Josiah Rodwell was the first of the Rodwell’s whose work and capability initially caught my attention. We are all so used to finding our family history in dusty archives or on paper, that it comes as a surprise to find ones family history expressed in a tangible form. Josiah Rodwell’s most impressive surviving monument today is the avenue of Lime trees at Heath Farm, Livermere below.
Josiah was born on the 5th of October 1746. At present I am unsure where he was born, but it is very likely that it was at Wattesfield Hall, or possible Riddlesworth. He was the son of John and Catherine Rodwell, who were tenant farmers, who are known to have taken farms at Wattesfield Hall and then Riddlesworth, before moving to Mendlesham, where they are buried.
While it is known that for most of his adult life Josiah lived at Livermere, he was also at the time of his death Proprietor of the Manors of Elmstead, Aston in Suffolk and East Harling in Norfolk. The latter property was later inherited by his grandchildren John Josiah & Anna Rodwell.
It is possible that he owned a small farm at East Harling before he moved to Livermere. His brother Lionel Rodwell lived at East Harling, where he was miller for some time.
Josiah was married to Elizabeth Meadows, from Henley Hall who had been born on March 13th 1751. It is thought that he first took the lease of Livermere in 1771 when he was 25 years old.
Fourteen years after first leasing Livermere, Josiah Rodwell appears amongst a list of considerable sheep farmers.
BURY, Feb. 14, 1787
At a Meeting of some of the principle Wool Growers near Bury, held this day at the BELL INN, to take into consideration the bill now depending in parliament, relating to wool.
I. Resolved, That we consider many of the clauses of the said bill, as injurious and oppressive to the growers of wool. That it needlessly and wantonly multiplies restrictions, fines, forfeitures, and punishments. Is entirely adapted to lower the price of wool; but not at all calculated for its pretended purpose, that of preventing the practise of smuggling
II. Resolved, That we do earnestly request the wool-growers in other parts of the country, to unite with us in our endeavours to oppose a measure that would be so generally detrimental; and we hope for the support of all land owners and others in opposing the bill, to procure a county meeting for rendering such an opposition regular and effective.
III. Resolved, That another meeting be held at the Angel Inn at Bury, on Wednesday the 21st day of this instant February, at Four o’clock in the afternoon, on the said day.
|WILLIAM MACRO,||JOHN CANHAM,|
|EDWARD PUGH,||JAMES DEEKS,|
|WILLIAM STUTTER,||JOH NUNN,|
|J. PYTCHES, Jun.||JOSEPH PAWSEY,|
|WILLIAM ADAMS, Sen.||JOHN SIMPSON,|
|JOHN STUTTER,||ROBERT HOWLETT,|
|JOHN STUTTER, Jun.||JAMES CLIFT,|
|THOMAS COCKSEDGE,||THOMAS HARVEY,|
|W. ADAMS, Jun.||LEO BIDWELL,|
|GEORGE WYARD,||WILLIAM KEMBALL,|
|ROBERT ROPER,||WILLIAM BROOKS,|
|JOSIAH RODWELL,||J PYTCHES,|
|JOHN HARVEY,||G, CORNELL,|
|ROB. LANCHESTER,||JEREMIAH PAINE,|
|JONA. COOPER,||JOHN WORLLEDGE,|
|WILLIAM CORNELL,||MICHEAL HOUGHTON,|
|JOHN FILBY,||JOHN SPARHAM,|
|JOHN WHISTLER,||R. KEDINGTON.|
The story of Josiah’s work at Livermere is best told in his own words, written in a submission to the Board of Agriculture in 1799.
Marling in of itself was not a new process as it is known to have been undertaken in North East Norfolk earlier in the 18th Century, and was wide spread across North Norfolk by the 1780’s were it is described by William Marshall amongst others.
The reason why Josiah received the medal is however alluded to in an article in the Ipswich Journal dated Saturday 31st of May 1800.
“The Board Agriculture has presented Mr. Josiah Rodwell, of Livermere, with a gold medal, value for his great exertions in manuring of 1400 acres of land, in his own occupation, upon which he carried the greatest quantity of clay and marle ever accomplished, perhaps, in this country.”
In later posts I will return to other aspects of Josiah’s life, which was a very full one. The time and way of his death perhaps illustrative of his way of life. According to a note in the Gentleman’s Magazine, he had been at the Woolpit Fair.
“In his 56th year, Mr. Josiah Rodwell, an opulent farmer at Little Livermere, and highly distinguished for his agricultural knowledge. He was at Woolpit fair the preceding evening; and, on the morning of his death, was as well as usual.”[i]
Josiah Rodwell died on the 21st of September 1802 and was buried at Livermere.[ii]
His burial was described in 1827 as being at Livermere Magna.
“Also a flat stone to Josiah Rodwell late of Livermere Parva who died Sept 21 1802.[iii]”
Although I have been to Little Livermere churchyard several times, sadly, I have never been able to find his gravestone. Does anybody know where it is?
In the absence of the gravestone, I like to think of the avenue of Lime Trees as his monument.
One other memorial of the incredible work that he and his workmen put in is still visible although they are disappearing fast as the tractors work them out.
In order to get to the Marl, it was first necessary to dig down through the sandy soil and subsoil. In this case the depth was about 5 to 6 feet. The clay was then dug out into carts. With 140,000 cart loads, requiring about 1.5 tonnes per load, this means that about 105,000m3 of clay was extracted, and in order to do this the overburden would have also to have been moved to one side. All in all, over 300,000m3 of material was hand dug.
To this day you can see signs of this in the fields surrounding Heath Farm. The pits are visible on both 1945 RAF aerial photos, as well as on Google Earth.
In 1943 when the Army was looking for places to train the tank crews who would be taking Churchill AVRE and bridging tanks to Normandy on D-Day they chose the farm at Livermere as a suitable location. The pits dug for Marl by Joshua and his men were used to represent craters for the new crews in training.
The pits are becoming every less easy to see as the years pass from the ground as intensive farming and ploughing is steadily removing them. The dipping of the rows in the cropping seen here, shows the final traces of one of these pits in the ground.
On the 25 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map of the area published in 1900, the extent of these pits is clearly shown. The name of the wood to the top right hand corner of this map “Marlehent Covert” confirms the purpose of these large excavations.
There are other pits present around the farm, however please do remember that the land is privately owned, and that there are few public rights of way across the fields besides those along the lanes.
I would love to know who owns the farm, or who the tenants of Heath Farm are, as I would like very much to get permission to visit the house.
[i] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 92, page 978 October 1802.
[ii] Davy’s Suffolk Collections LXXI, page 80 onwards. Davy, David Elisha (ca.1840) Suffolk Collections. British Library Add. MSS. 19147. Davy lived from 1769 to 1851 and was both a botanist and antiquarian.
[iii] A concise description of Bury St. Edmund’s, and its environs, within the Distance of Ten Miles. Published 1827, page 242.