1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Suffolk

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SUFFOLK, an eastern county of England, bounded N. by Norfolk, E. by the North Sea, S. by Essex and W. by Cambridgeshire. The area is 1488.6 sq. m. The surface is as a whole but slightly undulating. In the extreme north-west near Mildenhall, a small area of the Fen district is included. This is bordered by a low range of chalk hills extending from Haverhill northwards along the western boundary, and thence by Bury St Edmunds to Thetford. The coast-line has a length of about 62 m., and is comparatively regular, the bays being generally shallow and the headlands rounded and only slightly prominent. The estuaries of the Deben, Orwell and Stour, however, are between 10 and 12 m. in length. The shore is generally low and marshy, with occasional clay and sand cliffs. It includes, in the declivity on which Old Lowestoft stands, the most easterly point of English land. Like the Norfolk coast, this shore has suffered greatly from incursions of the sea, the demolition of the ancient port of Dunwich (q.v.) forming the most noteworthy example. The principal seaside resorts are Lowestoft, Southwold, Aldeburgh and Felixstowe. The rivers flowing northward are the Lark, in the north-west corner, which passes in a north-westerly direction to the Great Ouse in Norfolk; the Little Ouse or Brandon, also a tributary of the Great Ouse, flowing by Thetford and Brandon and forming part of the northern boundary of the county; and the Waveney, which rises in Norfolk and forms the northern boundary of Suffolk from Palgrave till it falls into the mouth of the Yare at Yarmouth. The Waveney is navigable from Bungay, and by means of Oulton Broad also communicates with the sea at Lowestoft. The rivers flowing in a south-easterly direction to the North Sea are the Blyth; the Alde or Ore, which has a course for nearly 10 m. parallel to the seashore; the Deben, from Debenham, flowing past Woodbridge, up to which it is navigable; the Orwell or Gipping, which becomes navigable at Stowmarket, whence it flows past Needham Market and Ipswich; and the Stour, which forms nearly the whole southern boundary of the county, receiving the Brett, which flows past Lavenham and Hadleigh; it is navigable from Sudbury. At the union of its estuary with that of the Orwell is the important port of Harwich (in Essex). The county has no valuable minerals. Flints are worked, as they have been from pre-historic times; a considerable quantity of clay is raised and lime and whiting are obtained in various districts.

Geology.—The principal geological formations are the Chalk and the Tertiary deposits. The former occupies the surface, except where covered by superficial drift, in the central and north-west portions of the county, and it extends beneath the Tertiaries in the south-east and east. In the extreme north-west round Mildenhall the Chalk borders a tract of fen land in a range oflow hills from Haverhill by Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds to Thetford. The Chalk is quarried near Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall and elsewhere; at Brandon the chalk flints for gun-locks and building have been exploited from early times. The Tertiary formations include Thanet sand, seen near Sudbury; and Reading Beds and London Clay which extend from Sudbury through Hadleigh, Ipswich, Woodbridge and thence beneath younger deposits to the extreme north-east of the county. Above the Eocene formations lie the Pliocene “Crags,” which in the north overlap the Eocene boundary on to the chalk. The oldest of the crag deposits is the Coralline Crag, pale sandy and marly beds with many fossils; this is best exposed west and north of Aldeburgh and about Sudbourne and Orford. Resting upon the Coralline beds, or upon other formations in their absence, is the Red Crag, a familiar feature above the London Clay in the cliffs at Felixstowe and Baudsey, where many fossils used to be found; inland it appears at Bentley, Stutton and Chillesford, where the “Scrobicularia Clay" and Chillesford beds of Prestwich appear above it. The last-named beds probably correspond with the Norwich Crag, the name given to the upper, paler portion of the Red Crag, together with certain higher beds in the north part of east Suffolk. The Norwich Crag is visible at Dunwich, Bavent, Easton and Wangford. In the north the Cromer Forest beds, gravels with fresh-water fossils and mammalian remains, may be seen on the coast at Corton and Pakefield. Between the top of the London Clay and the base of the Crags is the “Suffolk Bone Bed” with abundant mammalian bones and phosphatic nodules. Glacial gravel, sand and chalky boulder clay are scattered over much of the county, generally forming stiffer soils in the west and lighter sandy soils in the east. Pebble gravels occur at Westleton and Halesworth, and later gravels, with palaeolithic implements, at Hoxne; while old river-gravels of still later date border the present river valleys. The chalk and gault have been penetrated by a boring at Stutton, revealing a hard palaeozoic slaty rock at the depth of about 1000 ft.

Agriculture.—Suffolk is one of the most fertile counties in England. In the 18th century it was famed for its dairy products. The high prices of grain during the wars of the French Revolution led to the extensive breaking up of its pastures, and it is now one of the principal grain-growing counties in England. There is considerable variety of soils, and consequently in modes of farming in different parts of the county. Along the sea-coast a sandy loam or thin sandy soil prevails, covered in some places with the heath on which large quantities of sheep are fed, interspersed with tracts, more or less marshy, on which cattle are grazed. The best land adjoins the rivers, and consists of a rich sandy loam, with patches of lighter and easier soil. In the south-west and the centre is much finer grain-land having mostly a clay subsoil, but not so tenacious as the clay in Essex. In climate Suffolk is one of the driest of the English counties; thus, the mean annual rainfall at Bury St Edmunds is rather less than 24 in. Towards the north-west the soil is generally poor, consisting partly of sand on chalk, and partly of peat and open heath. Some four-fifths of the total area of the county is under cultivation. Barley, oats and wheat are the most important of the grain crops. The breed of horses known as Suffolk punches is one of the most valued for agricultural purposes in England. The breed of cattle native to the county is a polled variety, on the improvement of which great pains have been bestowed. The old Suffolk cows, famous for their great milking qualities, were of various colours, yellow predominating. The improved are all red. Much milk is sent to London, Yarmouth, &c. Many cattle, mostly imported from Ireland, are grazed in the winter. The sheep are nearly all of the black faced improved Suffolk breed, a cross between the old Norfolk horned sheep and Southdowns. The breed of pigs most common is small and black.

Manufactures and Trade.—The county is essentially agricultural, and the most important manufactures relate to this branch of industry. They include that of agricultural implements, especially at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, and that of artificial manures at Ipswich and Stowmarket, for which coprolites are dug. Malting is extensively carried on throughout the county. There are chemical and gun-cotton manufactories at Stowmarket and gun flints are still made at Brandon. At other towns small miscellaneous manufactures are carried on, including silk, cotton, linen, woollen, and horsehair and coco-nut matting. The principal ports are Lowestoft, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Woodbridge and Ipswich. Lowestoft is the chief fishing town. Herrings and mackerel are the fish most abundant on the coasts.

Communications.—The main line of the Great Eastern railway, entering the county from the south, serves Ipswich and Stowmarket, continuing north into Norfolk. The east Suffolk branch from Ipswich serves Woodbridge, Saxmundham. Halesworth, and Beccles, with branches to Felixstowe, to Framlingham, to Aldeburgh, and to Lowestoft; while the Southwold Light railway connects with that town from Halesworth. The other principal branches are those from Stowmarket to Bury St Edmunds and westward into Cambridgeshire, from Essex into Norfolk by Long Melford, Bury St Edmunds and Thetford, and from Long Melford to Haverhill, which is the northern terminus of the Colne Valley railway.

Population and Administration.—The area of the ancient county is 952,710 acres, with a population in 1891 of 371,235 and in 1901 of 384,293. Suffolk comprises 21 hundreds, and for administrative purposes is divided into the counties of East Suffolk (557,854 acres) and West Suffolk (390,914 acres). The following are municipal boroughs and urban districts.

(1) East Suffolk. Municipal boroughs—Aldeburgh (pop. 2405), Beccles (6898), Eye (2004), Ipswich, a county borough and the county town (66,630), Lowestoft (29,85O), Southwold (2800). Urban districts—Bungay (3314), Felixstowe and Walton (5815), Halesworth (2246), Leiston-cum-Sizewell (3259), Oulton Broad (4044), Saxmundham (1452), Stowmarket (4162), Woodbridge (4640).

(2) West Suffolk. Municipal boroughs—Bury St Edmunds (16,255), Sudbury (7109). Urban districts—Glemsford (1975), Hadleigh (3245), Haverhill (4862), Newmarket (10,688), which is mainly in the ancient county of Cambridge.

Small market and other towns are numerous, such are Brandon, Clare, Debenham, Framlingham, Lavenham, Mildenhall, Needham Market and Orford. For parliamentary purposes the county constitutes five divisions, each returning one member, viz. north or Lowestoft division, north-east or Eye, north-west or Stowmarket, south or Sudbury, and south-east or Woodbridge. Bury St Edmunds returns one member and Ipswich two; part of the borough of Great Yarmouth, falls within the county. There is one court of quarter sessions for the two administrative counties, which is usually held at Ipswich for east Suffolk, and then by adjournment at Bury St Edmunds for west Suffolk. East Suffolk is divided into 11 and west Suffolk into 8 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Sudbury, Eye, Lowestoft and Southwold have separate commissions of the peace, and the three first-named have also separate courts of quarter sessions. The total number of civil parishes is 519. The ancient county contains 465 ecclesiastical parishes and districts, wholly or in part; it is situated partly in the diocese of Ely and partly in that of Norwich.

History.—The county of Suffolk (Sudfole, Suthfolc) was formed from the south part of the kingdom of East Anglia which had been settled by the Angles in the latter half of the 5th century. The most important Anglo-Saxon settlements appear to have been made at Sudbury and Ipswich. Before the end of the Norman dynasty strongholds had arisen at Eye, Clare, Walton and Framlingham. Probably the establishment of Suffolk as a separate shire was scarcely completed before the Conquest, and although it was reckoned as distinct from Norfolk in the Domesday Survey of 1086, the fiscal administration of Norfolk and Suffolk remained under one sheriff until 1575. The boundary of the county has undergone very little change, though its area has been considerably affected by coast erosion. Parts of Gorleston and Thetford, which formerly belonged to the ancient county of Suffolk, are now within the administrative county of Norfolk, and other slight alterations of the administrative boundary have been made. Under the Local Government Act of 1888 Suffolk was divided into the two administrative counties of east and west Suffolk.

At first the whole shire lay within the diocese of Dunwich which was founded c. 631. In 673 a new bishopric was established at Elmham to comprise the whole of Norfolk which had formerly been included in the see of Dunwich. The latter came to an end with the incursion of the Danes, and on the revival of Christianity in this district Suffolk was included in the diocese of Elmham, subsequently removed from South Elmham to Thetford and thence to Norwich. In 1835—1836 the archdeaconry of Sudbury was transferred by the ecclesiastical commissioners to the diocese of Ely. This archdeaconry had been separated from the original archdeaconry of Suffolk in 1127. In 1256 the latter included thirteen deaneries which have since been subdivided, so that at present it contains eighteen deaneries; Sudbury archdeaconry which comprised eight deaneries in 1256 now includes eleven. There were also three districts under peculiar jurisdiction of Canterbury and one under that of Rochester.

The shire-court was held at Ipswich. In 1831 the whole county contained twenty-one hundreds and three municipal boroughs. Most of these hundreds were identical with those of the Domesday Survey, but in 1086 Babergh was rated as two hundreds, Cosford, Ipswich and Parham as half hundreds and Samford as a hundred and a half. Hoxne hundred was formerly known as Bishop's hundred and the vills which were included later in Thredling hundred were within Claydon hundred in 1086. Two large ecclesiastical liberties extended over more than half of the county; that of St Edmund included the hundreds of Risbridge, Thedwastry, Thingoe, Cosford, Lackford and Blackbourn in which the king's writ did not run, and St Aethelreda of Ely claimed a similar privilege in the hundreds of Carleford, Colneis, Plumesgate, Loes, Wilford and Thredling. Among others who had large lands in the county with co-extensive jurisdiction were the lords of the honor of Clare, earls of Gloucester and Hereford and the lords of the honor of Eye, held successively by the Bigods, the Uffords and the De la Poles, earls of Suffolk. The Wingfields, Bacons and Herveys have been closely connected with the county.

Suffolk suffered severely from Danish incursions, and after the Treaty of Wedmore became a part of the Danelagh. In 1173 the earl of Leicester landed at Walton with an army of Flemings and was joined by Hugh Bigod against Henry II. In 1317 and the succeeding years a great part of the county was in arms for Thomas of Lancaster. Queen Isabella and Mortimer having landed at Walton found all the district in their favour. In 1330 the county was raised to suppress the supporters of the earl of Kent; and again in 1381 there was a serious rising of the peasantry chiefly in the neighbourhood of Bury St Edmunds. Although the county was for the most part Yorkist it took little part in the Wars of the Roses. In 1525 the artisans of the south strongly resisted Henry VIII.'s forced loan. It was from Suffolk that Mary drew the army which supported her claim to the throne. In the Civil Wars the county was for the most part parliamentarian, and joined the Association of the Eastern Counties for defence against the Papists.

The county was constantly represented in parliament by two knights from 1290, until the Reform Bill of 1832 gave four members to Suffolk, at the same time disfranchising the boroughs of Dunwich, Orford and Aldeburgh. Suffolk was early among the most populous of English counties, doubtless owing to its proximity to the continent. Fishing fleets have left its ports to bring back cod and ling from Iceland and herring and mackerel from the North Sea. From the 14th to the 17th century it was among the chief manufacturing counties of England owing to its cloth-weaving industry, which was at the height of its prosperity during the 15th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries its agricultural resources were utilized to provide the rapidly-growing metropolis with food. In the following century various textile industries, such as the manufacture of sail-cloth, cocoa-nut fibre, horse-hair and clothing were established; silk-weavers migrated to Suffolk from Spitalfields, and early in the 19th century an important china factory flourished at Lowestoft.

Antiquities.—Of monastic remains the most important are those of the great Benedictine abbey of Bury St Edmunds, noticed under that town; the college of Clare, originally a cell to the abbey of Bec in Normandy and afterwards to St Peter's Westminster, converted into a college of secular canons in the reign of Henry VI., still retaining much of its ancient architecture, and now used as a boarding-school; the Decorated gateway of the Augustinian priory of Butley; and the remains of the Grey Friars monastery at Dunwich. A peculiarity of the church architecture is the use of flint for purposes of ornamentation, often of a very elaborate kind, especially on the porches and parapets of the towers. Another characteristic is the round towers, which are confined to East Anglia, but are considerably more numerous in Norfolk than in Suffolk, the principal being those of Little Saxham and Herringfleet, both good examples of Norman. It is questionable whether there are any remains of pre-Norman architecture in the county. The Decorated is well represented, but by far the greater proportion of the churches are Perpendicular, fine examples of which are so numerous that it is hard to select examples. But the church of Blythburgh in the east and the exquisite ornate building at Lavenham in the west may be noted as typical, while the church of Long Melford, another fine example, should be mentioned on account of its remarkable lady chapel. Special features are the open roofs and woodwork (as at St Mary's, Bury St Edmunds, Earl Stonham and Stonham Aspall, Ufford and Blythburgh), and the fine fonts.

The remains of old castles are comparatively unimportant, the principal being the entrenchments and part of the walls of Bungay, the ancient stronghold of the Bigods; the picturesque ruins of Mettingham, built by John de Norwich in the reign of Edward III.; Wingfield, surrounded by a deep moat, with the turret walls and the drawbridge still existing; the splendid ruin of Framlingham, with high and massive walls, originally founded in the 6th century, but restored in the 12th; the outlines of the extensive fortress of Clare Castle, anciently the baronial residence of the earls of Clare; and the fine Norman keep of Orford Castle, on an eminence overlooking the sea. Among the many fine residences within the county there are several interesting examples of domestic architecture of the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. Hengrave Hall (c. 1530), 4 m. north-west from Bury St Edmunds, is a noteworthy example—an exceedingly picturesque building of brick and stone, enclosing a court-yard. Another is Helmingham Hall, a Tudor mansion of brick, surrounded by a moat crossed by a drawbridge. West Stow Manor is also Tudor; its gatehouse is fine, but the mansion has been adapted into a farmhouse.

See A. Suckling, The History and Antiquities of Suffolk (1846–1848); William White, History, gazetteer and directory of Suffolk (1855); John Kirby, The Suffolk Traveller (1735); A. Page, Supplement to the Suffolk Traveller (1843); Victoria County History; Suffolk.