A History of Horringer

Crop Horringer SignThe name of the village has evolved over the centuries from HORNINGGESHERTHE, then HORNINGSHERTH through other variations to the present spelling.  The family name of the original Anglo-Saxon owners was HORN.  They were a powerful family, as indicated by such place names as HORNING and HORNINGSTOFT in Norfolk, HORNINGSEA in Cambridgeshire and similar place names in Leicestershire (HORNINGSHOLD), Wiltshire (HORNINHSHAM), and HORNINGLOW in Staffordshire.


The village school was referred to as Horningsheath by the Ministry of Education until after the Second World War!  The HODSKINSON map of 1783 uses both spellings – Horningsheath and Horringer.

In 959 the village was owned by THEODRED, Bishop of London.  In his will he bequeathed the land to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, who retained ownership for the next 600 years, there being two manors then: Great and Little Horningsheath.  Great and Little Horringer Halls still survive, each building standing on the foundations of earlier structures.

The village is fully described in DOMESDAY BOOK as HORNINGSWORDA (1086). The number of ploughs, ponies, cattle, sheep and pigs is listed along with the inhabitants.  Interestingly, although there were 30 hogs, there was woodland to support only five of them.  Domesday also confirms the existence of the Parish Church.

In the 14th century St Leonard’s Church was restored and Great Horringer Hall rebuilt.  The Gildhall, King William Cottage and The Old House date from this time, as well as other buildings along The Street.

The Poll Tax list of 1361 put the population of over 15-year-olds at 53: this was almost certainly an under-estimation, as many people hid away to avoid paying the hated tax.

The Gildhall (not to be confused with the Trade Guilds) was dedicated to St John the Baptist and Holy Trinity.  Its income from bequests etc. was used to give support to villagers in need. The Gildhall eventually became the village workhouse, and for a time the north end of the building was an Infant School.

With the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, Horringer passed into private ownership.  The Jermyn family, who already owned the Rushbrooke Estate, bought the village in 1583.  At this time the Ickworth Estate had been in the possession of the Hervey family for almost 150 years (since 1437). Through the marriage of Elizabeth Davers, the Rushbrooke and Horringer heiress, to Frederick Augustus Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, the estates of Ickworth, Horringer and   Rushbrooke were eventually combined.

The fact that the parish church is dedicated to a French saint, Leonard of Limoges (the patron saint of prisoners), makes it more likely that the Normans erected the present stone building on the site of the earlier wooden Saxon structure.  In 1815 Arthur Brookes carried out extensive restorations to the church, including a ‘fine three-decker pulpit’.  Brookes also built Brooke House now known as Horringer Manor. The church has eight bells which are rung regularly by a keen team of bell-ringers. The Horringer Parish Register dates from 1588, the year of The Great Armada in the reign of Elizabeth I. The registers from 1588 to 1850 were edited by Rev. Sydenham Hervey and published.

The village once had three blacksmith’s forges to catch the passing trade.  Cooks Forge stands opposite the new Hornings Park development, The Old Forge is at the top of Manor Lane and the third forge can be seen beside the drive by The Laurels.

A map of March 1830 shows that a blacksmith’s forge once stood on the village green in front of the church – the outlines of the foundations can still be seen in very dry weather. The smith was reluctant to move across the road to his new forge (The Old Forge) at the top of Manor Lane, so his friends took him into Bury St Edmunds and got him drunk. He woke up in the morning in the new forge, all his tools and possessions having been moved in for him.  There is no record as to how he felt about this – with a hangover too!

The Old Rectory was built in the 16th century about the time of the Reformation.  Parish priests were expected to provide accommodation for travellers, which explains its large size.  Of timber frame construction, the typical jettying overhang was disguised in later years when that style became   unfashionable.  In 1873 a new rectory was built, and in 1877 the building became the Horringer & Ickworth Working Men’s Club; one of the three oldest in the country.

The Old House was built in the 13th century.  Its timber frame construction is not obvious.  For many years the village Post Office was situated in the lean-to addition.  The northern end was a public house, called the King William IV, for a few years, which dates that period in its history to 1820 – 1830.  The fire plate is original.  Both the Old House and The Old Rectory have their ghosts: The Old House ghost is a lady in grey; although nothing has been seen in The Old Rectory, workmen have had their tools removed and their clothes thrown down, and there are footsteps heard.

Weavers Cottage is one of the few houses along The Street which retains the jettying style typical of timber frame buildings.  Part of it once housed a Dame School.  Until 1963 it was divided into three cottages, said to have housed 40 people once upon a time. The ceilings downstairs are particularly fine. There is no evidence that weaving was carried on here, but it was used for wool-combing.

College House’s plain facade hides its long history.  In the Middle Ages it was simply The College.  It was attached to Bury St Edmunds Abbey to house young priests during their training, but after the Dissolution it became a farmhouse.

Street Farm once stood on Horringer Great Green.  In its 500 year history it has been known as Half Way Farm, Doubles Farm and, when it was a pub, The Blue Moon.

Godfrey’s Cottage was a Dame School in 1815.

Brick Kiln Cottage stands at the spot long known as Bilson’s Gate.  The field beyond the house is Brick Hill, a corruption of Brick Kiln.  Bricks for Ickworth Mansion, The Old Shire Hall, Bury St Edmunds, and the chimney stacks of the houses along The Street were made here.  In 1525 William Hill produced 20,000 bricks for Hengrave Hall at eight pence (3.3p) per hundred.

The Church is a 14th century building in which almost everything has been replaced in the original style.  There is extensive flint flushwork on the porch and battlements.  The west window is unrestored perpendicular.  The east window of the chancel is in the decorated style, carefully repaired.  The font is 13th century with painted shields of the Bury St Edmunds Abbey, and the Brooke, Gipps, Jermyn and Lucas families.  The roof is single-braced and is original.  The east window was installed in 1946 by J.E.Nuttgens of High Wycombe.

Researched  and written by Eric Lucas Esq.


One comment

  1. Researching my family tree, I could not understand why the village stated on the census was ‘Horningsheath’, when I knew the family I was tracing, lived in Horringer – I now have the explanation – thank you! I would also appreciate any information there may be concerning my great-grandfather, John Smith, who was a police constable in the village late 1800’s – early 1900’s. I believe he may have looked after the estate at Ickworth too. Many thanks.

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