An Illustrated Social History

Walk 3.


WALK THREE runs alongside the river in a westward direction from the vicinity of Nedging Mill, where the previous walk ended. This is the old East Field, which had been divided into numerous closes and meadows by the time of Queen Anne. The walk ends by Bridge House, once called Pillcreeks (whatever that name signifies).

Today it’s time to talk about money - the love of which was the root of many woes in past times and is still the cause of great ills in the modern world. We look at the long list of mortgages taken out by the leading families over this short period - 1707-1739 - and consider possible reasons for this sudden frenzy of cash-raising.

But our physical efforts on this walk were less exacting, alongside the peaceful Brett upstream from Nedging Mill after we came down from Croft Lane and the Clay Pit.

Prologue - The Condition of Rich People in the early Eighteenth Century

There were a number of wealthy landowning families in Chelsworth at the end of the Seventeenth Century and the beginning of the Eighteenth. As well as the Lords of the Manor, the Jenneys of Bredfield - who never lived in the parish - there were the Andrews

(James and the Rev Robert); the Hewetts (Ralph and Elizabeth); the Clovers (Robert and Richard), the Prices (Robert senior and junior), the Mynnes (John and Samuel senior), the Greens (Hugh and John), the Keningales (John and Susan) and the Munfords

(Robert and Edward).

In those days, there was peace abroad, and at home there was prosperity in both the towns and the country at large. There was the opportunity to build a more soundly-based rural economy through agricultural progress and at the same time to remedy some of the inequities of the established social and political systems. But this was a time of stability and opportunity or complacency (depending on your point of view) - what writers have called a ‘classical’ age, or even a new Augustan Age: an era where the old assumptions about class, family and wealth went unchallenged. Individual enterprise and self- indulgence reigned supreme.

In Chelsworth, we can see the effect of these philosophies at close hand. The sons of many of the old families — the Greens, Prices and Mynnes, as well as the Revetts of Bildeston - first of all disentailed  

their heirs and then mortgaged their estates to the hilt to support their social pretensions and their privileged habits, as they strove to lead the life of country squires and to be accorded the coveted rank of ‘gentleman’.

There is little sign that money was being spent on improving their lands or houses. Instead, the traditional excesses of hunting, shooting, drinking and gambling exhausted their fortunes, and it was only when a new squire, Robert Pocklington, came into the village that the ordinary people saw genuine changes to the face of the village -