Melford’s History

Prehistoric finds discovered in 2011 have shown that early settlement of what is now known as Long Melford dates back to the Mesolithic period, up to 8300 BC. Later, the Romans constructed two roads through Melford. Roman remains were discovered in a gravel pit in 1828, a site now occupied by Long Melford Football Club.  By the middle ages, records show that the Manor of Melford was given to the Abbey of St.Edmundsbury by Earl Aflric c. 1050. The village is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, which lists the manor of Long Melford as an estate of 600 hectares. The neighbouring Manor of Kentwell is also recorded. During the Middle Ages the village grew and gained a weekly market and an annual fair (dated to 1235). During this time the wealth of the parish was gradually increasing, with most of the inhabitants being free men, renting their homes and lands. Guilds were founded, and weaving cloth became a key part of the village’s economy. Following the dissolution of the monasteries (1536 – 1541), Henry VIII granted the Manor of Melford to Sir William Cordell.

By the  19th century a range of new industries were operating in the village, such as an iron foundry, a flax works and coconut matting factory. By 1851, there were three horsehair weaving manufacturers in Melford employing over 200 men, women and children. Prince Bertie (who later became King Edward VII), together with Princess Alexandra visited the village in November 1865, and large archways were constructed at key points in their honour, with crowds attending to welcome them. During the 1880s, a series of wage cuts in the coconut industry caused widespread anger and eventually resulted in strike action. Feelings ran high, culminating in a riot breaking out on polling day in December 1885, during which considerable damage was caused throughout the village. Troops were summoned from Bury St Edmunds to restore order; they arrived by train and marched from Melford station to read the Riot Act from the steps of the Police Station.

During World War II, Long Melford was a location for American and Allied service personnel, who flew B17 and B24 bomber aircraft from two nearby air stations; RAF Lavenham and RAF Sudbury. Troops from, amongst others, the Berkshire and Black Watch Regiments were billeted and garrisoned within the village. Injured airmen, troops from the D-Day landings and prisoners of war were treated at the large nearby 136th Station Hospital, located between Long Melford and Acton. In 1944, Glenn Miller and his orchestra briefly visited the Hopsital and played to injured airmen, hospital staff, and invited local people.