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Playford Hall and Attached Revetments Around the Most Inner Bank of the Enclosing Moat

A Grade II* Listed Building in Playford, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.083 / 52°4'58"N

Longitude: 1.2292 / 1°13'45"E

OS Eastings: 621349

OS Northings: 247661

OS Grid: TM213476

Mapcode National: GBR VNX.CLK

Mapcode Global: VHLBN.8X51

Plus Code: 9F4336MH+6M

Entry Name: Playford Hall and Attached Revetments Around the Most Inner Bank of the Enclosing Moat

Listing Date: 16 March 1966

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1377295

English Heritage Legacy ID: 285967

Location: Playford, East Suffolk, Suffolk, IP6

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Playford

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Playford St Mary

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

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This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.

Country mansion, and attached revetments around the inner bank of the enclosing moat. The bridge and revetments to the south arm of the moat are listed separately. House late C16; perhaps c1597 for Anthony (later Sir Anthony) Felton. There are traditionally supposed to be two dates on the building - 1589 and 1595 - though neither has been seen recently. Alterations of c1700, for Sir Thomas Felton, 4th baronet. C19 alterations, including restoration of 1871 by Richard Makilwaine Phipson.

EXTERIOR: Red brick in English bond. Plaintiled roof. Thought to have originated as an E-plan house, but reduced in size after a major fire; the house was damaged by a storm in 1721, and by a fire in the late C18. Half the hall range, and the west forward-projecting wing remain. Two storeys and attics. Parapet gables. Roof of wind-braced butt-purlin form; on the west side are dormers with brick parapet gables bearing the stumps of finials. Massive external chimneys on the north and west walls; most have double and triple octagonal shafts with moulded caps and bases dating from 1871; one stack has an original or early saw-tooth shaft. Mainly mullioned and transomed windows, plastered to simulate limestone; wooden casements. Many windows were renewed or restored in C19. Early C19 lean-to single storey entrance porch with pair of sunk-panelled doors. The front section of the west wing was remodelled in early C18; red brick in Flemish bond with burnt headers; parapets and parapet gables. Rendered block quoins, and broad bands at first and second floor levels. Sash windows in the south gable with flat arches of gauged brick and rendered key stones; the windows were blind until early C19 when small-pane sashes were introduced. The north and west walls rise sheer from the moat with buttressing. The north wall of the full length of the hall range remains with blocked openings, up to first floor level; the base of the walling, including the chimneys, of the vanished east wing also survives against the moat. An early C18 retaining wall rises from the south arm of the moat, linking the west wing to the site of the former east wing; red brick with burnt headers. Pilasters at 3m intervals, of gauged brick on a moulded limestone base, the remains of a colonnade built c1700; at the centre is a pair of wrought iron gates with spearhead standards, on square gatepiers with limestone copings.

INTERIOR: A chamber in the west wing has reset C17 plaster rosettes and fleur-de-lys; a fluted frieze with carved pilaster capitals at intervals is all that remains of the wainscotting which must have fully lined the room. Other joinery in the west wing of early C18. Interior not re-inspected at time of 2008 amendment.

HISTORY: It is believed that a house may have stood on the site of Playford Manor in the eleventh century - a mansion is listed at Playford in the Domesday Book. Sir George Felbrigge (d. 1400/1) is said to have built a house here. However, the date of the earliest parts of the present building support the theory that it was built for Anthony Felton. Felton inherited the manor of Playford from his father Thomas in 1577 and held it till his death in 1613. Thereafter, the manor was to descend directly through the Felton family until the C18.

The Feltons of Playford were a distinguished family, though rarely prominent in political life. One of their most celebrated ancestors, however, had been Sir Thomas Felton (d. 1361), a valued servant of the Black Prince, and effective head of the English administration in Aquitaine from 1369-1380. A notorious relation from a junior branch of the family was John Felton (d. 1628), the assassin of the Duke of Buckingham. Anthony Felton, who is commemorated by a wall tablet in Playford Church (q.v.), consolidated the family's social standing; he married into the nobility in the 1590s (his wife Elizabeth being a daughter of Lord Grey de Groby), and he was knighted in 1603. He therefore had good reason for wanting to build a substantial new house. The family's chief importance was local; Anthony was Sheriff of Suffolk in 1597, and his son Henry, created 1st baronet in 1620, was three times Sheriff of Norfolk. Sir Adam Felton, 3rd baronet, married Lady Elizabeth Monson, the ardent royalist, as her fourth husband, some time between 1673 and 1676. Sir Thomas Felton, 4th baronet, married Lady Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of James Howard, 3rd Earl of Suffolk and Barbara Villiers. Sir Thomas made considerable alterations to the house c1700, but these were largely undone by subsequent neglect, and by a great storm in 1721. Sir Thomas died in 1709, and when his brother, Sir Compton Felton, died childless in 1719, Playford Hall passed to Sir Thomas's daughter, Elizabeth, who had married John Hervey, first Earl of Bristol, in 1696. Thus Playford Hall became the property of the Hervey family, whose seat, Ickworth, was not far away.

The status of the house being much reduced by dilapidation and partial demolition during the C18, Playford Hall became home to a succession of tenants. In the C18 these included a pair of maiden ladies and a schoolmaster; the Hall was then occupied as a farm house by a John Cutting, and farm buildings remained to the west side of the moat until c1870.

In 1813 Playford Hall acquired its most distinguished tenant, when Frederick, 5th Earl of Bristol, gave Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) the lease of Playford Hall, 'at a very modest rent. To express my respect for his character, and my sense of his service to the poor Africans.'

Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) was pivotal to the British campaign to end the slave trade and slavery. After researching the Atlantic slave trade for a Cambridge prize essay, Clarkson resolved to devote himself to the cause of abolition. In 1787 he joined with Granville Sharp and others to form the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and in the same year, Clarkson was instrumental in persuading William Wilberforce to represent the cause in Parliament. Clarkson undertook to travel the country raising support, and seeking out evidence about the slave trade to put before Parliament. This he did, visiting slave ports great and small, inspecting slave ships, and talking to seamen, doctors, slave captains and merchants. He became a celebrated national figure, but also made bitter enemies. In 1788, Parliament appointed a select committee to examine the slave trade, for which Clarkson organised witnesses and material evidence, including the horrific diagram of the arrangement of slaves below decks on the ship named the 'Brookes'.

During the 1790s, his health at risk, Clarkson went into temporary retirement from the campaign. After a period farming in Cumberland, where he made friends with the Wordsworths and Coleridge, he married Catherine Buck, daughter of a wealthy brewer of Bury St Edmunds. Teh couple lived in Bury St Edmunds from 1806-1816, during which time they may have met the Earl of Bristol, whose own house, Ickworth, was nearby. In 1816 they moved to Playford hall, where they were to remain. Clarkson is said to have undertaken extensive repairs to the house, and threw himself into his responsibilities as squire of Playford; the 340 acre farm prospered. The Clarksons acted as hosts to leading abolitionists, both English and American; amongst their guest was Frederick Douglass. In 1821 Marie-Louise, widow of the self-crowned King of northern Haiti, and their two daughters, took refuge at Playford. Her husband, Henri Christophe (1767-1820) a commander in the Haitian revolt of 1791-1804, had shot himself after being deposed in a military coup. 'A more delightful family never entered a person's house', Clarkson remarked. At Playford Clarkson wrote many books and pamphlets, mostly on the subject of slavery; Harriet Beecher Stowe visited the house in 1853 as a place of pilgrimage, and remembered being shown 'the room where for years, many of his most important labours had been conducted... I could not but feel that the place was hallowed'. Clarkson also spent much time away, campaigning for the cause. In 1804 he had re-joined the fight with vigour, collecting new evidence and putting pressure on sympathetic MPs, and on 25 march 1807 the abolition bill at last received royal assent. In 1823 Clarkson was one of the founding members of the Anti-Slavery Society, and, the emancipation act having been passed in 1833, Clarkson helped bring about the end of enforced apprenticeship of former slaves in the West Indies. Clarkson died at Playford Hall on 26 September 1846 and was buried at St Mary's Church, where there are two memorials to him, one of which is listed. There are monuments to Clarkson at Wisbech (q.v.) and at High Cross, Thundridge, in Hertfordshire (q.v). In 1996, to mark his sesquicentenary, a tablet was placed in Westminster Abbey close to the Wilberforce tomb. h Cross, Thundridge, in Cambridgeshire (q.v.). In 1996, to mark his sesquicentenary, a tablet was placed in Westminster Abbey close to the Wilberforce tomb.

In 1871 Playford Hall was restored by Richard Makilwaine Phipson (1827-84), the architect best known for his numerous East Anglian church restorations. Since that time, the house has been in private occupation; it was requisitioned during the Second World War for the use of armed forces, including American airmen.

SOURCES: N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk (1961. 1974); Dictionary of National Biography; Samuel Lewis, ed., A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848); A. Hochschild, Bury the Chains (2005, 2006); J. Oldfield, 'Chords of Freedom', (2007); Ellen Gibson Wilson, Thomas Clarkson: A Biography (1989); A. Hervey, 'Playford and the Feltons', Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, IV, 14-64; E. Martin, P. Murrell, C. Paine and B. Seward, account dated July 2002, in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, XI, part 3 (2003), 381-7

Playford Hall is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is an important portion of a large Elizabethan moated country house, with C18 and C19 additions
* It has a strong connection with Thomas Clarkson, one of the leaders of the British abolition movement, which adds to historical interest of building.

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