Elmswell HallBuilding Status: Listed Building
Dick Burch: “Despite its medieval origins and its moats the present Elmswell Hall farm house looks like a typically early Victorian building. It used to be the biggest farm in Elmswell with some 280 acres of land. It was, in the 1940s, regarded as a large farm by Suffolk standards. Both before and after the war it was run by John Kirkwood as a mixed farm with a large dairy herd and a creamery. He had about 40 cows so he needed three of his staff of seven just to look after the dairy work. They had to have the milk churns ready for the daily arrival of the milk lorry from Stowmarket. In those days before modern milking parlours on farms, one man could only deal with about twenty cows for the twice daily milking, their cleaning and feeding. [Photo of horse-drawn milk cart]
Thomas Chaplin took over in the early 1960s and his son-in-law Peter Over was running Elmswell Hall farm by the 1990s. Obviously much of the farm was given over to arable crops but, with the large drop in prices for cereal crops in recent years, Mr Over has also gone in for the niche market of raising ducks. He now breeds some 8,000 ducks every two to three months, so is dealing with some 40,000 every year.”
Article in “E. Anglian Miscellany”, Oct-Dec 1911
It is no easy matter under present conditions to give a proportionate description of the shape and size of the moats that once encompassed the site of this manor of Elmswell Hall. A portion, 73 yards in extent, lies eastward of the present garden, and a little more adjoins this on the southern side. It is wide, deep, and said to be full of golden tench. It probably extended very much more northward, along a piece of ground now covered with fruit trees and strawberries, and so included the spot on which now stand the farm premises, and if the house was placed anywhere in the middle of it the northern and southern portions must have been equally large. So much of it has been in course of time filled in, one cannot state with any degree of certainty where the entrance was, but in all probability on the south also.
Of the ancient house not much remains, and what is left has been recased and looks thoroughly modern; however on the north side of the remnant are two large protruding Elizabethan chimneys, which denote the back of the original house. From the lines in the grass of the garden lawn (always very apparent in a dry time) it was very evident to me that the old house stretched 20 yards further westward than the present building, and the kindly lady who now presides as hostess told me that southward of the present residence lines were also apparent, and that foundations had been unearthed; these might well be portions of slightly projecting wings, or possibly the porch of the old mansion. In the lower rooms there is not much to be seen of their ancient appearance. That at the north-west corner (now the dining-room) has plain oak beams; those in the opposite room at the south-west corner, have been cased. However, in the upper chamber running the whole length of the house from east to west we find a small moulded oak beam with still smaller ones crossing here and there, and solid oak supports by the walls. This series of chambers formed originally three rooms, the one on the western side being quite large, while that on the east has a doorway, from which, by a ladder, one can descend into the yard below. Concerning this, I was told that an old lady who formerly resided here caused her man-servant to sleep in this chamber, so that easily in the early morning he could reach his work without disturbing anybody. It is intended that the beams and supports in these chambers shall be scraped and coloured, which will add to the ancient appearance of the interior of the Hall. The portion at the east end still retains that appearance, having a gable and an overhanging storey.
And now we come to the history of the place, the site, estate, and mansion. The very first statement concerning it, published in Page’s “History of Suffolk,” and quoted elsewhere, is this: “King Edwin granted this lordship and demesne to the Abbot of St. Edmund; and the manor has become one of the country seats belonging to the heads of that house.” I do not doubt it; in fact, it is recorded that one of the Henry’s paid a visit to it when sojourning at the Abbey. However, this will not account for any graves found in the garden, as an Abbot would hardly be likely to bury near his lodge. At the time of the Dissolution, about 1536, the lease of it passed into the hands of the family Darcy, one Sir Thomas Darcy being appointed keeper of the chief messuage about 1542. In this family it remained two generations, being sold by Thomas Lord Darcy to Sir Robert Gardiner in 1590. This is about the date of the present building.
Sir Robert Gardiner was certainly the most important person ever connected with Elmswell. That he was a Suffolk man I gather from the inscription on his monument, which tells of his “retiring to his native home”. The coat-of-arms on his tomb; “Gules, a chevron between three tiger heads erased or,” was ascribed by Glover to “Robert Gardner of Chardacre Surrey,” which in the Blois MSS. is given “Chardacre, Suffolk,” meaning doubtless Chadacre in Shimpling. However, the pedigree which follows has nothing to do with him, I think, for it deals with the Gardiners of Wrentham and Walberswick, who bore quite a different coat of arms. He was born about 1540. From 1597 to 1599 he was Chief Justice and Viceroy of Ireland, and according to the inscription on the monument was later on “sent by King James into ye Iles of Jernsey and Guernsey, where, having settled their estate in peace and Good Government he retir’d to his Native home.” He married three times, his first wife being described as “Anne Cordeil.” However, the shield above, which represents this marriage, bears the arms of Cordell, of Long Melford. His second wife was Thomasine, daughter of John Barker, Burgess of Ipswich, and the third Anne, the daughter of Sir John Trelawny, Kt., and widow of John Spring, the son of Sir William Spring, Kt., of Pakenham, all three wives being East Anglians.
It seems to me more than probable that Sir Robert Gardiner built the house. The chimneys behind so thoroughly point to the latter end of the l6th century. Anyhow he built the almshouses, which the owner of the mansion house of the manor was to keep in good repair. The inscription on a stone under a sundial in the centre is this; “Sir Robert Gardiner, Kt. , some time Lord of these manors of Elmswell and Wolpit, founded this Almshouse in ye time of his life, Ao., 1614, and gave unto it sufficient maintenance for six poore women widows. To continue for ever.” It is recorded of him that after his third marriage he retired to Pakenham and resided in the house of his wife. This is probable, as the execution of the settlement concerning that almshouse was made at Pakenham, and signed there.
But he had another property in East Anglia, in the adjoining county of Norfolk, called Breccles Hall, which he purchased about 1600. Here he died, and the entry in the register book there is curious. “Sr. Robert Gardiner, Kt., the Phavorite of his family, the Oracle of his acquaintance, the Glory of his friends, the staye of his Countrye, died at Breccles Hall on the twelfth day of February, 1619, and was buried at Elmswell, in Suffolk, the 19 of the same month. This looks to me like a prior residence in that parish, at any rate as being regarded his chief residence. His only son, William, had pre-deceased him “at ye age of 24 years.” The fine monument at the east end of the south aisle in Elmswell Church is known far and wide, with the reclining effigy of the father, and the kneeling effigy of the son, with seven shields of arms thereon, and above all the crest of the family, a rhinoceros. The tradition still lingers in the parish, and was told to me, only a few months ago in good faith, that the animal represented the wild boar, which had killed the young man in the woods aroung. Dr. Copinger also records the legend in his “Manors of Suffolk, vol.1, 288. At Sir Robert Gardiner’s death his estates were divided, and I can with certainty state what the division was. From a short and unique pedigree among the Blois MSS there was at Ixworth “an Atturnye” called William Webb; he was the son of “Richard Webb de Le Pickerell, Ikesworth, Inne-holder,” and for his first wife he married the sister and co-heiress of Sir Robert Gardiner. Thus to Gardiner Webb, his nephew, was this Elmswell estate given. He married Mary, the daughter of Sir Martin Stuteville, of Dalham, and in 1627 an original description of his possessions here was made by Thomas Waterman. He subscribed 12s.9d. to the ship money in 1640, and he died 15th March, 1674, and was buried at Elmswell. In this same year we find Mistress Webb (no doubt his widow) declared as residing in a house of 14 hearths, which would well describe Elmswell Hall before any part of it was pulled down. About this period (1674) there seems to have been another division of the property in which part of the estate, including the Hall, became separated from the manor; this latter passing through an Anthony Webb to the Woods of Loudham Park, then to the Onebys, and in 1821 the possession of Miss Euphemia Gifford, who in that year held a court for the same, in 1885, it was vested in Rev. W.A.C. Macfarlane, who now holds it as Mr.W.A.Macfarlane Grieve, of Impington Park, Co.Cambs.
It is, however, not so much with the manor, as with the Hall and estate that I would treat here. It was bequeathed to Gardiner Kettleburgh of Elmswell, and became his residence. What relation he was to Gardiner Webbe I have been unable to find out, but the family had been “of Elmswell” for some while. In 1568 John Kettlebrowe was assessed “£5 in moveables,” paying 4s.2d. In 1640 “Thos.Kittilborow,Gent.” subscribed 11s.4d. and “Benjm Kittleborowe” £1. 0s. 6d, to the Ship Money, and in 1674 “Mrs.Kettleborowe” occupied a house with 8 hearths, only second in size to the Hall with its 14. Elizabeth Kettleburgh, one of the daughters and Christopher Calthorpe, younger brother of James Calthorpe of Ampton Hall, (were married?) On the death of the brother in 1702, he inherited that estate, and went there to reside. However, till that period he resided here, where in 1699 his eldest son James was born. In the earlier year of the 18th century the estate was purchased by Sir Robert Smyth.Bart. of Isfield in Sussex, who had married Lady Louisa Hervey, daughter of John, first Earl of Bristol. He was also at one time a tenant of Ampton, and there in 1734, his son and successor, Hervey Smyth was born. Sir Robert Smyth died in 1773, and his son, Sir Hervey Smyth, at Elmswell Hall in 1811 , “being possessed of large landed estates in Suffolk, among them one at Elmswell, which he bequeathed to his sister, Miss Smyth, who disposed of it to Mrs. Brand.” “Ipswich Journal,” Feb.21st.1829. From the issues of this same paper in 1829 and 1832, we gather that a lawsuit occupied the time of the courts, in which the then tenant, Mrs.Bridges was concerned. It was “to recover certain premises there of very considerable value,” and “a distress was put on the goods of Mrs.Bridges for £3,000.” What the result of the lawsuit was on the goods of that lady in Elmswell Hall I cannot say, but with regard to the place itself we find in the same paper, Jan. 9th, 1832, “The very fine freehold estate, part tithe free, called Elmswell Hall, will be offered for sale early in February, if not sooner disposed of, by private contract. It contains 235 acres of superior arable, meadow and pasture land. For Particulars apply to Mr.Pattle, the proprietor.” In the “Suffolk Poll Book” of 1830, he is styled Zachariah Pattle. In 1847 it became, by purchase the property of Admiral Sir George Francis Seymour, father of the fourth Marquess of Hertford, and in 1864 he founded here a school. For a long time it was occupied by the family of Graham. Mr. Ireland Graham lived there in 1855, and Mr.J.W.Graham in 1885. It is now the residence of Mr. John Coleby Leatherdale.