Norman Sinclair’s Notes, pages 2-6

Roman Occupation, 55 B.C. to 446 A.D.

The nearest Roman road ran from Camulodinum (Colchester) by Long Melford, Pakenham, (a settlement) Stanton, (a villa with Roman central heating system) and on to Venta Icenorum (Caister by Norwich).

No traces of habitation have been found. The most likely sites for a dwelling of this period would be on the slopes from Elmswell Old Hall to Cranmoor Bridge. Most of the oldest cultivated “town lands” and “church lands” are within that area.

Remains of a pottery kiln and a Roman-British urn were discovered in Pightle Close during sewage excavations in 1964. Coins and oyster shells have been dug up in the Orchard of “Millstones”, School Road, and coins in the garden of 53, Pightle Close.

Period of Anglo Saxon Settlement, 400 A.D. to 600 A.D.

Germanic Roman auxiliary troops may have settled and married native women as early as 371, although the only proof of this in our village is the Germanic-type urn mentioned above. Burials were made at about a mile from a settlement. There might have been one at Woolpit.

Anglo Saxon tribes were arriving from the N.W. German coastal areas. The movement of settlement followed lesser streams up into the heavier clays to fell the trees and plough virgin land. They came Eastward from the Lark valley and up the Black bourn, through Pakenham, Ixworth, Stanton and Norton, and also Northward from Finborough.

B. Anglo-Saxon settlement endings –
LEAH (clearing in a wood) Haughley
FELD (a large and older clearing) Ashfield
HAM (a settlement) Pakenham
TON (a fortified settlement) Norton

Derivation of the place-name of Elmswell
You can involve yourselves in heated argument about this. Two Schools of Thought exist in the village. The majority school insists that Elmswell means the well (spring of water) in the elm trees.

The minority school, of which I am probably the only member, sticks its head out by saying that Elmswell means thee well of Aelfmoere (an Anglo Saxon man’s name meaning the noble or famous one). Aelfmoerre could have been the leader of a tribal group which settled here and built their chief’s wooden hall in the filled in moat area adjacent to Elmswell Old hall.

As probably every Anglo Saxon settlement in Suffolk possessed springs near elm trees, I think my theory is the stronger, but take your choice.

600 A.D. to 1066

The original church, almost certainly built of wood, and its land, was granted to the Abbot of Beodoricsworth (renamed Bury St Edmunds after 903), by Edwin (584-632), King of Northumbria, bosom companion of King Raedwald of East Anglia, and ultimately Overlord of the Southern English.

Elmswell then became a “rest home” to which the Abbots retreated to meditate and hunt in the Warren. {Although their vows forbade them to hunt personally, many of them did!}

Penny Lane (Parnell’s Lane) was the Eastern section of “The Lord’s Chariot Way” connecting Elmswell with the abbey at Bury.

The village now became of some importance. It had close connections with the abbey, and the Abbots were Lords of the manor. Its value was assessed at ten times the average of a village or estate church.

The huts of the villagers were concentrated in the Hawk End Lane area and perhaps around the church.

1086 – Domesday Book and all that, 1066 to 1539

Extract from D.B.
“At Elmswell St. Edmund held in King Edward’s Time 2 carucates (700 acres) of land as a manor. There were always 16 villains and 14 bordars. There were 2 plough teams in demesne (Lord’s land) and 4 plough teams belonging to the men. There were then 4 serfs and now 5. There are 8 acres of meadow and wood for 80 hogs. There are now 3 rouncies (pack horses), 5 beasts (plough oxen?) and 15 hogs, 18 sheep and 48 goats.

There are 5 socmen with 40 acres of land and always 2 plough teams and 1 acre of meadow. These men are entirely under the Saint, nor could they give or sell without the Abbot’s licence. There is a church with 20 acres of free land in alms (used for charity).

This manor was then valued at 5 pence and now 6 pence. It is a league long and 10 quarentenes broad. It pays a gelt (tax) of 1ΒΌ pence. Others hold land therein.”

A villain’s average holding was 30 acres.
A bordar held less.
A serf was usually landless.
Socmen were tenants of ancient church land.