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


Volume 3


16th & 17th Century Halesworth

By the Elizabethan Period, Halesworth was becoming known as a prosperous market town. Contemporary descriptions tell us that it is a 'populous market town where such linen yarn is spun', this is amplified in 1679 'line yarn for housewife's cloth and sale cloth here a good commodity'.

The dates of the fairs are given in the 'Chorography of Suffolk' (1602) ...

'a market towne kept on Tuesday the prlvelege whereof was purchased by Richard Argentein in the tyme of Henry 3d ... This towne hath the privelege and keepeth a fayre 3 whole dayes to wit St.Luke's Eve, St.Luke's Day and, the day following (Oct 17th -19th)' and it adds 'In this towne was a parke and in it a goodly house, the one now ruinated and the other disparked' (This refers to the Manor House, which was roughly on the site of the present Church Farm.

During the 17th century, Halesworth was a fast growing town, both in population and economic activity. In 1674 it is recorded that 226 households were resident in the town, and they were inhabiting 167 houses. Over half the households were described as poor, and there was an obvious need for some charitable gifts to help some of the more desperate in need. As we can see from the contemporary quotes above, the town was adapting to the changed circumstances of the decay of the wool produce, by becoming a considerable market for linen yarn. The October Fair was increasingly being used for the sale of Scottish and northern beef cattle coming into East Anglia, and there were several 'drove roads' in the vicinity which led into the town.

The traditional crafts continued to be employed, including the leather industry with its dependence on the farming community both in the outskirts of the town and in the hinterland. Much dairy produce such as cheese and butter were most probably sent to London and the Continent via the Southwold coastinq trade, and in return, German wine and stoneware pottery, also finer Delft ware, was beginning to be found in the the homes of the prosperous merchants of Halesworth.

The Halesworth Social Club in the Market Place is a 16th century building. Some of its features are similar to those in the Gothic House, and it is believed that it was built in the mid-16th century by the same builder that completed the street front of Gothic House. It was trading for some considerable time as the 'Three Tuns Inn' before it was converted into the Social Club, prior to that time, it was a private house called 'Walpoles'.

The Old Rectory is a timber-framed, brick-nagged and plastered building, the oldest parts being 16th - 17th century, with 18th century and modern additions. A new Rectory was built in London Road (on the corner of Dukes Drive) in Victorian times, while a modern one replaced that more recently in Highfield Avenue. 


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