Earliest Records

The village of Chelsworth, formerly known as Ceorleswyrthe and later Chellesworth is first recorded in history in 962 AD, when King Edgar gave the village and its land to his step-mother Aethelflad of Domerham. The charter, written in Latin and witnessed by such notables as Archbishop Dunstan is held by the British Museum. The village boundaries are carefully described in Anglo-Saxon in charter.

It is considered very likely that the site dates back to Roman times. The village is thought to have developed next to a Roman Road (close to Peddars Way, catalogued as Route 33a) which connected the Roman road system to the highest navigable point on the River Brett. Archaeological evidence for Roman occupation has been found nearby.

Aethelflad passed the ownership of the Manor of Chelsworth to 'Saint Edmund' or the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds. Since then the manor has passed through many hands including the de Blakeham, de St. Philibert, de Plays, Howard, Percy, Naunton, Wingfield, Marryot, Knight, Jenney and Pocklington families. See the detailed list of Lords of the Manor here.

Chelsworth in the Domesday Book

Saint Edmund held Chelsworth in the time of King Edward (the Confessor) as a manor – always 3 carucates and a half of land. 8 villeins, 10 bordars, 4 slaves. The 2 ploughs on the demesne land and 4 belonging to the men, and now the same. 12 acres of meadow, then and now always 1 mill. Always 2 horses. Then 10 beasts, now 9. Then 16 pigs, now 20. Then 30 sheep, now 60. This manor was then worth 4 pounds, now 5. It is 7 quarantenes in length, and 6 in breadth. A church with 30 acres of land and 1 acre of meadow. And (it pays) 3 3/4d (in gelt).

Blakenham Hall

At the back of the Grange lies an island formed between the River Brett and an old moat. The island was called ‘Mill Hill’ in King Edgar’s time and 'The Snayle' from at least 1441 and is the site of the areas named 'The Mote' and 'Hall Garden' in other records.

Court records from 1599 and 'Chorography of Suffolk' published in 1602 mention ' a most ancient house' with moats to the west of the church, (on this same island) which was taken down by Howard, Duke of Norfolk and rebuilt at Stoke Parke.

This was Blakenham Hall, the Manor House of the de Blakenham family. It was the last Manor House to be lived in by the Lord of the Manor for centuries. The list of Lords of the Manor is described in detail on a page dedicated to this part of our village's history. It would appear that no Lord of the Manor lived in the village after the death of Sir John de Plays in 1389.

Killigrew

It has been alleged that Killigrew the 'celebrated jester' of Charles II's reign, was banished to The Grange and died there. This title originates with Samuel Pepys and is a nickname for Thomas Killigrew the Elder (1612-1683), who was at one point the English Ambassador to the Court of Venice and later became a prolific and popular playwright, built the first Drury Lane Theatre and is buried in Westminster Abbey

Robert Pocklington

Robert Pocklington was a lawyer in London and acquired the Lordship of the Manor in 1737. He died childless. In his will, he insisted that any heir of his must live here for five months in every year, and moreover must take the surname of Pocklington (and the husband of any heiress, similarly).

So this wedding picture, which was painted by Stubbs in 1769, portrays Robert’s cousin Pleasance Pykarell Pocklington and her husband, Samuel Sharpe Pocklington

Robert Pocklington’s body was interred not in the humble parish church of All Saints in his village of Chelsworth, but in the grander setting of the South Chapel of St Mary’s in Hadleigh

Battle of the Nile

Naval hero Robert Cuthbert (born 1755 in Chelsworth) whose actions at the Battle Of The Nile brought him to the attention of Nelson grew up at The Grange

The Last Holy Roman Emperor

Sir Robert Pocklington was knighted with the Order of Maria Theresa by Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor in 1794 after saving him in battle from the attention of the French. The Medal was inscribed "IMP. CAES. FRANCISCVS. II. P. F. AVG., rev. FORTI. BRITANNO. IN. EXER- CITV. FOED. AD. CAMERACVM. XXIV. APR. MDCCXCIV". The lengthy account of the battle is paraphrased on a separate page here. Emperor Francis is shown here in a portrait of two years earlier in 1792. 

Edward & Mrs Simpson

Local legend has it that Prince Edward and Mrs Simpson (later Duke and Duchess of Windsor) were regular visitors to Chelsworth Hall, owned at that time by Dr Robert.V. Dolbey (a distinguished surgeon) and his American wife.

Three histories of Chelsworth have been published, by Sir Henry Austen in 1850, by Geoffrey Pocklington in 1956 and by Bernard Quinlan in 1994
More to follow from a WW2 plane crash, to the notorious Jeffery Bernard. Plus the involement of Chelsworth residents in the two world wars and more.