It was against a
background of low population growth and a fall in prosperity that
Halesworth was changing from a village to a successful market town. It
has been suggested that the trade which passed through its 'flesh
was encouraging some of the surrounding areas to
dairy farming and cattle rearing to catch the export trade.
Walberswick in 1451 had thirteen vessels trading with Iceland, and the
North Sea ports, while Suffolk cheese was being exported from Southwold
Holland during the 15th century. So by about 1500, a new group of
successful dairy farmers had emerged. Grain was sold to merchants
dealing in the London coastal trade, and barley was exchanged at
Southwold for cloth and linen brought in to that port by Dutch
Blythburgh, the next port along the coast, was described as being 'at
the height of its prosperity with a port and considerable fishing, and
quays crowded with craft from overseas'
. And before its decline
16th and 17th centuries, fishing provided a share of the catch, known
as 'the town dole
' which was
at Walberswick paid to repair the quay,
but which often was used for other purposes. Blythburgh's and
Walberswick's fall was swift and steep.
As the shipwright built bigger
ships, the traders began to seek other ports. An account roll of 1478
sadly records an income of' '16d (7p)
and no more, because the Bretons did
not come this year with salt
'. By the middle of the 16th
merchants were dealing from Halesworth in a variety of goods. Contracts
to provision Calais were being won, and Robert Norton of Gothic House
in Halesworth was exporting dairy products to the English garrisons in
France. He appears to have held a Royal monopoly, as he had friends in
high places. Suffolk cheese was particularly fine, and it was popular
because of its good keeping qualities. At the time a soldier or sailor
would include in his normal daily ration of food half a pound of cheese
and a quarter of a pound of butter.
In 'The Story of a SuffolK House
by Sheila and Michael Gooch (1994)
are details of warrants drawn up for goods being supplied. In 1546 a
warrant for payment of £160 was drawn up to 'John Soone and Robert
Norton towards provision of 2,000 weys of cheese and 800 barrels of
' (a wey was a weight of about 2 cwt (102 kg). In 1547
supplied 'grain and other victuals
delivered to the King's highness'
use at Calais, Boulogne, Newcastle and Berwick... for provision of
cheese, butter and bacon they had warrant... for... £374.10s.
The rise of crafts and 'light
' has been shown by the recent
excavations at the 'Angel
k' sites. These
that work went on here in the 14th and 15th centuries. A brick
structure, believed to be part of a furnace appears to have links with
bronze working, and the evidence suggests that bell-castinq was carried
out. In the latter part ot the 16th century, it may have been used by
two bell-founders, William and John Brend, who were contracted to
recast some of the bells of the Parish Church, but by about the 1640's
the furnace was no longer in use. It could also have been the work area
of a pin-maker or brazier, as a large number of pins of various sizes,
along with pieces of copper alloy sheet have been found. This craftsman
also produced lace tags, buckles, rings and decorated belt studs.
By the mid 15th century, new types of pottery were being made locally,
and the Angel Site excavation opened up a rubbish pit with an almost
complete 15th century jug as well as the substantial remains of a dozen
more jugs, four large bung-hole pitchers and many other pottery sherds
of the same period. In all, a tolal of 2,204 sherds of pottery were
excavated of which nearly 70% were of the 1450 - 1500 AD period. This
pottery has been identified as similar to that found on other kiln
sites between Halesworth and the River Waveney, and are all associated
with the Sterff Family who originated from Weybread near Harleston and
moved to Metfield, producing pottery wares between 1485 and 1524. We
know from the 1524 Subsidy List that there were members of the family
at Metfield, Weybread, Wissett and Chediston. Fieldwork at both Wissett
and Chediston has produced vessels of the same type. They include large
pitchers or cisterns with bung-holes to store ale, skillets (like flat
frying pans), tripod pipkins (like three legged saucepans), jugs,
pitchers for local brewers and tapsters, or for general sale in the
leather and clothmaking industries had become important in the town
in the late 14th century, and by the 16th century a number of trades,
including shoe-making, saddle-making and pin-making had become
dependent on those main crafts for their own prosperity. The
occupations recorded between 1500 - 1599 include several linked to
this, - 2 tailors, 1 shoemaker/cordwainer (the cordwainer dresses
for the trade), a mercer (he deals in fabrics), a cooper, a saddler, a
blacksmith, a pinner, a carpenter, a joiner.
It is likely that the richer merchants were becoming landowners by
leasing manorial lands, rebuilding their houses and probably taking
part in the activities of the Town. Among the buildings in Halesworth
which were built or originally existed in an earlier form, the
following are of interest :-
5 The Market Place, is possibly amongst the oldest
buildings in the town. It was the house of the Chaplain, who in the
late 14th century was William Bacheler. A piece of wattle and daub
taken out during restoration has been dated 1350.
The Social Club, The Market Place. (formerly The Three Tuns) is listed
as Elizabethan. (to be described more fully in a future volume).
144 Chediston Street (former Fish & Chip shop) brick facade
covering timber frames building of late medieval period, now
The Arbetorum (at the entrance to the Church), Nicholas Barkere lived
in a house here in 1377.
Anglia Photographic (next to Arbetorum), Galfrides Turnour occupied a
building here in 1377 which probably preceded the present structure.
The Rectory (Off Rectory Street) which is timber framed, brick-nogged
and plastered. The oldest parts 16th and 17th centuries with 18th
century and modern alterations.
3 Bridge Street, (Antique Shop - formerly King's reproduction
furniture) appears to be 15th - 16th century, altered and enlarged in
17th - 18th centuries.
5 The Thoroughfare, (Halesworth Toyshop), there is evidence in the wall
built of tile, flint and a narrow brick that it has 16th century
6 The Thoroughfare, (Warner's Wine Bar) also known as 'Dame Margery's',
dates back to the 14th century with carvings on the front probably 15th
century. They include a central shield which examination has indicated
the former carving of three covered cups, - the arms of the Argentein
16 The Thoroughfare, The Gild Hall, (block of four shops including
Forbuoys), built pre 1470's and now divided into several shop
fronts. (to be described in more detail in vol.3).
Angel Hotel, John Bunting and Thomas Baxter lived here around 1500.
The Old White Lion (next to Sunshine Hair Design ), its wattle and daub
construction goes back to the 15th century.
Gothic House (opposite the Church), From Michael & Sheila Gooch's
researches, it is probable that two earlier buildings were united by
the street frontage about 1540, and it is recorded as one property in
the 1577 Survey of Halesworth Manor, (this is described in more detail
in volume 3).
Church Farm (entrance from Steeple End), The present farm is on the
site of the former manor. In 1602 it was recorded that 'in this towne
was a park and a goodly house, the one now ruined and the other