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RUMBURGH PRIORY CHURCH.
By L. B. CANE, F.S.A.

The origin of the name Rumburgh is obscure. The late Dr. Raven Considered Rumburgh to have been one of a number of " little redoubts," constructed within a few miles of the Roman road from Norwich to Dunwich, for temporary occupation during the passage of convoys along this important route. Others have conjectured that ' Rumburgh " must denote a " Roman burg." So far as I am aware, however, there are no definite remains or traces of Roman occupation anywhere in the parish.

Perhaps the original termination may have been " burh." Burhs were usually villages enclosed in some way, either by a ditch or bank, or perhaps just a thorn hedge. Around the Priory grounds there still remains a large rectangular moat, at the S.W. corner of which the late Rev. W. Linton Wilson found some indication of an ancient drawbridge.

There are no records of Rumburgh before the foundation of the Priory, nor is the name mentioned in Domesday.

It has been surmised by Lord John Hervey, in his translation of the Suffolk Domesday (vide Wangford Hund., p. 3) that Riseburgh is another name for this place. Rumburgh is reputed to be the highest point in Suffolk. It has been suggested that this may account for the name Riseburgh.

Probably it was included in the township of Wissett (the next parish) : In Domesday, Lands of Earl Alan, following the description of Wissett is the statement, " In the same will of Wisseta is a church . in this church are twelve monks and under it a chapel." Since no monastic establishment has ever been attributed to the Church at Wissett proper, it would seem probable that the chapel referred to was that of Wissett, the church being the monastic church of Rumburgh.(Dugdale).

As the foundation of the Priory at Rumburgh dates from 1064, i.e.: only twenty-two years before the Domesday Survey, there may have been some confusion as to the infant settlement which would have been impossible with an older foundation.

"The first Prior, Frater Blakere, with his fellow monks, was established here in 1064 by Ethelmar, Bishop of Elmham, and Thurston, Abbot of St. Benet's Hulme, a Benedictine house near Acle in Norfolk, as a cell or colony from that Abbey.

Bishop Ethelmar was a brother of Stigand, the Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury.

By their surrender to the new Norman regime they had avoided the forfeiture of their property, at a time when most of the other Saxon landowners in East Anglia were despoiled. They were, however,unable to continue thus favoured for more than four years after the Conquest, since in 1070 William seems to have found that their assitance could be dispensed with. Stigand was deposed, and deprived of his estates, which included the town of Bungay. This was transferred to William de Noyers, who raised there the first mound castle, and was still in possession of the burgh at the time of the Domesday Survey sixteen years later.

His brother's property at Rumburgh was transferred to Alan the Red, Earl of Richmond, second son of Eade, Duke of Brittany, one of the chief followers of the King. On his death soon afterwards it passed to his brother, Alan the Black, who gave the Priory to the great Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary at York, which already owned the churches of Wissett, Spexhall, Holton and South Cove, to which he also adds those of Banham and Wilby.

In Domesday (Wangford Hund., p. 9, Lands of Earl Alan) is the following entry : " In Almeham are 40 acres. And 6 bordars. And 1 plough team and wood for 6 hogs. And they belong to the Church at Romburc. And they are included in the valuation of the same (? church)."

Further, in the Domesday record of the lands in Blything Hundred, which Roger Bigot holds for the King, is found under Blideburc the following curious item : " To this manor belongs the fourth penny of the rents of the " heia " of Riseburc between the King and the Earl. " " Heia " is a hedged enclosure used for hunting in a forestal area (Vinogradoff. " English Society in the Eleventh Century, " p. 292).

Apparently Roger Bigot and the King shared the rents paid by the huntsmen using the " haye " at Riseburgh, wherever that may be. (Lord John Hervey in a footnote to his edition of the Suffolk Domesday writes: ? Rumburgh enclosure to be shared by the King and the Earl (Bigot).)

The Priory was dedicated to St Michael and St. Felix. In 1086 there were twelve monks, under the first Prior, Frater Blakere : and in 1291, when it had possessions in eleven Parishes, its value was giver as £35 5s. 11. 0d. (Pope Nick. Tax.)

Little is known of its subsequent history. The last Prior, Joseph Halton, was appointed in 1525. On September llth, 1525, a Visitation was made by Dr. Stephen Gardiner, and three years later, on September 12th, 1528, the Priory was suppressed, the Commissioners being D. Newyns, D. Lee, Thos. Cromwell and T.Rushe. Its revenues and property were granted to Cardinal Wolsey, and transferred to his newly founded college at Ipswich (which itself as dissolved in 1530).

Priory survey

Priory church

Priory lands