Wortham sign

by Roella Trudgill

Wortham in Suffolk, which was mentioned in The Domesday Book, borders Norfolk on The River Waveney, two miles from Diss.

It is made up of five hamlets; The Ling (where traces of a Roman Camp was found, and it managed to avoid the Commons Enclosure Acts during the 18th and 19th Centuries and is now a Site Of Specific Scientific Interest), The Marsh, The Long Green and Magpie Green, each with their own enclosed commons, and The Brook. Each Hamlet had a pub - Tumbledown Dick, named after Oliver Cromwell’s brother, Richard, was on The Ling - The Queen’s Head, on edge of The Marsh - The Dolphin, on Long Green, which has the border of Burgate running through the middle of it - The Magpie, on Magpie Green - The Cherry Tree Ale House was in The Brook - sadly they are all closed now.

In 1860 there was 946 inhabitants in Wortham - there are now less than half that amount.

Wortham Church, which was built in 1160 and Grade 1 listed, is dedicated to St. Mary and it’s round tower, originally thought to have been built as a Watch Tower, has a diameter of 8.8 metres which makes it the largest of all the round towers in England. There was at one time two churches in Wortham as it was divided into two parishes, Southmoor and Eastgate. There is no trace of the site of The Saxon Church In Southmoor which ceased being used in 1769 when the churches were amalgamated. The pew ends in St. Mary’s church, which were hand carved by local parishioner Albert Bartrum, depict Psalm 104.

Reverend Richard Cobbold, 22nd child of John Cobbold, from the Ipswich brewing family, was probably the most famous resident of the village. He served the parish as rector for 53 years from 1824 to 1877. He painted every building in the village, and commented on every parishioner too, some he referred to as “Ranters, Roarers and Nothingarians!”. These treasures fortunately ended up in The Suffolk Records Office for all to view and they have been used to illustrate at least three books about the “Victorian Village”. He also wrote Magarate Catchpole amongst other books. He is buried in the Churchyard not far from the Lych Gate on the right.

There were also two Chapels in the village; A Primitive Chapel In Chapel Lane, a.k.a. Ranters Chapel, and a Wesleyan Chapel on Long Green.

There was at one time three windmills in the village; one on The Bury Road, one on Magpie Green and the other on The Ling - all have been demolished.

20% of the 124 properties in Wortham are listed. A notable house is The Manor which was the Family seat for The Betts for 425 years from 1480 to 1905. A later eminent resident of The Manor in the 1930’s was Doreen Rash, a.k.a. Doreen Wallace, writer and Social Campaigner. She was particularly remembered in Wortham for her campaign against the Tithes which saw Mosley’s Blackshirts come up from London to join her!

There is a monument to The Tithe War at the bottom of the drive to Wortham Manor up towards Magpie Green.

The primary school was built and paid for by Rev. Cobbold in 1870. The landmark Arches devoted to Faith, Hope and Charity are said to have come from Caius College, Cambridge where Rev Cobbold once studied.

Other impressive large buildings are: The Rectory, at the top of Wigwam Hill, which Rev. Cobbold had built on the site of a former Rectory in 1827, now divided into two properties called The Old Rectory and Wortham House; the two semi detached cottages at the top of Rectory Hill, now called Rectory Cottages, which Cobbold bought for Almshouses; Brook House, Mellis Road; Ellesmere House, Church Road; The Grove, Magpie Green; Oakwood House, Long Green; The Rookery, Bury Road; White House Farm, Long Green, which once had a rare Black Poplar Tree In front of it; Hall Farm Cottages, behind the church which were originally Wortham Hall but have since been converted into three residential units; Ling Farm, Low Road.

The was once a Police House In Post Office Row where Sillet the policeman in Rev. Cobbold time lived. Many properties were named after the folk who lived in them and are still referred to by many locals today although the names have long since gone.

One building anyone dreaded being an occupant of was The Union House, on The Ling, which years beforehand would have been called A Parish Workhouse. It was Established in 1838 and run by a board. In the 1881 census it had 84 inmates and in the 1901 census it was recorded as being uninhabited! There is a grave in Wortham Churchyard, not far from Rev. Cobbold’s, of Emma Quinton who was known as a “Union Child” and died from eating “Toads Caps” aged 13 on 27th August 1850. Another grave in the Churchyard just to the right of The Lychgate, is that of Eliza Dixon, wife of a local butcher and mother to six children, who was murdered on her way to buy a jug of beer from The Dolphin on July 9th 1899 aged 32 years by young local labourer, George Nunn. He was convicted and hanged in Ipswich. There was a poem written about it but called “Diss Murder” and wrongly mentions it happened on a Norfolk Village Green. One line says, “Her smiling face they’ll miss in the neighbourhood of Diss!”.

Over the years there have been several Cottage industries, artisans, businesses, retail industries and shops in Wortham including a bake office, a tailor’s shop, a carpenter’s shop, a blacksmith’s shop, a dressmaker, a wheelwright, a bricklayer, rat and mole catchers, potters, shoemakers, a roper, a thatcher, weaver, a corset maker, brush maker, a fish curer, and a Post Office, which still remains today.

More recent happenings in Wortham that made the headlines in the 1990’s include The Tornado crashing in farmland and the local vicar being shot at!

In 2002 to commemorate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, local craftsmen designed and created the Village Sign which stands on The Long Green On Bury Road beside an oak tree that was planted to commemorate The Queen’s Coronation. Wortham and Burgate Parish Council now run the political side of the village and a few years ago helped produce “A Village Design Statement”.

*These mention all the inhabitants of Wortham from 1824-1877 so very useful for those researching family!

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Page last updated: 14 Jul 2022
© Roella Trudgill, Diss Family History Group & Nigel Peacock 2022