Clare (St. Peter and St. Paul)

CLARE (St. Peter and St. Paul), a market-town and parish, in the union and hundred of Risbridge, W. division of Suffolk, 15 miles (S. S. W.) from Bury St. Edmund's, and 55½ (N. E. by N.) from London; containing, with the hamlet of Chilton, 1700 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, derived considerable importance during the Saxon heptarchy from being on the frontier of the kingdom of East Anglia; and after the Conquest it was distinguished as giving the title of Earl to the family of De Clare, and that of Duke to Lionel, third son of Edward III., who was created Duke of Clarence. George III. revived the title in the person of his third son, Prince William Henry, who, in 1789, was created a peer of the realm as Duke of Clarence. To the south of the town are the ruins of a castle, formerly the baronial residence of the earls of Clare, and equal to any of such structures in feudal grandeur and magnificence: the site of the fortifications, which may be distinctly traced, comprehended an area of 30 acres. On the summit of a high mount evidently of artificial construction, are the remains of the keep, a circular building of flints strongly cemented with mortar, strengthened with buttresses; it is supposed to have been erected either prior to or during the heptarchy. The honour of Clare is now annexed to the duchy of Lancaster.

The town is situated on the river Stour, which separates this county from Essex, on the south; the houses are in general old, but many new ones have been erected. The ancient market-place was lately considerably enlarged, by pulling down many unsightly buildings; and a handsome corn-exchange was erected in 1838. The streets are spacious; the inhabitants are amply supplied with water; and the approaches to the town are gradually improving. The market is on Monday; fairs are held on Easter-Tuesday and July 26th, chiefly for toys and pedlery. The county magistrates hold monthly and petty sessions for the division here; and the courts baron of Erbury, and Stoke with Chilton, and a court for the duchy of Lancaster, are also held at this place. The parish comprises by computation 2178 acres. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £4. 18. 9., and in the patronage of the Queen, in right of the duchy of Lancaster; net income, about £200. The church is a large, handsome, and ancient structure, chiefly in the decorated English style, with a tower strengthened by buttresses, and of an earlier date than the body. The interior, which has been improved by heightening the nave, and the addition of aisles, is richly ornamented, and contains an elegantly-designed font in the later English style, and a brass eagle on a pedestal, with wings displayed, forming the readingdesk. In the chancel are said to have been interred the remains of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who died in 1368, at Piedmont, and who is supposed to have been born here. There are places of worship for Baptists and Independents. William Cadge, in 1669, bequeathed a farm now let for £74, appropriating £10 per annum to a master for teaching boys, and £15 per annum to the clothing of widows; and there are several other charitable bequests for distribution among the poor, who have also the privilege of depasturing 40 milch-cows on a common, comprising 62 acres of land.

To the south-west of the town are the remains of Clare Priory, founded by Eluric or Alfric, Earl of Clare, for Secular canons, and which Gilbert de Clare, in 1090, gave to the Benedictine abbey of Bec, in Normandy, to which it was a cell till 1124, when his son Richard removed the monks to the village of Stoke. Joan d'Acre, daughter of Edward I., and wife of Gilbert de Clare, who was a great benefactress to this establishment, is traditionally said to have been interred in the chapel, which has been converted into a barn: the priory building, now a private residence, though it has undergone considerable repairs and alterations, still retains much of its original character. A monastery for Augustine monks is said to have been founded here in 1248, but by whom is not known; and according to Robert Aske, who wrote in the reign of Henry VIII., the following persons were, among others of less distinction, buried in it, namely, Richard, Earl of Clare; Lionel, Duke of Clarence; Joan d'Acre, and her son, Sir Edward Montheimer; Dame Alice Spencer; Sir John Beauchamp, Knt.; William Capel, and Eleanor, his wife; the Lady Margaret Scroope; Sir Edmund, last of the Mortimers, earls of March; Sir Thomas Grey, and his first wife; and Sir Thomas Clopton, and his wife. To the northwest of the town are evident marks of a Roman camp.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.