Gateway to the Classics: The Counties of England by Charlotte Mason
The Counties of England by  Charlotte Mason



Suffolk is another low, flat eastern county, a county without any hills to speak of. The middle of the shire is well covered with large farms, where four sorts of corn are grown, as well as peas, beans, and green crops. There are pastures, too, for the cows, from whose milk capital butter is made. Suffolk horses are reared here, and the famous Suffolk pigs are raised; and such turkeys and geese for the Christmas dinners of folk in large towns!

Most of the towns are market-towns, where the good things raised in this farming county are sold. There is Bury St. Edmund's, the chief town in West Suffolk, a large town that owes its name to a story which you shall hear presently. It has the ruins of a splendid old abbey; and here twelve people were burnt at the stake in the persecution under Queen Mary. Another tale of a Suffolk martyr belongs to the market-town of Had-leigh. Eye, where lace is made; StowmaTket, where gun-cotton is made; Halesworth, and Framlingham, which has an old castle, are all market-towns, and so is Ipswich, the county town, which is also a port.

Ipswich stands at the end of the estuary of the river Orwell, and ships come up to the town, though it is eleven miles from the sea. The Orwell estuary joins that of the river Stour, which divides Suffolk from Essex. There are large iron-works at Ipswich, in which ploughs and harrows and other farm implements are made.

Along the low river mouths are marshes, and high banks have been raised to keep the river waters in. The north-west corner, also, between Cambridge and Norfolk, is part of the fen country, a district of marshes, peat fens, and stretches of open heath upon which sheep find a living. There is another marshy corner in the north-east, to the east of Waveney river, where "Green grow the rushes, O," upon "broads" like those of Norfolk.

Heather wastes with sheep feeding on them, and marshes, with cattle dotted about in the deep green pastures, and low sands running far inland; these are the kinds of land to be found lying along the low coast of Suffolk, which seems to be gradually sinking into the sea.

Indeed, at many points of the coast where the sea is now deep enough at low water to carry the largest ships, harvests were reaped and villages were standing not so very long ago. Dunwich is now a little village with not more than twenty houses; it stands on rather high ground, and all about it is waste and desolate. A thousand years ago, Dunwich was a rich and great city, with a bishop and twelve churches; and there was a large wood between it and the shore. But the sea made its way in, and carried off Dunwich city bit by bit; a monastery, churches, four hundred houses, were swept off at once in the reign of Edward III. The people at last fled from the sea, and made their homes in the present village of Dunwich.

Lowestoft, close by which is the Ness, the most eastern point in England, and Southwold, Felixstow, and Aldborough are pleasant bathing places on this east coast; they are also fishing towns and sea-ports.


The Suffolk Martyrs

The North folk (Norfolk), and the South folk (Suffolk), made up the Saxon kingdom of East Anglia, and this kingdom was under the rule of the brave and pious King Edmund. Lodbrog, the Dane, had found his way into Suffolk, and had been basely slain. False news came to Hubba and Hungnar, the sons of Lodbrog, that Edmund the king had killed their father. So the Danish brothers got ships and men, and their twin sisters wove them a standard with a raven upon it, a dark standard which was to wave over many a bloody battle-field. And they came, the first of the long stream of Danes, kings, and jarls (earls), and fighting men, which for three hundred years poured down upon the shores of unhappy England.

At Hoxne, on the banks of the Waveney, the brothers met King Edmund; the Danes numbered more than the Saxons, and the king "fought fiercely and manfully against the army. But because the merciful God foreknew that he was to arrive at the crown of martyrdom, he there fell gloriously." He was made captive, fettered, and barbarously beaten. Then the Danes said he should live if he would renounce Christ; but the king refused to receive his life as the price of dishonour to his Lord. So they bound him to a tree, and shot at him with arrows till he died; and then the Danish brothers struck off his head and threw it into a thicket.

The body of the martyr was carried to a town called Badrichesworth, and there buried; wherefore this town came to be called Bury  St. Edmund's. Many years after, Canute, himself a Dane, raised a great abbey there, one of the most splendid in the land. In all the country-side the death of King Edmund was kept in mind, and pictures might be seen in many church windows of how he was bound to a tree and shot to death with arrows.

In the early days of the Reformation, Hadleigh had a good and gentle vicar, named Rowland Taylor, who taught his people the truth as he found it in the Bible, and would not allow in the parish church the services of the Church of Rome. Now, Queen Mary was not only a zealous Roman Catholic herself, but she meant that all the people of England should be subject to the Pope. She set herself to root out the Protestant faith by burning all who held it.

Good Dr. Taylor was one of the first to suffer; he was held for two years in the King's Bench Prison, and then, seeing that he would not recant, was sent home to Hadleigh to be burnt at the stake.

It was very dark, and they led him without lights to an inn near Aldgate. "His wife watched all night in St. Botolph's Church porch, beside Aldgate, having with her two children.

"Now when the sheriff and his company came against St. Botolph's Church, Elizabeth cried, saying, 'O my dear father; mother, mother, here is my father led away.' Then cried his wife, 'Rowland, Rowland, where art thou?' for it was a very dark morning that the one could not see the other.

"Dr. Taylor answered, 'Dear wife, I am here,' and stayed. Then came she to him, and he took his daughter Mary in his arms; and he, and his wife, and Elizabeth kneeled down and said the Lord's Prayer. At which sight the sheriff wept apace, and so did divers others of the company.

"Then he took farewell of his wife and children; his wife saying, 'God be with thee, dear Eowland; I will, with God's grace, meet thee at Hadleigh.'

"All the way, Dr. Taylor was merry and cheerful as one going to a most pleasant banquet or bridal.

"The streets of Hadleigh were beset on both sides with men and women of the town and country who waited to see him; whom, when they beheld so led to death, with weeping eyes, and lamentable voices they cried, 'Ah, good Lord! there goeth our good shepherd from us, that so faithfully hath taught us, so fatherly hath cared for us, and so godly hath governed us! Oh! merciful God, strengthen him, and comfort him.' "

Arrived at the spot, "when he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel which they had set for him to stand on, and so he stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together and his eyes towards heaven, and so let himself be burned."

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