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The Guildhall Pightle

The Guildhall Pightle is a piece of meadow/pasture land to the east of the church measuring 1 acre and 10 perches. Dumbs’ Corner, which measures 19 perches is the entrance to it.  The guild was originally owned by the Guild of Holy Trinity.

The earliest guildhalls originated from the Anglo Saxon frith guilds; these were groups of 10 men who were pledged to one another for the preservation of peace.  They were entirely secular and it wasn’t until the early 10th century that there appeared obligations of a religious nature.   In the middle ages great importance was attached to the doctrine of purgatory.  The various trades were not admitted until the 1474 Act.

Suffolk guilds were under the patronage of Saints whose days of dedication were among those of the chief festivities such as Trinity Sunday (Sunday following Whit Sunday), Corpus Christ day (Thursday after Trinity Sunday), the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 25th), the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin May (February 2nd) and the feast of St. Philip and St. James (May 1st).  As well as the festival days there was a large banquet every third year; the penalty for non-attendance was a payment of a half a pound of wax.

A weekly service, called the sarum missal was held where mass was said or sung for the souls of the brethren and their family and friends.  Many people left money for lights in the church and other gifts for the guild. Cows and pigs were bequeathed and rented out; the proceeds went towards the activities of the guild, to their members and to their good deeds; this was called lettage. The animals were kept on the Guildhall Pightle.

Whilst some guilds only admitted 60 members and as only the wealthy could afford to join it was often difficult to gain admission.

The usual practice was for the guildhall to be built at the west end of the church and at a later date for a workhouse to be erected followed by a school.  This was the series of events in Thorndon.  There is no evidence that the Guild of Holy Trinity survived after 1532.  Following the dissolution of the guild the land became the property of the parish and was controlled by the Thorndon Town Estate.  There have been many suggestions as to the use of the pightle:

January 14th 1947 Following an open meeting where the Trustees agreed to the sale of land next to the churchyard, the parishioners objected and their views were sent to the Charity Commissioners.

January 11th 1950 The secretary of the Parish Council wrote to the Trustees to ask if they would consider selling the Guildhall Pightle and Dumbs’ Corner for a parish cemetery.

November 10th 1950 Trustees informed the Parish Council that provided they could present to them a satisfactory scheme they were not opposed to the sale.

April 13th 1951 Trustees not opposed so a committee was formed.  Reverend Jolliffe requested that a rectory be built on the site of the cemetery. This was rejected as it was thought that there was not enough room for both.

April 24th 1953 Trustees agreed to the sale of the meadow for a nominal fee of £5. Charity Commissioners agreed.

March 8th 1957 An argument arose regarding the sale of the Claypit Meadow; the clerk and chairman resigned and there were no further meetings for ten years.

January 6th 1970 Proposed new burial ground. Hartismere Rural District Council refuted that it was their responsibility to pay costs.

July 7th 1970 Considerable discussion on closed churchyards. It was discovered that not only would the Parish Council be responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery but for the closed churchyard as well. The Diocese ruled that the work had to be carried out by a firm and not a member of the public. Notcutts estimate was £1000 per annum just for maintaining the cemetery.

March 2nd 1971 It was proposed to make a playing field on the land at the top of Fen View; Hartismere Rural District Council refused permission as they had earmarked this land for houses and bungalows. The clerk of the Parish Council was directed to write to the Trustees to ask for permission to use the Guildhall Pightle. Nothing was done.

March 17th 1990 The Venerable Neil Robinson Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich wrote saying that whilst the graveyard remained open and until a new cemetery was made every inhabitant of Thorndon had the right to be buried in the churchyard.

It seems unlikely that there will ever be a cemetery on this piece of land; it will be several years before the graveyard can be regarded as closed considering the number of double graves containing only one corpse and the Parish Council could not justify the maintenance costs of a closed graveyard and new cemetery.

Like other pieces of land owned by the Trustees, the Guildhall Pightle is leased to a member of the parish.