This information featured on
the website relies on the various groups and bodies updating us
with any changes. If you wish to notify us with a change, please
contact the Town Clerk.
Short History of Saxmundham
Due to the scarcity
of early written records, very little is known of the early history
of this East Suffolk town. The name itself is alluring, giving the
presumption of a Saxon foundation. More prosaically, Ekwall in The
Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names gives the origin
of the name as Seismund's-ham, being the settlement of an otherwise
unrecorded Saxon thegn or war lord. Despite the frustrating lack
of further evidence, there is no better explanation.
is duly recorded in the Little Domesday Book of 1086. In the same
set of entries the town is spelt variously as Samundeham, Sasmundeham,
Sasmundesham and Saxmondeham. The main part of the entry, translated
into modern English, reads:
OF PLUMESGATE. Northmann held Saxmundham...with 140 acres as a manor.
Then as now 2 villans and 3 bordars. 2 ploughs in demesne and 2
ploughs belonging to the men. 3 acres of meadow. A church with 15
acres. It is worth 30s. The same Northmann has the soke and he holds
this from Roger. This [is] one of three manors which the king gave
back to Northmann and now he holds it from Roger.
a thegn of King Edward, held Saxmundham as a manor...with 2 carucates
of land and 40 acres. Then as now 5 villans and 10 borders. Then
3 slaves, now 1. Then as now 3 ploughs in demesne. Then 3 ploughs
belonging to the men, afterwards and now 2 1/2; 5 acres of meadow.
2 churches with 24 acres and half a plough. Then as now 2 horses.
Then 3 head of cattle. Then 16 pigs, now 30. Then as now 80 sheep.
Then the whole was worth £7 and afterwards it was at farm
for £9 10s.; now it is assessed for £7. Ralph holds
it from Roger. The soke is the abbot's. In the same place 7 free
men, commended to Algar, have been added to this manor with 48 acres.
One, Wulfnoth by name, was commended to Malet's predecessor. Now
the same Ranulf holds it. Then and afterwards 3 [...], now 2; 4
acres of meadow. Then it was worth 10s. 4d., now 10s. The soke is
references refer to 80 acres in Knodishall and 60 acres in Peasenhall
belonging to the manor of Saxmundham, and 30 acres in the manor
which belong in the demesne of Kelsale.]
be surmised that the different parts of the entry refer to the two
ancient Manors of the town - Swann and Hurts.
the town lies in the valley of and mainly westward of a minor watercourse,
the River Fromus, which flows south into the Alde. It consists of
a principal High Street, with its extensions called North and South
Entrance, an encroached Market Place (the Charter dates back to
1272, in the reign of Edward II) and successive extensions west
parish church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is a distinguished
building, but not in the first rank of Suffolk wool churches. It
stands on a hill east of the Fromus and consists of west tower with
clock and six bells, a nave with clerestory, chancel, and aisles,
set in a large churchyard (now closed for burials) containing a
unique tombstone incorporating a sunken sundial, which gives accurate
readings. The church has a fine perpendicular octagonal font, some
Flemish painted-glass roundels, and minor monuments by the great
sculptors Nollekens and Westmacott. Other monuments include some
carved by the skilled mason Thomas Thurlow who lived and worked
in the town in Victorian times. His tombchest is on the right along
the path to the church entrance. A fuller description of the church
can be found here. Its present style
of worship is somewhat charismatic.
ancient buildings exist in the town, notably in South Entrance and
Chantry Road. Development in Albion Street and Rendham Road began
in 1848 and includes a substantial Congregational (now URC) chapel
of 1850, with a small burial ground at the rear. The Fairfield Road
development began in Edwardian times. A Salvation Army hall is in
use for worship opposite the bus station. The former Baptist Chapel
in Albion Street now serves as the Saxmundham Ex-Service and Social
Club! A Masonic Hall is in joint use by two Lodges in Rendham Road,
but the Oddfellows Hall in the lower part of Fairfield Road is now
a private dwelling.
the building and development history of the town has yet to be researched,
but an interesting Town Trail is also included here.
It is a pleasant walk taking about one hour, enabling the historic
core of the town to be viewed, including the original railway station
buildings, and the remains of Saxmundham's windmill which last worked
in 1907. Large parts of the High Street and some parts of the Market
Place remain little changed when compared to photographs of more
than a century ago.
was held on Thursdays until 1854, until Woodbridge changed its market
day to that day from Wednesday, following falling trade and increased
competition from Bury St. Edmunds when both towns became accessible
by railway. Since then market day in Saxmundham is Wednesday. Livestock
markets took place on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month
were also ancient fairs in the town for pedlary each Maundy Thursday
and August 10th, and a lamb fair on August 18th. The latter is commemorated
at Lambsale Meadow, the site of a 1980s development including the
present doctor's surgery. None of these fairs survive today.
reached Saxmundham in 1859 with through services to London and Yarmouth
Southtown (then still in Suffolk) and Lowestoft, and a branch line
off to Leiston and Aldeburgh. There was a very substantial goods
traffic, mainly of agricultural produce, brought to the station
from surrounding villages. The Beeching axe was responsible for
the closure of the northern end of the main line from Beccles to
Yarmouth and the branch line closed in 1966. Thankfully, the line
from Lowestoft via Saxmundham to Ipswich and London survives, to
the immense benefit of the town and surrounding communities. The
bus station still functions as the hub of good services to surrounding
communities as well as other more distant towns, and some coach
services pick up here.
has always been an important centre of local communications. It
was a staging post on the London to Yarmouth toll turnpike. The
Bell Hotel in the High Street was rebuilt in 1842-3 and is thus
the last coaching inn built in England. A Corn Exchange (now the
Market Hall) was built in 1846 on an adjoining site set back from
the road, with three blank arches and a decorated parapet bearing
the arms of the Long family formerly of Hurts Hall. The motif of
the blank arches is carried forward to the end wall of the Bell
Hotel and the other property adjoining so to stress the little place
in front. It was fronted by substantial iron railings until the
salvage drive of 1940.
Saxmundham was the
chief town and administrative centre of the Plomesgate Hundred and
Union. The Union workhouse was built in 1837 at Wickham Market (and
it survives in part today as a care home). More recently in local
government terms the town became an Urban District Council and is
now a Town Council, within Suffolk Coastal District Council. A County
Court was held in alternate months in the Market Hall; this was
superceded by a Magistrate's Court which held weekly sessions and
closed as recently as 1999. There is no surviving Town Lock-up,
but the original police station, now a private dwelling at No. 2
Albion Street, was built in 1864 purposefully adjacent to the new
railway station, and contained a residence for one officer, a cell,
and a room for the magistrates. The old fire station building in
Rendham Road is dated 1910.
is an early and rare large VR wall post box of 1861 built into the
fabric of the railway station, one of very few extant examples with
a flap behind the posting aperture. The Town Pump of 1838 has recently
been restored and returned to a site (not the original) in the Market
Place. Town Gas works, built in 1848 in Gas Hill, now renamed New
Cut, lasted until the 1960s, and there was a substantial floor maltings
complex in what is now the Market Place car park.
Hall, unscreened to the south east of the town, is a neo-Elizabethan
mansion of 1893, rebuilt after the elegant 1803 bow-fronted house
by Samuel Wyatt was destroyed by fire in 1890. It was lately the
home of the Long family, plantation and slave owners in Jamaica,
who were nevertheless squires and benefactors to the town. They
were linked by descent to the powerful North family of nearby Glemham
Hall. Other significant residences in the town were The Elms, Fairfield
House and Park House. Carlton Hall, just outside the town boundary,
was built as the home of the Garrett family, but was gutted by fire
in the Second World War.
describes itself as 'The Hub of the Heritage Coast', but this marketing
speak aside, it is otherwise a pleasant and unassuming town with
around 4,000 friendly inhabitants, who enjoy an excellent rural
quality of life, a good range of shops and facilities, many thriving
local societies, and good transport links via the A12 and rail and
displaying the history of the town, opened in Spring 2004.