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The online catalogue does not include details of all our collections. Contact the relevant branch for information relating to collections which have paper and card indexes.

Stradbroke Tithe map

Practical conservation was requested for the only copy of the Stradbroke tithe map in Suffolk, FC83/C1/13.

The map was drawn in carbon ink with watercolour highlights onto 4 sheets of cartridge paper. At some point since 1841 the map had suffered water damage causing staining and mould spots on the left. The paper sheets had also started to come apart, tears had developed and some areas had separated from the cloth backing.

Damaged map, before work (FC83/C1/13)

Damaged map, before work (FC83/C1/13)

During the 20th century additional damage was done through re-attaching the paper and cloth with double-sided tape. The tape had since dried out and the layers separated again; the adhesive had ‘cross-linked’ and turned brown so becoming difficult to remove and staining the paper and cloth.

Tests were made with a detached fragment to check that water washing would be safe and that all ink and watercolours were fast. The cloth lining was readily removed and tests done with four types of organic solvents to see if the residues of the self-adhesive tape could be easily removed, but unfortunately not. An oversize bath made in-house from waste cardboard and plastic sheet was used to wash the map; during the treatment the map separated into its four sheets. An additional wash with alkaline water and steam on the vacuum table was tried to see if the staining could be reduced. Alkaline residue was applied by spraying at various stages with calcium bicarbonate solution.

Next the four parts of the map were re-adhered; a gelatine adhesive of high bloom strength was used as this way the repairs would be less likely to separate when the map was re-dampened for lining. Temporary repairs were also made. A lining was then applied overall on the reverse to secure the map together and strengthen it. For this a considerably diluted wheat starch paste and a lightweight Japanese paper was used to ensure the map would remain as flexible as possible when finished.

Applying lining of Japanese paper to rear of map with wheat starch paste (FC83/C1/13)

Applying lining of Japanese paper to rear of map with wheat starch paste (FC83/C1/13)

After lining the map was turned over and repairs were made to the front including replacing any temporary facing tissues with permanent ones and infilling gaps in the sheet. Then the map was placed between woollen blankets and boards for drying.

Map after lining and drying between woollen blankets. Margin left on all edges for final drying (FC83/C1/13)

Map after lining and drying between woollen blankets. Margin left on all edges for final drying (FC83/C1/13)

Final flattening was carried out by restraint drying. The map was re-humidified and the edges of the map secured using the generous margin of lining paper applied to the map. As the map dried and shrunk back, it flattened out (fig. 4).

Map after conservation work completed (FC83/C1/13)

Map after conservation work completed (FC83/C1/13)

Isaac Johnson Map Collection (HD11/475)

The work of Isaac Johnson (1754-1835) Woodbridge based Topographical Artist and Land Surveyor was extensive.  He surveyed and mapped estates in almost every parish in East Suffolk as well as many in West Suffolk.  His patrons included Suffolk nobility, clergy and gentry, and John Nichols, a London Author and Publisher. The antiquaries Sir John Cullum, Richard Gough and Craven Ord commissioned drawings from him to illustrate their books.

The collection of his maps, plans and drawings, HD11/475 is held at the Ipswich Record Office and is particularly significant as it often contains the earliest surviving map for a Suffolk parish.  When making surveys he also made quick sketches of impressive trees, churches, chapels, houses, cottages, castles and architectural features, including monuments, gateways, windows, porches and monastic remains.  He later used these to embellish many of his maps or worked them up into detailed drawings or watercolours.

Suffolk has fewer parliamentary enclosure maps than many counties due to earlier local agreements.  Johnson’s surveys fill this gap linking with the drafts and copies of tithe maps made by Benjamin Moulton (Johnson’s successor) which also feature within this collection.

Johnson’s work can also be found in

  • ‘Drawings of Suffolk Churches’ Ref HD484/2
  • amongst parish, diocesan, family and estate collections within the Suffolk Record Office
  • the British Library (e.g. Add MS 26108 maps and drawings of antiquities, churches, in the county of Suffolk, 1821)
  • the Society of Antiquaries (Joseph Sim Earle collection includes Isaac Johnson preliminary sketch drawings)
  • and elsewhere – he worked in 12 counties according to Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1550-1850.

The East of England Regional Archive Council provided a grant to enable Suffolk Record Office to fully catalogue the over 2,000 items in HD11/475 to make them more accessible, improve their packaging for ease of handling and long term preservation and to digitise at least 50 items to enable more people to see examples of his work.  The late Professor John Blatchly MBE, MA, HonLittD, FSA, an expert on the work of Johnson and author of Isaac Johnson of Woodbridge Georgian Surveyor and Artist, helped to select the items for digitisation.

The Suffolks in Salonika – WWI Trench Map

Suffolks who died in Salonika 100 years ago - July 1916 - maps

Mapping Suffolk’s Stories

Suffolk Record Office-100 SMALL

Suffolk Record Office has an exciting programme of activities in the pipeline to run alongside the development of The Hold.  One of these activities is a project called “Mapping Suffolk’s Stories”, recognises the national and international relevance of the Record Office’s collections.  It will use the engaging nature of historic maps as a starting point for uncovering the unique stories about the people, places and events of our county, often hidden in the archives.

The project will see the Record Office, aided by the University of Suffolk and a group of teachers, working alongside communities to explore and promote their local heritage to new regional and national audiences.

Some groups will focus on the initial stimulus of historic maps; others in the same locality (including schools) will use the maps and new research to learn more about where they live and create contemporary responses to it.

Detail from map Ref: HB26/10975/189

Detail from map Ref: HB26/10975/189

Detail from map Ref: HD88/4/1

Detail from map Ref: HD88/4/1

Detail from map Ref: X6/6

Detail from map Ref: X6/6

John Norden's survey of 1601 - the earliest representation of the Sutton Hoo mounds. Ref: LRO/629/1

John Norden’s survey of 1601 – the earliest representation of the Sutton Hoo mounds. Ref: IRO/V5/22/1

Detail from map Ref: HA30/378/2

Detail from map Ref: HA30/378/2

The project’s results will be available to national audiences through an exciting, interactive mapping feature that will appear here on this website.

“Mapping Suffolk’s Stories” will act as a template for a new way of working for the Record Office – delivering outreach and education “out there” in communities, rather than just relying on activities delivered in branches.

Interested in your community taking part? Please email:

George ‘Lupinseed’ Staunton of Kessingland

John Chapman, known to the world as ‘Johnny Appleseed’, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of the USA but have you heard of George ‘Lupinseed’ Staunton?

Kessingland was once marketed as Lupinland and it all came about because of this man.  It is said that his ‘obsession’ started when he was given two unusual lupins by the Rev John Cossham Vawdrey, and this planted the seed of an idea to turn the beach and dunes into a mass of colour.

Extract from the Ordnance Survey Map of 1927 showing Clare House
(Sheet 19/4)

He had noted that the lupins flourished in the sandy soil of his garden at Clare House, Kessingland and as his house was located on the beach it was a natural progression that they would thrive on the beach and dunes.  It is said that year after year ‘Lupinseed’ thrashed out the seed and sowed acres of the foreshore where he noted that the lupins helped to bind together the shifting sands and worked as a form of natural sea defence.  However apart from being practical they produced a brilliant scented display and for a while in the early 20th century visitors flocked to Lupinland to see the flowers.  As with all success stories there was a darker side for poor George as the visitors departed with armfuls of the beautiful flowers and it is said that ‘Lupinseed’ lost heart on seeing the destruction of ‘his’ flowers and gave up his annual sowing.

As to the man behind the story there is no trace of a George Staunton living in Kessingland on the census returns but Rev John Cossham Vawdry, who is credited with sparking the lupin ‘obsession’, was the Rector of Kessingland 1900-1909 so ‘Lupinseed’ had to be connected to the parish at some point between those dates. A George William Staunton is recorded in the 1909 Kelly’s Lowestoft Directory as living at The Beach (having arrived in the village sometime between 1904 and 1909) and is recorded at Clare House, The Beach between 1913 and Spring 1925.  It must have initially been a summer home as George William Staunton, a director of public companies, and his wife Cassandra are recorded in 1911 as resident at Clare Hall, Clare, Suffolk along with a governess, two daughters and three servants.

The Staunton surname and the name of Clare House disappear from the electoral registers after Spring 1925 but Clare House is still in evidence on the 1927 Ordnance Survey sheet. The couple however appear in 1939 living at Staunton Hall, Newark, Nottinghamshire with one son and three servants.  Along with a change of county George has had a change of occupation as in 1939 he is listed as a clergyman.

Lupins in bloom alongside the path at the edge of Kessingland beach, 1978

Articles published on George Staunton are scant in number but they all record that his house was later the home of Colonel Lancelot and Lady Violet Gregson. This couple appear for the first time in the electoral register of 1933/34 living at the White House having changed the name of Clare House.  Unfortunately, the house has not survived the ravages of the sea.  When fierce storms and high tides struck in January 1937 the house was in imminent danger of destruction and was put up for sale as it was no longer possible for the owners to rent out the house.  It was quickly purchased by William and Vera Sampson for just £40 on the condition that it was removed within six weeks and they set to and removed the White House piece by piece and rebuilt in Wash Lane, Kessingland.

The name however lingers on in Kessingland as it is now the site of the White House Beach Caravan Club, but the lupins proved to be a much hardier lot and today there are still masses of them at Kessingland making a wonderful colourful memorial to the man who loved them.

Thomas Le Heup

Exploring collections in Bury can often reveal fascinating and beautiful documents which tell interesting stories. One such document which would lead to a journey of discovery is a map located in our Hessett collection. Beautifully illustrated in striking colours, it depicts the land owned by a gentleman named Thomas Le Heup. Look carefully, and it will reveal tiny, illustrated details of trees, houses, and the Parish Church. Click here to see a video of the map.

Copinger reports that Hessett Hall passed from the Bacons, to the Walpoles, Aubrey Porter and then to his nephew John, who with others sold the manor and advowson to Thomas le Heup in 1724.

But who was Thomas Le Heup? He was born in St. Lo, Normandy, in about 1668 to John Le Heup and Suzanna. At the revocation of the edict of Nantes by Louis XIV, he became a Huguenot émigré and settled in St. Anne’s Westminster in London, being made a Denzien on 22nd June 1694. It is likely that he also travelled to the Netherlands around this time as there is a record of a marriage on 20th March 1696 in Amsterdam to Jenne Hamon.

Thomas Le Heup must have become quite an influential figure in London. Not only was he a merchant and financier but was also one of the first subscribers to the Bank of England and the South Sea Company. Elected in 1718, Thomas was one of the 39 original directors at the establishment of the French Protestant Hospital (La Providence) which was built to care for persecuted Huguenots and their descendants and according to his Last Will and Testament, he bequeathed “one hundred pounds to the French Hospital at London.”

With his wife Jeanne (daughter of Pierre Harmon of Caen) he had three children; Isaac, Michael, and Peter. All his children were successful in their own right and purchased real estate in Suffolk and Norfolk.  Isaac of Gunthorpe became an MP, being made first envoy to the Diet of Ratisbon, then to Sweden before being made Commander of Customs. Through his wife Elizabeth, he was connected to Horace Walpole who described him as, “a man of great wit and greater brutality.” Isaac’s links to Suffolk continued through his son Thomas who was admitted to Bury St. Edmunds King Edward VI Grammar in 1730.

It is Michael on whom Thomas settled the Hessett estate on his marriage to Elizabeth Gery in 1729 and his descendants remained at the manor of Hessett until it was destroyed by fire sometime before 1766. Thereafter, the Le Heup family can be found residing in Bury St. Edmunds.

Thomas Le Heup’s story ends in 1736 in the Parish Church of St. Ethelbert in Hessett where, in his will, he requested that his body “be buryed……in the Parish Church of Hessett in the same vault as wherein the body of my dear wife lays…”

Le Heup family memorial, St. Ethelbert Church in Hessett

Le Heup family memorial, St. Ethelbert Church in Hessett

Admission Register 1730-1827 (E5/9/606.3)
The Manors of Suffolk, Vol. 6 by W. A Copinger (BRO Local History Library)
Denizations & Naturalizations of Aliens in England & Ireland Pub Huguenot Society XVIII (Cullum Collection)
Proc. Of the Huguenot society of London Vol VII 1901-1904 (Cullum Collection)
Materials for the history of Hessett, by William Cooke 1877 (BRO Local History Library)

A Dot on the Landscape: Rymer Point

On the map of Suffolk Parish Boundaries you will see most parishes are rectangular. But north of Bury St. Edmunds, and south of Thetford in the Blackbourne Hundred the parish boundaries form a shape like the segments of an orange. The parishes of Barnham, Euston, Fakenham Magna, Honington, Troston, Great Livermere, Little Livermere (even though it is not part of the Hundred), Ampton, Ingham and Culford meet at Rymer Point.

Why these parishes converge here has been the subject of debate. Some clues can be found in HD1785/1/1, a collection of papers donated by Major Gilbert Kilner (1887-1960) of the Suffolk Regiment, which are held at our Bury St Edmunds branch. A keen historian and archaeologist, Major Kilner notes that in ‘A Suffolk Hundred in 1283’ by Powell the area of Rymer Point was 70 acres, large enough for a gathering of people and possibly the setting for a Hundred Court. King Edmund 1 (939-946) established areas, served by Hundred Courts where administration; formal and ceremonial functions were carried out. These Hundreds could be independent of parish and county boundaries, and the boundaries tended to move.

Ordnance Survey Map showing Rymer Point

Ordnance Survey Map showing Rymer Point

The Bradmere Hundred belonged to the Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds. Major Kilner recorded it as being absorbed into the Blackbourn Hundred in the Domesday Book. The Hundred was bordered by the Little Ouse to the North, Icknield Way and the Lackford Hundred on the West, the River Lark to the South, and the Blything to the East.
The seats of the Hundred Courts were held at prominent places such as meres, river crossings, mounds or high points. Rymer Point is about ¾ mile East of Gibbert Covert, one of the highest points and the site of a gallows.
However, Troston Mount has been considered the meeting place of the Hundred. It is possible that once both Rymer Point and Troston Mount were Hundred Courts for the Bradmere and Blackbourne Hundreds before they were combined in Medieval times.

Some clues can also be taken from the derivation of the name. ‘Rym’ or ‘Rim’ is Anglo-Saxon for ‘edge’. ‘Mer’ means ‘mark’. Alternatively the ending ‘mer’ may be a shortening for mere. Major Kilner suggests there was once a large mere at Rymer Point. This area was some distance from flowing water and sheep farmed on the Brecklands may have been brought to water there. Further South near Troston Mount there was a large stretch of water called Broadmere, also a useful watering hole.
Rymer Point is on the A134 from Bury St. Edmund to Thetford. Major Kilner believed there was a link road between the ancient trackways of Peddars Way and Icknield Way. Peddars Way comes from the N.W corner of Norfolk and can be traced to Brettenham and on to Woolpit. The Icknield Way comes from Great Chesterford and crosses the river Lark at Lackford.  So Rymer Point could also have been significant as a passing and therefore a meeting place.

Downey Bekke: Mariner and Alien

In the name of God Amen the viith day of the monyth of September in the yere of oure Lord God anno MCCCCC xxviiith. I Downy Bekke of Easton Bavent mariner beyng hoole of mynde and in good remembrance make my testament and last will in maner and forme following…’

So begins the will of Downey Bekke of 1528 (IC/AA2/10/41), much like any will and testament made in the first half of the sixteenth century. He made arrangements for his burial in the church at Easton Bavents and for his executor to pay his ‘tithes and oblaciones negligently forgotten’. He bequeathed £22 from the sale of his half of a ship, the Mary and John, to the local church for a silver an gilt cross, 40s to the church of St Edmund in Southwold for reparations, and money for a trentall to be said by the friars in Dunwich after his death.  He also leaves another boat, the Blythe, to Joan Thomas, and much else besides to his son, Davy Bekke. The picture that the will paints is of a relatively wealthy mariner and fisher, with strong devotion to both religious and civic piety. Recent research in the alien and Tudor subsidies of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the University of York has also revealed that Downey Bekke, among thousands of others throughout England and Wales, was a resident alien.

There are over a thousand records of aliens living in late medieval and Tudor Suffolk, with some some interesting and exotic examples; there were two Aragonese doctors living in Long Melford in 1483, and an Icelandic shearman, Elgat Thorbor, in Nayland in 1524. In 1483, two Flemish craftsmen, Anthony Lammoson and Henry Phelypp, a painter and a sculptor respectively, were also living in Long Melford, almost certainly working for Sir John Clopton who had financed the building of the new church there. There were eleven Dutch clothmakers living in Bildeston. Though the survival of the subsidy returns is sporadic, Suffolk reports a higher number of returns overall than its surrounding counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk, widely asserted to have been the home of many more immigrants, given their advanced status.

To find out more about the project and to search the database, go to the England’s Immigrants website and to read the Suffolk county study.

Dispersal of Immigrants in Suffolk from information on the England’s Immigrants website

A Tale of Two Hoaxes

If you are going to pull a hoax what better place than a public house to be the operation headquarters. It seems from the following hoaxes that the alcohol intake at the Lord Nelson in Southwold and The Bell of St Olaves definitely inspired brilliance.

Exterior of the Lord Nelson public house, East Street, Southwold, 1970 (1176/1/13/1/2/9)

The first of these hoaxes started at the Lord Nelson in 1983 in response to a customer remarking that he had missed the last bus home only to be told by one of the regulars that he could always catch the last underground train from East Street!  And from a passing jest the East Suffolk Underground Railway came into existence. The regulars at the pub took up the idea and ran with it and proceeded to put flesh on to this wonderful tale and before you knew it timetables were drawn up, maps of the system were drawn and it was even possible to buy special tickets to mark the centenary of the underground; but they didn’t stop there.  T-shirts bearing a map of the system went on sale and a traditional folk song all appeared to mark the centenary.  Unfortunately we do not hold any of this ‘centennial memorabilia’ but we would love to hear from you if you have any relevant items relating to this hoax.

One wonders just how many pints it took to be this inspired…..

……and did they drink more or less than the regulars at The Bell of St Olaves who invented in the winter of 1962 the game of ‘nurdling’ and passed it off as a traditional pastime/game/sport.

It is said that after a ‘few jars’ talk in the bar of The Bell drifted to spoofing visitors and they set to drawing up the rules of nurdling. To give it an air of authenticity Harold Jenner, the then landlord of the pub, made a mock papyrus from Norfolk reed setting out ‘in an ancient fashion’ the rules of what they referred to as an ‘age-old’ game.  The papyrus was duly hung in the bar and the regulars sat back to wait to see how long it would be before an unwary holidaymaker took the bait.

The moment an innocent ‘foreigner’ showed the slightest interest in this ancient game the regulars sprang in to action elaborating on the joys of nurdling and kept up the charade until the ‘victim’ was positively begging to be allowed to take part in this ancient rite.

General view of the street looking from the bridge and showing the Bell public house, c1910

It was at this point the ‘victim’ should have ran as fast as his or her legs could carry them as the next step was to get the ‘victim’ dressed up in a smock, gaiters, hat and holding a nurdling pole [described as a birch stick festooned with coypu fur, bottles, and various other embellishments]. The next step was an elaborate initiation ceremony in the bar of chanting and the lighting of candles on the end of the nurdling pole and then and only then was the ‘victim’ ready to experience the world of nurdling!  It could only have been one massive let down as the ‘victim’ was instructed to burst through a door into the world of nurdling only to find him/herself outside the pub, the ‘victim’ of a massive hoax and the butt of the regulars’ elaborate practical joke.  One nurdler stated in an interview with the local press “We are only following what it says in the Bible – ‘He was a stranger and we took him in’”

The moral of this tale is to be VERY cautious of local traditions when entering East Anglian pubs because they may be beer induced!

The Bell of St Olaves actually has a second claim to fame, much more serious than nurdling, and that is that it claims to be the oldest public house on the Broads with parts of the building dating from around 1520.

Woodbridge and the forest

From about 2pm the tour weaves its way through Woodbridge, Melton, Bromeswell, Eyke, Rendlesham and Tunstall.


Visit the Tide Mill Living Museum in Woodbridge and discover the history of one of the first and last working tide mills in the country. The earliest record of a tide mill on the site by the River Deben is 1170 when it was owned by the local Augustinian priory. The current mill was built in 1793 and became the last working mill in the 1950s. It finally closed in 1957, however, it was saved and fully restored to working order and is now open to the public. For more information on the tide mill and the opening time of the museum, please visit the museum’s website.


The Melton House of Industry was converted to the Suffolk County Asylum and opened in 1829. Renamed St Audry’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in 1916, it remained open until 1993. Upon the hospital’s closure, objects and archives from the hospital went to the Museum of East Anglian Life, Felixstowe Museum and Suffolk Record Offices. Discover more in an article about the St Audry’s Hospital, Melton (ID407)  collection at Suffolk Record Office and on the St. Audry’s Project website.


Why not explore Bromeswell Nature Reserve or the Grade I St. Edmund’s Church?  Find in St. Edmund’s Church a Norman doorway, 15th century tower and nave, and the Mechlin Bell. Illustrated in Church Bells in Suffolk by John James Raven [1890], the Mechlin bell shows Biblical scenes including the Annunciation, Presentation and the flight from Egypt. It was cast by Cornelis Waghevens in 1530 in Belgium.


All Saints Church in Eyke has 12th century features including the base of the tower which has since been lost. The church is famous for the unique key used to lock it. Dating back to the 15th century, the key’s wards were shaped to make the word IKE, an alternative form of the village name. A reproduction can be seen in the church. The church also holds three brasses. One is in the memory of Reverend Henry Mason dated 1619. The other two are both headless and dated to c.1420 and are thought to represent John de Staverton and his wife.


Rendlesham, has a long and varied history, including Anglo Saxon kings of East Anglia and the UFO incident reported in Rendlesham Forest in 1980. The village also had a country house that has since been lost. Built in 1780, the original Rendlesham Hall was bought by Peter Thellusson, a wealthy banker, whose son became the 1st Baron of Rendlesham. The hall was destroyed by fire in 1830 and was rebuilt using a William Burn design. On the death of Frederick Thellusson, 5th Baron Rendlesham, in 1911, the hall was sold for use as a sanatorium in the 1920s. In the Second World War it was occupied by the British Army. Following the end of the war, the hall was demolished in 1949. Today, Ivy Lodge and Woodbridge Lodge, built in 1790 and which once stood in the Humphrey Repton designed grounds, can still be seen.


Why not explore Tunstall Forest? Mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses, the forest is popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The Forestry Commission’s website includes information on the forest and its spring and summer harvesting operations. Keen cyclists can take a 10 mile trail through the forest, the ‘Viking Trail’, which has been created by the Forestry Commission.