History

A short history of Gallowsfield by Sue Moore

In the 1554 Survey of the Manor of Haughley a holding called Gallowefeld was described as a “grett close, parcell of Lublonge feld”, divided into seven distinct pieces of arable land. Lublonge is one of several variant spellings of what is now called Lubberlaw.

The name Gallows field comes from the fact that there would have been a gallows for hanging criminals erected there, possibly over many centuries. Stephen Friar, in The Local History Companion (Sutton, 2001), explains:

Up to the eighteenth century, gallows were usually erected at prominentcrossroads on the outskirts of towns, partly as a warning to potential lawbreakers and partly because of the superstitions which often surrounded such places: suicides and criminals were also buried there.

And, of course, Gallows field is at the old crossroads where the Folly crossed the King’s Highway from Bury to Ipswich and continued on into Harleston. The site, known as Quarries Cross – not Squires Crossing, which is a corruption – would have had a boundary cross endowed by a benefactor, probably in their will. And one of the witnesses to the 1454 will of a Rose Deneys of Haughley was a certain Geoffrey Quarre. So who knows? Incidentally, a smithy is also recorded at Quarries Cross in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Anyway, back to gallows and Stephen Friar:

By 1840 the “Bloody Code” (hanging even for petty theft) had been abolished. Although capital punishment was restricted to crimes of murder and treason, public executions remained well-attended spectacles until the passing of the Capital Punishment Amendment Act of 1868. Such gatherings must have resembled fairs or race-meetings, attracting numerous purveyors of pies, furmity and ginger beer, and itinerant hawkers of ballads, faked confessions and grotesque mementos.

From 1868 executions were carried out privately within prisons and capital punishment for murder was finally abolished in Britain in 1965.

In Haughley’s case “according to Copinger the rights held by the lord of the Manor of Haughley included ‘oyer and terminer’ – literally to cry and end, meaning that the lord could try all cases including those demanding a capital sentence. It is certain that there was a Gallows in Gallows Field which is also known somewhat grimly as “Lubberlow Field.” So wrote Nigel MacCulloch, though why Lubberlow should be any grimmer than Gallows I don’t know, since I cannot find any other definition of ‘lubber’ – even in the respected complete OED –except as a lazy or clumsy person.

There were some traditional conditions attached to the holding of Gallows Field. In his 1983 history of Haughley the late Nigel MacCulloch, father of Professor Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, goes on to relay the following information:

The history of Gallows Field is traced by Mr Charles Partridge in an article in East Anglian Miscellany. He writes – ‘it is his good fortune to be able to trace and construct something like a consecutive history of one of the Gallows Places of old time.’ He quotes from Hollingsworth [A History of Stowmarket p.95] that ‘the Abbot of Hailes held lands and the livings of Haughley and Shelland in virtue of constructing a gallows under a penalty of 40 shillings for failure to do so.’ Also that one Buxtyn held his lands in Haughley by ‘providing a ladder for the gallows.’ William Muskett in his will dated 1594 leaves Cookstole Field [just south of the Plashwood estate] and Gallows Field “to my youngest son John Muskett.” In 1672 it is recorded in one of the Manor Court books that a ladder and gallows are still being maintained by tenants. The site is towards the Harleston side of the parish overlooking the new road [A14] but standing well back. It is approached along a rough track and there are some old farm buildings nearby. The name covers a very long period of parish history.

In the 1554 Survey Gallows field was held by a certain William Muskett, whose antecedents had come to Haughley in 1366 from Cambridgeshire. They were a prolific and influential family in mid Suffolk – the last of the line was a pilot who was killed over Burma during the Second World War. A Henry Muskett bought Harleston Hall in the late 16th century. Other members of the family held many pieces of manorial land within the larger Lubberlaw field, several of which abutted the lands of Harleston Hall. The seven pieces of Gallowefeld had been held by the family since about 1522.

 

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