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The Church
Rev. F. B. Zincke
Land Ownership in Wherstead
The Founders of New England

Back to A Merrill Memorial


    Samuel Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983

Wherstead, a Parish in Suffolk - Chapter V, pp48-54

   Ipswich, in England, is about seventy miles northeast from London. It is situated at the head of the estuary of the Orwell, just as Ipswich, in New England, stands at the head of tide water on the Ipswich River. The Massachusetts town in three hundred years has grown to a population of 6272, while the population of the English town in the same period has increased from about 6000 to 75,000.

   Wherstead village lies three miles south of Ipswich. It is an ancient settlement, and from its soil the plow has brought to light many evidences of occupation by Romans and by early Britons. In Doomsday Book the place is described under the names Querstede and Wervesteda. The name of the village and parish is in our day generally pronounced Wersted or Warsted by the residents, the a in the latter case having the sound of a in father.

   A short ride by electric railway through Ipswich streets carries one to Bourne bridge, which marks the boundary of Wherstead parish. Near the bridge, on the Wherstead side, stands the Ostrich Inn, as it stood at the time of the New England migration. In those days, however, oysters were still found in Orwell waters, and the name “Oyster Ridge” had not been corrupted to the name of the exotic bird whose effigy now adorns the swinging signboard of the roadside tavern.

   A walk of fifteen minutes from Bourne bridge, along the macadamized highway leading southwest to Manningtree and London, brings one to the village. The road is shaded much of the way by oaks and other trees. High untrimmed hedges or bank walls often hide the fields.

   The fields, when in view—as I saw them shaded by the threatening clouds of a gloomy day in June, 1910--showed deep shades of green, brightened sometimes in the foreground by the hectic flush of wild poppies. The soil is light loam: the chief crops wheat, barley and roots.

   Wherstead village is a scattered array of cottages lining a crooked lane which branches off from the high road on the east. The village is devoid of stores or public house, and the only industry, aside from agriculture, is carried on in a modest smithy. There is a brickyard near the railroad.

The Church

   The Wherstead church is not seen from the high road, nor generally from the village. It stands apart, near Wherstead Park and “the Mansion,” where the owners of many of the broad acres of the parish have lived. The church shows a mixture of Norman and Gothic architecture, and is believed to date, in some of its parts, from about 1100. It is built of small stone, mostly of a flinty character, with gray sandstone trimmings, and has a red tile roof. The square tower, ivy-grown, dating from about 1400, contains three bells, one of which is about five centuries old. The newest bears the date 1675. The church is small, seating only 122 people.

   I was looking through some old engravings in a book shop in Ipswich, in search of nothing in particular, when I came upon the picture of Wherstead Church which is reproduced on the previous page. Extensive restoration and repairs were made in the old edifice in 1863, but without changing its character in any material respect. As represented here the building must have been familiar to all who knew Wherstead in the time when the foundations were laid for the New England beyond the sea. The churchyard, attractive and well kept, is entered by a stile. In the center is the church, while around about—

       “Each in his narrow cell forever laid
       
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.”

Nobility and gentry, clergy and humble rustics, many in graves now unmarked, lie in the same soil, social distinctions effaced at last.


VIEW DOWN THE ORWELL   

   The site of the church is 150 feet above the Orwell. The view from this point, up and down the stream, is called one of the finest in the Eastern Counties. Its picturesqueness is enhanced in no small degree by the little spots of color furnished by the red and brown sails of the “straightie barges”—freight-carrying vessels of moderate size engaged in coastwise traffic. The picture on the opposite page is taken from Zincke’s book on Wherstead parish. The tower, in the distance at the right, is in the parish of Freston. It has been a conspicuous landmark since before the time of the Newbury settlement.

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     © Merrill.org - Updated 8 July, 2002