A Potted History of Wenhaston
A settlement at Wenhaston certainly dates back to Roman times for much pottery and building materials from this period have been unearthed in recent years. In fact, Wenhaston was a market of some local importance and from the coins found was probably flourishing from 80 AD to 350 AD. However, the first written record of its existence is to be found in the Domesday survey of 1086, when it was noted that the village of Wenadestuna possessed a mill, a church and woodland sufficient to feed 16 hogs.
Traces of this Medieval history can be seen in parts of the church building, but its greatest treasure was discovered during restoration work in 1892 and is an ancient panel painting of the Doom or Last Day of Judgment.
Recent research has dated the painting around 1520 and it is thought that it was the work of two, a master and his apprentice, the master being either Dutch or an Englishman influenced by the Dutch School of painting. Panel paintings of the Doom in England are very rare and few other instances may be cited.
There is a long history of village merrymaking as evidenced in the following extract from the Rev. J. Clare's Curious Parish Records of the eighteenth century: “In former times Wenhaston had no hiring fairs as were held in Halesworth but instead held an annual sessions or kind of frolic on the village green where some 20 stalls were erected. For several days noisy merriment reigned supreme and there was much betting on pony and donkey races that had as their goals the two public houses, the Queen’s Head at Blyford and The Star at Wenhaston. Some farmers would drink day and night for sometimes a week without going home".
Today the village at the Census of 2001 contained 818 people. Most housing follows the line of the ridge which lies to the south of the River Blyth and the old railway track which ran from Halesworth to Southwold. The railway operated from 1879 to 1929, but declined and ceased with the advent of the comparatively faster and more convenient motor bus. Faster and more convenient maybe, but surely not quite as pleasant for, as a regular passenger said, "The train was very slow at times and when this happened people would often jump off and pick flowers, then run and catch up with the train!"
The railway has long gone, but the flowers are still there to be admired on the open heathland which surrounds the village and remains one of its unique features.
Keith Johnceline, Local History Recorder (LHR) 01502 478410.
Keith Johnceline is the author of ‘Wenhaston: A History of the Village’, (1985),also, ‘Wenhaston: Millennial History of a Suffolk Village’(2000). Both these publications are available to borrow from our local public libraries and can also be found at the Suffolk County Council Record Office, Lowestoft, for study only.