History of the parish

Our thanks go to Mary Gibson for supplying the following interesting article:


The parish consists of two settlements and at one time was two parishes; Saxlingham Nethergate or lower parish, which includes Eastgate, now Saxlingham, Green, and Saxlingham Thorpe (a settlement) which incorporates the hamlet of Foxhole.

Despite the village appearing to be a Saxon settlement flint tools have been found which imply Stone Age settlements and much later, Iron Age and Roman occupation is indicated by potsherds and coins as well as foundations of buildings being shown by changes in the colour of the vegetation.

The first Saxons probably arrived in the area not long after the Romans left and pottery has been found which indicates lengthy occupation. The name Saxlingham means the settlement of Sax or Seaxe which could be the name of a person or a tribe. It also implies that the people carried a war axe known as a seaxe.

The earliest document relating to the village is the will of Wulfgyth dated 1046 leaving land in Saxlingham to her daughters.

In mediaeval times the manors were Netherhall, Verdon and Thorpe. John de Verdun was one of Roger Bigot’s men and assisted his overlord by increasing his holdings by dubious means. For this Verdun was rewarded with Bigot’s land in Saxlingham. The land changed hands several times through indirect inheritance, exchange and confiscation. The sites of Verdon and Thorpe Halls are indistinct but Netherhall is now called the Old Hall although the present building is seventeenth century and is thought to have been built by Leonard Gleane (c.1594-1654).

During the sixteenth century Saxlingham’s `gentry’ seems to have consisted of wealthy yeoman families, one of which was the Tutthills. The Tutthills are mentioned much earlier but by the 1550s appear from the records to have been wealthy and charitable. However the male Tutthills emigrated to America in the mid-seventeenth century and the name died out in the village although there were daughters who married locally.

The Thorpe church was abandoned in 1684 and in 1687 an application was granted for it to be `ruinated’. The last rector was appointed in 1573 and the living was held jointly with the Nethergate church from 1551. It is thought that some of the stained glass in the Nethergate church was removed from the Thorpe church as it was clearly not made to fit the windows in the Nethergate church. The dedication of the Nethergate church is St Mary the Virgin and originally the Thorpe church was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was not a popular dedication after the reformation in the 1530s and it was also called St Mary the Virgin. However after its abandonment it gradually became known as St Mary Magdalen. The earliest glass in the Nethergate church cannot be later than 1250 and there is also some fourteenth and fifteenth century glass. The church building has been considerably altered over the last thousand years. The north aisle was added in 1867 and dedicated as a side chapel to St Andrew in 1948 as a thanksgiving that no one from Saxlingham was killed in the 1939-1945 war.

The earliest school mentioned in Saxlingham was one started in 1794 for 12 girls by Barbara Gooch, the wife of Archdeacon John Gooch, the rector. From 1813 until the 1870s there was a private school in the village initially run by William Whiting. In 1819 Archdeacon Gooch said that there were no educational endowments for the village but only a Sunday School supported by subscriptions. However by 1851 there was a school in a cottage opposite the Church Green. The house now known as the Old School Room was opened as a school about 1860 and the present school was opened in 1903

and extended in 2008.

The Old Rectory was designed by John Soane, and in an exhibition of Soane’s designed at the Royal Academy was described as one of the finest of Soane’s early designs. It was commissioned by Archdeacon Gooch and it is thought that the money ran out before it was completed. A Victorian kitchen was added later.

The water mill, now a modern industrial complex, at Saxlingham Thorpe was mentioned in Domesday book and there were windmills in Saxlingham Lane (Saxlingham Thorpe) and Pitts Hill (Saxlingham Nethergate).

There was a smithy in Saxlingham Nethergate Street which appears to have ceased functioning in the 1930s and another which carried on until the 1950s opposite the water mill.

Saxlingham appears to have been a generous village in the early nineteenth century with relief for the indigent. Saxlingham was a village of weavers and the Poor Relief book from 1801-1812 lists relief being given to those whose looms needed repair and who were lame of their hands (arthritis?) as well as 10 shillings and 6d being paid for the coffin at a pauper’s funeral.

Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV, is credited with popularising the weaving of bombazine and at one time there was a public house in the village called the Queen Adelaide.

There have been new buildings in the village during the 20th century but it is mainly in-filling.

Source: Muir, Mary A good place to call home. Mary Muir, 2000.


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