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SUFFOLK, a maritime county, bounded on the east by the North Sea, or German Ocean, on the north by the county of Norfolk, on the west by that of Cambridge, and on the south by that of Essex. It extends from 51° 56' to 52° 36' (N. Lat.), and from 23' to 1° 44' (E. Lon.), and comprises an area of about 1512 square miles, or 967,680 statute acres. There are 64,041 inhabited houses, 2352 uninhabited, and 574 in progress of erection; and the population amounts to 315,073, of whom 154,095 are males, and 160,978 females.

At the period of the Roman invasion, the county formed part of the territory inhabited by the Iceni or Cenomanni, who, according to Whitaker, were descended from the Cenomanni of Gaul; under the Roman dominion it was included in the division of Flavia Ccesariensis. After the withdrawal of the Roman legion, Cerdic, one of the earliest Saxon invaders, founder of the kingdom of Wessex, landed in 495 at a place subsequently called Cerdic Sand, in the hundred of Mutford and Lothingland, forming the north-eastern extremity of the county; and having gained some advantages over the opposing Britons, set sail for the western parts of the island. During the succeeding invasions of the Saxons, the territory now comprised in the counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, and Norfolk, was erected by Uffa, about the year 575, into the kingdom of East Anglia, when the relative position of this district obtained for its inhabitants the name of Suthfolc, or southern people (in contradistinction to the inhabitants of Norfolk), whence, by contraction, its modern name.

Under the act 6th and 7th of William IV., cap. 77, Suffolk is partly in the diocese of Norwich, and partly in that of Ely, in the province of Canterbury. It is divided into the archdeaconries of Suffolk and Sudbury, and the number of parishes is 504. For purposes of civil government it is divided into the hundreds of Babergh, Blackbourn, Blything, Bosmere and Claydon, Carlford, Colneis, Cosford, Hartismere, Hoxne, Lackford, Loes, Mutford and Lothingland, Plomesgate, Risbridge, Samford, Stow, Thedwastry, Thingoe, Thredling, Wangford, and Wilford. It contains the borough, market-town, and sea-port of Ipswich; the borough and market towns of Bury St. Edmund's and Eye; the market-towns and sea-ports of Lowestoft, Southwold, and Woodbridge; the sea-ports of Aldborough and Dunwich; and the market-towns of Beccles, Bungay, Clare, Debenham, Framlingham, Hadleigh, Saxmundham, Stow-Market, and Sudbury. By the act 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the county was divided into the Eastern and Western divisions, each sending two members to parliament; and two representatives are returned for each of the boroughs, except Eye, which was deprived of one by the act just mentioned. Suffolk is included in the Norfolk circuit; the assizes are held alternately at Bury and Ipswich; and the general quarter-sessions at Beccles, Woodbridge, Ipswich, and Bury, each for its respective district.

The soils are various, but the limits of each may be clearly traced. Strong clayey loams, with a substratum of clay marl, form the largest tract, which is commonly called High Suffolk, and extends from the confines of Cambridgeshire and Essex, on the south-west, across the central parts of the county, to Norfolk, on the northeast. The bottoms of the vales in this part, traversed by numerous running streams, and the slopes descending to them, are superior in quality to the rest of the district, the soil generally consisting of a friable loam. Rich loams, of various qualities, occupy that portion of the county included between the south-eastern part of the strong loams and the estuaries of the rivers Stour and Orwell, lying to the south of a line drawn from Ipswich to Hadleigh. Some of these loams are of a sandy quality, others much stronger; from Stratford and Higham, on the borders of the Stour, eastward across the Orwell, to the banks of the river Deben, near its mouth, extends a tract of friable and putrid vegetable mould of extraordinary fertility, more especially at Walton, Trimley, and Felixstow.

In the projecting north-eastern district, lying between the river Waveney and the ocean, is also much land of loamy quality; but as it is interspersed with many sandy tracts, and on the sea-coast is of a sandy character throughout, it may be considered to form part of the great sandy maritime district extending from the river Orwell, between the clayey loams and the sea, to the north-eastern extremity of the county. The lands in this latter district, which is called the Woodlands, are generally of excellent staple, and are among the best cultivated in England; although, in the country lying between the towns of Woodbridge, Orford, and Saxmundham, and north-eastward as far as Leiston, there is a large extent of poor, and in some places even blowing, sands, which have caused the south-eastern part of the county to receive the name of "Sandlings," or "Sandlands." The substratum of the eastern part of Suffolk, though sometimes marl, is generally sand, chalk, or crag. The last is a singular mass consisting of cockle and other shells, found in numerous places from Dunwich, southward, to the Orwell, and even beyond that river.

Another district of sand occupies the whole extent between the clayey soils and the fenny tract, which latter forms the north-western angle of the county, and may be separated from the sands by an irregular line drawn from near where the river Lark begins to form the western boundary of Suffolk, to the Little Ouse, a short distance below Brandon. These western sands, unlike much of the last-mentioned, are seldom of a rich loamy quality; they comprise numerous warrens and poor sheep-walks, and much of the sandy land now under tillage is apt to blow, that is, to be driven by the wind, and consequently ranks among the worst soils. The chief exceptions to the general inferiority of this district lie south-east of a line drawn from Barrow to Honington, and at Mildenball. The substratum is throughout a perfect chalk, at various depths. Of the Fens, it is only necessary to observe, that the surface, to the depth of from one foot to six, consists of the ordinary peat of bogs, which in some places is very solid and black, but in others is more loose, porous, and of a reddish colour: the substratum is generally a white clay, or marl.

By far the greater part of the county is under tillage. The crops commonly cultivated are wheat, barley, oats, beans, peas, buck-wheat, turnips, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, beet, tares, cole-seed, red and white clover, trefoil, sainfoin, hemp, and hops. The culture of carrots in the sandlings is of very ancient practice, great quantities having been formerly sent from that district by sea to the London market; they are now grown chiefly as food for horses. In the fen district, cole-seed constitutes one of the principal crops; and the cultivation of sainfoin is particularly extensive in the chalky subsoils. The pasture lands were remarkable for their richness, but the best have been ploughed up, and the extent occupied by dairy-farms is not so great as formerly, though much butter is still sent to the London market. Large tracts of grass-land are mown for the supply of the towns with hay: the herbage which springs up after the gathering of the crop, is here called rowings. The woods are of very small extent, and are not generally of luxuriant growth; the strong loams formerly bore considerable quantities of fine oak, a great portion of which has been cleared off, and various plantations made, but only with a view to ornament. The broadest tracts of waste land are those occupying nearly all the country from Newmarket, on the borders of Cambridgeshire, to the confines of Norfolk, near the towns of Thetford and Brandon; and those lying between Woodbridge, Orford, and Saxmundbam, in the eastern part of the county. Besides these, heaths of smaller extent are scattered in every quarter. The chief use of the wastes is as sheepwalks.

The manufactures and commerce are very inconsiderable, in comparison with those of many other counties. The principal manufacture is the combing and spinning of wool, in a great measure for the Norwich manufacturers, which is carried on, though not to any great extent, in most parts of the county. At Sudbury are manufactories for silk and woollen goods; there is also a silk factory at Mildenhall, and another at Glemsford. The imports are merely the ordinary supplies of foreign articles for the inhabitants; the chief exports are corn and malt. The principal fishery on the coast is that of herrings, which is a main support of the town of Lowestoft, where about 40 boats of 40 tons' burthen each, are engaged in it; the season commences about the middle of September, and lasts until towards the end of November. The town also partakes in the mackerel-fishery, in which the same boats are employed, the season commencing about the end of May, and continuing until the end of June. In the Orford river is a considerable oyster-fishery.

This is a well-watered county: the principal rivers are the Stour, the Gipping or Orwell, the Deben, the Ore, the Waveney, the Little Ouse or Brandon river, and the Lark; besides which, the smaller streams are exceedingly numerous. The Stour meets the tide at Manningtree, in Essex, and begins to expand into a broad estuary, which at high water has a beautiful appearance; at low water the river shrinks into a narrow channel, bordered by extensive mud banks. Proceeding eastward, it is joined near Harwich by the Orwell, and their united waters having formed the port of Harwich, discharge themselves into the North Sea, between that town, in Essex, and Landguard Fort at the south-eastern extremity of Suffolk. This river is navigable up to Sudbury. The Gipping is formed by the confluence of three rivulets at Stow-Market, from which place it was made navigable in 1793; below Ipswich it assumes the name of Orwell, expands into an estuary, and continues its course to its junction with the Stour opposite Harwich. It is navigable for ships of considerable burthen up to Ipswich, and the scenery on its banks is beautiful. The Deben, which rises near Debenham, at Woodbridge expands into an estuary, and proceeds thence in a southern direction to the sea: towards its mouth it takes the name of Woodbridge haven, joining the sea about ten miles below that town, to which it is navigable for considerable vessels. The Ore expands into an estuary as it approaches Aldborough, where, having arrived within a very short distance of the sea, it suddenly takes a southern direction, discharging its waters below Orford; it is navigable to a short distance above Aldborough. The Waveney joins the Yare at theheadof Bredon-water, an expansion formed by these united rivers, which, contracting again near Yarmouth, pursue a nearly southern course to the sea, below that town: this river, the meadows on the banks of which are among the richest in England, is navigable for barges as high as Bungay bridge. The Little Ouse, or Brandon river, is navigable up to Thetford; the Lark, to within a mile of Bury St. Edmund's; and the Blythe, to Halesworth. The only artificial navigation is that in the channel of the Gipping, from Stow-Market to Ipswich, 16 miles and 40 rods long, and having 15 locks, each 60 feet in length and 14 in width; the canal was opened in the year 1793, and the expense of its formation was about £26,380. Suffolk has the advantage of two considerable railways; namely, the Ipswich and Colchester, which quits the county at Manningtree, Essex; and the Ipswich and Bury, which is wholly within its limits, and passes by the town of Stow-Market. A third line connects the town of Lowestoft with Norfolk.

Within the limits of the county were comprised the Roman stations Ad Ansam, at Stratford, on the border of Essex; Cambretonium, at Brettenham, or Icklingham; Garianonum, at Burgh Castle (though some fix it at Caistor, near Yarmouth); and Sitomagus, probably at Dunwich. Remains of Roman military works exist at Burgh Castle, Brettenham, Icklingham, Stow-Langtott, and Stratford on the banks of the Stour; and numerous domestic and sepulchral relics of the same people have been dug up in different places, such as pavements, coins, medals, urns, rings, &c. The stupendous work of human labour called the Devil's Ditch, on Newmarket heath, is supposed to have served as the line of demarcation between the kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia. Near Barnham, on the borders of the Little Ouse, is a range of eleven tumuli, the neighbourhood of which is thought to have been the scene of a conflict between the Danes, under Inguar, and the forces of Edmund, King of East Anglia. Others occur in different places, the most remarkable group being that called the Seven Hills, at Fornham St. Geneveve. The number of religious houses, of all denominations, including four alien priories, was about 59. There are remains of the abbeys of Bury St. Edmund's, Leiston, and Sibtow; of the priories of Blythburgh, Butley, Clare, Herringfleet, Campsey-Ash, Dodnash, Gorleston, Kersey, Ixworth, Orford, Wangford, Ipswich, Mendham, and Sudbury; and of the nunneries of Bungay and Redlingfield. The remains of fortresses are chiefly those of the castles of Bungay, Clare, Framlingham, Haughley, Lidgate, Mettingham, Orford, and Wingfield. Ancient mansions are to be seen in different parts, the most remarkable being Hengrave Hall; and there are many elegant seats, among the most distinguished of which are Euston Park, the residence of the Duke of Grafton; Heveningham Hall, the seat of Lord Huntingfield; Flixton Hall; and Kentwell Hall. Suffolk gives the title of Earl to the family of Howard.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.