The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The year they tried to ban Christmas at Bury St Edmunds


Horrible Plot, and bloudy Conspiracie
The Malignant party at Edmondsbury in
Suffolk, for the Murdering of Mr. Lanceter, and
divers other eminent and well-affected Persons, for
opening their Shops upon Christmas-day.


The number of the Conspirators, and the
manner how they were appeased, with the losse on both
sides. Together with a Proclamation thereupon, and
the apprehending of the chiefe Ring-leaders,
and how they are to be tryed the next
SESSIONS January, 4. 1647

Printed and Published and to be presented
to the Wel-affected Party, through-
out each respective County within the
Kingdome of England. LONDON,
Printed for I. Johnson, 1647.


The opportunity which I have embrased, and the good Tydings which I have to accompany it, hath moved me to set Pen to Paper, and to acquaint you with the horrid conspiracy and malicious Design of the Malignant Party at Edmondsby in Suffolk, against the People of God and the Members of Jesus Christ, who for their faithfuhiesse and zeale to the Gospel of Christ, by endeavouring to maintain the purity of Religion, with the loss and hazard of both lives and fortunes, the inveterate malice and mischivous intentions of those ravening and devouring Spirits began to grow to some maturity, and to appear in a most vild and bloudy shape; for these wicked Members of Sathan, and enemies to God and Religion, had so conspired together, against the people of God, that they were resolved to prosecute their Designe, in case that any of them should presume to open their shops on Christmas day, and to that end had prepared divers weapons for the executing of the same, the particulars, together with the manner of this Conspiracy, I shall here present to the view of all good Christians, as shall manifestly appear by these ensuing lines, Viz.

In Edmondsbury in Suffolk God hath delivered his people from a great and evill Designe, complotted by the Malignant Party in the Town, the manner this:

The Prentices, and divers rude deboyst Fellows of the number of a hundred and fifty, or thereabouts had listed themselves together and had gotten three Captains,

And this was their design, to get together at the Crosse (being the place appointed for to meet) on the 25 of this instant Moneth of December (commonly called Christmas Day.) And :heir resolutions and determinations were, that whosoever should set open their Shops on the said day, they were resolved to pluck out the owners, and fire their houses, and kill them if they resisted, and pull out their goods, and lay waste and desolate taose stately Buildings and Dwelling Houses which are the grace and ornament of the Town.

And the better to accomplish their Design, the Conspirators had provided great Clubs with great nailes crosse the end of each Club, every Naile weighing a pound.

But their mischievous Designs were discovered beforehand, by some Prentices, to whom the Mutineers came for their hands. And on the Wednesday some stirred about it and went to the Magistrates, and informed them thereof. Whereupon to prevent the great danger that might thereby arise Divers of them having skil in the Law found it would bee upon themselves if they suffered such a thing to be therefore the day following they sent for divers of the conspirators, and laid the Law to them, and bound them over to the Sessions.

And on Christmas Day most of the chief Magistrates, and many Constables, and other Officers assembled together.

Afterwards there were about thirty or forty about Mr. Lanseters dore (in the place called Cook-row)1 his shop being open.

And there proclamation was made, and in severall places more, that those which were not in their own houses within half an houre, should be imprisoned; and some were laid hold on, and frighted; so that there was only a little hurt done, two men being wounded beyond the horse-market towards the end of the Towne; for when the wel-affected Party began to assemble themselves together, for the appeasing of these tumultuous Villians, some of them made at them with their Clubs, and wounded these two, but it is hoped not mortal, though indeed (as yet) they seeme very dangerous, by reason of the deepness of the wounds, and the festering of them.

But after a short time, these viperous Rascals were appeased, and the streets cleansed of these Vermin; so that their bloudy Designes were frustrated and mischievous and machavilian Plot discovered:

For the Great God of Heaven would not suffer his People to bee left as a prey unto the mercilesse Malignants teeth.

And it is to be minded, that above all, they aymed at Mr. Lanceter, who was not possessed with fear of them, but quietly waited upon the Lord, with the expectation of Deliverance from the hands of God, which he had, and was preserved; though he used no outward means to attain it himself. But this the Lord did to give his People more experience of his goodness; and hee is able to do much more, for his hand is never shortened.

And therefore let all the Godly Saints, and praying People, according to the Direction of the Spirit of Christ, from the consideration and experience of Gods former loving kindnesse, and preservations, rest upon him for future times.

Thus having given you a brief and exact Relation of the great and bloudie conspiracie complotted by the Malignant Party at Edmonby in Suffolke, I shall humbly take my leave, and remaine

Your affectionate Servant,


Edmondsbury, Jan. i. 1647.

This relation in confirmed by very good Hands, and at the request of many eminent, and well-affected Persons printed, and presented to the pubHcke view of all the Free-bom Subjects of England.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tryal of Witches at Bury St Edmonds, March 10, 1665

The Lowestoft Witchcraft Trials were one of the most infamous judicial proceedings to have taken place in East Anglia. They are covered in great detail elsewhere at and has been the subject of several books including 'A Trial of Witches - a Seventeenth-century Witchcraft Prosecution' by Gilbert Geis and Ivan Bunn [Routledge, London, 1997].

In October 1877, the Bury Free Press printed an extract from the report of the trial that gives a good flavour of the trial, and its extraoardinary absurdity

Bury Free Press October 13th 1877.

The Lowestoft Witches

From “Suffolk Notes and Queries in Ipswich Journal )

In vol, vi of Howell’s “State Trials” pp, 647-702 is a reprint of a “Tryal of Witches at Bury St Edmonds, March 10, 1665, before Sir Matthew Hale.
(The complete original title has already been given by J.W. in Note 31, I, so I need not repeat it here)

This is one of the fullest and most valuable records of Suffolk folklore two centuries since, the following extracts will serve, I think to show.

At the Assizes and General Delivery, held at Bury St Edmonds, Rose Cullender and Amy Dunny, widows both of Leystoff in the County aforesaid, were severally indicted for bewitching Elizabeth and Anne Durent, Jane Bocking, Susan Chandler, William Durent, Elizabeth and Deborah Pacey and the said Cullender and Duny, being arraigned upon the said indictments, pleaded Not Guilty, and afterwards, upon a long evidence were found Guilty and thereupon had Judgement to die for the same.”

“Three of the parties above named, viz, Anne Durent, Susan Chandler and Elizabeth Pacey and the said Cullender and Duny, being arraingned upon the same indictments, pleaded Not guilty: and afterwards upon a long evidence, were found Guilty, and thereupon had Judgement to die for the same”.

Three of the parties above named, viz, Anne Durent, Susan Chandler and Elizabeth Pacey were brought to Bury to the assizes and were in reasonable good condition; but that morning they came into the hall to give instructions for the drawing of their bills of indictments, the three persons fell into strange and violent fits, shrieking out in a most sad manner, so they could not in any wise give any instructions to the court who were the course of their distemper, and that although they did after a certain space recover out of their fits, yet they were every one of them struck dumb, so that none of them could speak neither at that time, nor during the assizes until the conviction of the supposed witches.

As concerning William Durent, being an infant, his mother Dorothy Durent sworn and examined deposed in open court, that about the 10th of March nono Caroli Secundi, she having special occasion to go from home, and having none in her house to take care of her said child (it being suckling) desired Amy Duny her neighbour, to look to her child during her absence, for which she promised to pay her a penny:

But the said Dorothy Durent desired the said Amy not to suckle her child; and laid great charge upon her not to do it…

Nevertheless after the departure of this deponent, the said Amy did suckle the child; and after the return of the said Dorothy, the said Amy did acquaint her that she had given suck to the child, contrary to her command. Whereupon the deponent was very angry with the said Amy for the same; at which the said Amy was much discontented and used many high expressions and threatening speeches towards her, telling her, that she had as good to have done otherwise than to have found fault with her, and so departed out of her house, and that very night her son fell into strange fits of swounding; and was held in such terrible manner, that she was much affrighted therewith and so continued for divers weeks.

And the said examinant farther said, that she being exceedingly troubled at her child’s distemper, did go to a certain Dr Jacob who lived at Yarmouth, who had a reputation in the country, to help children who were bewitched; who advised her to hang up the child’s blanket in the Chimney-corner all day, and at night when she put the child to bed, to put it in the said blanket, and if she found anything in it, she should not be afraid, but throw it on the fire.

And this the deponent did accordingly to his direction; and at night when she took down the blanket with intent to put the child therein, there fell out of the same a great toad which ran up and down the hearth, and she having a young youth only in the house, desired him to catch the toad, and throw it on the fire, which the youth did accordingly, and held it there with the tongs; and as soon as it was on the fire it made a great and horrible noise; and after a space (there was a flashing in the fire like gun-powder, making a great noise like the discharge of a pistol ), and thereupon the toad was no more seen nor heard.

It was asked by the court, if that was the noise and flashing, there was not the substance of the toad seen to consume the in fire ?. And it was answered by the said Dorothy Durent, that after the flashing and noise, there was no more to be seen than if there had been none there.

The next day there came a young woman, a kinswoman of the said Amy, and a neighbour of this deponent, and told this deponent, that her aunt (meaning the said Amy) was in a most lamentable condition, having her face all scorched with fire, and was sitting alone in the house in a smock without any fire.

And thereupon this deponent went into the house of the said Amy Duny to see her, and found her in the same condition as was related to her; for her face, her legs, and thighs, which this deponent saw, seemed very much scorched and burnt with fire, at which this deponent seemed much to wonder. And asked the said Amy how she came into that sad condition? And the said Amy replied, she might thank her for it, for that she this deponent was the cause thereof, but that she should live to see some of her children dead, and she on crutches. S.L.G.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Finley's survey of Pentlow Rectory

Occasionally, in the past, when we got little response or feedback, we wondered whether the F&DLHS website had any real purpose in the activities of a local history society. Now, a number of events have happened that have cast away any doubt. A phonecall from a reader of the website, John Hourigan, has led directly to the discovery of a long-lost survey that is essential to understanding Eighteenth Century Pentlow.

The old rectory at Pentlow

Pentlow Rectory is more famous than it really deserves to be, mainly because of its association with the Bull family, who later were behind the Borley Rectory 'Haunting'. It became their family home. It also gets its fame from the prominent tower that is a landmark for miles around.

The Bull rectory was built on the site of this previous rectory. We were pretty sure what it looked like due to a fine engraving. We also had a 'True Terrier'or exact description of the rectory and its land, written in 1810. Intriguingly, it referred to a survey done in 1767 which would have given a lot more information and provided the exact location of all the fields, moats, gardens and buildings. 'the moat ponds and gardens according to a survey of the premises, belonging to the Parsonage of Pentlow, Essex AD 1767 by Finley, Surveyor, contains two acres and thirty perches. We quickly discovered that Finley's survey, which was described as 'belonging to the parsonage' had disappeared. It was not in the records office or in the church.

Suddenly, we were contacted by John Hourigan, who had discovered the website. It was evident from the description he gave us that he had the original survey in his possession!

From a colour copy he sent, it was quickly apparent that we had a great deal of new information about the parish. Several mysteries were solved. The engraving of the rectory was indeed of the same house.

the engraving of the old Pentlow Rectory

The old house had a splendid tower in the roof. It seems to have been a viewing platform, for the view would have been magnificent. It explains the Bull's later folly, which seems to have been a replacement for the viewing platform of the previous house. The house looks as if it was early seventeenth century in build, and it seems that when the Bull family demolished it, they were destroying a building of great antiquarian interest. Indeed the size and shape of the moat would suggest that the site is much earlier than the illustrated house, and it could be that it contains the core of a fourteenth century building. It has all gone, unfortunately.

Here is the map. We are still poring over it, working out where all the fields were and all the names of people. Together with the 'True Terrier' it provides a remarkably complete description of the rectory as it existed at the turn of the nineteenth century. A great rediscovery.

"A survey of the premises, belonging to the Parsonage of Pentlow
Essex AD 1767 by Finley, Surveyor"

Friday, March 17, 2006

The reunion of the WW1 servicemen

This is the photo of the reunion of the WW1 servicemen of Long Melford circa 1920, sent to us by John Nunn. There is a small arrow pointing out his grandfather in the front row, Right-hand end of the photograph, his name was James Nunn of Church Row, Long Melford He joined the Army Service Corps on 6th Nov 1916 at Park Royal, London, Company 662. Reserve Depot, based at Park Royal, London. Army No. T/4/276135. Rank Driver. The ASC Horse Transport Company.

The gentleman in the centre of the photo in the light coloured uniform was Sir William Hyde Parker of Meford Hall, but we cannot identify the others.

I suspect that, somewhere, there is in a cupboard a note that names all these survivors of WW1 from Long Melford and it would be wonderful to be able to put names to all the faces in this photograph.

The photograph is also of interest bacause it shows the wing of the house before it was badly damaged by fire in World War 2

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Pals

Another mystery postcard has been given to us. This is a group of people from Belchamp. It was thought to be a group of special constables, but this may be a guess based on the strange headgear of the gentleman on the far left, who looks rather more likely to be in hunting gear. The best guess is that this is the local Otter hunt, but normally the whole group would be in their hunting clothes.

The mystery group from Belchamp, which
includes Harry Twichett

For the sake of city-dwellers of delicate disposition, nobody from any of the Otter Hunts could remember ever having caught an otter. Some of the otter hunts are still going, renamed as Mink Hunts, and tasked with ridding the rivers of this pest. It appears to be a good excuse to have a good days exercise splashing about in the river and giving the occasional whoop. They carried on their activities with unalloyed joy for many years after the otters became extinct on the Stour, driven out not by their activities but the pollution, and the loss of riparian habitat.

This is probably all academic as the group could be nothing to do with the local otter hunt. All we know is that the man holding the dog is Harry Twitchett, who used to run the village store. The photograph has been leant to the society by Mrs Lynette Hards, to whom we are immensely grateful.

Mrs Hards, who in the great Granddaughter of Harry Twitchett, has been immensely kind in giving us copies of a set of photographs of Belchamp Walter which I've never seen before and will soon be going up on the site. These include several photographs of the Stores, the Eight Bells, the famous signboard, the church, the school and Belchamp Hall. All in all a treasure-trove of photographs which should please everybody in the village of Belchamp Walter. Please remember we are very much on the lookout for photograps of the other villages in the area as well.