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Stroll round Old Freckenham

A stroll around Freckenham as it was seventy to one hundred years ago.


This is a large file as there are a number of interesting photographs of the village as it was so it is well worth the wait if your Broadband is a little slow!!!


Here again is the map by James Youlden prepared in 2000 which will help orientate you on your stroll round the village.


This map can be downloaded in pdf format so that it can be enlarged. Click here

The text can be downloaded  here.



You are invited to stroll around old Freckenham as it would have appeared seventy
to a hundred years ago.
Entering the village
from the south on Elms
Road, North Street is
right then immediately
straight on, Mildenhall
Road is to the right and
The Street to the left.
Ahead is the Pound: a
lock-up for straying
livestock or for beasts
found illegally grazing
on the commons. The
structure was just four
high brick walls and a
gate, the tree
thoughtfully provided to
shade the beasts from the sun. The Pound was demolished in 1948 but the tree
remains, at least in spirit, having been replanted a few years ago after the original
was killed by the Suffolk County Council’s gritting salt carelessly stored at its base.
A closer view of the picturesque cottages
behind the Pound. Note the crooked chimney
on the end cottage. They were typical of
much rural housing in that their charming
appearance belied the discomfort of reality.
As late as 1933 these cottages still lacked
basic sanitary arrangements and a water
supply, the latter having to be fetched from
the parish pump or the river. Meet Mrs Katie
Lister standing outside her home. Originally
from Isleham, she came to Freckenham on
her marriage to William Lister to whom she
bore five sons and four daughters. She loved
her flower garden and was an extremely
good wine maker, although she still had her
daily half-pint from the Golden Boar, usefully
situated opposite her house. She was a bit of
a terror with a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. When the cottages became
structurally unsound she moved into one of the prefabs in East View. She died in
Standing on the bridge
looking west down The
Street with the Bell Inn on
the right. In 1873,
approximately when this
photograph was taken,
Freckenham’s population
was 412 and the village
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enjoyed the services
of a grocer & draper,
identifiable by its
distinctive awnings in
the first picture and the
goods on the
pavement outside in
the second view, a
butcher, two other
shops (unspecified), a
sub-post office, the
Golden Boar Inn, The
Bell, the Red Lodge
Inn, a blacksmith and
a school. Today only
the Golden Boar remains (the Red Lodge Inn still exists but serves Red Lodge as a
separate parish). Above is the same view some sixty years later, minus the tree
outside The Bell, giving some idea of the sleepy rural character of the village. The
only life appears to be the two people conversing outside the Post Office and the
covered wagon coming from the Fordham Road. Opposite the Post Office is an
attractive cottage and garden, which can be seen more clearly below at a different
time of year.
The covered wagon
travelling westwards
towards the Fordham Road
may be a gypsy caravan.
At the time this photograph
was taken local travelling
families worked a circuit
from Thetford for carrots
picking, to Outwell for the
strawberries, Chatteris for
potatoes and Freckenham
for the beet. Until recently
strings of three or four
horse-drawn caravans
were a common sight in the
village but the dualling of
the A11 forced them to find
less dangerous routes and another traditional (and romantic) sight has been lost.
Both the cottage and tree have disappeared.
Straight on at the
crossroads at the end of
The Street to the Fordham
Road. On the right is the
Wesleyan chapel which
was erected in the early
20th century. Many
villagers preferred chapel
services to church,
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because the singing was better and the hymns jollier, but played safe by attending
both so as not to upset the parson, a major employer in the village. Before the
chapel was built, meetings were held in a large room in the cottage next door. The
chapel is now a private house. Opposite is Shores Allotments, part of a charity
endowed by Katherine Shore of Lincoln in 1710 to provide cloth for gowns for poor
women of the parish. It is now the site of the new Village Hall.
A bit further on and we come to one of
Freckenham’s two windmills. Both were smock
mills, built within sight of each other on high
ground to catch the prevailing winds, but on
different routes out of the village. The Domesday
survey recorded Freckenham with one mill but
this would have been water or animal powered.
When the first windmill was erected is unknown
but there have been successive windmills on the
Chippenham Road from at least the early 18th
century In 1735-6 the mill was demolished but
another was fully functioning on the same site by
1757. The last mill on that site was demolished
sometime around 1910 although its base was still
being used for storage seventy years later. The
one pictured here was on the Fordham Road and
was built around 1823. On the ground floor was
the inscription: ‘THE FIRST GRIST GROUND AT
1824.’ The mill
was demolished in 1967.1
Retracing our steps to the crossroads and left into Mortimer's Lane to admire this
charming old cottage. In 1885 a labourer working in his garden uncovered a hoard of
over 90 Icenian gold coins, dateable to around AD 0-25, of a rare or formerly
unknown type. Most of
the coins were sold off
but the British Museum
managed to obtain a
few. The cottage still
stands but the house
just visible behind the
trees at right, Holmes
Farm, no longer exists.
If we were to continue
down Mortimer’s Lane
we would eventually
pass the site of the
moat, now ploughed
out, but within living
memory the ditch was still filled with water. If we continued onwards until we came to
the Isleham Road then turned right and right again we could return to the village via
a parallel track leading into North Street. This used to be a pleasant circular walk
until a few years ago when the landowner decided to close access to the paths. Prior
1 Brian Flint, Suffolk Windmills, The Boydell Press, 1979, pp. 54, 133, 147.
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to Parliamentary Enclosure in 1824, these paths were important and well trodden
thoroughfares leading to the Commons and the headlands of the open fields.
Retrace your steps to the to the crossroads and a right turn into Chippenham Road to
Freckenham School,
which was erected in
1839 at a cost of
£120. With fifty pupils
the schoolroom was
overcrowded but the
problem was not
addressed until 1903
when the school was
enlarged. The early
rules of the school
required pupils to be
over the age of four,
to have short hair, to
obtain a ticket of
attendance from a
clergyman and to pay a weekly fee of 1d; attendance at Sunday School was
compulsory. The school day began at eight forty-five and ended at five in summer
and four in winter, with an hour and three-quarters lunch. Holidays were a week at
Christmas and four weeks at harvest. The school closed around 1970 and the
building was converted to a private house. The Golden Boar can be seen across the
river to the right together with the row of cottages with the crooked chimney which we
saw at the start of our tour.
Back to the
crossroads once
more and right into
The Street, retracing
our steps to the
bridge. The third
building on the right
is the old Reading
Room. It was
erected in 1894 at
the instigation of
Wm. Victor Paley
and paid for by
subscription, as a
place where the men
of the village could congregate. Newspapers were freely supplied in a bid to lure
them away from pubs and the demon drink. It later housed a lending library and by
1908 it was in general use as the Village Hall. When the new Village Hall was built
this was converted into a private house. We can just make out the old thatched forge
on the bridge in the centre of the photograph.
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A closer view of the forge.
Fourteen Tolworthys were
blacksmiths here from 1844
until 1879, the last named was
a Mrs. Susan Tolworthy but
whether she actually wielded
the hammer is unknown. The
forge went the way of most of
its kind with the demise of the
heavy horse and it took to
servicing machinery instead. It
was rebuilt as a two pump
garage when this bridge was
demolished in 1954. In the
centre is the Golden Boar, a
sixteenth century timber framed
building with a brick skin and later additions. It is listed Grade II and one of the oldest
buildings in the village. It may have originally been a watermill as the river Kennet
(the Lea Brook) can be seen to have been artificially diverted behind it. Recent
refurbishment to the fireplace uncovered three large dressed limestone blocks,
decorated with armorial bearings, which were probably taken from a church or an
altar tomb. The stones may have come from the chapel of the Blessed Mary which
existed in the village between the 12th and the 16th centuries; it was demolished in
1548 when all free chapels and chantries were suppressed by order of Edward VI.
Edward Cornell was licensee of the Boar from around 1873 to 1900, thereafter the
widowed Mrs Cornell carried on until at least 1912.
Rest for a moment on
the bridge to admire the
view across the river to
the church; this used to
be a favourite spot for
villagers to gather and
gossip in the long
summer evenings. The
earthworks on Castle
Mound are visible at
left. The River Kennet,
which marks the county
boundary, becomes the
Lee Brook on its
journey through the
parish. Now merely a
stream, it meanders through the village to join the River Lark on Freckenham’s
northern boundary, but once both rivers were important East Anglian rivers, the latter
navigable inland to Bury St Edmunds and seawards via the Ouse and Lynn.
Swimming in the Brook (still deep enough fifty odd years ago) was a pastime enjoyed
by Freckenham children.
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Back to the Pound
and the old wooden
guide post pointing
west to Soham and
Fordham and east to
Mildenhall and Worlington.
Beyond is
the gate leading to
the footpath over the
steep rise of castle
mound to ‘Church
Square’ and the
manor house.
Ahead is the great
walnut tree, its size
indicative of its age,
which must have been well over a hundred years when this photograph was taken. It
was one of the six walnuts recorded in Hall Close (the old name for this enclosure) in
John Corby’s 1815 pre-Enclosure survey of Freckenham Hall estate.
‘Church Square’, as this
part of the village used to
be known. The house on
the left was once a
substantial gentleman’s
residence. In the 18th
century it was owned by
William Cropley, then
from 1796 by his
grandson Edward Palmer
and tenanted by William
Mainprice. It was sold, as
Rumber Hall in 1801.
Mainprice, along with his
neighbour and fellow churchwarden, William Westrop, paid for one of the church
bells. By the time this photograph was taken the house had been converted into five
self-contained cottages. This and its neighbour are distinguished by decorative
studwork. Both these beautiful buildings became derelict and were demolished in the
latter half of the 20th century.
This imposing building is
the rectory. The rear
range has a timber
framed core dating from
the late 16th century, the
main body dates from
the mid 18th century, and
it was enlarged and
improved in the early 19th
century. In 1699 the
Rev. Benjamin Castell
(1696-1705) spent £120,
equivalent to three or
A Stroll Around Old Freckenham
Page 7 of 8
four year’s income, on its improvement. The Rev. Michael Smith DD (1760-1773)
spent a further £640 on essential repairs and in building the north front between 1760
and 1765; Henry Bates (1773-1816) built ‘the small study or wing on the North Front’
and in 1829 Samuel Tilbrooke spent £1,180 on ‘the whole of the South Front and the
offices’, including £104 on plumbing, £65 on wallpapering the rooms and 16 guineas
for a kitchen range. When the Church Commissioners sold the rectory in the 1970s a
large part of it was demolished to make it more convenient for modern living.
St. Andrew's church, seen here
from the Rectory lawn, was
constructed between the 13th
and 14th centuries on the
orders of the bishops of
Rochester, in limestone and
flint, consisting of a chancel,
nave, north aisle and chapel.
The west tower was added in
the 15th century. The Rev.
George Paley undertook
substantial repairs and
alterations in 1867-9, including
rebuilding the south porch.
The thatch was replaced with slate in 1870 and the tower was rebuilt in 1884, two
years after it had collapsed.
If we return to the Pound
by way of the footpath
across castle mound we
can see the remains of a
medieval motte and bailey
castle. The motte mound
is heavily shrouded in trees
but still stands about fifteen
feet high. It has substantial
stone and flint foundations
below ground which have
yet to be excavated.
Sledding down the
earthwork was (and still is)
a winter pastime enjoyed by generations of Freckenham children. From this
perspective we can see inside the Pound with its entrance gate behind the tree. To
the left is Pound Cottage and just visible through the trees at right are two cottages
which stood on the corner of North Street and Mildenhall Road.
A closer view of the cottages at
the top of North Street and
Mildenhall Road and home of the
Markwell family, two of whose
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children are standing behind the wall. A modern bungalow now stands on the site.
We end with a view of the Mildenhall Road, probably taken from Freckenham House
entrance. Until the council houses were built in the 1930s, it was very rural, bordered
by Scots Pines, having only seven other houses along its length: a gothic cottage
identical to the one still existing in North Street, a row of five cottages on what is now
East View and Clunch Cottage, the only building still remaining.
Text Sandie Geddes,
Photographs: Mildenhall Museum, Kay Gee, Harold Wiseman,
June Entwhistle, Louise Pieters, Sharon Cunningham & Emily Markwell.

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