Boyton History


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Called Boituna in Domesday, the proposed derivation of the modern name is the Bay Town from the proximity of the village to Hollesley Bay.  Being just off a minor coastal road, Boyton is still comparatively isolated.

Centuries ago, before the sea-walls were built, the sea was even closer. The spit which now extends from Orford Ness to Shingle Street did not then separate Boyton from the sea. The little river Tang which flows by the village was a tidal estuary, and Burrow Hill was an island.

As long as 8000 years ago, small bands of hunters came here in search of food. All round the higher ground were marshes full of fish and wild fowl which they caught with nets, hooks and flint-tipped weapons.

The first farmers needed heavier tools, such as axes for clearing woodland. They cultivated cereals and grazed animals. Farming started in the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The only tools were of wood and stone, so early farmers chose to make their homes on this light, easily ploughed soil.

There is plenty of evidence of continuous settlement here throughout the centuries. A bronze-age gold torque was found in Boyton and a replica can be seen in the Ipswich Museum - the original is with the British Museum. After the Romans left, however, the history of Britain in the Dark Ages is rather obscure. The Suffolk coast, being on the sea route from Jutland and Saxony, must have been one of the first landfalls for many of the boat-loads of immigrants arriving in this country. Burrow Hill, north-east of Boyton, had an important Anglo-Saxon settlement and has been excavated by the Butley Excavation Group with students from London University and local volunteers.

Copinger tells us that the Manor of Boyton formed part of the great Malet fee in the time of Edward the Confessor and consisted of two carucates of land valued at 60 shillings. At the time of the Domesday survey, the value was the same and there was also a church with eight acres valued at 12 pence. The manor and advowson belonged for many years to Butley Priory.

At the dissolution of the monastries the manor vested in the Crown by a fine levied in 1538 by Henry VIII and the Queen (Anne of Cleves) had the benefit of the Manor. In 1546 Henry VIII granted the reversion to William Forthe and Richard Moryson. William Forthe died in 1555, but his grandson, also called William, sold the Manor of Boyton on the 1st January 1633 for 3600 to Francis Warner of Parham. Francis left all his lands to his son John by a will dated 20th August 1651, and later these passed to his brother Edmund. Edmund married Ann Hawes and had five children, one of which was Mary. Mary became the sole heir to her father's estates and in her will directed that her properties be transferred to seven trustees who after her death would undertake the conditions set set out. She died on 10th April 1738 and was buried in Parham church where her tombstone can be seen today.

In the seventeenth century almost all the land of the village was owned by the Warner family and subsequently the Trustees, who went on to build the almshouses. The Charity Trustees profited also from the digging of white clay from Hollybush pit and in the 1850s from the deposits of fossil coprolites on the marshes and along the Tang. The clay was sold to delftware potters in London and the coprolites went to Ipswich for grinding into phosphate fertiliser - all shipped from Boyton Dock. In the 1920s, the Minters of Dock Farm imported coal from Durham by barge. They sent hay back for the pit-ponies in Durham and also sold hay to London for horses there.

Agriculture and fishing continued through the years, but the village was always more seaward-looking than landward and continued so until the time of the first World War. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the local people were much involved with smuggling which was rife on this coast from about 1750 to 1850. No doubt they were recruited by the notorious Captain Bargood who had cottages at Hollesley and Butley. Stories handed down tell of stables left open, horses "borrowed" in the night and found in a lather in the morning, with a keg of brandy in the stable. Stables locked were liable to be set on fire! The iron rims of wagon wheels were muffled in sacking and straw. A hiding-hole was found during recent alterations to a cottage, and behind one house it is said there was a brick shed known as the "Hope inn" where smuggled liquor could be drunk in secret.

Boyton was largely self-supporting. Suffolk Directories of the 19th century list farmers, blacksmith, publican, miller, carpenter, butcher, cattle-dealer, grocer and draper, bootmaker, and after about 1880, postmaster.

Although the road to Woodbridge was fully tarred in the late 1940's and 1950s, it became very sticky in hot summers. Bicycles sometimes came to a halt in the pools of tar until the 1950's when a more modern form of tarmac came to the rescue.

The first motor bus, the "Boyton Beauty", was started by Mr Durrant in the 1920s and by the mid 1930s Boyton was described as having "a quite exceptional number of omnibuses". Even in the early 1950s there were five returns to Woodbridge a day. They are now reduced to two a week.

The arable and grazing land of the village adjoined large areas of heathland and sheepwalks until after the 1914-18 war, when the Forestry Commission was establishing its forests. Local roads were flint surfaced and rutted until the 1950s.

After the 1914 war, agriculture declined and the Mary Warner Trustees sold off almost all their land including Valley Farm, Dock Farm and Laurel Farm. Many hard years followed until the outbreak of war in 1939 when the production of home grown food became all important. More land was cultivated, sheepwalks and heathland were ploughed up and more people were employed.

After 1945, a great social change began. The mechanisation of farming required less manual labour, horses were not needed and the traditional skills were less in demand. Some old cottages were "condemned" and demolished. Mains water and electricity came in the 1950s and the council houses at Cotton's Acre were built.

A few detached houses were built in the 1970s and 80s and with them, it was hoped would come the revival of the village spirit in spite of the fact that by then the shop and post-office had closed. Most houses coming up for sale today are bought as residential homes although of course many people need to work away from the village. Few of the original families remain.

The recent acquisition of 175 acres of Boyton Marsh (including the fine old Banter's Barn and Boyton Dock) by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will benefit not only wildlife and the visitors who come to enjoy it, but the village too.

Those of us who live here consider ourselves fortunate. The village is part of the Heritage Coast and should remain unspoilt. We can enjoy the river in the summer and, carried in on the winter gales, hear the roar of the sea on the shingle beach.

A.H.R.Bantoft. July 1991

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