The Foxearth and District Local History Society
White's Description of the County of Suffolk, 1841

William White

SUFFOLK, one of the most eastern counties of England, and one of the most interesting agricultural and maritime divisions of the kingdom, comprises an area of 1,515 square statute miles, or about 969,600 acres of land, watered by many navigable rivers and smaller streams, and possessing all the varieties of soil from a light sterile sand to a rich loam. It lies between the parallels of 51 deg. 57 min. and 52 deg, 35 min. North Latitude; and between 24 minutes and one deg. 45 min. East Longitude; but it is of an irregular figure, extending only about 56 miles in a direct line from east to west, and 32 from north to south; though its eastern side occupies about 50 miles of sea coast, sweeping in a curved line from the estuary of the Orwell and Stour, near Harwich, northward to Yarmouth, where it terminates in a narrow apex; from whence, a line drawn across the county, in a south-westerly direction to Haverhill, at its south-western angle, is more than 70 miles in length. It is bounded on the north by Norfolk, from which it is separated by the Waveney and Little Ouse rivers, rising near Redgrave, and flowing in opposite directions; on the west, by Cambridgeshire, where it is only about 26 miles in breadth; on the south, by Essex, from which it is separated by the river Stour, in a winding course of about 48 miles; and on the east, by the German Ocean, on which it has some fine bays, havens, and creels, and a bold range of cliffs and headlands, of which, that at Lowestoft is the most easterly point of England. It increased its Population from 210,431 souls in 1801, to 315,073 in 1841. Compared with the other counties in England, it ranks as the eighth in agricultural, and the fifteenth in total population. It is in the Norfolk Circuit; in the Province of Canterbury; and in the Sees of Norwich and Ely. Till a few years ago, it was wholly in the Diocese of Norwich; but the greater part of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, forming the western part of the county, has been added to the Diocese of Ely; and the rest of the county forms the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, in the See of Norwich, as will be seen at a subsequent page. Quarter Sessions are held at Beccles, Woodbridge, Ipswich, and Bury, for the four divisions of the county. At Beccles is a small House of Correction; and there are large Shire Halls and County Gaols and Houses of Correction at Bury St. Edmund’s &  Ipswich and since 1839, the Lent Assizes have been held at the former, and Summer Assizes at the latter town; but before that year, both the yearly Assizes and Gaol Deliveries for this county were held at Bury, which may be called the western, and Ipswich the eastern capital of Suffolk. The latter has 25,384 inhabitants, and the former 12,538. There are in the county 28 other market towns, of which Sudbury, Woodbridge, and Lowestoft, have each about 5,000 souls; Bungay and Beccles each upwards of 4,000; and Hadleigh and Stowmarket each upwards of 3,000; but have smaller populations, many of them numbering less than 2,000 souls.

Before the passing of the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832, two members were returned for the county, and two each for its seven boroughs of Ipswich, Bury St. Edmund’s, Sudbury, Eye, Orford, Dunwich, and Aldeburgh. - By this act, the three last named boroughs were disfranchised, and the county was divided into two divisions, each sending two knights of the shire to parliament. The EASTERN DIVISION comprises the largest and most populous part of the county, and its Polling Places are Ipswich, Needham, Woodbridge, Framlingham, Saxmundham, Halesworth, and Beccles. Ipswich is the principal place of election for this division, which had 6,278 registered voters in 1837 of whom, 3,780 were freehold, 750 copyholders, 1,624 tenants-at-will, and 34 leaseholders: The WESTERN DIVISION compromises Hartismere and Stow Hundreds, and the Liberty of Bury St. Edmund’s, which consists of the Borough of Bury St. Edmund’s and the seven Hundreds of Babergh, Blackbourn, Cosford, Lackford, Risbridge, Thedwestry, and Thingoe. This division had 4,958 registered voters in 1837; of whom, 3,139 were freeholders, 539 copyholders, 1,196 tenants-at-will, and 15 leaseholders. Its principal place of election is Bury, and its other Polling Places are Wickhambrook, Lavenham, Stowmarket, Botesdale, Mildenhall, and Hadleigh. The county now sends only seven Borough Members to parliament, viz: two each for Ipswich, Bury St. Edmund’s, and Sudbury, and one for Eye. The latter being much below the population standard of the Reform Act, was {from some influence) saved from total disfranchisement, by extending the limits of its parliamentary borough to a wide extent of surrounding parishes. On the ground of bribery and corruption, Sudbury has now no representatives in parliament, and proceedings have been some time in progress for its disfranchisement.

The High Sheriff, for the time being, is at the head of the civil government of the county; which, in this respect, is divided into the Geldable and Franchises. In the former, the issues and forfeitures are paid to the Crown; and in the latter, to the lords of the liberties. The eight Geldable Hundreds are—Samford, Bosmere-and-Claydon,' Stow, Hartismere, Hoxne, Blything, Wangford, and Mutford-and-Lothingland. -; For these the Quarter Sessions are held at Ipswich and Beccles,—that is, at Beccles for Wangford, Blything, and Mutford-and-Lothingland;—and at Ipswich for the other five. The Franchise, or Liberty of St. Ethelred, formerly belonged to the prior and convent, and now to the Dean and Chapter of Ely, and comprises the six Hundreds of Carlford, Colneis, Wilford, Plomesgate, Loes, and Thredling, for which the Quarter Sessions are held at Woodbridge. The prior and convent of Ely possessed this liberty in the time of Edward the Confessor; and when they were changed, in 1541, into a dean and chapter, it was reputed to be of the yearly value of £20. The Franchise, or Liberty of St. Edmund, sometimes called the Liberty of Burt/ St. Edmund's, was given to Bury Abbey, by Edward the Confessor, and comprehends the seven Hundreds of Cosford, Babergh, Risbridge, Lackford, Blackbourn, Thedwestry, and Thingoe, for which the Quarter Sessions are held at Bury. The Marquis of Bristol is now lord of this liberty. The Duke of Norfolk’s Liberty comprises only the manors of Bungay, Kelsale, Carlton, Peasenhall, Dennington, Brundish, Cratfield, the three Stonhams, and the four Ilketshalls. It was granted by letters patent of Edward IV., in 1468, and has a separate coroner. The Duke has all fines and amercements, and John Muskett, Esq. of Fornham- St.-Genevieve, is steward of the courts. At the assizes, two grand juries are appointed, -one for the Liberty of St. Edmund, and the other for the rest of the County. Suffolk and Norfolk had formerly only one High Sheriff; but since 1576, a distinct officer has been appointed for each. Suffolk contains about 500 parishes, several extra-parochial places, thirty towns, (of which the markets of seven are obsolete,) and about 1,000 villages and hamlets. It is divided into twenty-one -Hundreds, each having chief constables and petty sessions; but three of its boroughs—Ipswich, Bury, and Sudbury, are distinct jurisdictions, and have separate commissions of the peace and courts of Quarter Sessions. Of these Hundreds and Boroughs, the following is an enumeration, shewing their territorial extent, and their population in 1801 and 1841:—

Those marked thus • are in the WESTERN DIVISION, and all the others are In the EASTERN DIVISION of the County, The whole of the former, except Stow and Hartismere Hundred, is in the Liberty of Bury St. Edmund's.
Hundreds Acres 1801 1841
•Babergh 70,032 18.685 24,069
•Blackbourn 66,272 10,803 14,658
Blything 87,631 18,010 25,769
Bosmere-and-Claydon 48,773 10,042 13,136
Carlford 25.461 4,500 6,229
Colneis 16.712 2,946 4,587
•Cosford 30.712 7,384 10.806
•Hartismere 53,479 13,897 18,530
Hoxne 55,648 13.185 10,798
•Lackford 83.712 8,985 14,504
Loes 31,321 9,578 13.894
Mutford & Lothingland 33,368 9,409 16,392
Plomesgate 41,579 8,478 11,262
•Risbridge 58,468 11,987 17,493
Samford 44.940 8,556 11,797
•Stow 22,710 5,899 9,025
•Thedwestry 40,362 7,259 10,947
•Thingoe 31,850 4,982 6,656
Thredling 10,000 2,616 3,504
Wangford 34,679 9,972 14,153
Wilford 31,500 5,279 7,857
•Bury St. Edmunds 3,040 7,655 12,538
Ipswich 8,450 10,402 25,384
Sudbury 1,250 3,283 5,085
Totals 932,549 213,792 315,073

From the above, it appears that the Population of the county increased more than one-third from 1801 to 1841; amounting in the former year to 213,792; in 1811 to 234,211; in 1821 to 270,540; in 1831 to 296,304; and in 1841 to 315.073 souls; comprising 154,095 males, and 160,978 females; and of whom, 287,446 were ascertained to have been born in the county, and 27,627 elsewhere. Of this population, 79,558 males, and 86,733 females, were above 20 years of age:—of these, 9,054 persons were from 70 to 80; 2,654 from 80 to 90; and 204 from 90 to 100 years of age. There were also in the county, in 1841, three females above 100 years of age!! The number of births registered in the county, in 1840, was 9,831; deaths, 5,960; and marriages, 2,297. The Climate of Suffolk is unquestionably one of the driest in the kingdom; but the frosts are severe, and the northeast winds, in spring are sharp and prevalent. It appears to be highly salubrious, as the average mortality of all parts of the county has been found not to exceed one in 51; while the number of births is as one to thirty.

The Area of Suffolk is 1,515 square miles, or about 969,600 statute acres; of which, nearly 40,000a. of waste, water, and roads, are not calculated in the contents of the Hundreds, as stated in the preceding Table. The Annual Value of the land and buildings, in the county, as assessed to the Property Tax in 1815, was £1,127,404.

The Occupations of the inhabitants, as returned to the census of 1841, are not yet published. In 1831, the population of the county was divided into 61,533 families; of which 31,491 were employed in agriculture; 18,116 in trade, manufacture, or handicraft; and 11,926 were cither engaged in professional pursuits, or unemployed. In the same year, (1831) the number of farmers in the county, employing labourers, was 4.526; and the number not employing labourers 1,121: the number of capitalists, bankers, professional, or other educated men, was 2,228; and the number of labouring men was as follows:— 33,040 employed in agriculture; 5,336 in handicraft; and 676 in manufactures, or in making machinery. The number of domestic servants, in the county, in 1831,was, males above 20 years of age, 1,342; males under 20 years of age, 690; and females, of all ages, 11,483. There are about 100 looms, and about 300 men, at and near Sudbury, employed in the manufacture of silk, velvet, satin, bunting, &(c. At and near Haverhill, more than 170 men, and a considerable number of women and children are employed in making silk fabrics, for parasols, umbrellas, &c., drabbetts for smock-frocks, and Tuscan Straw-plat for ladies' bonnets. Straw-plat is also made at Clare, Lavenham, and at some other places in the south -western parts of the county. There are a few silk and worsted mills at or near Bungay, Hadleigh, Glemsford, Nayland, and Lavenham. At the latter place, worsted and poplin yarns of the finest descriptions are made. (See page 543.): At Leiston, Ipswich, and a few other places in the county, are extensive manufactories of agricultural implements and machinery; and at Ipswich, Thetford, and Bungay, are large paper mills. Malting is extensively carried on in various parts of the county; but its ancient staple manufacture of “Suffolk Hempen Cloth" is now nearly obsolete, except in the vale of the Waveney, on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk, where there are a few flax mills, and a number of looms, See., employed in producing this useful fabric for shirts, sheets, &c., at and near Hoxne, Syleham, Diss, and Harleston. The spinning of fine worsted yam, on the domestic wheel and distaff, for the manufacture of Norwich crape and other worsted stuffs, formerly gave employment to a large portion of the female population of Suffolk and Norfolk, and there was scarcely a cottage, or a farm-house in either county, where the spinning. wheel was not to be found. The introduction of machine spinning in Yorkshire and Lancashire, annihilated this primitive branch of industry in the early part of the present century; and with it the valuable trade of wool combing left this part of the kingdom, where it had given employment to a considerable number of men.  Hadleigh, Lavenham, Sudbury, Ipswich, and some other places in Suffolk:, were formerly celebrated for the manufacture of woollen cloths; but the trade declined in the 16th and 17th,and became extinct in the early part of the 18th century. At Brandon, about 60 men are employed in getting and dressing gun-flints; and the Herring and Mackerel Fisheries of Lowestoft, Pakefield, and Yarmouth, give employment to many hundred men and boys of Suffolk, as well as Norfolk.

The following enumeration of the two Incorporated Hundreds, and the seventeen Unions, into which Suffolk has been divided by the Kew Poor Law Commissioners, shews the number of parishes, persons, and houses, in each; and the number of paupers which their Workhouses are capable of accommodating, with the number of inmates, at the time of the Census, in July 1841

UNIONS and Superintendent Registrars' Districts.No. of parishesPopulation in 1841Houses in 1841.Workhouses
will holdinmates, in 1841.
Blything 49 27,319 5,827 560 215
Rosmere-and-Claydon 39 16,521 3,443 500 183
Bury St. Edmund’s 2 12,544 2,702 200 93
Cosford 28 18,237 3,945 500 108
Hartismere 32 18,529 3,756 500 153
Hoxne 24 15,546 3,190 300 120
Ipswich 14 25,254 5,782 400 191
Mildenhall 13 9,184 1,897 110 29
Mutford-and-Lothingland 25 16,391 3,617 350 141
Newmarket, (part of) §7 6,029 1,136 380 182
Plomesgate 40 21,059 4,581 370 100
Risbridge, (part of) §20 13,565 2,819 280 106
Samford 28 11,818 2,432 500 191
Stow 3p 19,675 4,072 350 91
Sudbury, (part of) §26 22.061 4,833 350 196
Thetford, (part of) §16 6,491 1,337 300 169
Thingoe 16 18,031 3,717 250 106
Wangford 26 13,860 2,920 450 133
Woodbridge 48 23,015 4,969 350 187
Total 847 315,129 66,975 7,000 2,694

§ Sudbury Union comprises 18 other parishes in Essex; Newmarket Union has 22 other parishes in Cambridgeshire; Risbridge  has also 6 parishes in Essex; and Thetford Union has also 18 parishes in Norfolk.

Of the 66,975 HOUSES, 64,081 were inhabited; 2,317 uninhabited; and 577 building, when the Census was taken in July 1841. The number of houses in the County, in 1801, was only 30,805, and 552 were returned as unoccupied. In 1831, they had increased to 50,139; of which, 1,141 were empty, and 259 building, when the Census was taken in that year.

Hartismere has two old Workhouses, which: have been greatly enlarged, since the formation of the Union. Hartismere, Hoxne, and Thredling Hundreds were incorporated for the support of their poor, in 1779; but the incorporation was never carried into effect. Loes and Wilford Hundreds were incorporated for the same purpose in 1765; but were disincorporated in 1827, when their Workhouse| at Melton, was converted into the Suffolk Lunatic Asylum. Colneis and Carlford Hundreds were incorporated in 1756, but were added to Woodbridge Union, in 1835. Blything, Bosmere-and-Claydon, Cosford, Stow, and Wangford Hundreds, were each incorporated for the support of their poor in the latter part of last century, but were formed into Unions under the New Poor Law, in 1835.

  The large Incorporated Houses of Industry for Mutford-and-Lothingland and Samford Hundreds, built under acts passed in 1763, are still independent of the New Poor Law Commissioners; and the incorporation of the former was amended by another act passed in 1833.

In the preceding able and Notes, it has been seen that there are in Suffolk twenty large Workhouses, having accommodations for 7,000 paupers; but in summer, they have seldom as many as 3,000, and in winter, rarely more than 5,000 inmates. Eight of the largest are old incorporated ‘Houses of Industry’, built in the latter part of the last century under Gilbert’s and local acts, but six of them are now under the new Poor Law commissioners by whom the whole county excepting the two incorporations of Mutford-and-Lothingland, and Samford Hundreds was divided into large unions, in 1835, since which, ten large new workhouses have been erected, and the old ones have been enlarged or altered, so as to adapt them to the new system of classification, inspection, and control. Though the old workhouses seldom contained more than half the number of "inmates for which they had accommodation, the out-door able bodied paupers were very numerous in all parts of this, and other agricultural counties, owing to the long continued maladministration of the old poor law, which was eating, like a canker, into the heart of the nation, pauperising the labourers, taking away the motive and the reward of industry, and oppressing that capital which should employ and remunerate labour.

The POOR RATES collected in Suffolk, during the three years ending Easter 1750, averaged £28,063 per annum. In 1803, they amounted to £124,658; in 1823 to .£259,748; in 1833 to £266,157; in 1839 to £145,871; and in 1840 to £141,536. Of the assessment, in 1823, £214,667 was levied on land; £38,965 on dwelling-houses; £5,286 on mills and factories, and £829 on manorial profits. Of the dwelling-houses in that year, only 58 were assessed at the annual value of from £50 to £100. Out of the Poor Rates are paid the Countv Rates, which amounted in 1805 to £25,557; in 1823 to £13,759; and in 1838 to £17,765. The principal items of expenditure, in the latter year, were—Constables and Vagrants, £1,001; Gaols, £316; Prosecutions, £3,567; Prisoners' maintenance, &c., £3,959; and Bridges, £1,113. The number of offenders committed for Chime to the assizes and quarter sessions of Suffolk, in 1838, was 505, of whom 342 were convicted; and of these 9 were transported for life; 74 were transported for shorter periods; 254 were imprisoned chiefly for six months, and under, and five were fined, &c. Of the cases, 27 were offences against the person; 49 offences against property; 3 malicious offences against property; 10 were cases of forgery and offences against the currency; and 9 were other offences. The Suffolk Constabulary Force, established a few years ago, under the rural police act, has no doubt been highly useful both in detecting offenders, and preventing crime, but many of the inhabitants-complain of the increase which it has entailed upon the County Rates. Mr. J. Hatton, of Ipswich, is Chief Constable of this force, which has a separate establishment for the two parliamentary divisions of the county. That for the Eastern Division, comprising the largest and most populous portion of the county, consists of a Deputy-chief Constable, two Superintendents,^ four Inspectors, eight Sub-inspectors, and fifty-two Constables, located in forty Sub- districts, in many of which are Station Houses. The expense of this force, for this division of the county, amounted for the year, ending March, 1842, to £4,332; and in the following year, to £4,441. Suffolk Lunatic Asylum is at Melton, near Woodbridge, and was established by the County Magistrates, in 1827, chiefly for pauper lunatics.

It has now upwards of 200 inmates, and is about to be enlarged. In 1836, the number of pauper lunatics in the county, was 166, and idiots 179, more than half of whom were females.