The Badwell Ash History Society has created a website dedicated to the parish's history. A shorter history is available here, and in the pages to the left which have articles on the war dead, the old school, etc.
The Badwell sign and war memorial, dedicated in 2014, gives some clues as to the history of the village. There used to be a forge and a windmill here. The gravel digger reminds us of a brief industrial period. Haywains, which used to be made in the village, reflect the village's farming roots. The dove and honeycomb design reflect the old school's logo and layout. An ash tree and Remembrance poppy complete the design.
The name Badwell Ash means Bada's stream near the field with ash trees. Badwell Ash was also sometimes known as Little Ashfield, and is one of several villages and hamlets in the area with an association with ash trees.
People have lived and worked the land in the area for hundreds if not thousands of years. Fragments of Roman pottery and coins, and some Anglo- Saxon artefacts have been found.
Badwell Ash is in the Blackbourn Hundred. There were three, possibly four, manors in Badwell Ash parish; Badwell (or Little Ashfield), Shackerland (or Strikeland), Brook Hall (or Brushes or Brookeshull - part of which is in Great Ashfield parish) and Tiptoft (part of which is in Wyverstone parish and a different Hundred). The first two had manor houses which have been largely rebuilt over the centuries. Badwell Hall retains its impressive Tudor chimney stacks and you can still see parts of Shackerland Hall's 15th Century moat.
Badwell Ash and its manors were under the Lordship of William Crekelote (or de Criketot) during the reign of Edward 1st but circa 1354 it passed, along with Great Ashfield, to the Prior and Monks of Ixworth. In 1538, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII gave the Ixworth Priory's estates to Richard Codington in exchange for lands in Surrey on which Henry subsequently built Nonsuch Palace.
The Parish Pack produced by the Suffolk Record Office has the following information about population growth in the Parish:
1327 29 taxpayers paid £2.6.2,
1603 126 adults,
1662 33 households paid £4.11.0,
1674 42 households,
1675 105 adults,
1801 348 inhabitants,
1831 490 inhabitants,
1851 478 inhabitants,
1871 520 inhabitants
1901 356 inhabitants,
1931 330 inhabitants,
1951 382 inhabitants,
1971 492 inhabitants,
1981 574 inhabitants
2001 685 inhabitants
White's Directory of 1844 states that the Parish contains 458 souls and 1,860 acres of land.
The area defined as Badwell Ash in the 2011 UK Census covers a larger area, but the population within the Parish Boundary in the 2011 Census (ie Badwel Ash, Badwell Green and parts of Long Thurlow) numbered 770.
The Great Fire of Badwell Ash
An extract from the Suffolk Mercury July 15th 1723 explains perhaps why there more Georgian and Victorian buildings and fewer older houses in the centre of the village, a notable exception being the White Horse Inn:-
"On Sunday the seventh inst. a dreadful fire happened at a place called Badwell Ash, within eight miles of Bury in Suffolk, which consumed almost the whole town, leaving only ten houses standing, whereby 388 families are brought into a deplorable condition, being reduced to the utmost extremity. This unhappy accident was occasioned by two boys that were employed to scare the birds from fruit &c., and these boys it seems had made a key gun (ie the pipe of an old key of a door) with which they intended to fright the birds, but it so happened that one going to call the other on Sunday after dinner, they both strove who should have the gun, upon which one of them having a firebrand in his hand put it to the touch-hole of the gun, which immediately discharged itself, and ‘tis supposed the flash, together with the paper that was rammed into it first catch'd hold of the cobwebs, and then of the thatch of the house which kindled such a flame that it could not be extinguished till the whole town was almost laid in ashes. The damaged is computed at about 2,000L."
Extract taken from ‘I Read it in the Local Rag; Selections from Suffolk and Norfolk papers 1701-1900' by Pip Wright
Baron Thurlow of Ashfield
The only person of real historical importance associated with the area was Edward Thurlow (1731-1806), who was created 1st Baron Thurlow of Ashfield in 1778. He was a member of the Privy Council and became Lord High Chancellor in successive parliaments during King George III's reign. A lawyer and a scholar, Thurlow was a friend of the poet William Cowper and of the essayist and lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson. As a friend of the King, he supported Britain's rights to her then American colonies and defended the British slave trade. He did not marry and the title descended to his nephew Edward (afterwards Hovell-Thurlow), eldest son of Thomas Thurlow, Bishop of Durham. The 8th Baron Thurlow, Francis Edward Hovell-Thurlow-Cumming-Bruce, KCMG (1912 - 2013), a retired British diplomat, died at the age of 101 and was succeeded by his son, Roualeyn Hovell-Thurlow-Cumming-Bruce (1952 - ).
The parish's hamlet of Long Thurlow bears Edward Thurlow's name. Read more about him here.
Badwell Ash in the 20th Century
See World War One pages for information on that conflict.
A 1928 supplement to the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury, No 76 of the 'Pocket Histories of Suffolk Parishes' on the subject of Badwell Ash notes that: 'Situated in pleasant country some four miles North of Elmswell Station, and a typical example of the villages in this particular part of the county, Badwell Ash is a neat and somewhat attractive place, with many pleasing features. Unfortunately, however, from both an historical and archaeological point of view, there are few items of note, and, although the village has a certain quiet charm and that fresh aspect so inviting to the lover of the countryside, it contains very little of importance or interest except from a purely rustic point of view.'
Men from Badwell Ash fought in both world wars, while farming remained vital for both war efforts. Although some mechanical farming was introduced earlier, horses were still used in the fields until after the Second World War. The famous local breed, the Suffolk Punch, was reknowned for its strength and ability to slog through mud. Many were commandered by the army to work in France during WW1, and most did not come back. The Suffolk Punch breed is now endangered, but there were still some Punches working at Shakerland Hall until the 1950s. There were WW2 airfields at Great Ashfield to the south and Walsham le Willows to the north during WW2, so Badwell saw plenty of warplanes overhead. A german fighter is rumoured to have crashed nearby, and a US bomber crashed on the parish's border.
The 'bucolic idyll' mentioned in the 1928 supplement was interrupted again in the latter half of the 20th Century. Gravel pits around Badwell which had been dug for centuries were exploited in earnest, and heavy lorries disturbed the peace of the village. But by the 21st Century the gravel works were all depleted. Some of the empty pits were flooded and are now used as fishing lakes.
In the early 1970s local landowner and farmer Roy le Grice donated fields in the centre of the village to the community for use as the village's Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds. The Village Hall was also relocated and rebuilt here after a serious fire at its previous site on The Street. Local residents helped to build the current hall. The (now closed) village school was also moved onto adjacent land when it got too big for its previous premises.
In the 21st Century, new housing in Back Lane and on the Street has seen a rejuvenation of the population, with more children and younger people moving into the village. Although many residents commute to Bury St Edmunds or other towns and villages (some even to London) to work, with the arrival of Broadband (fibre-optic cabling arrived in 2014) there are many who work from home too.
Find out more about Badwell's Genealogy