The English Home of Mr. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : Parish of Woolverstone

Woolverstone, originally Woluestun,1 is described as a pleasant village and a fertile parish on the southwestern bank of the Orwell, four miles distant from the busy market-town and seaport of "Ancient Ipswich."2 It belongs to Samford hundred and deanery, in the archdeaconry of Suffolk and diocese of Norwich, and comprises 951 acres of land and 305 acres of water. The Domesday Book tells us of its two manors, he ld by Tostin and Aluret; with three plough teams, of which two and a half were in demesne; three acres of meadows; five villain; five bordas; a church; and ten acres of land; five horses, eight beasts, twenty hogs, sixty sheep, and woodland for pasturing fifteen hogs. We do not know the number of itsd inhabitants in Dalton's time; but there were 241 in 1764, and 246 in 1841, and 309 in 1891. There were 90 adult communicants in June, 1603;3 calling for a population if about 1609 at that date. The living is a rectory which, in 1817, was attached to that of Erwarton, a neighboring parish, sometiume known as Arwerton. The present rector is Rev. Frederick Wood, a courteous gentleman, who resides at Erwarton, a curate having the charge of Woolverstone.

The manor of Woolverstone and the patronage of the living go together. They were first held by a familywhich seems to have derived its name from the town. Sir Richard Gipps says: "This very ancient Family was settled at Freeston [Freston], in Plomesgate [Samford] Hundred, and there was continu'd for several Generations. But, at length, Thomas Wolveston left Elizabeth, his sole Daughter and Heir, marry'd to William Latimer. They held a Knts Fee in Culphor [Culpho], I Ed. I [1272]; were Lords of Freeston [Freston], and had Lands in Chelmington [Chelmondiston], and other Places. They bare sab. a Fess undée bet. 3 Wolves Head Coupé or."4 In another place he says that "about 20 Ed. 3 [1346], Marg. The sole Daughter and Heir of . . . Freston [was] marry's to John Woolverston."5 Elsewhere it is stated that "the Wolfferstons -- and not the Frestons -- resided at Freston in the fifteenth century";6 but there are other authorities which locat the woolverstones in old Wooverstone Hall. For example, the Heralds recite the marriage of one Lewis Nicolls to "Elizabeth, da. Od . . . Woolverstone, of Woolverstone Hall, in Suff., Esq."7 No date is given, yet it must have been previous to the "Visitation of Norfolk" in 1563. Again. "philipp Wolverston, Gentilman," was the squire of Woolverstone in 1546.8 The double title of lord and patron passed to Richard Catelyn (Cateline), Esq., of the Hall, who died on "March 11th, ao 43 Elizabeth";9 and in June, 1603, his "widow, Dionis," was called the patron. In 1615 Timothy Dalton was presented by Arthur Woolrich, Esq., as trustee in behalf of the infant heir, Philip Cateline, Esq.10 The latter was buried by Mr. Dalton on July 25, 1635. Because of the nonage of the new squire, Philip Bacon, the presentation of the incoming rector, Mr. Jonathan Skynner, was made by the king in October, 1636.

Long afterward we find the title vested in one Mr. Tyson, who in 1720 was declared bankrupt. Next in order it passed, by public sale, in 1773, to ancestor of the present owner, Charles Hugh Berners, Esq. This sale was the last step in a foreclosure suit which had been pending for more than half a century, and of which Mr. Kirby said, in its forty-fourth year: "The affair doth not appear to be nearer a conclusion than it was at first; for some may still find their account in preventing a determination of it."11

The purchaser was William Berners, Esq., "the proprietor of the London street whoich is called by his name." He died in 1783, after having torn down the old manor-house, and built the present stately but not elegant mansion. It bears the honored name of "woolverstone Hall", and is of brick, with stone dressings. It is situated in a beautiful park of more than 430 acres, which is well clothed with wood and stocked with fallow deer, and descends to the margin of the river, opposite another fine seat known as "Orwell Park." Mr. Taylor writes of Woolverstone: "The Hall and parish church stand in the center of the grand old park; and the scene is as lovely as an artist would wish to sketch. From theHall avenues have been cut through the woods in every direction; so that from the windows there is a series of most wonderful views up and down the Orwell."12 At the end of a short walk rises a square tower, 96 feet high, built of freestone, with an interior staircase, and surmounted by "a globe and rays," the same having been erected in 1793, in memory of the said William Berners, then lately deceased.13

Wolverstone Church, as Restored and Enlarged, 1888-90

"The spreading Orwell, with its wood-clad sides," is really an estuary extending ten or twelve miles from the sea to the town of Ipswich. With the waters of the river Stour, on the border line of Essex, it helps to form the excellent coast-harbor of Harwich. At Ipswich it meets the river Gipping, from the heart of the county. The estuary has long been celebrated for the beauty of its scenery. To one Englishman it suggested our own Hudson. Another wrote enthusiastically in 1764: The Orwell, at least for the extent of it, is one of the most beautiful salt rivers in the world. The hills on each side ar enriched and adorned with almost every object that can make a landscape agreeable; such as churches, mills, gentlemen's seats, villages and other buildings, woods, noble avenues; parks, whose pales reach down to the water's edge, well stored with deer and other cattle, feeding in fine lawns; &c., &c.;-all these, and more, are so happily disposed and diversified, as if nature and art had jointly contrived how they might most agreeably entertain and delight the eye."14 Mr. Wodderspoon says tersly: "The banks are clothed with beauty";15 and Mr. William White points out that "much of the far-famed beauty of the Orwell is due to the charming seat and park of Mr. Berners."16 A mile above Woolverstone Hall, and on the same side of the stream, is Freston Tower, of uncertain date and original use, which has been made the subject of a three-volume novel.17 On the other shore, and immediately opposite Woolverstone, is the parish of Nacton, containing a large tract of heath land, and the two fine seats of "Orwell Park" and "Broke Hall."

The former of these houses was once the residence of Admiral Vernon, of Porto-Bello renown; and the other of Sir Philip Broke, the gallant captain of the royal frigate Shannon, which destroyed the United States ship Chesapeake, off Boston Light, in June, 1813.18 Much poetry has been written about the Orwell; but we have room for only one specimen, from the pen of Bernard Barton, the Quaker Banker:

There, expanding wide,
And by unclouded sunshine brightly glassed,
Flow'd ORWELL! Its serenely-rippling tide,
Hemm'd in by hilly slopes on every side,
Whose tufted woods upon its margins break:
It more resembled, as by us descried,
Some quietly-reposing inland lake,
Than Ocean's briny branch, which ebb and flow o'ertake.

The Orwell has a war record. Its name is said to be Celtic, and that carries us back two thousand years. In the Middle Ages it was the open doorway (gat) through which the Saxon Danes, and other sea-rovers had easy access to the interior country. Its smooth waters and Empowered margins gave a snug shelter to the pirate galleys, from which the crews could, in Suffolk phtase, "smell the land."19 You may see to-day, on Nacton Heath, the remains of their hostile camps. Ipswich town was plundered and burnt three times between 919 and 1010. Nor did any of these freebooters overlook the pretty hamlets on the western shore. In the words of the Saxon Chronicle, the Danes "set all on fire."

We shall readily believe that the rude huts and byres-perhaps the thatched hovels-of Woolver-stone did not escape. After many raids "the sons of the Dane saw that the daughters of the Angle were fair; and merry blue eyes and flaxen locks" agreed upon the terms of a lasting peace. It was better to possess the land than to destroy it; consent was better than brute force. In 1173 the Flemings came, armed with sword and shuttle. They sacked Ipswich and leveled its earthen ramparts. When finally defeated, they settled down in Bury and taught the art of weaving to its inhabitants. In 1340 King Edward III used the Orwell as a place of rendezvous for the ships with which he destroyed the French fleet off the coast of Belgium. "Ancient Ipsich" was an important borough. John Quicke said that "under the auspicious reign of our English Deborah, Queen Elizabeth, Ipswich, the Capitall Towne of Suffolk, was not more famous for its spacious streets, large and beautyfull buildings, rich and greate trade, and honourable merchants, both at home and abroad, than it was for its learned and godly ministers and for its zealous and religious inhabitants."20 In the sanctimonious days of the Long Parliament it was called a place which "the Lord hath made famous and happy as a valley of Gospell vision"; nevertheless it witnessed, on September 9, 1645, the cruel sacrifice of old Mother Lakeland at the stake, upon the charge of witchcraft.21 Queen Bess had made three visits to Ipswich, and was once carried through the Orwell in a grand triumphal procession. On another occasion she rated the local priests soundly because of their "impudent behaviour; . . . few or none wearing the surplice; . . . and that, in cathedrals and colleges, there were so many wives and children and widows seen." Again, she scored the burgesses on account of the filthy conditions of their streets. Perhaps "the place was a little too Protestant for her."22 Among the visitors to modern Ipswich, we notice the distinguished founder of the Pickwick Club and his man Sam, and refer to the Veracious chronicles of the Club for an account of the former's adventure in the double-bedded room othe Great White Horse Inn, and of the latter's two very satisfactory interviews with the pious Job Trotter and Mary, the pretty, kiss-compelling house-maid.23

  1. For the meaning of the Anglo-Saxton tun, see page 26 [page 13 in this computer file].
  2. White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk (Ed. Of 1891), p. 752.
  3. Suffolk Archæology, VI, 400.
  4. Suffolk Archæology, VIII, 213.
  5. Ib., VIII, 162.
  6. Ib., II, 271.
  7. Visitation of Norfolk, I, 42.
  8. Raven's Church Bells of Suffolk, 93.
  9. Blomefield's History of Norfolk (Ed., of 1808), Vol. VIII, p.32.
  10. Tanner MSS., in Bishop's Office at Norwich.
  11. Kirby's Suffolk Traveller (Ed. Of 1764), p. 76.
  12. Taylor's In and About Ancient Ipswich, 123.
  13. Page's Supplement to the Suffolk Traveller, 37; White's History, etc., supra.
  14. Kirby's Suffolk Traveller, 15.
  15. Wodderspoon's Historic Sites of Suffolk, 113.
  16. White's History, etc., 8
  17. Freston Tower, by Rev. R. Cobbold, London, 1850. As to the original purpose of the building, see Suffolk Archeology, VIII, 270.
  18. Ford's Suffolk Garland, 208. There can be no doubt of the bravery shown on both sides in this remarkable naval duel. Our commander, Lawrence, immortalized himself by the words: "Don't give up the ship!"
  19. Governor Winthrop was a Suffolk man, and he wrote that as his ship approached the New England coast, "there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden."-History, I, 47.
  20. MS. of John Quicke, circa 1680; quoted by Browne, in his Hist. of Cong. In Norf. And Suff., 138. As a matter of fact, the so-called "spacious streets" were at that time only narrow, crooked, and unpaved lanes.
  21. Glyde's New Suffolk Garland I, pp. 191-205.
  22. Taylor's In and About Ancient Ipswich, 103; Ritchie's East Anglia, 247.
  23. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, chaps. Xxi-xxv.