IN 1674 a Hearth Tax was levied. In the return for Brandon, there is an entry for
Mr. Wright, (the Hall) – 9 hearths
Perhaps he was a descendant of the Robert Wright who, in 1646, left £767 in his will “to be laid out in lands, in trust to pay £30 a year to an able schoolmaster, to instruct the youth of Brandon, Santon Downham, Wangford and Weeting, in grammar and other literature.”
It is unlikely, however, that the Hall in question is the same building as the present Brandon Hall, built of red brick and flint half a mile west of the present town centre and probably constructed in the late 17th Century during the reign of William and Mary (1689-1702). .
In White’s Suffolk Directory of 1844 the Hall is described as “an old but neat mansion, half a mile west of the town”, the property of J. Angerstein, Esq., along with a large surrounding estate. Nevertheless it lay unoocupied for a time as it’s owner lived at nearby Weeting Hall, in Norfolk.
Thirty years later a subsequent White’s Directory tells us that a Mrs Norman now occupied the Hall although it (and the estate) remained the property of the Angersteins (by this time it was William who resided at Weeting Hall). Mrs Norman was the Angersteins’ daughter and the widow of the Rev. Charles M. R. Norman, rector of Northwold from 1833 (see 1900 Kelly’s Suffolk Directory).
Another former resident of Brandon Hall was Robert BURTON, according to Kelly’s Directory for Suffolk in 1883, and in 1900 another Kelly’s Directory states that Robert Francis Burton esq. J.P. was still in residence although the owner of the property was C. F. Morbey esq. of Soham.
“Brigadier-General Joly de LOTBINIERE purchased Brandon Hall shortly after service with the Canadian Army in the First World War.”
Masters of Flint, A. J. Forest.
The Brigadier-General’s son Mr Seymour de Lotbiniere had been attracted by Brandon’s “ancient history” since boyhood and eventually became the owner of a private gunflint museum. He used to watch old knapping master, Fred SNARE, as he worked and the two sometimes searched the banks of the Little Ouse for microliths.
“With his brother, Mr de LOTBINIERE took torches candles and ropes to Grime’s Graves and explored its partially accessible but excavated pits long before one was equipped with a metal ladder and opened for public inspection. Dropping to “floorstone” level, the two boys groped on hands and knees through cluttered galleries abandoned some time between 2500 and 1500 BC.
“On their father’s death in 1960, Brandon Hall passed out of the family. But Mr de LOTBINIERE bought it back in 1968, and since his retirement from the BBC, having been Director of Outside Broadcasts and later a Television Controller, has missed few chances of developing his hobby interest.
“I concentrated,” he said, “on the public side, especially the military as it’s reasonably well documented, whereas if you look into the private side – records kept by country landowners, estate agents, farmers, gamekeepers and the like – you’ll find the material too scattered. As such archves are mainly family ones, it’s unlikely there would be much about gunflints.
“For coming generations, he has built up an archive of photographs, maps and diagrams covering more than a century of localised flintcraft, knapping procedures, technical equipment, the layout of the town’s main flintworks, and mining at Lingheath. The most fascinating aspect of his hobby, however, rests with his collection of gunflints and manufacturing tools, English and French, for these demonstrate the gunflint’s evolution since the Duke of Marlborough’s campaigns.
“Among his varied services to Brandon, Mr de LOTBINIERE has conferred prestige on the flintknapping craft, though he disclaims credit for it. “Once,” he said, “people were shy, a little ashamed of admitting descent from a flintknapper; today they are rather proud of it.”
Masters of Flint, A. J. Forest (1983).
Please note: Brandon Hall is a private residence and is not open to the public.