An Illustrated Social History

Chelsworth  Yesterday and Today

Chelsworth  Yesterday and Today

In the early 18th Century, Chelsworth has the aspect of a well-favoured but unpretentious little Suffolk village - busy in its lanes and fields but also pleasantly peaceful in its churchyard and riverside meadows. The sturdy timber-built houses and thatched cottages are bright but rather dilapidated - a few will not last much longer without major surgery; and yet there is a tangible air of enterprise and confidence about the place.

There are several fine buildings still standing proudly despite their evident age, and many places of business and industry, including the butchers’ and bakers’ shops, the smithy and maltings and the two corn mills. On the farmsteads, there are the usual barns, stables, pigsties and henhouses; and with many of the better houses, similarly, a scattering of outbuildings housing their animals. In the fields, we see the cattle and horses at pasture, the water meadows full of wildflowers and lush grasses, and the stooks of corn and stacks of hay around the arable enclosures.

In the street, muddy and rutted, people pass by on foot or on horseback, and in the occasional carriage or farm cart; and for all the subtle differences in their status and class, there is a powerful sense of community, of interdependence and neighbourliness - a fine place in which to spend one’s days.

Today, Chelsworth is a beautiful, well-kept place, with a few exceptions. Householders take great pride in the appearance of their homes and gardens, and the old buildings in particular are lovingly cared for.

There has been little new house building in recent years - just the farmworkers houses above Bridge Farm, the new house in Cakebridge Lane where the old cartlodge stood, and the even newer house opposite Weavers. However, there have been several extensions built, not always in sympathy with the existing structures, and this continues today, especially towards the west end of the village.

2.     What Does The Place Look Like?

Most of the houses are listed buildings and so are protected anyway; but the mediaeval aspect of the village is greatly valued and every effort is made to preserve its traditional appearance. Classical views through and above the village are also treasured, most of all the landscape around the church and the river.

Out in the country, we have become accustomed to the wider fields and the vestigial remains of old hedges and woods, but closer in, the trees and water meadows are flourishing and afford shade and perspective to an otherwise rather featureless expanse of arable tracts to the north, east and south of the village. Despite the ravages of modern farming, we still enjoy the sight of birds of all kinds around the villages and the occasional family of deer in the surviving copses. Near Nedging Mill, there is a little-publicised Nature Reserve where otters have been introduced back into the river.