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"EYE, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Hartismere, county Suffolk, nearly 20 miles N. of Ipswich, 24 S. of Norwich, and 94 from London. It is situated between two streams, which here unite and flow into the river Waveney, hence its ancient Saxon name of Ea, or "island." A castle was built and a Benedictine cell to Bernay Abbey founded here by Robert Malet, shortly after the Norman Conquest, of which there are still some remains to the E. of the town; at the Dissolution its revenues amounted to £184 9s. 7d. In it was preserved St. Felix's Book of the Gospels, described by Leland as written in large Lombardic characters, and called the Red Book. The earliest charter granted to the borough is that of King John, which was enlarged and confirmed by William III. The government is now vested in a mayor, 3 aldermen, and 12 common councillors. Petty sessions are held here, also a magistrates' court, county court, and court of record. The principal employments of the people are in the preparation of flax and iron founding; brewing is also extensively carried on. Lace making used to be a source of employment, but has much declined.

The town is pleasantly situated in a valley, surrounded by streams, and within 2 miles of the road from London to Norwich. It contains a townhall, corn exchange, two banks, savings-bank, theatre, and a library and newsrooms. The municipal boundaries of the borough are co-extensive with those of the parish of Eye. The elective franchise was conferred in the 13th of Elizabeth, from which time the borough returned two members to parliament until the 2nd of William IV., when it was deprived of one by the Reform Bill. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Norwich, value £331. The church is dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, and contains several old monuments. The parochial charities produce about £450 per annum, mostly arising from land. The Baptists and Wesleyans have each a chapel here. There is a free grammar school, also National and infant schools. Some Roman remains are said to have been found in the neighbourhood. Brome Hall, Oakley Park, and Thornham Hall are the principal seats. Sir E. Kerrison, Bart., is lord of the manor. Tuesdays and Saturdays are the market days for corn, &c., and fairs are held on Whit-Monday for live stock, and 22nd July for lambs, &c."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)


Church History

Descriptions and photographs of churches in the parish may be found in Simon Knott's Suffolk Churches.


Description and Travel

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  • A description of Eye transcribed from Stephen Whatley's "Gazetteer of England" (1750) by Mel Lockie © 2011.
" EYE, (Suffolk) 74 cm. 92 mm. from London, may be called an island, because it is surrounded by a brook, near the b. of Norfolk, in the road bet. Ipswich and Norwich. 'Twas incorporated by K. John, has 2 bailiffs, 10 principal burgesses, 24 CC. a recorder and town-clerk. 'Tis a meanbuilt place, with dirty streets. The chief mf. is bone-lace and spinning. Here is a large handsome Ch. and near it the ruinous walls of an ancient castle and mon. This Lp. has been several times settled, in jointure, upon the Qs. of England, and now gives title of Baron to Ld. Cornwallis. Here is a ch. sc. The Mt. is S. the Fair Whit-Monday, It has only sent members to Pt. since the R. of Edw. IV. and that by the interest of the Ld. Cornwallis's ancestors. Leland seems to intimate, that it was anciently so moist a place, especially in winter, that it was little better than a standing fen, when he tells us, that barges came up to it from Cromer, or the creek near it; the monks here having formerly, in cleaning their ditches, found large rudders pitched all over, together with large nails, and other naval instruments. "

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Historical Geography

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