A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2


Silly Suffolk - Holy Suffolk

By the time of the death of Henry lll in 1272, Halesworth had developed from a Saxon settlement into a small but active market town. It had crafts and industries flourishing within it, based on the river, and on the agricultural work of the manor. The surrounding countryside was still laid out like a patchwork of manors, administered by the lord of the manor, or by sub-tenants to whom they were leased. They were also still partly worked by peasant labour, although at times, free men were employed as the number of villagers who were tied to manorial service grew less.

People often make a joke about 'Silly Suffolk' but they don't realise it is the medieval phrase 'Selie Suffolk' which really meant 'Holy Suffolk'. It was twice holy, for not only were many religious houses dotted all over the county, but also because of the importance of the Abbey of St. Edmund at Bury, which contained the shrine of the martyred Saxon King.

By now, in the late 13th century, large areas of land were being farmed by monks or lay brothers of religious houses, as more and more land came under their control. These monasteries were built in large numbers all over East Anglia. Suffolk had at least 76, while Norfolk is believed to have had over 120 abbeys, priories, friaries and nunneries established within its boundaries.

Nearer to home at Halesworth, although we had no religious house within our village lands, inside a ten mile circle of the town about 22 abbeys and priories had been set up by the monks, canons or nuns of the various 'Orders' which had been developed on the continent and later moved to Suffolk.


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