Monday, 30 September 2013

"Schooling in Felsham & Gedding 1818-1945"

A revised 2nd ed (2015) of this history booklet on education in Felsham and Gedding is available from the author -
£5.50 including p&p
It is also available as a downloadable pdf FREE!

The first mention of a school at Felsham was contained in a survey of education for the rural poor in 1818. This was a "dame school" where teaching and child-minding took place in the kitchen or parlour of an elderly lady called Mrs  Pilborough.

Nearly forty years later a small National School was built on Charity Land behind the church in 1854. This survived until 1899 when it was demolished. 

From 1899 a new school - the Felsham and Gedding CofE School - was built on old orchards between the Rectory and the Townhouses by the Church.  This school continued until 1945 when the children were transferred to Rattlesden School.

The 2nd edition contains a new appendix on Mary Montgomerie Anderson who was a major benefactor and supporter of the school.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Felsham in 1674 during the reign of Charles II

The Suffolk Hearth tax returns provides us with a list of some of the people who lived in Felsham in 1674.

"National taxation records are of particular value to historians, providing rare snapshots of both the extent and distribution of wealth and population across an entire country. The Hearth Tax of the 1660s and 1670s provides one such detailed picture of the socio-economic and demographic structure of England and Wales. In addition, the information on hearths sheds invaluable light on vernacular architecture and on developments in building during the later seventeenth century."

The Hearth Tax was introduced in England and Wales by the government of Charles II in 1662 at a time of serious fiscal emergency. The original Act of Parliament was revised in 1663 and 1664 and collection continued until the tax was finally repealed by William and Mary in 1689.

Under the terms of the grant, each liable householder was to pay one shilling for each hearth within their property for each collection of the tax. The tax was payable by people whose house was worth more than 20s a year and who contributed to local church and poor rates. Large numbers of people were exempt from paying the tax. Those individuals who were not liable to pay for reasons of poverty were required to obtain a certificate of exemption from the parish clergyman, churchwardens and overseers of the poor, countersigned by two Justices of the Peace. As a result, the hearth tax assessments cannot be considered to provide anything approaching a comprehensive census of the population.

Payments were due twice annually, at Michaelmas (29 September) and Lady Day (25 March), starting at Michaelmas 1662. However, the administration of the tax was extremely complex and assessment and collection methods changed radically over time. As a result, the majority of the surviving documents relate to the periods when the tax was administered directly by royal officials, who returned their records to the Exchequer, namely the periods 1662-1666 and 1669-1674.

Outside these periods, the collection of the tax was ‘farmed out’ to private tax collectors, who paid a fixed sum to the government in return for the privilege of collecting the tax. These farmers were not required to send their assessments into the Exchequer, although a few returns from these periods do survive. (Source: M, Durrant, History of Badley).

John Fryar


John Motham


William Deekes


John Groom/Widow Spurgeon


John Spurgeon


William Scare


Mr [Thomas ] Brundish [the Rector 1646-1680]


Anthony Hayward


James Hayward


Thomas Warren


Mr Nunn [Also owned a house in Gedding with 4 hearths]


Robert South


Mr Robert Goodrich


Dan. Mount/Richard Kemball


John Banham


John Hayward


John Sterne


Charles Sterne


George Cockseage


Widow Worth/ George Partridge


William Grimwood/ Thomas Todd


Hezekiah Draper


Jos Ranson


John Ely


Total hearths



Robert Groome/Anthony Groome/John Groome


Widow Alexander/Edward Hawkins


Augustus Heylder/James Mayhew


John Hamont sen. & jun.


John Grimwood/William Lockwood


Towne houses



With the number of hearths averaging about 4, the people of Felsham were mostly living in farmhouses and cottages.  There is no large house listed.  The Lord of the Manor in 1674 was John Risby Esq. who lived in Thorpe Morieux in a house with 11 hearths.

To help put these village statistics in some sort of perspective it is worth noting that the house with the largest number of hearths in Suffolk was Hengrave Hall with 55, while more locally we have Rushbrook Hall with 33.

Mr Robert Goodrich is, perhaps, the most interesting person among the list of Felsham  tax payers.  Certainly, we know more about him than some of the others.  To begin with he is buried in the centre of the chancel of St Peter's Church and the flagstone that marks his grave bears his impressive coat of arms:

He died in 1731 at the age of 80 years.  Furthermore, a “Robert Goodrich” was a High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1727 and the Felsham gentleman may have been the same person.
(The High Sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown and is appointed annually (in March) by the Crown. He was originally the principal law enforcement officer in the county and presided at the Assizes and other important county meetings.)

Sir John Tilley in his “Notes for a history of Felsham” (1951) mentions that in 1718 Mr. Robert Goodrich, Senior, bestowed upon the Church a silver flagon bearing his arms; its "first appearance”, says the register was on Easter Day. It is still in use and, so the Rector tells me, is German work and very valuable."

The earliest mention of the Goodrich family in Felsham was in 1470 in the Wills of the Archdeaconry of Sudbury.  The record includes the will of "Rose Goddrych of Felsham, widow", dated 2nd August 1470.

For more general information about "hearth taxes" see:

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Census Returns for Felsham 1841 to 1911

Microsoft Excel allows you to crunch numbers very quickly and easily.  Using this software or other similar spread-sheet programs, the sorting and counting of large amounts of data from the Census Returns is fairly straightforward and provides us with some interesting facts. 

Filling up the census paper. Punch, 1861 Photograph: British Library Board/The British Library

Take Felsham villagers’ names for example.  Popular Christian names among boys show a remarkable consistency throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods.  William, George and John are regular favourites followed closely by James, Robert and Thomas.  Frederick and Arthur become more common towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

Choice of Christian names for girls reveals greater variety than the boys particularly during Edwardian times. The girls’ names show less consistency over the whole period but definite favourites do emerge.  Mary Ann and Mary are the clear winners in the popularity stakes throughout the Victorian period but ‘Mary’ alone remains a clear favourite into the 20th century.   Sarah was very common in 1841 but fades away as the 19th century progresses.  Elizabeth is also very popular along with Eliza, but by the beginning of the 1900s, names such as Annie, Alice, Edith and Ellen are becoming more prevalent.

The top three surnames in Felsham during this period were BREWER, SMITH and TURNER.

There is much important work to be done in analysing local census material to highlight historical trends: changes in age structures, occupations, family size, and school attendance are but a few that come to mind.

If you would like a FREE Excel copy of the Felsham censuses contact the EDITOR
See also:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Felsham Village Sign ~ with historical connotations

This is FHF's suggestion for a village sign with historical illustrations

This frame represents the predominance of farmhouses with moats in Felsham going back to the early 14th century.  It also indicates the importance of thatch as a roofing medium in our area.
This frame represents the importance of Felsham as a market centre going back to the 13th century and the more recent revival of the Felsham Street Fair with its multiplicity of stalls down The Street.
This frame represents the presence of an annual Fair in Felsham going back to the early 13th century and the introduction of a Lamb Fair during the Tudor period.  It also represents the continued importance of animals on the local small-holdings.
This frame represents the importance of farming in our village with centuries of horse-powered farm implements and waggons.  The waggon illustrated is representative of a Suffolk waggon drawn by four heavy horses.