Debenham (St. Mary)

DEBENHAM (St. Mary), a small market-town and a parish in the union of Bosmere and Claydon, hundred of Thredling, E. division of Suffolk, 13 miles (N.) from Ipswich, and 83 (N. E. by N.) from London; containing 1667 inhabitants. This place derives its name from its situation on the river Deben, which rises at some distance above the town, on the confines of Mickfield and Mendlesham. It appears to have been of considerable importance at an early period, and according to tradition, a river of sufficient depth to admit ships of large burthen, flowed up to the town; an account in some degree corroborated by the discovery of an anchor some years since, imbedded in the sand at a place now called the "Gulls." The kings of the East Angles are said to have held their courts at Debenham, where they had a palace. The town suffered considerable damage in 1744 from an accidental fire that broke out at the house of a baker, and destroyed more than thirty houses; and a spot adjoining the town, called Burnt-Wood Fields, is supposed to have derived its name from a similar conflagration.

The town is situated on the road from Ipswich to Eye, and, lying on the declivity of a hill, the streets are always dry and clean: the market is on Friday, for corn; and fairs are held on the 24th of June for toys, and the 8th of August for cattle. In the market-place is a cross, erected in the year 1448. The scenery is richly varied, and from many parts are obtained extensive and interesting views. The manufacture of hempencloth was anciently carried on, and a very considerable number of persons were employed in spinning wool; but the population at present is agricultural. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £15. 2. 6.; patron and impropriator, Lord Henniker. The great tithes have been commuted for £651, and the vicarial for £282. The church, built on an eminence in the centre of the town, is a venerable structure, chiefly in the early and later English styles, but having some portions of Norman architecture, with a porch of elegant design, and a lofty embattled tower, which it is said was formerly surmounted by a spire; the interior displays much beauty, and contains some very ancient monuments. There is a place of worship for a congregation of Independents. A free school was founded about the year 1648, and endowed with £30 per annum by Sir Robert Hitcham.

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

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