Field Trip: Early Seventeenth-Century Norwich, England (Part I)
MARGARET BARET HUNTINGTON STOUGHTON (1595-1665) GREW UP AND RAISED HER OWN CHILDREN HERE.
After waiting through the pandemic, I finally visited England last week. A friend and I met up in London, stayed there a few days, and then I took Brit Rail up to Norwich in a two-hour train ride. The rail car was noticeably clean with views of cows, sheep and spring lambs. So English. Weather was cold and cloudy--classic!
I was there to see, at last, the late medieval city in which Margaret lived. Also, to observe the themes of seventeenth-century Norwich daily life: evidence of English textiles, flint-covered churches, garrison-style Tudor buildings, dark oaken interiors, cobblestone streets, etc. It was so cool to just walk the same streets as Margaret, Simon and their kinfolk. As Nathanial Philbrick says: the history is hidden in the landscape.
The main show-stopper for me was being in Margaret's house and the family church next door: St. Andrews. To experience her English world and then think about what she would experience in hardscrabble Puritan New England is fascinating.
During Margaret's early life in Norwich, she grew up, married late to Simon Huntington (?-1633), and had five children there--before emigrating to Boston.
The Suckling House was named for its most famous resident: Sir Robert Suckling (1520-1589). He was Margaret's step-grandfather. Suckling was the one who made major sixteenth-century renovations to this medieval merchant house.
Margaret's father, Christopher Baret, purchased it in 1595, the year of her birth. She grew up here as a daughter of a wealthy merchant and civic leader. It is possible they moved here from Westhall, Suffolk where the Baret family had lived for two centuries.
During the early seventeenth century the house would have had many purposeful rooms. A Great Parlour (or hall), kitchen, buttery, gallery, and garden.
Although the house has had major alterations over the past 500 years (many before Margaret's time), it is a very valued example of medieval architecture and is Grade I listed.
COMPARING THE SUCKLING HOUSE TO "THE STRANGERS' HOUSE" (NEARBY)
What was so great about my research trip was the ability to get into another medieval merchant household: The "Strangers'" House. Now a museum, it gets its name from its association with the sixteenth-century Dutch immigrants who came to Norwich and probably lived or visited here. They helped the local artisans make better textiles.
By the early twentieth century the Suckling House was in disrepair and saved from demolition by preservationists. In 2008, it was repurposed as a very nice art house cinema and restaurant.