Historical Facts

Some interesting Gillingham Buildings.

Interesting buildings

The Village Hall

In conjunction with her son, the late Mrs Kenyon provided the Parish with a Village Hall in 1925.

The War Memorial

A War Memorial was erected in memory of the 18 Gillingham men who were killed in the Great War.  It was sited at the corner of Yarmouth and Loddon Roads because on this spot King George V reviewed the Northern Army in 1916 before it went to France.  The late Lord French was with him.

Winston Hall

Quite close to the Winston Rectory is an old farmhouse called Winston Hall which certainly goes back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, if not earlier.  In her reign a certain Simon Smith lived there, and there has always been a tradition that Richard Cromwell, son of the Protector lived at Winston Hall after he retired to live the life of a quiet country gentleman.  There is a walled garden at Winston Hall.  The walls are very old and look as if they once formed part of a building as there are  bricked up doors and windows etc. also a date which looks to be 1661 formed in brickwork.  Winston Hall is reputed to be haunted.  The ghosts are not seen but are often heard.  A rustling noise like a stiff silk dress can be heard going along a corridor at the back of the house and at other times heavy footsteps are heard walking about at night and a voice is heard calling “are you there” from an old outside door now little used, but if you go to look you will not find anyone there.  Queen Elizabeth may have visited this old house as it is quite likely she came to Gillingham as she had land (Crownland) and a hunting lodge here.  She certainly stayed at Beccles as the Royal Arms are carved on an overmantle in a house near Barclays Bank, known as Queen Elizabeth House.

The Village Hall

The Village Farm, so called because it stands in the Village Street, is a very old house, certainly one of the oldest in the village.  It was built around 1600 and added to about 1820 after a fire.  It was no doubt once half timbered and had a thatched roof.  At some time it has been covered with plaster in the Dutch style and a tiled roof put on.  In 1828 the plaster had got into a bad state and was pulled off and it was possible to see what the original house had looked like.  The old timbers were still there, much decayed.  It must have been a pretty house.  Unfortunately, it had to be given a coat of rough cast to hold it together.  The earliest tenant or owner remembered by an old parishioner was named Gepps.  A Mr Gepps also left the White Lion Hotel at Beccles in 1837, he had a celebrated bay pony which he drove 100 miles in 12 hours.  Mr Benjamin Brundell who died in 1872 next lived at Village Farm.  It was once two farms and there were two houses, the other standing on the other side of the road.  It was near the road and was burnt down in 1843 with the barn and other buildings.  Some said it was fired by a workman who was dismissed and did it for spite.  Mr B Brundell who lived there at the time moved over to Village Farm and the two farms were united.  John Brundell next lived there.  He was very excitable and will long be remembered in Gillingham.  He had a plumbers business in Beccles as well as the farm and when at Beccles would climb the Church Tower to watch his men go out to work in the fields at Gillingham to see if they were late, and if so they heard all about it when he returned.  The next tenant was a Mr Wyllys, son of Judge Wyllys.  He lived there about 5 years.  He was followed by Mr Daniel Dawe who had 11 children, 9 being daughters.  In 1914 the Village Farm was lived in by Mr James P Hemmant.  Members of the Hemmant family lived there until 1974 when it was bought by Mr D C Montacute.  Electric light was installed in 1932 when it was brought to the district of Yarmouth.  Mr Montacute extensively renovated Village Farmhouse, blocking the original front door on the east side.

The Village Street

The road over the marshes to Beccles used to be in front of Village Farm House and over the allotment gardens.  It joined the present road at Long Dip and can still be traced in dry weather.

The road going past Village Farm to Dunburgh is known as Kings Dam.  The name is rather a mystery but there is a legend about a king who came that way in olden days.  It could have been King Edmund as he is said to have had a palace near Hales Church.

Wyndale Farm

Wyndale Farm is said to have a secret underground passage leading from a cellar to the river.  It can be traced by the hollow sounds when a horse is ridden over it.  The entrance can be seen bricked up in the cellar.  It is said to be haunted, possibly by smugglers.  There was a lot of smuggling done in these parts in the olden days.  A road near the farm is called Holloway Road.

The Winston Rectory

The Rectory is a very old house which seems to have been added to at various times.  The Rev. John Lewis was rector in 1850.  He was then a very old man and had a curate to help him.  Poor old Rev. John Lewis was so old and infirm that he found it difficult to stand in the pulpit to preach.  So as he had been an ardent horseman and hunter, he had a curious contraption made in the pulpit hsaped like a saddle for him to sit on, and mounted on this he was inspured to preach.  I suppose the curate had to sit on it too!  His successor, Rev. John Farr found the curious seat in the pulpit when he arrived in the parish.  Needless to say he had it removed.  The story is told of oor old Lewis that when he was 80 and could not see too well, he churched two ladies who had walked over from Beccles and had unwittingly seated themselves in the “churching” pew.  The mistake was only found out when the clerk pursued them out of church and demanded the fee.  Rev. Lewis died in 1855.  Rev Farr had the living until 1867He had a large family.  His wife was a Miss Cobbold of Ipswich.

The Swan Hotel

The old White Swan Inn was pulled down in 1935 so that the road could be made wider.  It was 200 years old.  A new Inn was built behind the site of the old one.  There used to be a Toll Gate and house just a few yards on the village side of the inn.

The Village Stocks

The village stocks once stood just beyond the end of St Mary’s churchyard, where the drive divides and forms a circle in front of the Hall.  The road used to run between the churches and the Hall but was altered by Act of Parliament somewhere about the time the commons were enclosed (1805) .  The road once went through what is now the shrubbery in front of the Hall over what is now the drive, across the park to the Yarmouth Road.  The commons were probably near the churches.

The Blacksmiths

The Blacksmiths house and shop at the foot of Gillingham Hill were sadly demolished in 1987, in order to make way for new houses to be built, Anvil House being one of them.  Mr Holmes and his son had been blacksmiths there for many years.  The road now in existence close to the site of the blacksmiths is called Forge Grove.

THE CHURCHES OF GILLINGHAM

History p2012

CHURCHES OF GILLINGHAM 

St. Andrews Church, Winston

Of the now extinct village of Winston which belonged to the Bigods, all the boundaries have been lost but the site of the church can still be seen above the rectory in what is known as Rectory Meadow.  The rectory was occupied by the Rector of Gillingham but is now a private house, and it is no doubt built on the site of the rectory belonging to St. Andrews Winston as it is a long way from St. Mary’s Church and the Village Street. There was also once a rectory on the left of the old Bungay Road near the end of the wood called “Widows Cruise” but this was burnt down.  Bricks are still turned up by the plough at this spot and bones have often been found in the rectory meadow on the site of St. Andrews Church.  This church was united with Gillingham All Saints in 1440 by the Duke of Norfolk with the consent of the parishioners and also the church of the other lost parish of Wyndale, also St. Andrews.  No doubt the Black Death which raged in East Anglia in 1348-9 depopulated this part.  It may explain why most of the houses are now built on what is really marshland.  There must have been many houses in Winston and Wyndale as bricks are still found in many of the fields.

St. Andrews Church, Wyndale

A part of Wyndale parish near the site of the Old Rectory is called Waterloo.  The old church of St Andrew’s Wyndale stood in the corner of the field where two roads fork, one going to Hollow Way Hill and Aldeby and the other to Toft Monks and Haddiscoe.  There is a pit there which is still known as Church Hole.  The meadow is known as The Doles.

All Saints Church, Gillingham

The ruined tower of All Saint’s Church is all that now remains of that church which was pulled down in 1748 to mend the roads.  It must have been a large church judging by the foundations which can be found at some distance from the old tower.  The graveyard is still used.  Being of the 15th century, All Saint’s was not as old as St. Mary’s Church.  The font was sold to Kirkley Church, near Lowestoft, for a guinea in 1746 but the base of the font was found in a garden belonging to Mrs Richardson in Gillingham Street, where it had been used for many years as a garden seat.  The Rev. G H Thompson, then Rector, had I t removed to St. Mary’s.  All Saint’s was united with St. Mary’s Church in 1629 and for some years before it had been served by the same Rector.

St. Mary’s Church, Gillingham

St. Mary’s Church dates back to the times of the Normans, and some old records suggest that it was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church.  Though greatly restored and added to, the old design and building stands out clearly.  The tower is unspoilt except for the three feet of modern flint work, which replace the original embattlement.  The stone work of the doorways and the Norman windows has been much restored.  The two aisles were added at the restoration in 1860, before that there was a porch on the south side of the church.  There was also some addition on the south side before 1860 in which was the Hall pew which seems to have been made out of the screen.  The Old Hall pew seems to have been a very quaint affair, a large square pew surmounted by a canopy supported by four stout oak posts.  Its position was just in front of the pulpit.  It was removed in 1860.  The restoration and enlargement of the church was supervised by Mr Penrice, a Lowestoft architect who married a Miss Brundall, daughter of Mr Benjamin Brundall then living at the Village Farm.

The Catholic Church, Gillingham

The Catholic Church in the park was built in 1898 and finished in 1903.  The priest-in-charge resided at the Hall.  Mr John Kenyon built the church, and died in 1914.  He was buried in the new churchyard.  His widow, Mrs Kenyon carried on the estate after her husband’s death and had the full responsibility of the estate during the Great War.  They had two sons and five daughters.  Three daughters entered convents and the other two were Mrs Todhunter and Mrs Hastings.  Mrs Kenyon was beloved by all – she was an invalid for the last six years of her life and died in 1937.  Most of the parishioners in Gillingham attended her funeral.

 

Local churches

ST MARY’S CHURCH, GILLINGHAM,

This ancient and beautiful building goes back to the time of the Normans.  Some old records say that it was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church.

It is much as the Normans left it except for the two aisles which were added during the 19th century.  It is a pretty and unusual little church in a country setting and surrounded by a churchyard containing many old and historic graves.

Looking from the west door it provides an interesting vista.  The Norman arches of the tower, and the chancel leading to the apsidal end of the church.  As can be expected the interior of this small Norman church is dim, the windows being small and the walls of great thickness.  Electric light helps the visitors to appreciate the beauty of the structure.  An interesting view is obtained by looking back from the chancel through the Norman arch, along the nave with its massive arcades, through the narrow arches of the tower, past the font, to the west door.

The west and north doorways are Norman and the suggestion of the original classical scroll-work on the latter is worth looking at.  The small loophole windows also speak of great antiquity.  There is a much weathered mass-dial near the south door.

The tower has an unusual position between the nave and the Baptisty, so that it appears to be in the centre of the church.  The tower has unfortunately been given a new top, but is however a fine example of a Norman square tower.  There are narrow Norman openings and quaint Norman faces below the parapet.  The amount of stone work involved indicates that it probably came from Caen in France through the little ports of early East Anglia, there being no quarries this side of the Fens.  The apse is characteristic of the church-work of the north of France.

The small bell-cote on the roof of the nave for the saints-bell is said to be one of the most perfect left in Norfolk.

There are numerous points of interest in the church.  Near the south door is a holy water stoup.

A small section of the screen hangs on the north wall near the font.  It has 15th century carvings and colouring, and bears the inscription “May we pray for ye sowle of John Corda and for ye good life of Elizabeth Corda and John”.

Immediately next to St Mary’s is the ruins of All Saints church of which only the tower remains.  St Mary’s and All Saints were separate parishes and were united in 1748.  The separate and single list of Rectors will be seen on the board under the tower arch.

There was once old box pews, but these were removed in 1860 when the present seating was introduced.

The font of St Mary’s is not so old as the church.  Near the south door is the base of a 15th century font belonging to All Saints church.  This was found in a cottage garden in the village where it had been used as a garden seat for many years.  The bowl of this font is said to have been sold to Kirkley Church, near Lowestoft, for a guinea.

St Mary’s has three bells which were cast by members of the Brent family, whose foundry was at Norwich.  The first bell is marked D.D. 1579 I.B. (I.B. Stands for Brent Snr.)  The second bell is marked A.D. 1610 with a crown and three shields engraved.  The third bell is marked A.B. 1634 with a plain cross and the words TRINITAS SALVA ME.  (A.B. Stands for the dedication of the bell to Alice, the wife of I.B.)

There are interesting angel figures in the roof of the nave, but some have been affected by time and death watch beetle.

There is an old picture of the church under the tower arch, showing that it once had a thatched roof.

During excavations to repair the chancel floor, leaden burial caskets, one of which was that of a child, were found.  These were buried in sand, not in a vault as would be expected, and belong to members of the Bacon and Shultz families to whom there are many memorials in the chancel.  One memorial slab when taken up was found to weigh two tons.  On it are the Bacon armorial bearings, the helmet and the hog.

The oldest memorial in the church is a small brass on the chancel step to John Everard 1553, member of a noted Norfolk family, he once owned an estate here.  An Everard was bishop of Norwich in 1166, and he excommunicated Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, for defrauding the Augustinian Canons of some of their property.  There are brass memorials on the church wall Rev. J Farr and also to Rev. J. Loring,.  Both were once rectors of Gillingham, Mr Farr’s daughter Fanny was an authoress and she married a missionary and went to India.  She wrote many novels, mostly about that country, under the pen name F. Penny, and in one of her novels she mentioned Winston Hall in this parish.

A stained glass window over the west door is in memory of Mrs Loring and her daughter who were drowned at sea when on their way to Australia to visit one of Mrs Loring’s sons.

Another memorial near the west door is to the Rev. John Lewes.  He was something of a character, and was rector here for many years.  Being a keen horseman, it is said that, when he was too old to stand in the pulpit, he had his old saddle fixed in the pulpit so he could sit on it to preach his sermon, it is not stated whether he used the whip on the congregation.  The saddle was still in position when Mr Farr arrived in the parish and he soon removed such an unsuitable seat from the church.

The west and north door of the church were until quite recently kept closed by thick wooden bars which used to slide in holes in the thick walls.  These are still there, but not often used.  A picture exists showing a door on the right of the chancel and leading to a stairway to a roof loft, there was also a window over the chancel arch looking down into the nave.

The chancel screen is said to have been removed at some time and made into the Hall pew, which stood just in front of the pulpit.  It was a large and curious affair having four posts and a canopy, rather like a four poster bed, and was removed in 1860.

In early days there were four parishes and churches in what is now known as Gillingham. 

One, St Andrew’s at Windale, was sited near the junction of the Aldeby and Yarmouth roads, where a sandpit is still known as the church hole.  What remains of the old village is now called Waterloo.

The other church, also St Andrew’s at Winston, was in a meadow behind the rectory.  There are many references to this church in the church registers at St Mary’s.  Some shaped stones on the rockery in the rectory garden no doubt come from the old church, and human bones have often been dug up in the meadow.  The rectory at Winston was used by the rector of St Mary’s as St Mary’s rectory, which was near the church on the left of the old Bungay road, was burnt down.

The parishes of Windale and Winston were united with All Saints in 1440 by the Duke of Norfolk.  The church of All Saints was not so old as St Mary’s, its tower being 15th century, but was however larger.  It was pulled down in 1748 and the stones were used in making a new road near the church.  Both churches once stood in one churchyard but are now divided by the drive to the Jacobean Hall.

The people of Gillingham are very proud of their beautiful little church which has been cared for by many generations of people who have lived in this parish.  Many people have worshipped here, been baptised in the font, married in the church, and at last buried in the churchyard.  We do not know the names of the men who built St Mary’s, they are gone but their church still stands as witness to their work.  We hope to leave it in good order for future generations of Gillingham people.

The parish of Gillingham is now linked with the neighbouring parishes of Geldeston, Stockton, Kirby Cane and Ellingham.  The Gillingham rectory has been sold and the present rector lives in Geldeston.