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The Nook Communities
Julian Tennyson
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Things of the spirit

The Domesday book (Penguin edition) records five estates in Peasenhall:

1 In Peasenhall, Leofsige, a freeman, held TRE 40 acres of land as one manor. Now Fulcred holds it from Malet. Then as now 4 borders. Woodland for 10 pigs. 1 plough and 1 acre of meadow.

2 In Peasenhall a free man by commendation (held) 6 acres worth 8d. Walter de Caen (holds it).

3 & 4 Northman held Peasenhall as 2 manors with 2 carucates of land TRE. Now the same Northman holds it. Then as now 8 villans and 10 borders.

5 In Peasenhall Ranulf fitzWalter has 3 villans and 1 border with 60 acres of land from Roger Bigod. Then as now 2 ploughs belonging to the men. Woodland for 40 pigs. This land (a berewick) belongs in Saxmundham The king and the earl have soke.

The most significant landowner was the person described as 'Northman'. It is generally accepted that he was Norman de Campo, who, the Domesday survey relates, was a Saxon landowner with manors and lands in 29 Suffolk villages spanning the coastal region from north to south of the county. It is significant that in many of these holdings he was associated with Edric of Laxfield. This Edric was a locally prominent Saxon thegn who, from his frequent appearance in Suffolk's Domesday survey, appeared to have been the pre-Conquest ruler of a large area of East Suffolk in several Hundreds. He is often described as Robert Malet's predecessor. The Malet men came over in Duke William's invasion force and were well rewarded with Saxon lands after the Battle of Hastings. In many references to Norman as a landowner he is described as 'sheriff'. A person named Toli was King Harold's sheriff of pre-Conquest Suffolk and it seems that William replaced him with Norman, a local thegn in sympathy with the Duke. This probably accounts for the fact that after the Conquest Norman de Campo, unlike Edric of Laxfield, held on to a several of his properties, one of which was Peasenhall. Peasenhall seems to have been his headquarters because his sons and grandsons continued to appear as landowners in the village.

The 'Campo' suffix probably referred to Norman's military origins under the Saxons. It became the surname 'Kempe' and Norman Kempe's descendants gave rise the Kemp clan, one of Suffolk's oldest recorded families. In the early medieval period the Kemps were benefactors of Blythburgh Priory and were also associated with foundation of Sibton Abbey. One of the direct lines from Norman de Campo gave rise to the Kemp baronets of Gissing and this genealogical connection is documented in the family's pedigree.

The story of one branch of the de Campo line can be accessed through the research of Denis Bellamy a descendant of Norman de Campo on his mother's side. Denis Bellamy is also a first cousin of James Smyth the Peasenhall drillmaker through the James' mother Hannah Kemp of Sweffling.