Debenham History Society

Origins and History

The society’s origins lay in the seventies.

In 1972 Pauline Heywood compiled a short history of the town.

In 1975 Debenham was chosen to represent East Anglia in a ‘Festival of Villages’ exhibition as part of European Architectural Heritage Year.

Between 1977 and 1979 a number of surveys of ancient Debenham buildings was made by Timothy Easton and Mike Finch. Mike Finch drew these up in isometric form, and in 1979 an exhibition of the work called ‘Behind the Façade’ was held on the first floor of the Market Cross.

In the early 1980s the Debenham History Society was formally constituted when under the aegis of the Cambridge Extra Mural Board. David Diamond and Peter Northeast gave evening classes. Apart from general talks, Peter Northeast provided an archive of historical documentation relating to the village that was closely studied particularly with reference to extant buildings.

In 1986 a set of historical notes ‘Towards a History of Debenham’ by Samuel Dove, grocer and draper was published. Lennie Knowland edited this with a preface by John Blatchley.

In 1988 Mark Barnard and Sylvia Coleman of Suffolk County Council compiled a list of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in the area, including the parish of Debenham. In this extensive listing many references are given to Timothy Easton who remains an authority on the buildings. He is a founder member of the society, and is now its president.


All these publications can be purchased from Webster's Newsagents or at our monthly meetings.

NEW! They can also be purchased from David Shacklock Books, 27 High Street, Debenham (Opening times Tue 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm/Fri 2pm-8pm/Sat 10am-4pm)

‘James Cornish’s Debenham: his reminiscence of country life in Suffolk between 1860 and 1863’ was originally published by ‘Country Life’ in 1939. The Debenham History Society republished this in 1990 with a preface by Norman Scarfe. Now £7.50



’A Short History of Debenham’ was reprinted in a second edition in 1996. Now £2.50




‘Samuel Dove’s Debenham – His 19th Century Notes Towards a History of Debenham’  was edited by Lennie Knowland and published in 2003. Now £12.00




‘Debenham’s Ecclesiastical Heritage’ compiled by David Aldred was also published by the society in 2003. Now £7.50





As well as hosting regular history lectures at Debenham High School, the Society has been involved in various projects over the years.

For some years a small number of members worked on the plan for the parish, to show owners of fields related to the surveys of 1621. Further they have provided a study of field names going back to the 13th century, which has been deposited in the Suffolk Record Office.

In a process lasting from 2006 – 2008, under the chairmanship of Ian McKechnie, timbers in 43 properties in the village were assessed by Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratories to ascertain their suitability for dating.  Unfortunately a number of the properties were found to have elm or fast-growing oak framework, which cannot be dated at the present time.  Some properties could be partially-dated (eg, a house in High Street is possibly 1587, but this is not certain), but five properties proved to be dateable.

Three houses in the High Street, were considered by the Laboratory, to range in date from 1418, 1525 and 1626.  The most likely date of construction of one building in Gracechurch Street was 1589, and lastly, a house in Aspall Road, was dated to 1446, and probably extended in 1607

The results have been deposited at the Suffolk Record Office together with a copy of Ian’s dissertation submitted in 2004 for his degree of Master of Arts at the University of East Anglia, ‘Debenham in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century – The Development of a Small Suffolk Market Town’  (these notes derive mostly from its Preface and Acknowledgements)


Regular lectures are held in:

Room 31, Debenham High School, Gracechurch Street, Debenham, IP14 6BL

Commencing at 7.30pm; fee £3.00 per lecture; including a soft drink in the interval

Non-members most welcome

Events are publicised in the village Events Calendar.


Lesley Grant-Adamson, Chair
Tel: 01728 861 601  Email:


Suffolk Local History Council

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