Chapter 4 - Searching Suffolk

Willy Lott's Cottage at Flatford

Thursday 26th

Today Chris drove us to visit 'Constable Country'. We called in at the local church at East Bergholt, a very beautiful building, several hundred years old, yet seemingly unfinished as the bell tower was never completed. The bells are in a separate building beside the church, facing upwards. Trenches below the bells allow them to swing in a downward arch to be rung. Most unusual.
You can see a brief rendition of the ringing of these bells at

The church is quite beautiful and has so many visitors that there is a tearoom and a souvenir shop inside the church, run by parishioners for the upkeep of the church. After studying various items of religious and historical interest, Geoff photographed the stained glass windows dedicated to the Constable family, we had tea and scones in the tearoom and bought a few little handmade souvenirs. The friendly lady who served our tea assured us that the walk from Flatford Mill to Dedham was very easy and well worth doing, so we parked the car and set off at a leisurely pace on what turned out to be a quite challenging walk for us all. However it was very enjoyable, walking past the Flatford Mill and Willy Lotts Cottage, crossing the bridge over the River Stour and following the river through the lush green fields in a long circular walk through the deligthfully pretty town of Dedham and then back again to the Flatford Mill.

It is easy to understand why John Constable and painters to this day find this beautifully calm and peaceful part of Britain so attractive. Much of this area is protected by the National Trust for the benefit of future generations.

Friday 27th June

Chris and Julie had other commitments today, so we drove over to Little Waldingfield to visit Pat and John Bridges, with whom Geoff had been in contact for several years. We had morning tea with them in their sunroom and met their daughter Suzanne and grandson Henry. John very kindly gave Geoff an autographed copy of his award winning book, "The Commercial Life of a Suffolk Town", which describes Framlingham around 1900. We bought a copy of the book for Chris Garrard as we know he is interested in all things to do with Framlingham.

After spending a pleasant hour with the Bridges we continued our journey to Lavenham; surely the most photographed town in Suffolk. Entering Lavenham is like stepping into ancient times, as the town is unspoilt and the buildings appear to have changed very little in 400 years. We parked the car and walked the length of the amazing main street, where every shop, cafe and hotel is crammed with the interesting and unusual.

From the inviting Butchers Shop & Deli, with it's attached tearoom to the Antique Shop and the modern Homewares Shop with the sign that announced, "This Shop is Larger Than It Looks" (and it was), we made our way up the street. At the top of the hill we were feeling a bit hungry when we arrived at Munnings, and this looked like the place for us. The building which dates back to 1550 has a charming restaurant downstairs and a B & B upstairs for one or two couples. Hungry though we were the triple decker sandwiches and large pot of tea, served in old English china was more than enough for us. The restaurant draws it's name from the artist Munnings, renowned for his paintings of horses and several of his prints adorn the walls.

Feeling very satisfied and rested we walked back down the street and turned into the National Trust's Guildhall to explore the fascinating old building which houses farming, household and cloth making implements that give an insight into life in medieval Lavenham, in the 1500's, at the height of it's prosperous cloth making period.

Driving to any village in Suffolk is a delightful experience but the village at Lavenham is a very interesting and special place.

Saturday 28th June

Chris took us today to the Suffolk Records Office at Ipswich to search official records for family information.

While Geoff searched the Aldeburgh Parish Transcripts for Symington information, without success, Jane was looking up old newspapers on film for information about the Benhall Lodge Fire, which Julie had discovered had occurred about 1981. Jane did not find an account of the fire, but did find the obituary of Uncle Tom Haslett's wife, Elizabeth, in 1960, which recorded the address of the house where they lived at Felixstowe. We took a photo of the house on our way home. Chris looked for Laxfield records of Blue House Farm and others. He discovered that while Hatsell was farming Blue House Farm, his brother Robert had likely been farming adjoining land.

When we tired of digging through records we went to Christchurch Gardens for lunch of tea and sandwiches (very ordinary after the delicious treats served to us at 'Munnings'), then walked through the impressive museum and art gallery at Christchurch Mansion.

Sunday 29th June

Drove with Chris and Julie up to Parham where we admired yet another pretty church and, after a short search, found several Keer family graves, including Timothy and Rose, Jonothan and Ann, William and Ann and others.

Next we went to Laxfield and took photographs at the beautiful old Church of All Saints, where Geoff's Gt. Grandfather, Hatsell Mellersh Garrard was baptised. We had an excellent lunch at The Royal Oak, opposite the church. A choice of roast meats with garden fresh vegetables, cooked to perfection - hope to go back to both the Royal Oak and the Queens Head at Dennington - the food was so good.

After lunch we went to the Laxfield Museum where we spent an hour or more looking at the well presented and interesting exhibits. We next drove around to Blue House Farm to return the information about the farm's history that Bill Knox had given us to copy. Geoff dropped off the information to Bill and met his wife, Penny, who had been away when we first called.

On the way back to Felixstowe we called to see the church at Wilby, where the older Hatsell was baptised in 1795. We drove home via Dennington and Earl Soham.