Quite a pleasant little place, Wissett, with its rather long street exhibiting various styles of architecture, in which respect it resembles the majority of our East Suffolk villages, whilst the fact that at each end of the street is a hostelry ensures that from whatever direction the traveller enters he is certain of liquid refreshment at any rate. It is at one end of the street that the house of worship of Wissett is to be discovered, although, contrary to many other parishes, the Hall, with its magnificent arboreal surroundings, stands quite a distance from the church, for so often the building which has ministered to the spiritual needs of the people, and the mansion whose roof in numerous instances has sheltered persons of some importance from the days of long ago, are situated in close proximity.

A place of worship is recorded as having existed in Wissett at the time that the Domesday Survey was made, and even a casual glance reveals that the present structure consists in part of that nearly thousand-years-old edifice. For the tower of the church of St.Andrew at Wissett is round, and is undoubtedly the same which dignified the building when first it came into being.

Norman work, moreover, is very much to the fore here, for although the chancel was rebuilt in the fourteenth century, other parts of the church exhibit the Norman style of architecture. Incidentally, despite the fact that the chancel has been in existence some six hundred years, much of it was undoubtedly restored, and restored very thoroughly, at a much later date, for in 1602 we find that it was "in ruine, and so hath bene these twelve months."

The church of St. Andrew is a comparatively small building, with chancel, nave, south porch and vestry only. But having mentioned the Norman influence it is as well to discover something of this, and in this respect we cannot dc better than by starting with the South porch.

This porch was probably added towards the end of the fifteenth century, and is quite an attractive affair, with, in the spandrels of the outer doorway, shields exhibiting the design of the Emblems of Passion and the Trinity. It is, however, the inner arch which forms a link with the days of the Normans, for here is very impressive affair indeed, although somewhat strangely it has suffered much more from the action of the weather than the corresponding entrance on the North side of the building, where there is no porch to protect it from the elements.

In fact, excellent although the South arch is, the North is infinitely more imposing. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the North Norman arch of Wissett is one of the most magnificent to be discovered, partly through its remarkable state of preservation, and partly because of the glorious carving one associates with the period, and which is so singularly distinctive and outstanding.

Now, however it is time to enter the church, and passing through the South porch, we find just against the doorway, on the wall of the nave,a niche, which most probably marks the former existence of a stoup in which holy water was placed.

Several interesting relics are to be discovered in this friendly little building, not the least of which are poppyheads, which once graced mediaeval benches. For, although the seating accommodation is modern, these old-time examples of clever craftsmanship have beet placed on the new seats, and are thus de signed to be preserved-or so, at least, one may be permitted to hope for all time.

One brass is still in existence, and refers to Stephen Bloomfield, whose death occurred in 1638, but, undoubtedly, the most outstanding feature in Wissett Church, and the one which most readily attracts the eye, is the font, for there we find something absolutely redolent of age, and yet in quite good condition-a survival of the past, which possesses much of the dignity of the past, because of which it exercises a definite and unmistakable appeal.

It is of the type most frequently discovered being octagonal in shape, and on the bowl are the well-known emblems of the evangelists and angels, whilst the shaft is supported by four lions and four of those barbaric-looking figure, known as "woodwoses," or wild men, generally believed to be the symbols of unregenerated nature.

And, fortunately, this particular font appear to have suffered very little from the hand of man, the only damage worthy of notice being a slight disfigurement to one of the lions, although it is a moot point whether this was caused by studied mutilation or through accidental reasons.

Several niches remain in the North wall, and it is interesting to notice that part of the staircase, which led to the rood-loft, is still visible. Another niche exists in the South window, next to the chancel arch, below this being the remains of a piscina.

And, having mentioned this, notice should be taken of the several nave windows, dating from the Perpendicular Period, whilst that at the East end of the chancel possesses attractive tracery. A further feature of the church of St. Andrew it would be a pity to ignore is the priests' doorway, which is an excellent specimen of its kind.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the seventeenth century brass already noticed, no memorials to past inhabitants of Wissett appear to be in evidence, but naturally a tablet has been erected to the nine parishioners who fought for their country and their homes in the Great War and never returned. And near this is a poignant affair indeed. A relic which should do much to perpetuate the memory of those who died, for here is a wooden cross from some Flanders battlefield, and in its stark simplicity, its very lack of adornment, it seems to tell of duty nobly done, and of sacrifice for the common cause.

Little more can be written about this pleasant house of worship, for it is time we discovered something about a manor of Wissett, and of the people connected with it in days long gone. Actually, three manors were in existence, but the most important of these was known as Wissett le Roos, and it is this which provides the most interesting story.

Before the coming of the Normans, when Edward the Confessor was king, the manor afterwards to be known as the Wissett le Roos was held by Ralph the Staller, but after Conqueror William was firmly established on the throne he presented the estate to one who had served him well on Hasting's' bloody field. This new owner was the Earl of Brittany, who had commanded the rear of the Norman army at the decisive battle which so radically influenced the whole story of our country, and for his assistance here and subsequently at the Siege of York, he was made Earl of Richmond Wissett, however, was probably more fortunate than many other places which passed beneath the domination of one belonging to the conquering race, for the Earl of Brittany and Richmond was a kindly man, humane and just, and of a generous disposition, a fact proved by his numerous gifts, though, admittedly most of these were presented to religious establishments.

The earl's death occurred in 1089, and he was succeeded by his brother, who, however died without issue, a fate which overtook the next owner, another brother, upon which the son of the latter, one Alan, inherited. And this Alan was the very antithesis of his uncle, the first earl. He was a swashbuckler, a liar and a bully, although whatever his faults he certainly possessed the virtue of courage. For Alan it was who captured the castle of Lincoln by scaling its walls in the dead of night, a deed which shows that his particular brand of daring was the cool kind which needed no stimulating by the fierce excitement of wild charge, the din and clangour of frenzied attack and the thunder of hooves.

Wissett manor remained in the hands of the same family until the death of Margaret, the widow of the fifth Earl, soon after which it passed to Roger Bigod, second Earl of Norfolk, who was followed by his son. Very soon, however, it was vested in the Crown, and after several changes was granted, by the third Henry, to his son, afterwards Edward I. of England, and the latter presented it. in 1267, to Sir John Vallibus, or Vaux, who received the grants of a market and fair here in the same year.

Sir Vallibus died in 1288, upon which the manor passed to his daughter, Petronilla, whose second husband was William de Nerford. Incidentally this marriage proved rather expensive for William, as he was unwise enough to wed without obtaining a licence, for which offence he was compelled to pay a fine of £230 to the Crown!

That he was a person of same importance, however-or rather possessed certain qualifications-is suggested by the fact that he was one of the company called by the first Edward to confer with the king upon affairs of national moment, later being summoned to Parliament as a Baron. After the death of William de Nerford the manor underwent various vicissitudes, during which it was owned at one period by the Roos family, through which, of course, it is known as Wissett le Roos.

Therefore, we will omit its story until the time of Henry VI., when it was vested in John Hopton, and members of this particular line were here until 1588-incidentally, a date famous in England's fighting history, for was it not the year that the proud Armada was scattered?-when Sir Owen Hopton and Arthur his son, sold the estate to William Roberts, man of law, being an attorney at Beccles and Town Clerk of Great Yarmouth.

At his death his sister inherited, and she having married a certain Simon Smith, it was in the hands of his family until Thomas, son and heir of Sir Owen Smith, died in 1639. His daughter became the wife of Charles Fleetwood, whose father was the distinguished major-general of that name who fought under Cromwell, and the Fleetwoods held the property up to the death of Jane Fleetwood, in 1761 when, she being unmarried, it passed to a relative, Anne, daughter of Joseph Henlock and Anne, his wife, the latter being the daughter and sole heir of Sir John Hartopp.

Anne Henlock married Edmund Bunney, who took the surnames of Cradock and Hartopp and the manor eventually passed to their son, Sir Edmund Cradock-Hartopp. Bart. whose death occurred in 1833, upon which Wissett de Roos passed to his second son, and subsequently to William Edmund, brother of the latter, presented stained windows to Wissett Church.

And having more or less started at Wissett Church, it is perhaps advisable to finish there, for it is the place of worship which assists to dignify this village of East Suffolk. Its tower looks down upon the homesteads of peopleas it did a thousand years ago, or so, and in its very antiquity there is a lesson for those who care to look - a lesson and an inspiration, and an incentive towards seeking the deeper things of life which ever remain, whatever
changes may occur and whatever calamities befall.

YEOMAN. February 8th 1935