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


Volume 3


Gothic House and Bedingfield Family

John Bedingfield who acquired Gothic House in the early 1640's was the second son of Thomas Bedingfield of Darsham (1553-1636). His elder brother Thomas, enjoyed a distinguished career at law, becoming a Justice of Common Pleas in 1648. The monument erected in Darsham Church by his widow states that this honour was given by 'King Charles of Blessed Memory'. John, like his brother, went into law and was called to the Bar in 1630, was made High Steward of Southwold 1658-73 and a Justice of Peace in Suffolk 1664-77.

Through his marriage to Joyce Morgan, he had a daughter and eight sons which included Edmund who was to succeed him in the ownership of Gothic House, and Henry, whose career at Law brought him to great heights.

Henry, who was born in 1632 attended Norwich School and went to Caius College as a Norwich Scholar in 1650. He was called to the Bar in 1657 and soon became involved in public service. Henry became a Freeman of Dunwich in 1656, and its Member of Parliament in 1660. He marked time as a Sergeant at Law until being knighted in 1684, when things began to happen to him. He became Sub-Steward of Yarmouth in 1684, High Steward of Southwold in 1685, MP for Aldeburgh in 1685 and Judge of Common Pleas in 1686. Only a short time after he was made Chief Justice of Common Pleas, but died suddenly in 1687 and was buried at Halesworth Church. His marble wall monument was erected by his widow and can still be seen on the North Wall of the Chancel.

Almost as successful was John's younger brother Robert, who was born in 1637. He was set up in trade in the City of London, became a Councillor in 1697, then an Alderman and soon Master of the Merchant Taylors in 1697-8, he was then knighted in 1697 and became Lord Mayor of London in 1707.

John Bedingfield was responsible for some considerable modernisation of Gothic House which by then was a century old. First he created a new front entrance adding the eye-catching porch to shelter the front door. Next came a grand new staircase which rises three flights within the house, and then he remodelled the earlier 'Bunting' wing adding a cellar and raising the roof. What has been lost is the panelling and carved fireplace with which he re-fitted the parlour. They were carefully described by Alfred Suckling in his 'History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk' (1847) but have largely disappeared and not been traced.

The Bedingfield Family owned Gothic House for almost seventy years, with another Thomas Bedingfield selling the property to William Maggs of Yoxford in 1705. The house went through several hands until John Dresser became the owner in 1782-83. He was a successful land agent working as agent to Sir John Rous of Henham, becoming High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1809. During his period of ownership, he created a new imposing entrance hall, fitted sash windows at the front, extended the Buntings wing, built a larger extension on the Baxter wing as a schoolroom, and opened up a second doorway further along the ground floor frontage which is now the entrance to Dairy Farm.


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