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


Volume 3


Gothic House and Norton Family

We know that the two properties - Gothic House and Dairy Farm, were joined by 1577, and it is probable that this was done by Robert Norton about 1540. He was earning a large amount of money by supplying dairy foods to the English troops at Calais, and the new block across the front was expensively built. It runs parallel to the road. and is one hundred feet long (92.3m) with the first floor protruding over the ground floor, known as the 'jetty' or 'jutty'.The present owners, have estimated that this new section required a total of 460 trees ranging from 12 inches (30.5cm) to 30 inches (76.5cm) in diameter.

The Norton Family link with Halesworth goes back to the mid 15th century, when Thomas Norton 'went into Suff. and there died'. His son Andrew Norton is listed as 'of Halesworth' and is the ancestor of the Halesworth Nortons.

Gothic House was sold by 1582 to Thomas Feltham by WaIter Norton. The family were very devoted Catholics at a time when it was against the law to practice, accept or support the Roman Catholic faith. WaIter Norton was in trouble in 1576 for having allowed mass to be said in his house, and he also tried to stop the removal of the Holy Rood from the Chancel arch of Halesworth Church, an action ordered by Parliament. Indeed the Norton Family held true to the 'Old Faith' for many years, with Lady Mary Norton, almost a century after the Reformation, being referred to as a recusant (a non-Church of England person) as late as 1653.

Another branch of the family produced Richard Norton, who was involved in the 'Rising in the North' in 1569 which tried to restore Catholic worship and release Mary Queen of Scots from captivity. As a result he fled to Flanders (part of Belgium) with his son Francis. His brother Thomas and a son Christopher were both hung, drawn and quartered, and another son Marmaduke was imprisoned in the Tower of London, while a cousin John Norton was hanged in 1600 for harbouring a Catholic priest.

Robert Norton built up a thriving business exporting Suffolk dairy produce such as Suffolk cheese and butter to English troops garrisoned on the continent. In this he was associated with John Soone and supported by Sir Henry Bedingfield, a Privy Councillor whose daughter Katherine, was later to marry WaIter Norton. By the time of the 1577 Survey, John Soone was holding about 100 acres of land which included the site of the Manor of Halesworth, which he presumably farmed to trade these dairy supplies.


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