It is in a somewhat unexplored district of the county that Ubbeston is situated; but perhaps because of this Ubbeston seems peculiarly attractive to those who find pleasure in the simple delights of the countryside, and discover numerous appealing features in the glory of straggled hedgerows and leafy lanes, of stately trees and quivering leaves. Not that Ubbeston village itself can be described as particularly picturesque, for the houses, included amongst which is an inn, are rather plain than otherwise, and therefore lacking the appeal of weathered thatch or mellowed tile; but the surroundings here are so thoroughly delightful, so impregnated with arboreal peace, so thoroughly unspoiled, that they present a picture definitely appealing and intensely restful-a haven, in fact, in which one can discover something of the solace almost unknown to the bustling outside world of to-day.

But to discover one of the most attractive parts of Ubbeston, it is advisable to become acquainted with the neighbourhood of the house of worship-in itself a structure of some charm, dating as it does from very early times. And it is in a very pleasant spot, indeed, that the church is reared, for as one journeys from the village it seems to be in a tree-girt hollow, although actually it stands on a slight eminence overlooking the road. Near by is a pond, and all around breathes the scented fragrance of the Suffolk countryside. In fact, the neighbourhood of Ubbeston Church seems typical of the restrained beauty of our county, with its hedges partly overhanging the narrow road, the glimpse of cows in green meadows, and, as a further sign of life, Ubbeston Hall itself, the plain and solid appearance of this rendered almost picture-esque by virtue of its very surroundings.

As I have conveyed, the Church of St. Peter at Ubbeston came into being long years ago, and even a casual inspection reveals this fact. Incidentally, two churches are mentioned as existing here when the Domesday Survey was undertaken, although the present affair was probably erected about a century later.

In any case, however, the walls are chiefly Norman, and this particular style is very much in evidence, for directly one enters the South porch he is impressed by the artistic workmanship of the inner arch, with its chevrons still existing in a really splendid state of preservation. This, however, does not exhaust the Norman relics in the building, for on the other side of the nave is another arch, dating from the same period. Unfortunately, the doorway belonging to this has been filled in - a fate common enough, in very truth, although it seems a pity, to say the least.

To-day, the Church of St, Peter* possesses chancel and nave, South porch and embattled Western tower only, but, despite its lack of size -comparatively speaking, of course - it exhibits an appearance somewhat uncommon, and certainly appealing. For the tower of this pleasantly-situated building is very much newer than the remainder of the structure, as it came into being during the Tudor period, a fact which its bricks, tinted a deep red by the action of sunshine and rain throughout its four hundred years of existence, make obvious. Also, the porch is of brickwork, and the contrast formed by tower and porch against the
grey masonry of the main body of the church makes an uncommon picture indeed, more especially in the golden days of late Spring or early Summer, when the green leaves of the trees emphasise the weathered handiwork of those who wrought here in the long, long, ago.

As for the interior of St. Peter's Church, it needs no particular understanding to realise that a certain amount of restoration has occurred here on various occasions, for so much is apparent at first glance. One of the most intensive renovations took place in 1865, when the interior was thoroughly restored and practically reseated, whilst other alterations chiefly to the windows and the general exterior -were made in after years

Despite these necessary reparations, however, much remains which assists to piece together something of the story of St. Peter's; Church. As we have seen, a considerable amount of Norman work is in evidence, but there are survivals which, although of later date, are yet well worthy of notice.

Amongst these must be mentioned the roof of the nave, for here we discover quite an excellent specimen of craftsmanship belonging to the fifteenth century, exhibiting as it does the artistic efforts one associates with that particular period. Also, the choir-stalls are nicely carved, whilst on the panels of the font is rather delicate tracery, which brings to mind the fact that tracery which formerly graced the Eastern window has been destroyed.

The font here is of the usual octagonal kind, and exhibits little of any outstanding interest although it is in quite a good condition-much more so than many others. Then, there is an oak chest, massive and solid, which apparently belongs to the fourteenth century, and amongst the plate held in safe keeping by the church should be mentioned an Elizabethan chalice and paten.

Quite an attractive little house of worship, therefore, the church of St. Peter, for although it can scarcely compare in size with many other buildings its features chiefly belong to the long ago. Indeed, it is obvious that despite the extensive restorations here of recent times, despite the various alterations, the atmosphere of the building is chiefly ancient, almost as though the relics of the past are determined to assert themselves, and to make their influence felt in the presence of the new.

Little more need be said about St. Peter's, and therefore we will leave it in its happy position amidst the friendly Suffolk countryside. For now it is advisable to delve far back into the story of Ubbeston, and to discover something, if we can, of the village and its people from very early times until the present day.

And Ubbeston, like many other Suffolk villages, was in existence when the Saxons were in power a not surprising fact, as we have noticed that the village possessed two churches at the time of the Domesday Survey, and was, therefore, apparently of some small importance. At any rate, two manors are definitely known to have existed in Ubbeston many years before the coming of the Conqueror, and they also seem to have been in evidence for quite a considerable period after he had left this land he had vanquished for, presumably, a better.

Exactly when the two manors of Ubbeston became one is a moot point, but it was certainly before the time that the first Edward was on the throne, as at that period only one manor is mentioned - that of Ubbeston, or Ubbeston Hall. It was then owned by a family which took its name from the village, and this family was here for a great number of years, although it eventually became the property of the famous line of Heveningham.

The Heveninghams, of course, were the owners of several manors, but they made their principal seat at Heveningham Hall which is only a short distance from the subject of this particular article. And this family it would be possible to write extensively, for its representatives filled various positions of consequence, and attained numerous offices connected with the well-being of the country and its people.

Therefore, a brief mention of some of their story is advisable, although we will concentrate on matters which occurred during the 17th century, when the Heveninghams seem to have been at the height of their power, so that they played a prominent and historical part in various fields of activity. And in this connection we find that Sir Arthur Heveningham twice attained the office of Sheriff of Norfolk, whilst in 1617, as a reward for his various services, he was knighted by the first King James.

His son and heir, Sir John Heveningham, followed in the footsteps of his father in one respect, at least; that is , he became High Sheriff of Norfolk, and incidentally, this occurred two years before the elder Heveningham became a knight. Sir John, moreover, took a certain interest in politics, as in 1627 he was member of Parliament for Norfolk.

He was succeeded by William, his son, and here again was another Sheriff of Norfolk, a position he held in 1635, whilst four years later William represented Stockbridge at Westminster. But this particular Heveningham was to play a prominent and historical part in the stirring episodes of his time. The year 1640 saw him a member of the council of State, and within two years he became Vice-Admiral of Suffolk. A stern supporter of the Parliament, a fierce opponent of the divine right of Kings, William Heveningham became one of the strange company whose members sat in judgement upon ill-fated Charles - a judgment which culminated in a shameful death at the hands of the executioner. It says something for William Heveningham’s scruples that he was amongst those of the King's judges who refused to sign the warrant authorising the extreme penalty; but, even so, when the Puritan regime was eventually over, when the exiled monarch-the "Merry Monarch," as he was later to be known, with some reason-rode the streets of his capital after weary years spent wandering in a foreign land, William Heveningham suffered the fate of many others who had been responsible, or partly responsible, for the untimely end of King Charles the First. He was tried and convicted. He was punished by the confiscation of all his estates, although his life itself was spared.

Eventually, much, if not all, of the Heveningham property was restored, and so strange is the swing of fortune's pendulum that in 1674 William of Heveningham, son of one who had assisted in he trial and conviction of a King, was knighted by that King's son' History, however, is full of such queer episodes, so further comment is unnecessary.

The daughter and heir of the above-mentioned William became the wife of a certain Henry Heron, through which, of course, the manor passed to the latter. But the new owner was only in possession a short time, as soon afterwards the estate seems to have been purchased by Sir Robert Kemp, Bart.

And because of this we find another paradox connected with the Civil War. For the new owner was the son of Sir Robert Kemp, of Gissing, in Norfolk, one of the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber to King Charles the First, and it was because of his loyalty to that monarch, in whose service against the Parliament he suffered acute hardship and savage ill-treatment, that he eventually received his baronetcy. Thus, within a very short period we find two owners of Ubbeston Manor who had taken opposite sides in that stern struggle, men of conflicting ideas and temperaments, who yet, presumably, had one thing in common - their mutual attraction towards this particular estate.

(more information about the Kemp family who lived in and around Ubbeston for a thousand years may be obtained from http://www.suffolkkemps.info/Throughfamily.html)

The manor of Ubbeston remained in the hands of the Kemp family until the end of the eighteenth century, when it was purchased by Joshua Vanneck, afterwards Lord Huntingfield, and to his descendant it still belongs.

Pleasant little Ubbeston therefore has, through its manor, a definite link with one of the most outstanding events in English history, the trial and execution of a monarch, whose story over the range of years seems to have lost its tragedy, so that there only remains the romance ever belonging to a lost cause - the romance which shines more brightly when the prize is a crown, and the stake a gallant life.

Reprinted from the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury, October 24th, 1934.

Who was YEOMAN?.

  • St Peters church has been converted to a private residence.