POCKET HISTORIES OF SUFFOLK PARISHES.
No. 304. HOMERSFIELD.

Only by a very narrow geographical margin can Homersfield claim to belong to Suffolk county, for it is here that an iron bridge, erected some sixty years ago, spans the pleasant river known as the Waveney, and the Waveney, of course, is the natural boundary separating Suffolk from Norfolk. Moreover, the railway station of Homersfield is really in Alburgh parish, and thus is actually situated in the Northern county, but as such anomalies are sometimes discovered there is nothing particularly striking in this instance.

What is striking, however, is the appearance of Homersfield itself, and not only the village but the country around, for close by is the glorious expanse of parkland surrounding Flixton Hall, whilst the refreshing sight of the stream winding between green meadows where cattle contentedly graze makes a picture of rural charm entirely inviting.

And the village itself is in distinct harmony with its surroundings, for there is a certain attraction about its snug habitations, a curious quality of refinement, which makes the very much overworked adjective "picturesque" strictly applicable. Many of these houses are tiled, but on some of the roofs the tiles are of contrasting colours, so that various designs are formed which seem singularly original.

It is quite near the heart of the village that the church of St. Mary is situated, but so high are the magnificent trees of the churchyard that even the tower is practically, hidden from view. However, after taking the sharp rise near which a sand-pit is located, the visitor reaches this structure of the past-a structure with chancel and nave, South porch and Western tower, and which has certain links with the days of the Normans, for even at the time that the Domesday Survey was undertaken a place of worship existed here.

At the present day, however, the church of St. Mary possesses a somewhat modern atmosphere, chiefly, of course, through the restoration which has occurred in recent times, notably in 1890, when a new organ was installed. Yet there is a certain dignified air about the building which reveals its ancient origin, and which at first is somewhat puzzling in view of the extensive renovations and frankly modern additions.

And even a brief inspection explains the cause of this, for the building is fortunate in the possession of several ancient windows, and these, with their air of age, give a distinguished look to the whole interior, so that the plain benches and other work scarcely intrude themselves. Moreover, there are one or two items in the building which definitely belong to the past--one at least to as long ago as the Norman period, and which is quite a good example of its kind.

This is the font, erected on four shafts with a central stem-a thing of rugged beauty and historical interest, and certainly something to invite inspection. In contrast to this timeworn survival of a ruder age, however, the cover belongs to the present century, having been erected to commemorate the coronation of the late King Edward.

Some of the building is in the Early English style, and an excellent specimen of the workmanship of that time can be seen in the chancel, for there is a double piscina. And this is not, as some people might imagine, suffering from the effects of its years of existence-or, at least, not to any appreciable extent-for it is still in quite good condition, whilst its appearance is really attractive.

However, beyond mentioning that the reredos of oak was installed less than a quarter of a century ago, and that on the wall near the South porch is the Roll of Honour associated with the Great War-which record embraces the men of Homersfield and Southelmham St. Cross-little more need be said about this pleasant little building, peering from its tree-girt eminence over the Waveney Valley. For now we must discover something about the story of Homersfield itself, and in ancient times this belonged to the collection of nine parishes forming one township, and which included Flixton, the seven Southelmhams, and Homersfield;although, to be correct, Homersfield's alternative name is Southelmham St. Mary.

Two manors were associated with Homersfield in the days of the Saxons; and when the Domesday Survey was undertaken Homersfield Manor itseif was part of the estate belonging to the Bishop of Thetford and, after being ruled by the Bishopric of Norwich until the dissolution of the monastries, it passed into other hands. Incidentally, however, it was through the influence of the powerful prelate who during the early part of the thirteenth century controlled the destinies of the Norwich see that Homersfield secured the privilege from the third Henry to hold a fair in the village-a fact which is of some interest, in view of developments many years later. For when Anne was on the throne of England Robert Buxton obtained a similar right; although in this case two fairs are mentioned.

After Henry the Eighth had asserted his independence of Rome, the manor of Homersfield was presented by him to Sir Edward North, who in 1553 was summoned to Parliament as Lord North, and whose descendants were in possession here until 1613. At the latter date, however, Dudley, grandson of the above-mentioned, sold the estate to Sir John Tasburgh, Knight, and in his family it remained for over a century, as it was not until the death of John Tasburgh, in 1719, that a change occurred. This happened through the marriage of Lettice, daughter of John Tasburgh, to John Wyborne, but it was only for a short time that the latter enjoyed possession, as some sixteen years later it was purchased by William Adair, whose descendants, of course, are there to-day.

The other manor in Homersfield was known as Limbourne-spelt naturally enough in various forms-or Limbourne Priories, an addition which explains itself. For although it was originally owned by the great and war-like family of Bigod, we find that in 1160 Roger Bigod confirmed to the nuns of Bungay "his lands of Limburne," although the rolls now in existence only date from 1434, when the then prioress, Lady Margaret Cabel, held her first court. Naturally, as the manor belonged to the priory of Bungay it was presented with the other possessions of that religious establishment to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, by the eighth Henry, and although, of course, these properties were afterwards forfeited it was only for a short time, as when Mary came to the throne she remembered her friends of the older faith, with the result that the Norfolks were again in -possession.

In 1565, however, a certain Bassingbourne Gawdy owned the manor of Limbourne, although whether he bought it, obtained it through marriage, or even secured it by inheritance is somewhat doubtful. However, that he was the next possessor there is no shadow of doubt, and that his descendants were here for many years is also beyond dispute, for it was not until 1696 that we find the next owner holding his first court here.

Later, of course, this manor also passed to the Adairs-towards the end of the eighteenth century to be exact-and in view of its association with several people of note it is interesting to investigate Kirby's notes on the subject. And according to this painstaking compiler of historical data, in his time there were "but few or no tenants belonging to this manor, and it would scarce be known if it were not for the water-mill which still retains the name of Limber Mill."

Fortunately, however, the nomenclature of the manor is even to-day perpetuated, for in Homersfield are the Limbourne Water-Mills, so that a link with the days of the Saxons, with the ancient Bungay Priory, with many and varied changes, is in evidence for all to see.

Having said so much about Homersfield's two manors, however, it now behoves us to investigate a little further in order to find out something about the affairs of anybody connected with the village who has attained to certain heights of importance in any particular sphere. And as any reader of these articles is fully aware the most unlikely village has sometimes produced-very often from lowly cot and humble home-one whose name has later become famous in art, in literature, or in other forms of intellectual attainment; or perhaps as soldier, as diplomat or as a man of affairs.

And in Homersfield was born one of the greatest legal celebrities of the sixteenth century, a man who filled many important positions, and who, from a worldly point of view made a huge success of things in general, even despite one rather serious setback. It is of Nicholas Hare that I write, eldest son of John Hare, of Homersfield, and member of a family who claimed to trace their descent for some twelve generations. Nicholas Hare read at Cambridge for a time, and later became a member of the Inner Temple, where in 1538 he was appointed one of the governors, a position he held until his death, just nineteen years afterwards. Some twelve months before he obtained the above-mentioned dignity, however, he was knighted for his various services of a public nature. For that Hare lived a full and busy life there is no shadow of doubt, as the law only represented one side of his manifold activities. In 1529 he was in Parliament as the member for Downton, in Wiltshire, and the next year we find him in the capacity of legal adviser to the great Wolsey, a position which definitely marks him as a man of outstanding ability in legal matters. Then in 1539 he represented Norfolk at Westminster, and on this occasion he filled the office of Speaker, but for some time he exchanged the verbal arguments of Parliament for the discomforts of existence in the Tower of London, whence he was confined through his rather foolish action in giving certain legal advice to a friend-which advice was altogether at variance with the opinions of the Crown! However, Sir Nicholas got over that little muddle fairly easily, as in the Easter term of the year 1540 he was released from his uncomfortable predicament, and by making "humble submission"-probably with his tongue in his cheek!-he was allowed to resume duty in his previous office.

Amongst other positions held by this rather remarkable native of Homersfield was the Chief Justiceship of Chester and Flint, which post he held from 1540 until 1545. Towards the latter part of this time he sat in Parliament for Lancaster, and afterwards his legal abilities were recognised in many ways. When he died he left a considerable amount of properties, and as some of these originally belonged to the monasteries suppressed by the eighth Henry, it seems that he was in excellent favour with that self-willed monarch.

However, as I have remarked, many a village of Suffolk has produced people who have won distinction in various spheres, for the city is not necessarily the sole natural breeding-ground of genius or the nursery of intellectual attainments. Thus, although these villages seem to breathe chiefly of the pure, unspoiled delights of the great out-of-doors, they have often, through one of their inhabitants, played a far from ignoble part in the more clamorous affairs of the world at large.

YEOMAN.
Reprinted from the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury, March 17th, 1933.


Directories