The Suffolk Trinity and The Norfolk Union

This week, my blog takes a turn into equine genealogy. 

First things first, I introduce you to the Suffolk Punch, in case you’ve not come across one before. This is Mum Ruby and nine week old son Trojan, currently summering at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse just north of Dereham in Norfolk: 

If you’ve not seen a Suffolk before, the first thing that will probably strike you is their size. Weighing in at around a tonne and up to 17.2 hh (this means around 70 inches from the ground to the withers - in other words getting on for six foot before you take the head and neck into account!). These are powerful, beautiful animals. It was their strength which made them perfect for agricultural work in the days before mechanisation. All Suffolks are chesnut (traditionally spelt deliberately without a ’t’). 

I’ve been a fan of the Suffolk Horse (also sometimes known as the Suffolk Sorrel) for a very long time. A few weeks ago, Mum sent me a scanned copy of a letter I wrote as a teenager which was printed in the East Anglian Daily Times. The letter was in support of their ‘Save the Suffolk Punch’ campaign which was launched in 2001 when the stud at Hollesley was under threat. I was 15 at the time and a typo lives on to haunt me to this day: 

Did you spot the mistake I was referring to? If you’re not ‘into’ Suffolk Punches, you probably didn’t, because you would need to know that every Suffolk Punch alive today can ultimately trace its ancestry back to one male, named Crisp’s Horse of Ufford, who was foaled in 1768 – now that’s some well recorded family tree! Although the breed has origins further back, Suffolk Punches have really been ‘devoted to us’ for less than 500 years. Norfolk and Suffolk’s relatively isolated position meant that breeds that were developed here were unique to those elsewhere in the country. 

Thankfully, ten years on from writing the letter above, you can still find Suffolks in stables up and down the Country. However, to the best of my knowledge, they are still rarer than the Giant Panda, as indeed they were in 2001. I’ve even been privileged enough to spend time with a few of the gentle giants, my favourite of whom was Major, who once met the children at Easton Farm Park on a regular basis.

Once a common sight on farms across East Anglia, numbers crashed in the 1960s. With the advent of mechanisation, there was simply much less of a need for horses in agriculture. With a concerted effort, numbers of the Punches are now slowly growing again. Just this weekend I visited Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse in Norfolk. Despite having lived close by for many years, I have only ever visited for work, either for meetings or manning stands. Taking advantage of the weekend’s special event – harvesting by the heavy horses – I have finally put this to rights. 

Gressenhall is interesting for many reasons. It is home to the only House of Industry open to the public in Norfolk, built in 1776 for the hundreds of Mitford and Launditch and becoming a Poor Law Union in 1836 (see photos below with a less-than-glamorous assistant real ominous skies). The site is enormous and included Union Farm which provided work and produced food for the residents. The register for Gressenhall St Mary, not to be confused with the work house chapel, is particularly useful for researchers because reputed fathers were regularly named on the baptism records for illegitimate children. St Mary itself is a slightly unusal church because of its central tower (as opposed to a tower on the end of the nave).  

However, this is not a post about the workhouse – although I would definitely recommend a visit to see it for yourself. If you are interested in finding out more, many people have already written about it, and of course Peter Higginbotham’s website, provides a wealth of information. 

Crossing from the Workhouse to the Farm, Sunday was really about the horses. A little Lightroom wizardry to remove bystanders and a combine and you might be able to fool the occasional person that this is an old photo! As will be no shock to everybody reading this, I actually took the photo below at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon last Sunday. Harvesting with heavy horses is actually a surprisingly fast activity....for as long as they can travel in a straight line.

A lot of people seem to have a bad habit of saying their ancestors were ‘only ag labs’. Did you think your ag labs were boring? Going to see something like this makes you realise how much skill they needed to possess and how hard they had to work to make a living. You can’t just put a horse in front of a plough and hope for the best (like you would a tractor!?). Years of care and training are necessary in order to bring in a successful harvest, and the bond between man and horse is a very close one.

Suffolk Punches make up a third of the Suffolk Trinity. The other legs on the tripod are the Red Poll cow (pictured below) and the Suffolk Sheep. Additionally, there is also the the Large Black pig (also pictured) which some might argue is a fourth ‘Suffolk’, or at least East Anglian, breed – a similar pig was bred at around the same time in Devon/Cornwall however.

So, there you have it. The Suffolk Trinity at Norfolk’s Union Farm. I’ve said it many times, but if you can visit places like this, see the buildings close up and meet the breeds your forebears tended day after day, you can really bring your family research to life. For more photographs, visit my facebook page

This is not supposed to be a blog about the ins and outs of the different breeds – I do not own any of the trinity! If you are interested you may like to visit some of the following websites: 

The Suffolk Horse Society

The Suffolk Punch Trust

Red Poll Cattle Society

Suffolk Sheep Society

Large Black Pig Breeders Club

Let’s hope scenes like this will be around for some time to come....

Uncle Thomas: Legend of Happisburgh (in more ways than one)

For this, my second blog installment of the week denoting memorable ancestors, I turn to an uncle by marriage, Rev Thomas Lloyd. 

Those that have heard of Happisburgh (pronounced 'Hayes-brough') often first think about homes at the top of cliffs and coastal erosion. However, there is of course far more to the village. A couple of years ago, a simple search engine request threw up Thomas Lloyd as a central figure in the parish history and sent me on a path of discovery. Supposedly, I found, he is remembered for baptising an awful lot of children at once, and for holding a party for the occasion. 

The church at Happisburgh has one of the highest towers of any in Norfolk, and the graveyard overlooks the sea.

 The village sign, not far from the church, is pictured below.

At the top, a vicar is depicted, baptising a child. This vicar is Rev. Thomas Lloyd. While I was fairly sure there was some truth behind the legend of his throwing a party and baptising as many children as possible on Whit Sunday, 1793, I wanted to find out for sure. I consulted the original register and found the following - 

“Memorandum – Observing a great reluctance in the poorer inhabitants of the Parish of Happisburgh to give their children full baptism, most chiefly owing to their inability to afford their friends such little entertainment as they imagined to be suitable and necessary upon such occasions and being seriously convinced that to general a neglect of that ancient Rite, was become very detrimental to the principles and morals of the times; I invited all such as would bring their children and friends to receive full baptism on whitsonday 1793 to an entertainment; and baptised on that day one hundred and seventy persons. Thos Lloyd.”

So, if your ancestor was resident in Happisburgh in the late 1700s and you have no specific baptism record for them, maybe they were at the party! 

I know little about Thomas’ early life so far. He married my 5xGreat Grandfather’s sister Susannah Walne in Redenhall in 1782, shortly after he became vicar at Happisburgh and eleven years before the village’s memorable shindig – perhaps she helped with the catering! 

Rev Lloyd was similarly efficient with his own offspring who were both baptised within 24 hours. The couple had two sons, Thomas Henry, who followed his father into the clergy, and Randall Walne (yes, that’s two surnames as Christian names – his grandmother’s maiden name Randall, who hailed from a gentry family in the Hempnall area, and Walne for his mother) who became an Officer in the East India Army. 

Their baptisms appear in the North Walsham register, and it’s great to note the extras that you can’t get from transcriptions - if Susannah had given birth only a few days earlier they could have saved a few pence: 

“The New Stamp Duty began on the 1st Day of October 1783 for Births and Christenings, Burials and Marriages, at 3d Each- 

October 4th 1783 - Thomas Henry Lloyd, son of Thomas Lloyd Cl and Susannah his wife late Walne of N Walsham; paid 3d”


“Randall Walne son of Thos Lloyd Clk and Susannah his wife (late Susannah Walne) was born March 13th 1789, baptised privately March 13th 1789 and received into the church August 1792.”

The Stamp Duty Act 1783 imposed a charge on all baptisms, marriages and burials of 3d in order to pay for the American War of Independence. Because paupers were exempt, you may find a larger than usual amount of paupers in the registers between 1783 and 1794. 

Both also appear, together, in the register at Happisburgh out of order with the rest of the entries:

“Thomas Henry Lloyd (son of the Revd Thomas Lloyd, Vicar of this parish and Susannah his wife (daughter of Daniel Walne of Harleston in this County, Gent) was born Oct 3rd and baptised Oct 4th 1783. He was born at North Walsham. 

Randall Walne (son of the said Thomas and Susannah Lloyd) was born and baptised March 13th 1789. He was born at North Walsham.” 

A history of the family included a passage, written in Thomas’ hand, as follows:

“Susannah, the fourth child, married the Rev. Thomas Lloyd, Rector of Westwick and Vicar of Happisburgh in Norfolk, by whom she has two sons, Thomas Henry Lloyd of King’s College, Cambridge, and Randall Walne Lloyd, who completes his 15th year this 13th day of March 1804 and is far advanced in his classical studies under my own tuition.”

Sadly to my knowledge (to date) neither son went on to marry or have children as both died young. In fact mother, father and sons all died within five years, and Thomas and his wife died 'within hours' of each other.

A large tablet in North Walsham Church reads as follows:  

“Near this place were interred the remains of the Rev’d. Thomas Lloyd, LL.B., Vicar of Happisburgh and Rector of Westwick, and an active intelligent magistrate for this County who departed this life November 26th, 1813; for Susanna his wife, who died a few hours before him, aged 62; for their eldest son, Rev. Thomas Henry Lloyd, A.B., Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge, bom October 3rd, 1783, died June 6th, 1808 ; also for Randall Walne Lloyd, their only other child, bom March 13th, 1789; died in the East Indies, May 23rd, 1808.” 

My next plans are to find out more about Randall Walne’s time in the East Indies (thank you to FIBIS who were very helpful at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live) and also to follow up the rest of the Lloyd family. 

It seems Rev. Lloyd not only provided a legend, but potentially was a legend. As ever, if there are any family links reading this article, please feel free to contact me. I’d also love to hear about any other events like that at Happisburgh!