Woodton in history

Early settlement

It seems that Woodton was already inhabited at the Bronze Age. A number of ring-ditches, dated between 2350 BC and 701 BC, have been identified between Church Road and Hempnall Road.

The origin of the name of Woodton is the Old English Wdetuna, settlement in the woods (wudu, ‘woods’ + tun ‘enclosure, settlement, farm’).

Woodton can be referred as Wodetuna, Wodetone, Wudetuna, Uidetuna or Wootton. It is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.

Please click here to discover more about Woodton’s early history.

The new Woodton Hall was built in 1694 by Robert Suckling and his wife Sarah Shelton (great-grandparents to Horatio Nelson). Nelson is said to have played in the grounds, near a cedar tree which still stands today.

The new Woodton Hall was built in 1694 by Robert Suckling and his wife Sarah Shelton (great-grandparents to Horatio Nelson). Nelson is said to have played in the grounds, near a cedar tree which still stands today. The Hall was pulled down in 1841-2.

The Sucklings

Suckling is a Saxon name which was probably written ‘Socling’ and meant ‘A person holding his estate by socrage or the tenure of the plough’.

In 1575 Robert Suckling (4x great-grandfather to Horatio, Viscount Nelson) became Lord of the whole of Woodton; he represented Norwich in Parliament in 1570 and 1585. His eldest son, Edmund, became Dean of Norwich. Another son, Charles, inherited the estate and enlarged it by the purchase of the manor of Barsham in Suffolk from the poet John Suckling (the son of his younger brother Sir John Suckling, the Cavalier Poet).

Woodton and Nelson

Catherine Suckling was the daughter of Dr Maurice Suckling, the rector of Barsham and Woodton.  She was also to become the mother of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Catherine’s uncle Robert Suckling lived at Woodton Manor, so the young Nelson spent many of his school holidays at Woodton, when he used to climb a large cedar tree known afterwards as “Nelson’s Tree”. Sadly, Catherine died when Nelson was only nine years old.

In 1905, commemorating this connection between Woodton and Nelson,a Parish room was built; the foundation stone was laid by Earl Nelson on Trafalgar Day.

Ned Baldry and ‘Shell’

Thomas Bardwell (1704-1767): A portrait of Ned Baldry’s Shell Horse

Thomas Bardwell (1704-1767): A portrait of Ned Baldry’s Shell Horse

Edward “Ned” Baldry (1705-1759) was taken on in the stables of Woodton Hall, Norfolk, home of the Suckling family, at the age of thirteen and rose to become huntsman to the Woodton Hunt, with the finest pack of hounds in the neighbourhood.

The story is recounted in Deer Hunting in Norfolk (Lt. Col. J.R.Harvey, Norwich, 1910) that Ned bought a poor old horse at Bungay fair to feed the hounds, but thinking better of her after a few weeks decided to breed her, and the following year she produced a fine skewbald foal. In Norfolk this was technically termed ‘shelled’, and by such appellation the foal was known ever afterwards.

Paintings of the ‘Woodton Hunt’ and ‘The Shell Horse’ painted by Bardwell hung in the Hall, as did a portrait of the long-serving butler, Thomas Bardwell, presumed to be a relative of the painter. When Denzil Suckling died in 1747, he left Ned “the fine pack of hounds and the old ‘shelled horse’, and ample funds for their maintenance.” Ned took the hounds to Ireland, and then to France, where he hunted for the King at Versailles. He returned to Woodton and was buried in the churchyard beneath the following inscription:

In memory of Edw. Baldrey, who departed this life, February 24th, 1759, aged 53.
Here lies a huntsman, who was stout and bold,
His judgement such as could not be controlled,
Few of his calling could with him compare,
For skill in hunting fox or fallow deer.
He shew his art in England, Ireland and France,
And rests in this churchyard, being his last chance.

Ned’s tombstone can be visited in the north-east corner of the churchyard. His ‘shelled horse’ was buried nearby in the park beyond the church wall.

Windmills in Woodton

Woodton Windmills, 1920s

Woodton Postmill in the foreground, with Bedingham smockmill in the distance, 1920s

Faden’s map of Norfolk (1797) shows two windmills, a postmill at Woodton (which stood almost in the centre of the village) and a smockmill at Bedingham. Click here for a full history of Woodton postmill.

The various Norfolk directories mention the name of the millers:

  • 1836 – Robt. Leeder, jun., corn miller
  • 1845 – Robert Leeder, jun., corn miller
  • 1864 – Everett Robert Last, shopkeeper and corn miller
  • 1900 – Everett Thomas Aldis, shopkeeper & miller (wind)

Although there were two mills, only one miller is mentioned each time.

The Methodist Chapel

The Woodton Methodist Chapel situated in the heart of the village is now to be a private dwelling.  The building dates to 1838.  Regular worship ceased in early 2015, with a final service held on 10th May 2015.

Methodist church interior

 

The Baldwin memorial plaques in Woodton Methodist Chapel. Clare Andrews' Walking Down Memory Lane has more information about the history of the Chapel.

The Baldwin memorial plaques in Woodton Methodist Chapel. Clare Andrews’ Walking Down Memory Lane has more information about the history of the Chapel.

Woodton Directories through history

1836 – Woodton in History Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk

1845 – Woodton in White’s Norfolk

1868 – Woodton in Harrod & Co’s Postal and Commercial Directory

1900 – Woodton in Kelly’s Norfolk Directory

 

 

 

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