town of Halesworth gradually developed in the 13th century when the
weekly market and annual fair were licensed in 1222, and as other
forms of light industry and commerce flourished, its value to the
lord of the manor became apparent. As the feudal landowner, Richard
de Argentein would be in the position to obtain far more profitable
rents and leases from these new ventures, than from the income of the
arable lands they replaced. The establishment of the market alone
would bring in, not just the rents from the market stalls, but also
the ground rents, fines, transfer charges on the houses and business
premises which would be built on plots around the actual market area.
Market tolls would also roll in, and by establishing the town on his
land, the lord of Halesworth Manor ensured that no one else was
likely to get part of his profits.
would be wrong to discount the part played by the River Blyth in the
town's prosperity. Recent excavations at Buss Creek at Southwold have
revealed that old timbers brought to the surface as the creek was
being cleared, have turned out to be from 900 to 1000 years old. The
timbers appear to have come from one large trading ship of which a
two metre section of the hull and the 400 lb side rudder have been
located. One of the timbers had a craftsman's mark on it, and it is
possible that the ship came from the continent.
villagers of Halesworth would be mainly living in post, daub and
wattle cottages, like those inhabited by the Saxons a century or more
earlier. This wattle was a framework of hazel sticks which were
wedged between the larger timbers of a medieval house. Then they were
covered with the daub, a mixture of clay, straw, horse hair and
manure. This was an unpleasant task, for it involved throwing
handfuls of this mixture at the hazel twigs, and then patting it
smooth. When it was dry, the daub would be plastered more carefully
and washed with a coat of lime. The cottagers large cooking pots and
spouted pitchers were still made of earthenware, and the cooking was
done on a brick hearth set into a stamped-down clay floor. To keep
the fire alight over night, a curfew or fire cover would be put over
the glowing embers until morning, when the fire would be built up
again. Fortunately for us, the excavations made on the sites of such
dwellings in Halesworth produced the remains of the food they cooked.
These include chicken and rabbit bones, egg shells, mussel and oyster
shells, and the heavier bones of oxen, sheep and cattle.
Norman overlords and the Saxon villagers lived at separate social
levels, using different words for food or animals. Ox, steer and cow
are Saxon words, but beef is Norman. Calf is Saxon with the Normans
using veal. Sheep is Saxon, but pork Norman, deer Saxon and venison
Norman. So you would breed your animals in Saxon, but eat from them
in the Norman tongue.
was often the case that a person's name indicated where they lived or
what they did. So Thomas de Halesworth's name (1150) tells us where
his estates originally lay, as does William Halesworth in 1380, but
other names in Halesworth documents tell us who travelled into the
town from outlying villages and settled here. Such as John Walpoole
(1524), William Mideltone (Middleton – 1380), Thomas Kelsale
(1524), or Bendis Kersey (1524). Other times the names tell us their
occupations, my own surname is Sparkes, which is present in the
documents in the form of Sparhawk (1380). This could mean that my
ancestors were either falconers to the lord of the Manor who were
involved in the training of sparrowhawks or they might have been
peasants who worked as sparrow catchers to provide meat for food. Yet
my great, great Grandmother's surname was Feweracre, so we can assume
that her father had a small-holding of about 4 acres in size.
'trade' names are more recognisable, such as John Barber (1580),
Thomas Turner (1580), John Cooke (1524), Robert Fuller (1524), a
fuller was a man who was involved in cleaning the cloth of its fats
and impurities, and Thomas Smith (1380). Other names can be more
complicated, such as William Palmere (1380), a Palmer was a pilgrim
who had been to the Holy Land, or there was Godfrey Sumpter (1577),
and a sumpter was the man who drove a pack-horse to carry goods. Some
names from the past you will still see in Halesworth, such as John
Pryme (1380), John Newell (1524), Samuel Noller (1580), and John
is also possible to find out how much things cost in the late 14th
century from Halesworth documents taken from 'The account of Robert
de Bokenham, Sergeant of the Manor of Halysworthe, Michaelmas Eve
1375 to Michaelmas Eve 1376' :-
John Wyand of Beccles paid 2s (10p) a year for a stall in the market
place which was on a site 5.8 m x 3.7 m.
Thomas Hoclee (Hockley) paid sixpence (5p) to rent 1.5 acres of land
in 'La Heyefeld' (The Hayfield).
John de Thorpe paid 43/4d (£2.17p) to rent the windmill for a year.
(The villagers were obliged to have their flour ground at the lord's
mill, but sometimes they had an illegal small hand mill which could
be easily hidden away. Part of
one of the stones of a handmill was found in the excavations at
paid 20 pence (8p) for the hide of a cow that died at the Manor Farm.
A boy was paid 12 pence (5p) for scaring birds.
1 lad going with plough when ploughing fallow (land) for 5 weeks 4s
352 harvesters hired 3d a day £4.8.0 (1.25p per day £4.40p).
Expenses for 352 harvesters hired for one day - 3 meals a day and
expenses of 9 customary tenants with one meal at noon 15 pence
for harvest 40 shillings (£2.00), no more because they have cider.