carvings. In the doorway of the rood-loft is "Jack-Smite-the-Clock," which formerly stood in the tower. Clad in armour, and holding a sword and battle-axe, at one time it worked mechanically, but now the pulling of a cord is necessary to make it perform its duty -that of striking a bell at the time of Divine service. There are two chapels, North and South, the former being dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the latter to the Virgin Mary. In the roof of the South chapel are carved the faces of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk in the time of Henry the Eighth, and his wife, Mary Tudor, sister of the King and grandmother of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. Previous to becoming the wife of the Duke she had contracted a marriage with Louis the Twelfth of France, who died three months later, and according to some accounts 'his widow was very far from being sorry. In this chapel is also a piscina, whilst there is another and a sedile in the sanctuary. An object of interest, showing Southwold's association with maritime matters, is the model of a lifeboat suspended from the roof of the North aisle.

It seems that the first religious edifice was erected in Southwold during the reign of King John, but this was subordinate to the church at Reydon, or Rissemere as it was then called. In fact, only the ordinary form of service was allowed, and to obtain the benefit of the sacraments and for marriage and other ceremonies, the inhabitants were compelled to journey to Reydon, apparently a more important place then than it is at the present day, as Southwold was merely a hamlet of its neighbour. In the first quarter of the fifteenth century, however, the original building was destroyed by fire, and although the erection of a new structure gave the parishioners privileges thy had hitherto failed to enjoy, it was not until 1751 that it became a separate curacy, and over a hundred years later before it possessed an incumbent of its own.

Mention has already been made of the dreadful fire which well-nigh brought Southwold to the dust, and through this event many ancient records were lost, and much that would throw light upon its early history was destroyed. One curious incident emerged from this, which proves that even such a tragedy may have its brighter side for some folk, as it appears that through the destruction of the court-baron rolls the majority of copy-holders in the town became freeholders-a thing which would scarcely happen to-day!

Originally a mere collection of fishermen's huts, Southwold afterwards became a place of some importance, and Henry the Seventh "in consideration of the industry and good services of the men of Southwold" made the town a free borough, after which it was governed by two bailiffs, a recorder and various lesser officers. About the same time the inhabitants were engaged in the fishing industry on a large scale, their ships going as far afield as Iceland. After a time, however, this declined, but improved again in the middle of the eighteenth century when two piers were erected and docks built, and through these improvements not only did the fishermen come into their own, but an extensive trade in merchandise was carried on, whilst as long ago as the early part of the nineteenth century it commenced to attract visitors in the Summer-although scarcely in the same numbers as it does at the present.

Perhaps the most famous episode in connection with the town is that terrific battle which raged between the English and French fleets on one side and the Dutch on the other. The English ships were at anchor in Sole–a corruption of Southwold-Bay on May 28th, 1672, under the command of the Duke of York, afterwards James the Second, and this office apparently considered the Dutch had no intention of attacking, for many of his men were ashore, and had even gone so far afield as Framlingham to enjoy the delights of the Whitsun Fair. These sailors, rudely awakened by the sound of gun-fire, hurried post-haste to the coast, but none of them were able to rejoin their ships, and thus had the mortification of hearing all the turmoil of battle without being able to assist their comrades-a mortification which was probably intensified by the fact that a thick fog hid the scene from their anxious eyes. Apparently the only officer of the English Navy who realised the hazardous position in which the vessels were placed was the Earl of Sandwich, commander of one of the squadrons, who warned the Duke of the danger, only to be cotemptuously repulsed and sneered at for a coward -which he most certainly was not, as was to be proved later.

What a battle that must have been, and what a thrill for the anxious inhabitants of shore! One can imagine their feelings as the guns thundered forth and the flashes pierced the fog-how they swayed, alternating between hope and fear, wondering whether their men would manage to keep the shores of Suffolk inviolate, or if presently a battered and torn remnant would make the harbour, pursued by the triumphant ships of de Ruyter's Dutchmen. All day long the struggle raged, now one way, now the other, and in that grim contest the French played an inglorious part. Although nominally our allies, they refused to give battle, and it is believed that they were acting under orders from their Government, whose laudable intention was to allow the English and Dutch to cut each other's throats, so to speak, and then bring both to heel.

Fortunately, however, this piece of knavery came to nought, chiefly through the gallantry and desperate bravery of the man whom the Duke of York had dubbed a poltroon, because he had eyes to see where his commanding officer could not. Recklessly, yet with purposeful courage, the Earl of Sandwich hurled himself into the fray, engaging ship after ship of the enemy, until eventually only a handful of the original thousand men composing his crew were left, and his vessel, riddled with shot and sinking, was an inferno of flame and smoke. At this the gallant commander plunged into the sea, but his body was afterwards recovered and buried in Westminster Abbey.

That the Dutch were soundly thrashed is proved by the fact that they ran away in disorder at the last, and their casualties were so tremendous that their publication was forbidden. In connection with this battle it is interesting to note that the somewhat weird-looking sign on that well-known inn, the Martlesham Lion, is believed to have been the figurehead of one of the captured vessels. A house still exists in Southwold High Street which was the residence of the Duke of York for some years previous to the victory.

Another famous battle-but a land affair this time-is recalled by six guns on Southwold cliffs, which are alleged to have been recaptured by the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden in 1746, the Young Pretender having taken them in a previous engagement, although whether this is true, has been questioned by some people.

It has been suggested that near Southwold Ptolemy, the geographer, marked the eastern boundary of the Roman province during the second century, whilst there is also a link with later invaders by the supposed site of a Danish camp.

Although somewhat inaccessible, Southwold is very far from lagging behind the rest of the world in the march of progress, and despite the fact that its railway is only a single line, and a narrow gauge one at that every year it brings increasing numbers of visitors to the town, whilst many more are landed at the pier. From a sporting point of view there is little at which to grumble, for apart from the attractions of sea-bathing, Southwold has some excellent golf links and tennis courts. Religiously, the town is well provided for, as besides St. Edmund's, there is the Roman Catholic "Church of the Sacred Heart," Congregational and Wesleyan Chapels, and a Brethren's Meeting Place, thus embracing several shades of opinion.

Indeed, it would be difficult to find a healthier or more attractive place. All around are rolling heaths, sometimes purple with the tint of heather or flaming yellow when the gorse is out. And then there is the sea, rolling up to the portals of the town, and bringing with it breezes which flush the cheek, and brighten the eye. Heath or sea, either way the wind blows sweet and clean-a tonic for the body and an inspiration to the mind.
YEOMAN.

September 2nd, 1927.


Dutt's Suffolk, 1927


Southwold, one of the quietest and most delightful watering-places on the E. coast, is 110 m from London by rail. (A narrow-gauge railway branches off from the G.L.R. main line at Halesworth and has stations at Wenhaston, Blythburgh, Walberswick, and Southwold.) It is a healthy place, standing on fairly high ground commanding a good sea view, and having a breezy common on the S. side and very picturesque surroundings. For the visitor with archeological and rambling inclinations it is a good centre, for, within easy walking distance of it are the ruined churches at Covehithe and Walberswick and the ruins of the decayed town of Dunwich. The sea-front provides a charming promenade along the crest of the cliffs, and a small pier has been built, at which the passenger steamers call as they ply between London and Yarmouth. There is a quaint beachmen's colony of wooden sheds bordering a road leading to Walberswick Ferry: this, to many visitors, is by far the most interesting part of the town.

In the thirteenth century Southwold was a hamlet of the neighbouring parish of Reydon, and the abbot of Bury was lord of the manor. It received its charter of incorporation from Henry VII, and became somewhat prosperous on account of the decay of Dunwich, the choking up of the harbour there resulting in shipping making use of that of Southwold which in turn became almost unapproachable. William Waynfleet, writing in 1666, said: “Southwold being an island environed with salt water, might be made the strongest in those parts; it has nine good guns, but only four fixed, and not ammunition enough for two hours skirmishing; the town is poor, and cannot do what it would, and the country does not help, though they say it would be their destruction if the town were held by an enemy; it is the nearest town in England to Holland, and the best bay." Six years later (on May 26th, 1672) the Battle of Sole bay was fought off Southwold between the allied fleets of England and France, under the Duke of York, Lord Sandwich, and Admiral D’Etrees, and the Dutch fleet under De Ruyter. The allied fleet, numbering 101 ships, were surprised by De Ruyter (who had 91 men of war, 54 fire-ships, and 23 tenders) while at anchor. The French ships, attacked by Bankert, soon sheered off, and the fighting was mainly between the English and Dutch. The Dutch vice-admiral Von Ghent, was killed, and De Ruyter was wounded, and lost three of his ships; on the English side the Earl of Sandwich was blown up with his flag-ship the Royal James, and five other ships were lost. An old ballad writer relates:

They battered without let or stay
Until the evening of that day,
'Twas then the Dutchmen ran away;
The Duke had beat them tightly";

but the assertion made in the last line is not quite in accordance with the facts of the case. By this fight the town was only the better off in the possession of a few stray cannon-balls; but as a result of a subsequent land battle-that of Culloden -it became possessed of a battery of guns; for the Duke of Cumberland, on his way home from Scotland, landed at Southwold, and presented to the town some 18-pounders which had been taken from the English at Prestonpans and recaptured at Culloden. These guns are now on the Gun Hill.

The church (of St Edmund) is a large and handsome Perp. building, erected on the site of an earlier one destroyed by fire about 1430. It has a fine tower, with unusually constructed belfry windows: they are divided down the centre by a narrow buttress. The W. doorway and window are worthy of attention: above the latter is the inscription " Sct Edmund ora p. nobis." The S. porch is very elaborate, and has a room with a groined ceiling, and lighted by two windows on the S. Above the aisle windows is a cornice of grotesque figures, heads, and quatrefoils. The clerestory has a splendid range of lights, and is surmounted by a light, open lantern. At the W. end of each aisle is an ornamental turret, by which access can be obtained to the roof. The W. window has very good tracery; that of the E. window is modern. Within, the rood-screen, which has fine carved work and fretted spirelets, at once attracts attention. The paintings on the panels have been restored. At the N. end of the screen is an old carved wooden figure, or "Jack in Armour," which formerly stood on a bracket over the W. arch, where it was connected with the clock. This figure holds in its left hand a sword and in its right hand a small battle-axe, with which, when a cord is pulled, it smites a bell and announces to the organist that the minister is about to leave the vestry. Note also (1) the stalls and misereres in the chancel; (2) the paintings on the chancel roof; (3)the pulpit; and (4) a carved oak chest.

In the churchyard are the graves of Agnes Strickland, historian of the Queens of England, and her sister and biographer, Jane Strickland. also that of Thos. Gardner, the historian of Dunwich, having on the stone the epitaph :

"Betwixt Honour and Virtue here doth lie
The remains of old antiquity,"