JC Halbrooks 1940-1999


This edited Information was first printed in a series of articles on the history of Holbrook Parish, in a newsletter of that parish, about 1916.


D-1. The Founder's Tomb.

The Chancel of Holbrook Church contains some objects which are of special interest, and are more than six hundred years old. The most beautiful of these is the trefoil arch over the door leading from the Chancel to the Vestry. This arch was not originally intended to form part of a doorway, but of a tomb. Here stood, until 1124, an altar tomb- a monument, the base of which was in the form of an altar, and on this probably rested the effigy of the person interned within. The arch which is now above the Vestry door formed a canopy over the tomb. In 1824, without any regard to the sanctity of this relic of the past, the altar was removed to make way for a fireplace. This act of vandalism seems to have been quite unnecessary, for after a few years the fire-place was taken away, and the arch cut through to join the doorway which we see today.

The arch is evidently of the same date as the oldest portions of the Church itself, and the tomb was probably intended to contain the dust of the founder of the building. This founder was almost certainly one of the de Holbrooks family, the Lords of the Manor. It may have been Richard de Holbrooke, who died in 1290, or more probably John de Holbrooke, who in 1304 presented the living to Radulfus de Cretynge, the first Rector of Holbrook.

D-2. Tomb of a Heart.

Near this arch, in the wail between the chancel and the vestry, is a small niche, raised about three feet from the ground. Here is to be see what remains of a small figure, which has been so much mutilated that It Is no longer possible to ascertain what it represented. In 1865, however, when Mr. Phipson saw It, it was Just possible to distinguish part of the outline- the general form of the head, with the pillow under it, and the left arm, the form of which showed that the hands met together, either in the attitude of. prayer, or holding a metal or stone heart. In 1865, Mr. Phipson visited the Church for the purpose of examing this niche, and he described his discoveries in an article. He removed the slab with the figure on it, and found a solid stone below. In the centre of this was a circular hole, 6 inches deep; its diameter was 6 Inches at the top, tapering down to 4 3/4 Inches. Inside this, and closely fitting to the aides was a metal vase or jar, nearly perished by corrosion. It had a metal cover with a knob, which being thicker and heavier than the rest, upon the decay the lower part sank down into the centre of the vase. A small ornament was engraved upon the edge of the vase and upon the edge of the cover. When the lid was lifted, the vase was found to be three parts full of chalk, lime, and loamy substance; there were also several pieces of charcoal and other substances of which no satisfactory analysis could be obtained. There seamed little, doubt that the vessel contained the remains of a human heart, which has been imperfectly embalmed or else burnt - before interment, as the presence of the charcoal might show. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries It. was not an uncommon thing for a heart to be buried by itself.

It remains to discover the probable owner of this heart. A comparison of the arch over this niche with that which was formerly over the Founder's Tomb seems to show that it is intended to be a reproduction of the larger arch, though on a less elaborate as well as a small scale. The two tombs seem to belong together. If this is so, the metal jar probably contained the heart of the wife or the child of the founder. Thus If it is assumed that the altar tomb was that of John de Holbrooke, It is probable that the jar contained the heart of Alice, his wife, who died in 1310 with the manor and Church of Holbrook in her possession.

From the list of Holbrook Rectors, the following extract may be taken:

Johannes Caperoun, instituted 23 September, 1348.

Willielmus de Bergholt, instituted 23 April, 1349.

Robertus Burgh, de Hessing, instituted 25 May, 1349.

The interest in this extract lies not in the names of the Rectors, of whom nothing more is known, but in the speed with which one succeeded another. Three new rectors being appointed in the short space of eight months. Yet the records of may parishes all over England show a similar or even greater number of institutions for this same year, 1348-49, for this was the year of the terrible plague known as the Black Death.

We do not know how far Holbrook was affected by the Black Death. The lord of the manor himself escaped; the patron of the living was the same in each case and for some years after. But where it was necessary to appoint two new rectors in less than five weeks, the number of deaths amongst the villagers cannot have been small.

The ranks of the labourers were everywhere thinned, and the peasants took advantage of the demand for workmen to obtain their complete freedon, for which they had long been striving with partial success. They emerged from the state of seim-slavery in which there were found at the time of Domesday Book, and while some began to work for the lord of the manor for a wage, others would obtain complete possession of their land.


In the year 1086, by order of William the Conqueror, our first Norman king, a general survey was made of the whole of England. This survey was written in Domesday Book, from which we are able to gain some idea of the condition of Holbrook 930 years ago. (JC Note: this was written about 1916; note math error- 1916 - 1086 = 830, not 930).

Holbrook at this time contained one manor or estate, the name of the lord of the manor was Oddo. Its value was estimated at 15 shillings, though twenty years before, in the time of King Edward the Confessor, It had been worth 20 shillings. The estate was small, only one 'carrucate' of land, that is to say, there was not too much land under cultivation for one team to plough in the year. The land was divided, as aare all manors, into two parts; one, celled the demesne, was reserved for Oddo's own use, while the rest was let out to his dependents, of whom there were four. Oddo had one plough-team on his demense, and another was possessed in common by his dependents.

It appears that in 1086 only five families were living in Holbrook, that of Oddo the lord, and those of his four dependents. These dependents held a very different position from that of the modern labourer or anyone else In England. They did not work for wages, such an arrangement was hardly known in the time of Domesday Book.

Two of them were villeins - a term which implies that they were not free men. A villein occupied a position midway between that of slave and that of the free man. He was not the absolute property of his master, as a slave is, but he was not allowed to leave his master's estate and go to another. The villein occupied part of the estate, and, instead of paying rent for his holding, he gave his services. Two or three days every week he worked on Oddo's private land or demesne, he also gave his extra help at harvest time and at certain other seasons. The rest of the time was the vilein's own and he occupied it in working on his own holding, on the produce of which he depended for his living. He might have to give some of his produce to his lord in part payment of his rent, as well as working for him.

The other two of Oddo's dependents were 'bordars', who enjoyed more independence than did the villeins; their position was more like that of the small tenant farmer of today. Probably they were not obliged to work for Oddo; instead, they paid rent for their holdings, not in money but in farm produce.

Both vileins and bordars were entirely dependent for thier means of substistence on the products of the estate. They had the right to pasture their sheep and cattle on the common meadowland, where Oddo's animals also grazed. The manor was self-sufficing, and no buying or selling was rendered necessary.

Oddo did not regard his estate as his own property, he himself was a tenant. He held his manor from a certain Earl Alan, probably on condition of serving him in war. This Earl Alan was the overlord of many manors, some of them in the neighbourhood. The supreme overlord was the King. In the time of King Edward the Confessor the lord had been Godmann, and he had been the tenant of a certain Edith.


From Domesday book we know that in 1086 Holbrook was held by a certain Oddo. The next 200 years are blank regarding the history of Holbrook, until the Reign of Henry III when we find the de Holbrook family in possession.

The head of the de Holbrook family was nearly always a knight. From our knowledge of the typical medieval knight we may construct a dim picture. Clad, as they were, in heavy armour, their faces were protected by the visors of their helmets, It was necesary to have some distinctive marks by which they could be easily recognised. On their helmets, therefore, they wore their crests; the de Holbrook crest was a black lion's head, bearing on It a golden chevron and a golden cross. On the shield was another device, the coat of arms. The shield of a de Holbrook had a golden ground, with a chevron and ten small crosses in red. These arms, as late as 1652, to be seen emblazoned on one of the windows in Holbrook Church.

According to Davy, the Manor of Holbrook always went to the late Lord's youngest son, to the exclusion of his elder brothers.

The first evidence relating to the de Holbrook family belongs to the reign of Henry Ill (1216-72) and in a list of knights who followed Henry III in war occurs the name of "Sir -- de Holbrook" His Christian name is not given, though his coat of arms is described. This may or may not be Sir Richard de Holbrook; who certainly held Holbrook and some other places in the last years of Henry III's reign. In 1288 a trial was held at Westminster to settle disputes between Richard and the Prior of Norwich. He died in 1290, and Manor passed to his son John, who is chiefly important as being the first patron of the living (1304). Soon after this date he died, and the Manor was held by his widow, Alice, who died in 1309 with the Church and Manor of Holbrook in her possession. John, son of John and Alice, was at this time twenty years old, but he died only seven years later (1316), leaving a son, Thomas, who must have been a mere child at the time of his father's death (he came of age in 1330). As he was a minor he ought by feudal custom to have been under the guardianship of his overlord, the Earl of Norfolk, but in 1324, an order was made not to meddle with the Manor, but to deliver the issues to the heir of John de Holbrook.

John, son of Sir Thomas, was twenty-eight when in 1360 the Manor passed into his hands. He is said to have been made High Sheriff of Suffolk. At his death in 1376, the name of De Holbrook ceases to be connected with this Manor, for although he seems to have had at least one son by his second wife, the Manor passed to his daughters by his first wife- Margery, who married John Fastolf, and Elizabeth, who married Robert Fitzralph. For some fifty years after this the manor and advowson of Holbrook were constantly the subjects of lawsuits and settlements between these sisters and their descendants.


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