POCKET HISTORIES OF SUFFOLK PARISHES.
No. 134 FLIXTON.

Wide stretches of flat, green parkland, of trees coloured with multitudinous tints, some hoary and majestic with age and others just planted and in the Spring-time of their youth here we find the village of Flixton, "chief of the nine parishes," as it has been described, probably because of a nunnery, which was founded here in the time of the third Henry. But this pleasant place, on the banks of the River Waveney, has claims of interest apart from this ancient religious establishment, which long has passed into the limbo of forgotten things, for here one finds all that pleasant aspect associated with the Suffolk countryside, and breathing the atmosphere of rusticity and charm.

Flixton village itself-which must not be confused with a place similarly named near Lowestoft-is small, compact and attractive in a certain manner, but it is undoubtedly the countryside about more than the actual village which invites the attention of the traveller, and this applies also to the house of worship, which is situated some distance from the street, but very near the gates of the park surrounding Flixton Hall. And-to digress for one moment-opposite these same gates is one of those signposts which other villages might well copy, showing as it does the name of the place with the figure of St. Felix, first Bishop of East Anglia, from whom Flixton is commonly supposed to have derived its name. A happy idea, certainly, and one which, as already mentioned, it would be sensible for other villages to follow.

To gain the church of St. Mary at Flixton, it is necessary to ascend a flight of steps leading to the churchyard, where beautiful shrubs, prolific in their greenery, abound, and from which one views masses of vegetation, towering trees and glorious parkland, whilst against the churchyard is a pleasant cottage, its thatched roof strangely and artistically coloured. And,once the church itself is noticed, one experiences a feeling of some strangeness, for in the average village the place of worship is usually old and weatherworn. At Flixton, however, the direct opposite is the case, for here is a building of modern workmanship, and yet one which is so faithful a copy of the edifices of other days that one is inclined to rub one's eyes in amazement and wonder.

In fact, St. Mary's Church can be truthfully described as unique, for although it was entirely rebuilt in 1861, there seems every appearance of age, always excepting, of course, the air of antiquity which only age and weather can give. Yet, in spite of this, St. Mary's bears the appearance of a building which has well withstood the hammerings of climate and time, and not, as is actually the case, a place of modern construction.

But Flixton Church, with its chancel and nave, its North aisle, with a Western chapel, its South porch, and, best of all, its Western tower, with a queer pointed roof, was built in entire accordance with the original design, so that nothing exists to disturb the harmony of its architecture. The original building was one of the oldest in the country, being in existence long before the Domesday Survey was taken, and in 1855 the chancel is described as being in ruins, whilst the Saxon tower was in a parlous state.

At the present time, despite the newness of the building, a number of floorstones have been preserved, including several in the nave to the Tasburgh and Adair families, whilst there is an older stone, with the matrix of a shield and inscription, both of which have ufortunately been removed. However, a brass still exists to one of the former line, this containing a shield and an epitaph stating that, "Here under lieth buried ye body of Elizabeth Tasburgh wife of John Tasburgh Esquier lorde and patron of this manner and churhe of Flyxton, who departed this lyfe a mooste faythfull and godly Christian-" together with various other remarks.

The above lady died in 1583, and next to her slab is another referring to Penelope, wife of a later John Tasburgh, whose death occurred in 1696, and whose two infants are also mentioned.

Although the church is so new, the oaken roof is very fine indeed, whilst, the reredos, of the same wood, is beautifully carved. Also, the floor of the chancel, which consists of Irish and Devonshire marble, is certainly attractive, and the fact that in the side chapel the altar, added so recently as 1920, is of Flixton oak, lends it a considerable amount of interest.

In this chapel, erected by Sir H E. Adair Baronet, of Flixton Hall, is a rather striking monument in memory of Lady Waveney, formerly Lady Adair and wife of Sir Alexander Shafto, who later took the title of Baron Waveney of Southelmham. Lady Waveney died in 1871, and the memorial shows her figure on an alabaster pedestal.

The list of incumbents commences in 1266 with Thomas de Persore, and amongst the mural monuments are several to the Adairs and the Tasburghs, including one to Lydia, wife of Alexander Adair, who died in 1814, another being a splendid affair relating to Margaret, wife of Richard Tasburgh, and who died in 1705. "She was a patient sufferer in prison with her Husband during ye persecution called ye popish Plott, of which he was accused and tryed for his life, but by a Jury of worthy Gentlemen out of Suffolk had justice done him." And what poignant story is behind all this requires imagination to piece together, but obviously that small "p" in popish has its own peculiar meaning!

Naturally enough, the Church of St. Mary at Flixton possesses few treasures of the past, for, although at one time the plate included various pieces of a certain historical interest, amongst which was a silver Communion cup, upon this being engraved: "Flickzon, Roger Gillingwater Churchwarden 1678," these have long ago disappeared, the present plate being given at the time the church was erected. Fortunately, however, a few relics of the past remain, including poppy heads worked on to the ends of the new benches.

A curious case occurred in connection with Flixton in the reign of Henry the Eighth, when Richard Carre sued Thomas Bateman because, the latter committed an assault on the former for burning a candle on his sword when worshipping in St. Mary's Church. Scarcely a question which could arise to-day.

Mention has been made of the nunnery at Flixton, and this was undoubtedly an important affair at its commencement and for many years afterward. Founded by Margery, the widow of Bartholomew de Creke, or Creyke, in the middle of the thirteenth century, and dedicated to St. Catherine, the lady in question presented the manor of Flixton to this particular house. In 1528, when its revenue was some twenty-three pounds a year, the establishment was dissolved, at which time seven nuns were in residence, and today the site of this ancient house of religion is occupied by a few ruins and a farmhouse, which bears the name of the Abbey, most probably in honour of its predecessor.

Flixton Hall, surrounded by an immense park in which deer disport themselves with all the carelessness of their kind-and have done so for innumerable years, for Flixton was their abode from the earliest times-is stated to have been built by John Tasburgh in 1615, but this suggestion like many others of an historical nature, is open to question. In fact, this picturesque mansion of red brick was more probably erected in Elizabethan days and the fact that it was in the form of the letter E lends colour to the supposition-and was remodelled by the famous Inigo Jones.

Unfortunately, however, little of the original building remains, for in 1832 a serious conflagration occurred, and was rendered much more severe through the fact that no water was available owing to the exceptional frost prevailing at the time, with the result that the place was thoroughly gutted, and practically only the bare walls remained to remind the spectator of the glories of a building which had survived all those years of storm and stress, only to be humbled to the dust by a catastrophe such as this. Unfortunately, also, only a few of the treasures which Flixton Hall held in keeping were rescued, although-let it be whispered-many were believed to have been appropriated by those light-fingered gentry which, in some strange, psychological manner a fire seems to attract. However, several of the valuables survived the combined efforts of conflagration and thief, including the famous "Black Jack," or leathern jug, one of the oldest in existence, and which held the noble amount of eight gallons of ale, and which was naturally in great demand at the various festivals when Flixton Hall resounded with the lusty shouts of master and of man with the unrestrained laughter of mistress and of serving-wench.

At one time Flixton Hall, from which a splendid view of the pleasant River Waveney can be obtained, was moated, but this relic of other days was filled in over a century ago, and yet in spite of this, and also in spite of the necessary amount of rebuilding which has taken place, the building still bears evidence of its former glory, chiefly because of the fact-and this is a point which would-be restorers might well take to heart-that great care has been exercised in following, as near as possible, the original style of architecture. Perhaps the most interesting part in connection with the Hall and park, however, is the dovecote-interesting, that is, because this is practically the only survival of Tudor times existing in the same condition as when it first saw the light of day.

With reference to the manor of Flixton, this as already noticed, was presented to the Augustinian nunnery, but when this particular religious establishment passed into oblivion, it was granted to John Tasburgh, and from his descendants it passed through marriage to the Wyburns, and thence to the Adairs.

Thus the story of Flixton has no outstanding items to invite the attention or to stimulate the imagination, and although a nunnery existed here from very early times, little of this remains to-day, whilst the fact that the church is modern detracts to a certain extent from the point of view of interest. Yet the fact that it is built in strict accordance with its ancient planning still draws a number of visitors, many of whom come casually to this part of Suffolk, and then, viewing its beautiful park-like country, remain for awhile to admire and then to marvel at its verdant charms.

YEOMAN. Reprinted from the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury, July 26th, 1929.


Directories

Flixton Hall

Flixton Convent (Priory)

Airfield

Boyses Hall

Flixton Hypertrail