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Lowestoft Parish

British Isles Genealogy | County of Suffolk

Lestoffe or Lothnwistoft

The town of Lowestoft stands upon an eminence, commanding a fine and extensive prospect of the German Ocean; and presents, in itself, when viewed from the sea, the most picturesque appearance of any town upon the eastern coast. The principal street is about a mile in length, and lies upon a gradual descent, from north to south, facing the sea; intersected by several smaller passages or lanes, east and west; and contains many handsome modern buildings, chiefly erected upon the old foundations.

The custom of holding a market in this town, is mentioned as early as the reign of King Henry IV., as appears by Bishop Tanner's collections; for in the registry at Norwich, it is said "that in that reign, the King granted to William Delapole, Marquess and Earl of Suffolk, one market and two fairs below the village of Lowestoft, in Suffolk; which is the ancient demesne of the Crown of England; and also appoints him his Steward, to hold his courts of market and fair; and ordains that no Justice, Viscount, Escheator, Inquisitor, Bailiff, Steward of Hospital, or Clerk of Market, tax the said village in any manner; and that all people holding of and re-siding in the said village, be free from all custom and toll of their goods and vendible wares, throughout the whole kingdom."

This town as part of the King's ancient demesne, also enjoyed many other privileges; such as an exemption from contributing to the expenses of the Knights of the Shire, during their attendance in Parliament, &c. These privileges, were particularly recognized and confirmed by writ, in the 15th of Queen Elizabeth, and again renewed by King Charles I., in 1604. But through the changes effected by time, in manners and in property, these have become entirely obsolete, and little more than their names remain. The only privilege contained in the writ of exemptions, productive of any real benefit to the town of Lowestoft at this period, is that of its inhabitants being exempted from serving on juries, either at the assizes or quarter sessions.

The lordship of this town formed part of the large possessions of the Fitz Osberts; from whom it passed by marriage to the Jernegans, and has ever since been dependant upon, and descended with the manor of Somerleyton, now vested in the Rev. George Anguish, in tail male.

The impropriation is presumed to have been granted, by King Henry I., to the Priory of St. Bartholomew, in London, towards augmenting its endowment; which grant was confirmed to that house by a charter of King Henry III., in 1230. At the dissolution, Sir Richard Rich, of Felsted, in Essex, had a grant of the said Priory, when it is supposed the impropriation of this church came to him, and was subsequently vested in his family. In 1719, it was the property of the Church family, and was purchased of the heirs of Mr. Church "by the Rev. John Tanner, then vicar of this parish. This vicarage is endowed with the great tithes, and is in the presentation of the Bishop of Norwich.

The church is a fine structure, situated nearly half-a-mile west of the town; it was erected entirely at the charges of the Priory of St. Bartholomew, and the expenses for keeping it in repair, were probably drawn from the same source. It holds the remains of many illustrious personages; among whom are Admirals Utber, Ashby, and Mighells, celebrated naval commanders: Mr. Thomas Annot, and Mr. John Wilde, founders of the two grammar schools here. This parish can boast of several eminent divines for its pastors, viz.: Dr. Scroope, Bishop of Dromore, who died and was buried here, in 1491, aged nearly 100 years; Mr. Whiston, who succeeded Sir Isaac Newton in the Mathematical Professorship at Cambridge; the Rev. John Tanner, the learned editor of the "Notitia Monastica;" and the learned and ingenuous translator of the tragedies of Aeschylus, Eripides, and Sophocles, the Rev. Robt. Potter, A.M., F.R.S., and A.S., Prebendary of Norwich, who died in 1804, and lies buried in the churchyard.

This town has produced many eminent naval and military characters; among whom may be mentioned Captain Thomas Arnold, a brave officer; and Captain Sir Andrew Leake, who was knighted by Queen Anne, for his valor in the attack on Vigo. Major Thos. Walker Chambers, who fell gloriously fighting at the battle of Waterloo, was also a native of this place.

Thomas Nashe, the noted controversialist, was a native of Lowestoft, and was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge; where he became B.A. in 1585. He wrote several pieces, among which was one entitled "Lenten Stuff, or the praise of the Red Herring," a joke upon the staple commodity of Great Yarmouth. He was a great favorite with the wits of his day, and it has been said, wrote with considerable ease, harmony, and energy, in a vein of spirited and judicious criticism, of caustic satire, and of pointed humor. He is supposed to have died about 1600, and is well characterized in "The Return from Parnassus."

"His style was witty, tho' he had some gall;
Something he might have mended, so may all!
Yet this I say, that for a mother's wit,
Few men have ever seen the like of it."

Messrs. Isaac and Edmund Gillingwater, the joint historians of Lowestoft, must not be left unnoticed; who with great assiduity and perseverance, collected materials for the "History of Lowestoft," which was published in 1790, by Mr. Edmund Gillingwater, who then resided at Harleston. He was also author of an "Historical and Descriptive account of St. Edmund's Bury," published in 1804: both highly interesting topographical works.

These brothers resided at Lowestoft, and were equally zealous in the pursuit of antiquarian lore; and never rose, or aspired to rise, beyond the humble occupation of country barbers, till Edmund removed to Harleston, and added to his stock of combs and razors, and wigs and blocks, a small number of books for sale. Here too he published his History, and here he died; not, however, unnoticed or unregarded, for some of the neighboring gentlemen urged him to quit his trades, both of hair-dresser and book-seller, and to study for the church, offering to defray the necessary expenses; but this he modestly declined. Isaac died at Lowestoft, May 14, 1813, aged 83 years; and his brother Edmund about two months previous.

Robert Reeve, Gent., must be ranked among the worthies of this town, son of Robert Reeve, attorney-at-law, and the last surviving brother of Lady Smith, wife of Sir James Edward Smith, founder and President of the Linnaean Society. Brought up under his father's roof, and treading carefully in his steps in promoting the comfort of those around him, guiding them in their pursuits, assisting them at once with his advice and his purse, and healing any differences among them. To the active pursuits of business, he joined those of a more refined description. In the beauties of nature he felt the keenest delights, in the productions of art he had almost equal gratification, but his attention was principally directed to. the study of numismatics and antiquity, in both of which his knowledge was extensive.

Of coins and medals he left a cabinet, which, for the number and beauty of its specimens, might be ranked among the best in the kingdom. His antiquarian collection was in the department of topography. Mr. Reeve had chiefly bestowed his care upon the town of Lowestoft, and the adjoining hundreds of Mutford and Lothingland. For the history of the latter he left materials sufficient to form several volumes, accompanied by ancient deeds, drawings of churches, public seals, &c.

In what concerns his native town he was still more rich; he possessed Gillingwater's own copy of its history, with the addition of three similar volumes, filled with maps, engravings, original drawings, and manuscript: the former collected by the author, the latter in his own hand writing. Mr. Reeve deceased January 8th, 1840.1

CHARITIES. The poor and town estate is vested in feoffees, and comprises about 104 acres of land in various parcels, in the parish of Lowestoft, let to divers tenants, at rents amounting in the whole to 271 per annum; and consists of the following particulars: It appears that 28 acres of this land were purchased with 60, given by the will of William French, in 1592, to be laid out in land; the rents thereof to be applied in the payment of 13d. a week to 13 poor persons of this town, every Sunday; and 3s. 4d. to the church wardens, for their pains therein: and that the rest of the property had been held under more ancient conveyances, in trust, for the repairs of the church, and other necessary uses, for the town of Lowestoft. In 1584, Mrs. Ann Girling, gave by will, her barn, house, and tenement, to the use of the honest poor of Lowestoft; to be given to them in firing: and James Wild gave a house, and pightle, under the Cliff, in this town, to buy one dozen penny loaves; to be given to the poor every Sunday, after divine service. These together produce a rent of 9 a year, which is carried to the general charity fund. A piece of land, containing 2A. 3R. 24p., enclosed from the waste on the North Common, in 1772, lets for 8 per annum; and is carried to the same fund. The Poor's Houses, which were given by various donors, comprise altogether 25 dwellings; and are used for the residence of poor widows, and other poor persons of the town, who occupy them rent free: the repairs being provided for out of the above fund. By Indenture, dated 10th June, 1571, Thos. Annott assured to trustees two messuages, called "Garbag's," and "Bennett's," situate at Wheatacre (otherwise Wentacreburgh), in Norfolk, in trust; to secure the payment of 20 marks a year, for the support of a master of a school in this town; to be appointed by the Chancellor of the diocese of Norwich. This endowment was increased, by the heir-at-law of the donor, to 16 a year. The property charged with this annuity belongs to Alexander Adair, Esq.; by whom the sum of 12 16s. a year is paid in respect of the charity, 3 4s. being deducted from the account of the annuity for land-tax: this is carried to the general charity fund, and there out is paid a certain sum to a schoolmaster, and a further sum to find the boys with books and stationery; amounting in the whole to about 35 a year. John Wilde, by will, dated in 1735, devised to the town of Lowestoft his dwelling houses, fish houses, yards, gardens, meadow, &c., in Lowestoft; with the reversion expectant on the decease of Elizabeth Smithson, of all the messuages, lands, and hereditaments in Worlingham, therein mentioned; and declared that the said estate, with the rents, should be applied to the use of a schoolmaster, to teach 40 boys to write, read, and cast accounts, and also in the Latin tongue. And he gave to the minister of Lowestoft, 1 1s.; to the clerk of the said parish, 10s.; and to the sexton, 5s. per annum: the minister to preach an annual sermon, on the 23rd of December, upon the text "Train up a child," &c. And in case any overplus should arise, after the payment of 40 to the schoolmaster, and the above annuities, he gave the same for such charitable uses and purposes, as the minister and churchwardens of Lowestoft, for the time being, should think proper; so as such overplus should be distributed every year. Under an Act of Parliament, passed in 1791, the estate at Worlingham was exchanged for a farm called "Croatfield," situate in the parishes of Laxfield, Dennington, and Badingham. There are several other minor charities belonging to this town.

1. For a more ample and particular account of the parish of Lowestoft, consult the above Historian; and the "Lowestoft Guide,' containing a descriptive account of the town and its environs, by a Lady: Yarmouth, 1812. A very useful and well written Vade Mecum for the visitant.

County of Suffolk

Topographical and Genealogical, The County of Suffolk, 1844, Augustine Page

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