SOME INTERESTING BUILDINGS IN THE PARISH
MANOR FARM HOUSE in 1780, this consisted of House and yards, Dove House Close, Barn Close, Broom Close, Church and Old Bullock Shed Closes, with yard, Stable Close, Reddens Plantation, Eighteen Acres, Luddams (sic), Furze Close, Ashby Close, Fifteen Acres, Stub Row, Perry Close, Field Piece, Ditcham Close (Ditch Close), Fourteen Acres, Field Land, Five Acres, Grove and Grove Piece.
The marshes of the farm were Stonehouse Marsh, Fleet Marsh, Alder and Carr Marsh, Skeet's Rush Marsh, Little Marsh, Spring Marsh, None Close Marsh, Causeway Marsh, Dirty Marsh and Rands. In 1724 the acreage was 105 uplands with 46 acres of marsh, in 1780, 230 arable with 91 marsh, today, 204 with 74 marsh. The Manor House in the early 19th. Century had a roof in half-castellation but this has now gone. The windows in the front have sashes in flush frames, with a blank panel. The house is constructed on an 'L' plan one arm being added in the 18th. Century. The garden wall of brick and flint recalls 17th. Century work which can also be seen in the Tithe Barn. The interior of the house has been much changed. Among later occupants was Jeremiah Kittle in 1891, a remarkable man who died in 1921 at the age of 93 at the Hollies, Somerleyton. He had a prodigious memory especially for Biblical texts: former occupants were J. Grimmer (1780-6), John Glasspoole (1800-12 - churchwarden 1804, to be followed in the office by his son 1815-30), James Larkman (1817-22), W.H. Maddison (1848), Fred Maddison (1877), Edward Wormall (1884), W.H. Bullock, and C. Kittle (1928-57).
POND FARM the farmhouse was rebuilt in 1843 at the same time that there were added to the farm, Bullock Shed Piece (east end of Church), Six Close Piece, Middle Six Close, Fives Close, Fallow Buck Close, Seven Close Piece, Ten Close Piece, Doles, Five Close Marsh, Flat Marsh, parts of Three Close Piece, and the Meadow. In 1780 there had been 59 acres arable and 83 marsh. By 1896 the arable had been increased to 147 acres. The present acreage is 114 arable and 27 marsh. The long association of the Wigg family with this farm - Edmund Wigg 1812-48 and Thomas Wigg 1848-63 - has led many local folk to call this Wigg's farm still.
LAUNDRY HOUSE on the right up Pond Farm Loke in Frogs Hole there is an interesting house. Originally a small 17th. Century house with stepped roof line in the end wall (like the Forge House at Somerleyton) it contains an arched brick oven with flue, and through into the rear room can be seen the base of the wall of the original house. It was enlarged in the early 19th. Century probably during the John Francis Leathes area.
BLOCKA HALL FARM this ancient and attractive house was built in the time of Elizabeth 1 and stood on the old smugglers' route from Yarmouth to St. Olaves. Local tradition has it that for services rendered at Ashby Church, the priory canons who had fishing rights in Fritton Decoy, had the use of Blocka Hall cellars. If this is so, the it argues for a house on the site before the Elizabethan one. The present house received its Dutch gabling at the same time as the Jacobean Somerleyton Hall and the old Manor House - the Dutch builders coming from Beccles. At the end of the 16th century it was owned by the Symonds family, lords of the Manor of Browston (in the adjacent parish of Belton). It was held c. 1670 by Edward Taverner of Herringfleet and occupied by John Perry whose wife Judith is buried in the west end of Herringfleet Church. He was followed by his son Charles Perry, who held the "liberty of fishing and fowling on the SW of Fritton Decoy and the rights and commons and heathes in Herringfleet". From the Perry family, Blocka Hall passed to Charles le Grys of Browston Hall, an old Elizabethan family of Great Yarmouth, and then later Hill Mussenden acquired it from the Le Grys family and did some restoration work.
In 1780 (Estate Map) this farm contained 154 acres of upland, including Parlour Close, Bullock Shed Close, Twenty Close, Hill Close, Eleven Close, Barn Close, Gravel Pit Close, Ham Park, Middle Park, Carr Close and Carr (3 acres) and 49 acres of marsh, including Scales Marsh, River Marsh, Buch Marsh, Halver Bush Marsh, and rands. In 1919 ownership passed to Lord Somerleyton. The spelling has varied over the year s- from Blocker, Blockley, to Blocka. The origin of the name is not known - it may be a personal (Dutch) name. The present acreage is 226 arable and 25 marsh. An ancient flight of steps leads to the entrance of the house with its great door and lock. Within the house there is obvious and ample evidence of an early period (eg. The carved heavy oak beam across the centre of the dining room). A narrow staircase leads to a spacious attic which contains an early 19th. Century fireplace, presumably for the housekeeper, the other attics for the maids. The addition of the 19th. Century wing blends in well with the original construction. In 1784 building materials were supplied from the ruined precincts of the old Priory. The barn is a fine example of early double-doored barns, for the reception of wagons with wheat, ready for threshing, and the exit door the other side. The usual ventilation and owl holes are to be seen.
WHITE HOUSE FARM the house was (re) built at the end of the 18th. Century and subsequently altered with recent extensions to the farm buildings. The present acreage is 102 including some Herringfleet marshes.
ST. MARGARET'S opposite the Manor Farm, this house was built c. 1822AD for the Misses Harriet Elizabeth Leathes (ob. 1852 aet. 68) and Louisa Mary Leathes (ob. 1855 aet. 76) two sisters of John Francis Leathes who built the house for them. Standing on the Dove House Close in 2.0.7a. of land, after their deaths, the house was occupied by Capt. Hill Mussenden Leathes 1859-64 when he took over the estate on his father's death. From 1864 Capt. Leathes (known locally as the Colonel) was a familiar figure round the parish with his pony and wicker trap, and later his three-wheeler cycle and knobkerry stick. After 1859 extra rooms and stables were added. Till recently the house was occupied and owned by Mr. & Mrs. Ian Rutter, and to the delight of all, donkeys were kept on the meadow on the corner. It has since been sold and divided into Great St. Margarets and Little St. Margarets. Mr. Rutter was churchwarden and treasurer of the church for 10 years.
BRIDGE STORES originally four cottages on St. Olaves' Quay, in 1878 the cottages were occupied by Widow Bailey, George Edwards and later by Widow Morse and her son James, and Mr. James the ostler at the Bell. The attics were used as net chambers. Flooding at ground level was frequent - but George Edwards and his wife lived in the same cottage for over 60 years and died 93 and 97 respectively. The rooms behind the shop are of a great age - almost certainly 17th century, and most attractive, being heavily beamed and timbered. They may have been originally occupied by the toll-gate man and his family. It is occupied now by Mr. & Mrs. Miller who run the Bridge Stores, popular with holiday makers. At right angles to the house, there is a most interesting collection of motorcycles going back to 1905 - there are about 20 of them.
In the foreground of the quay and next to the bridge was the sheep-dip. On a site at right angles to the extension to the house was the old coal house built by John Francis Leathes, to store the Christmas parish coal which was sea-borne direct from the Newcastle collieries, till the time when the railway began to bring coal from the inland collieries eg. Doncaster.
BLACKSMITH'S SHOP opposite the Bell was the village blacksmith's forge, with doors opening onto the road. In 1848 it was occupied by William Harding and in 1859 by the Garrods, in 1886 by Zechariah Barker from Somerleyton - he had probably worked with Jeremiah Kittle who occupied the blacksmith's house and forges at Somerleyton from 1849, taking over from May Farrow at the age 21, till his move to Pond Farm 1880.
PRIORY COTTAGE also opposite the Bell, this delightful cottage, the only one remaining thatched, is also a 17th. Century house with most attractive features. Between 1848 and 1886 it was occupied by a bricklayer William Cockerill, followed by Mr. W. Pooley who was gardener to Priory House, as was his successor Mr. Frederick Bensley who assisted Dr. Smith Wynne in his extensive excavations at the Priory. It is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Barry Johnson of the boatyard. Extensive modernisation blends
in well with the character of the old house.
THE PRIORY built at the end of the 18th. Century, it does not appear in the Estate Map of 1780. After Mr. Youell's departure - he worked lands along the marshes - the house was enlarged as a residence for a curate of Herringfleet, first the Revd. Frederick Leathes (brother of John Francis Leathes) 1825-38, then the Revd. Renand (1838-43), North (1843-45), Bignold (1845-47), Clarke (1847-62), Lowe (1862-6), Webb (1866-72), O'Flaherty (1872-4) and Dickinson. From 1874 to 1877 Capt. Moorlane RA Adjutant of the Militia Battery of Artillery at Yarmouth lived there, and he was followed by Dr. Smith Wynne, a retired Deputy-Surgeon General from India, who in 1914 published his "St. Olaves Priory and Bridge". He was followed by Comdr. Reginald V. Rutley OBE, RD, RNR, whose life and wide experiences should be written up. He died in August 1965 aged 73 and is survived by his widow and Jill.
The clergy, notably Clarke and Webb ran a school there for the sons of gentlemen in the area - the schoolroom was at the back of the house overlooking the garden and was reached by passing through the front door and straight ahead to the back door with the schoolroom on the right. The garden to the NW was the graveyard of the Priory and sepulchral stones and remains have come to light.
An event which stirred the local adrenalin was the eviction on Tuesday 24th March 1903 of Mrs. Farman and her teenage son from the Crypt Cottage, the local constable putting on the door his handcuffs to stop re-entry.
ABBEY FARM the Henry Jerningham Elizabethan Mansion was cannibalised to erect Abbey Farm, with a more modern house replacing it, though the labourer's cottage is still to be seen on the right. The farm was of 54 acres - Little Meadow (13 acres) bordering
Fritton Run, Great Meadow, between Land Spring and Mill Dyke (20 acres) and Abbey Home stalls (21 acres). In 1786 it was occupied by Mr. T. Roll (an old local family) who also tenanted Pond Farm and Abbey cottages. It was then 133 acres, with the additional Little Border Close, Larger Border Close, Four Acres, Six Acres, Garden Seven Acres, Home Piece, and Summer House Park.
CHAPEL in the 19th century there was constructed a small chapel in Priory Rd. - the 'Tin Tab' - which received pews later from the old Ebenezer Chapel in Brickfields, Somerleyton, when that was closed c. 1935. Residents still remember the lantern hanging
outside the chapel door to guide people into the chapel on dark nights.
SUNNYBANK COTTAGES erected in 1872 they were not named after solar position but after Sunnybank Co. Brecon, the home of Mary Louisa (0b. 1908) the wife of Hill Mussenden Leathes.
Apart from the Claypit (near the present claypit cottages of the 19th. Century there was another source of clay in the area - on the marshes half-way between the new Sewage works and the Herringfleet Smock Mill. My informant, the late Mr. Jack Bell, who was tractor and lorry driver since the 1920s and occupied East View (built 1933) told me that there was an 'instant' brickmaking kiln on the clay source, and bricks were baked on the marshes. When this ceased, nothing would grow on the fired patch. It was a grey brick - some have been ploughed up on the Old Bullock Shed Close at the east end of the church. There was a large assortment of bits of bricks and tiles which came to light with the deep plough, the area of the shed covering some 80' by 50'. Mr. Bell drove one of the first chain-driven tractors on Manor Farm in 1925. There was also another stream of clay running up from the marshes and Brickfields, curving round the back of St. Margaret's House, along the southern hedge, under the road, along the hedge beyond the marl pit (next to the barn on the church side) into Private Wood - this was red clay. Straw has been found with the bricks which had rough sides and may indicate a large quantity of bricks being made on the Bullock Shed site. They carried the mark K3 (Daniel Knights proprietor of the Somerleyton brickworks 1875-1890).
THE VILLAGE HALL opened on Saturday 24th. April 1954, by Lady Bridget Somerleyton in the presence of a large crowd which filled the Hall. A Bring and Buy, and talent contest, were held. The event was the culmination of 10 years money-raising. The land was given by Lord Somerleyton, the village raised ?1,500 and a grant was made by the Ministry of Education.
A LOST SITE - BUGG'S FARM
Opposite Pond Farm on the bend of the road in the 1724 Estate Map there was a farm complex called Bugg's Farm, a single main block with two small wings. The plough still turns up bricks and tiles. In a document listing the grants of lands in Herringfleet c. 1275AD a Robert Bugge is mentioned as paying 12s to the Lord of the Manor, Roger de Loudham. The farm was of 94 acres of uplands and 51 acres of marsh.
THE HERRINGFLEET MILLS
There were at least 3 mills in the parish:-
i. MALLETT'S MILL which drained the Scales marshes, 24 acres to the east of Waveney Farm dairy and the Abbey Farm marshes. Was this Scales Marsh named after Lord Scales who in 1466 forced the Norwich officials to seize Paston's property in the name of Edward IV? This was an old marsh mill, visible from the iron bridge at St. Olaves as you looked south to Somerleyton and on the right of the bend in the river. It was pulled down in 1893 and the area served by a tidal sluice gate.
ii THE SMOCK DRAINAGE MILL standing 3/4 mile SW of Herringfleet Church and on the River Waveney, and about 1/2 mile from Herringfleet Rd., with the entrance by the old school house, the path being marked by a finger post. This mill is typical of the
small drainage mills that once existed in this area in great numbers. The smock mill derived its name from the now obsolete smock worn by countrymen. The smock mills may probably date from the time when Cornelius Vermuden introduced the Dutch type drainage mills into this country c. 1620AD. East Anglia, like Holland, once had a landscape dominated by windmills but the Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of the steam engine which made the familiar wind-operated mills less applicable to marsh
drainage, and they became a feature of the past, with the increased use of sluices and an awareness of wind-dependency being unreliable, though many did survive into the 20th. Century, especially in the Yarmouth/Acle area.
There is, however, little evidence for such an early date for a smock mill here - the present one was built by Robert Barnes the Yarmouth Millwright c. 1820-30, when John Francis Leathes was Lord of the Manor. It is shown as disused on the Estate Map of 1883. The Somerleyton Estate came to own the mill and in 1950 installed a centrifugal pump, some 20 years after the formation of the Windmill Society (a section of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings) to co-operate with County Councils in preserving windmills with help from the Ancient Monuments Dept. of the old Ministry of Works. The Somerleyton Estate kept the windmill in working order as long as economically possible, but in the 1950s, the East Suffolk County Council in agreement with the Estate decided to restore the mill and maintain it - as one of the representative trio, Buttrum's Mill at Woodbridge, and the Post Mill at Holton near Halesworth being the others. A grant of ?300 from the Ministry of Works made possible the restoration of 1958 and recently Mr. Peter Dorman has done a tremendous amount of work on the mill.
How it works: - within a tapering timber-framed tower, clad with boards, the wooden cap is turned by a tail pole and winch, to face the sails to the wind. The sails are wooden frames on which the sail cloths are set by hand from the ground. A winch on the end of the tail pole carries a chain which is run out to a number of posts set in the ground around the mill, and then wound upon the winch, thus turning the cap which runs on a wood curb - inside the capone you see the windshaft and brake wheel engaging with the wallower on a central upright shaft which runs down to the ground floor, where the drive is transmitted horizontally to the scoop wheel housed in a semicircular casting or box outside the main body of the mill. The scoop wheel works in a culvert and scoops water from the dyke and empties it into a drain at a higher level to run down into the river. Its former job of draining the marshes is now done by an electric pump near Somerleyton. Visiting parties are allowed, on written application to the Area Building Surveyor, Suffolk County Council, Clapham Rd., Lowestoft. The land on either side of the footpath is private.
Reminiscences of the time when the mill had to be operated by night, were to be seen in the couch on the ground floor and the stove. The last marshman with these duties was Charles Howlett who for more than 50 years, since he returned from the mud and blood of the trenches in Flanders in 1919, had tended the mill (becoming the official 'caretaker' in 1958). He died in 1974, but not before he had given TV talks on the working of the mill and frequently charmed hundreds of schoolchildren by his fascinating stories about the old days of floods and storms. The mill stands a mute witness of days passed.
According to Charles Howlett, in the months before 1958, the mill "only giv up cos her paddles wanted mended; she was, to my way of thinking, in gusty weather, with a fair breeze, doing as good a job as that thar scientific pump - a masterpiece tha's what she is".
iii. ST. OLAVES DRAINAGE MILL
Seen to the right as you look up the river from St. Olaves Bridge, also a smock mill, this was built c. 1910 by Dan England, the Ludham Millwright. It also drives a scoop wheel for lifting the marsh water from the low level ditches, and is a windpump.
It stands on the site of an earlier mill erected c. 1860. Sometimes called the Priory Mill, it is a foursided erection, nearly 30ft high, with four self-regulating sails which open and shut in lulls and gusts to maintain an even speed, and a fan tail to keep the sails into the wind. These shuttered self-regulating sails were invented 1807 by Sir William Cubitt, the famours engineer, who was apprenticed to a cabinet maker in Stalham and became a partner (1812-26) in Ransomes of Ipswich. During this period he wrote many reports on Norwich navigation. Since 1971 the Suffolk Society has been raising money for the painting, repair and restoration of the mill, and this was done in 1975. The restoration costs were estimated at about ?2,000. In 1978 it was made over to the Suffolk Windmill Trust by Lord Somerleyton, and a great deal of continuing restoration work was done by enthusiasts eg. Miss P. Webber.
7th. MAY 1944. An American bomber, a Fortress, came across Fritton Lake travelling south and struck the trees on the north side of the Blocka Hall Lane, just west of the camp site which during the war housed troops and Sherman tranks. It bestraggled the
road, the engine shooting loose and burying itself among the trees on the south side of the road, near the wall which marks off the stabling of Herringfleet Hall. The wings were broken off and settled among the trees. Of the crew of 10, 5 were saved.
The dead are commemorated in the Ashby War Memorial by the gate of the churchyard.
15th MAY 1944. At 6.57 pm an M.E. 109 enemy fighter from Serbst Airfield, Innsbruck, piloted by OberFeldwebel Winberger (an Austrian aged 25 No. BF 109 G.14) - two seater - came over the Herringfleet Road in a SW direction, hit a tree (half way between the School House and the gun site entrance) and shot into the gorge, hitting the eastern side. The engine buried itself in the side of the gorge, the wings landing further down, while the rest of the fuselage came to rest scattered on the west side. There was apparently no damage to the plane before the crash. The pilot broke a leg and was handed over to RAF Intelligence Officers. The wheels were still up on crashing.
NEW BUILDING AT ST. OLAVES
Towards the end of the 19th. Century the Leathes family was beginning to feel a financial draught and on the 8th August 1890 in a Marquee on the Herringfleet Hills, there began the sale of building plots of the "Herringfleet Hills Building Estate". There
were 41 lots and Mr. Spelman was the auctioneer, Reeve and Mayhew the solicitors. Only 10 lots were sold at the auction, and one or two later by private agreement. The rest were withdrawn. At the turn of the century, therefore, some very attractive houses were built well back from the Herringfleet Rd. and with ample frontage. Between the wars, houses were also built on the other side of Herringfleet Rd.
At the turn of the century eight houses were built along Priory Rd., and during the last 20 years further houses were added at the further end up to Waveney House with Breckland on the left, till recently the home of Mr. & Mrs. Norman Cannell who were for
many years integral leaders in village life. Mr. Cannell was Chairman of
the Parish Council, School Manager, and organist at Herringfleet church, and for
16 years Deputy Chief Education Officer for Great Yarmouth, then a County
Borough. Mrs. Cannell was President of the Women's Institute, and Chairman of
the Over-60s Club - both brought to bear upon local affairs a strong independent
leadership, incisive minds, and a carefully balanced judgement. Other local
notables were Mr. George Wyllys and his son Harvey, both in turn Chairman of the
Parish Meeting - as was Major Ross Lewin of the White House. Mr. Fred Fielding
lives in the Firs, a converted railway carriage at the end of Priory Rd., and
was for many years connected with the Old Music Hall in the days of the music
hall giants, many of whom he knew personally. Mr. Reginald Roll of an old
Somerleyton family lived at No. 2, Priory Rd. and with his wife Dr. Mary was a
keen supporter of the church, the bowls club and many local events. For more
than 20 years he had worked in India as a tanner introducing the new chemical
process to the industry.
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This page first posted on 20 April 1999