Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      Property      Barsham Old Hall, Suffolk
Barsham Old Hall
Barsham, near Beccles, Co.Suffolk 
(Thomas Blennerhassett of Barsham with his coach and six...)
Blennerhassett Arms 1563 at Barsham Old Hall
Barsham Manor and Hall were held by the Echingham family from c1424.  They passed to John Blennerhassett (b.c1515) who had married c1546, as his 2nd wife, Mary Echingham, youngest of the two daughters and co-heirs of Sir Edward Echingham, Knt of Barsham (d.1527) and his wife Ann Wingfield.
The third son of Sir Thomas Blennerhassett, Knt of Frenze, near Diss, Co.Norfolk, John was of a family with strong Roman Catholic sympathies, several generations of whom served the family of the Duke of Norfolk.  He was Treasurer and Legal Adviser to 3rd and 4th Dukes, thus one of the principal household officers as his father Sir Thomas Blennerhassett had been before him, and MP for Co.Suffolk (see letter from John Blennerhassett ).
John served firstly Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (b.1473 d.1544), later Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (b.1536 d.1572). Personally uninvolved in the plots of 1569-71, he was permitted to continue attending the 4th Duke after he was attainted and imprisoned in the Tower of London, until executed in 1572.
John Blennerhassett died in 1573, interred 13-Jul-1573 in Barsham Church " nere my late wife as maie be..." but no monument survives.  Succeeded at Barsham by his son Thomas Blennerhassett (b.c1546/52 Barsham) to whom he bequeathed "...all my plate, stuffe and utensiles of house and corne and cattell upon condicon that he be loving, naturall and kinde to all his brothers and systers in their necessyties..." which does not say a lot for Thomas' personality...
Thomas Blennerhassett held Barsham until 18-Nov-1598, when he sold the property out of the family to Alderman Robert Lee of London but remained in residence until he died the following year, on 4-May-1599, interred in Barsham Church but once again no monument survives.
Thomas Blennerhassett is believed to be the inspiration for the ghostly Barsham legend of “Old Blunderhazard” and his coach and horses. The Barsham buildings are about half a mile from the main Beccles-Bungay road, reached by a gently sloping track along which, according to local legend, the ghost of Old Blunderhazard drives out every Christmas Eve, just before midnight, in a coach and six, to visit Hassett's Tower at Norwich (usually called Cow Tower, directly across the River Wensum from Hassett's Hall, Pockthorpe), returning to Barsham "before he may snuff the morning air".  The story makes the horses without heads, yet fire flashing out of their nostrils. This lane was not a part of the old coach road from Beccles to Barsham, that is no longer in use but its route may still be identified.  Another ghostly tale, of Hassett's Hall (a.k.a. Hassett's House) at Pockthorpe, on the opposite bank of the river Wensum from Norwich, has similarities with this legend of Old Blunderhazard.
Sir John Suckling purchased Barsham c1613, the estate remaining in the Suckling family for more than 350 years, until the 1990s.
From 1642 to 1644, during the English Civil War, Cromwell stationed cavalry at Barsham and many early horseshoes have been found on the property.  Barsham New Hall was built to supercede the older building as Manor House at some date before 1719 and subsequently Barsham Old Hall fell into decay, used as farm then barn and cattle shed for more than 250 years. At some date between 1719 and 1812 the three short wings that gave the house its characteristic Elizabethan "E" shape were demolished.
During the 16th century a tower with two floors and conical roof was erected close to the south end of the house.  Believed to have been a dovecote, this was known locally as Blennerhassett's Tower or The Armoury.  The tower (see below) and a pair of ancient cottages nearby were demolished in 1948.  Barsham New Hall was itself demolished in the 1940s.
The manor house of Echynghams and Blennerhassetts, the medieval Barsham Hall described in the 1977 church guide booklet as "the great banqueting hall", was for many years in use as a barn for Barsham Hall Farm.
Beautifully renovated and restored c1993 by the present owner, it is once again a fine house, known as "Barsham Old Hall", the restoration work earning a Civic Trust Award. The wing at the left-hand end of the building, shown below in two early 20th century photographs, was removed at that time.  During restoration work a large chamber, previously hidden, was discovered within the house.
Set into the exterior wall over a door (now converted to a window) is a terracotta tile or brick displaying the Blennerhassett arms with initials I M (IOHN MARY) and date 1563. The initials are for John Blennerhasett and his wife Mary Echingham but the date is not their year of marriage - they married c1546.
Drawing of Barsham Hall: courtesy of Ivan Bunn ["Echoes of the Past No.2: Old Blunderhazard"
by Ivan A. W. Bunn, in “Lantern: The Magazine of East Anglian Mysteries” No.26 Summer 1979, p.2]
This drawing above is based on rough sketches of Barsham Hall and associated buildings made in 1915 by William Frederick Suckling J.P. (b.1868 d.1941) of Highwood House, Romsey, Hampshire, for the antiquarian Mr Farrer. These sketches with other documents relating to Barsham are in the Farrer-Harris Antiquarian Collection at Suffolk Record Office Ipswich, as [SRO Ref. HD78:1671 "Notes, Letters & Sketches concerning Barsham Hall, compiled 1915/1919"].
William Suckling based his sketches on illustrations of Barsham buildings appearing on an old map, then in his possession. This map is described on one of his sketches as "Glebe Map 1719 Barsham" but is not a Glebe Map, they did not make an appearance until 1839, following new legislation.  The map is an Estate map, with title "A Geometricall Plan of two farms of ye Hon'rd Robert Suckling, Esq., lyeing in the parishes of Barsham, Shipmeadow and Ringsfield, the one called Barsham Hall, and the other Woolmer's, Situated nr Beccles, in ye County of Suffolk.  Delineated by F Emerson.  mdccxix".
The present location of the original map is unknown and [SRO] do not have a copy, but fortunately a photograph survives.  That photograph is placed in a "scrap-book" compilation titled "The Book of Barsham", a unique Ms. by Suffolk antiquarian Florence Horatia Nelson Suckling of Barsham Hall and presented by her in 1907 to Barsham Church, where it remains.  Florence is the author of ["Some Notes on Barsham Juxta Beccles, Co.Suffolk" in "The Genealogist" new Series vols.21, 22, 23 1905, 1906, 1907]. 
Note: Florence Suckling was William Frederick Perry's maternal aunt, he assuming the surname of Suckling in compliance with her Will.  His home Highwood House is now Stroud School.
The map and sketch of Barsham Hall show how it appeared before the three short wings were demolished and the house converted into a "long barn" for Barsham Hall Farm (at some date between 1719 and 1812). The 1978 drawing showing a total of seven chimneys is incorrect; in the 1915 sketch and the map from which it was copied there are five chimneys. 
Barsham buildings sketched by William Frederick Suckling 1915 for Mr Farrer.
from [SRO HD78:1671 "Notes, Letters & Sketches concerning Barsham Hall, compiled 1915-1919"]
in the Farrer-Harris Antiquarian Document Collection at Suffolk Record Office, Ispwich.
image: copyright © Suffolk Record Office 2010 
Sent to me by Mr Suckling of Highwood, on July 30. 1915
in whose possession the old map is -
Hearth Tax [for] the Hall [£]8 (the 8 is overwritten on a 7)
another house        [£]7
another [£]4
all Robert Suckling Esq 1674
<sketch of Barsham Hall>
Barsham Hall Old Map 1719            This looking r[ight] to side
<sketch of house or a barn>
The long barn ??
<sketch of two cottages, demolished 1948>
<sketch of the dovecote, known as
"Blennerhassett's Tower", demolished 1948>
 The Tower?, 
Transcription of notes on the above page.
What was known as "the long barn" is Barsham Hall itself - the three wings were demolished between 1719 and 1812, following which the house was used as barn & cattle shed for the farm.
Layout of Barsham Hall in the 16th century
drawing: courtesy of Maurice Elliott 

Barsham Old Hall before 1915
from [SRO HD78:1671 "Notes, Letters & Sketches concerning Barsham Hall, compiled 1915-1919"]
in the Farrer-Harris Antiquarian Document Collection at Suffolk Record Office, Ispwich.
image: copyright © Suffolk Record Office 2010 
photo: BJ
 Barsham Old Hall 2004 

this clay tile or brick with Blennerhassett arms
and initials I M (for John & Mary Blennerhassett)
under the date 1563 is over a window that until 1993 was a door

The initials are for John Blennerhasett and his 2nd wife Mary Echingham but the date is not the year of their marriage; they married c1546.
photo: BJ
photo: BJ

Blennerhassett's Tower
a.k.a. "The Armoury"
the old dovecote at Barsham Hall  
The old tower at Barsham Hall is believed to have been a 16th century dovecot.
Ivan Bunn in 1979 wrote:
"During the time the Blennerhassetts were at Barsham, probably in the lifetime of John, a curious tower was erected close to the southern end of the Hall. It consisted of:
'...a round flint tower, 20 feet in diameter, though with walls only 3 inches* thick... similar in appearance to the lower part of the church (Barsham) tower, but it is said to have been raised in the 16th century...' 
This tower was known locally as Blennerhassett's Tower and believed by some to be the remains of a manorial pigeon cot. An old drawing which appears on a map made in 1719 shows it as having a thatched and pointed roof.  Another early description of this tower says that it was "...lofty with a spiral stair case...".  Other uses variously ascribed to it include "a granary" and, as now believed by the present [1979] landowner and various local inhabitants "a gunpowder" store".  The truth is though its original purpose remains a mystery.  In the 1890s when the tower was falling into decay it was lowered and re-roofed, then in 1945 it was damaged by a tractor and finally, in 1948, it stood only seven feet tall and was so dilapidated and unsafe that the owner, Mr John Suckling, ordered its demolition (together with a pair of cottages close by that formed the last inhabited remains of Barsham Hall).  The rubble from the same was used to improve the surface of the lane that leads from the site of the Hall to the main road."
Sid Burton of Barsham, who grew up at Old Hall when Mr Corner was the tenant (prior to 1944) and knows Barsham well, remembers the tower being used occasionally for isolating and housing a few cows.  At that time the tower was generally known locally as "The Armoury", and could indeed have been used for that purpose when some 100 soldiers were stationed at Barsham Hall during the Civil War.  Cavalry musket balls, smaller than infantry, have been found in the area [JB].
* This "3 inches" wall thickness may safely be considered an error.  Sid Burton remembers the thickness of the walls as between 30 and 36 inches and Rev. John Buchanan [JB] the Barsham historian, who knew the tower from 1938 until its demolition, estimates the wall thickness as "between two and three feet".
NOTES: There is a photograph of the tower in "The Book of Barsham" by Florence Suckling c1907 [SUCKLING/3] and another among a group of Barsham photographs taken by Edmund Lovell ca1914-1929 [SRO JI 11/1/ pp.34,35,36] in the Lovell Photographic Collection at Suffolk Record Office Ipswich.

Barsham Sources:
"The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: with genealogical and architectural notices of its several towns and villages" (vol.2 1848) by Rev. Alfred Inigo Suckling (1796-1856) [SUCKLING/1]
"Some Notes on Barsham Juxta Beccles, Co.Suffolk" by Florence Horatia Nelson Suckling, first published in parts in "The Genealogist" New Series vols 21/22/23, 1905/1906/1907, with an additional note in vol.23 1907 pp.135-6 [SUCKLING/2]
"The Book of Barsham", a Ms. compilation by Suffolk antiquarian Florence Horatia Nelson Suckling of Barsham Hall, presented by her to Barsham Church in 1907. [SUCKLING/3]
Ms. notes by 19th century Suffolk antiquarian David Elisha Davy in the Davy Collection at the British Library [DAVY]
The Davy Collection of Suffolk Mss. at the British Library [BL Add. Ms. 19077-19247] were intended by Davy to devlop into a published "History of Suffolk" but this did not happen. Thankfully his papers have been preserved and kept together, they contain the most extensive compilation of Suffolk Pedigrees ever assembled. They were compiled c1840-1850 from extensive walking tours of Suffolk c1823-1844, during which he kept a diary, "A Journal of Excursions through the county of Suffolk, 1823-1844" by David Elisha Davy, published 1982 for the Suffolk Records Society by the Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Davy's Blennerhassett family notes (37 pages) are [BL Add. Ms.19118 ff.348r-367v] this Ms. being summarised as "The Blennerhassetts of Kerry: Earlier English Stock” [BOK] by S.M. in “Kerry Archaeological Magazine”, vol.5 No.21 July 1919 pp.34-39 [KAM].
Davy's Barsham village notes are [BL Add. Ms. <???> ]
Record of the House of Gournay” by David Gurney 1858 [GURNEY]
"Echoes of the Past No.2: Old Blunderhazard" by Ivan A. W. Bunn in “Lantern: The Magazine of East Anglian Mysteries” No.26, Autumn 1979, pp.3,9 [BUNN]
"Notes, Letters & Sketches concerning Barsham Hall, compiled 1915/1919" [SRO HD78:1671] in the Farrer-Harris Antiquarian Collection at Suffolk Record Office Ipswich.
Barsham photographs by Edmund Lovell taken between 1914 and 1929 [SRO JI 11/1/ pp.34,35,36] in the Lovell Photographic Collection at Suffolk Record Office Ipswich.

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