Flixton, Waveney and the
The Museum’s rural location in
Flixton near Bungay, is within the picturesque Waveney Valley and has several
historic market towns nearby. It is worth mentioning that there is another
Flixton; this is near to Lowestoft and close enough to cause confusion - hence
reference to Bungay in our address. Evidence of early man has been found
in our small village, possibly around 6,000 BC, from flint tools, etc.,
discovered during archaeological digs. The name is believed to have come
from Saint Felix who brought Christianity to the people of Anglia, after being
invited from the continent by King Sigeberht - he became the first Bishop of
In the 6th
Century AD, the family of great Anglo-Saxon lords called the Wuffings dominated
the area around Ipswich and were in the process of turning themselves into
kings. Excavations in Flixton by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological
Service suggest that one of their royal estates existed there, and possibly a
Saxon “shrine”. It is a classic settlement site and a routine rescue
excavation of an Early Bronze Age ring-ditch revealed that this had later become
a focus for Anglo-Saxon burials. Only one grave was recovered intact in
1990 but finds from metal-detector sweeps showed that there had been others.
One of the finds from this area was a high status artefact; a beautiful glass
claw-beaker. Later, two spearheads were located from the site of the
cemetery when excavating Iron Age and Early Roman pits - this suggested
Anglo-Saxon burials. Careful trowelling revealed the almost imperceptible
shape of a series of NE to SW oriented inhumations and, eventually, some 46
Anglo-Saxon burials were discovered. Items recovered yielded a reliable 6th
Century date - a time when the Flixton Park area may have been a royal estate.
Further work in 2001 revealed that the cemetery contained another 150 or so
Then followed the discovery of a
settlement, and reports said that it was unusual to find a settlement with a
cemetery. The range of buildings was also unusual: a high proportion of
“halls”, plus some strange structures for which there were no parallels.
Even more intriguing was the discovery of a large rectangular enclosure at least
60m across, enclosing a smaller ditched enclosure. This suggested that it
could well be what a pagan sanctuary of the Anglo-Saxon period would look like.
In summary, the settlement appeared to have an elite component in the proportion
of halls to other buildings present, plus the strange rectangular enclosure.
Alongside everyday artefacts, slag from metalworking was discovered, plus
imported pottery from Merovingian Gaul. The cemeteries on the other hand
were quite ordinary - no swords for example. Two explanations were
advanced: that only the serfs were in the excavated cemeteries and the elite
elsewhere, although a high status beaker had been found in one grave; or that
the elite were peripatetic, moving from one estate to another and perhaps were
always taken elsewhere to a special cemetery for burial in another part of their
domain. In the case of the Wuffings, thought to be the probable owners of
the Flixton Park estate, this might possibly have been to the cemetery at Sutton
Not far from St Mary’s Church,
Flixton, and within Abbey Farm, there are the ruins of an Augustinian Nuns
Priory founded in 1258 by Margery de Creke. These are on private land but
can be seen from the Flixton Road.
In more recent times, the
village was well known for the very grand Flixton Hall - the seat of the Adair
The Adair family resided at
Flixton Hall for nearly 200 years. It was built in 1615 by John Tasburgh
and was originally surrounded by a moat. In 1753, the direct male line of
the Tasburgh family became extinct and the Estate passed to the Wyborne family;
they sold it to the first of the Adairs. This was William Adair who was
“patron of the living”. He died in 1783 and in his Will left “as much
money as should be found in my charity bag at the time of my death for
charitable purposes”. The bag contained £300 13s 7d. The
charity provided red cloaks for the schoolgirls, blue jerseys for the boys and
boots for both, so “Flixton children” were easily distinguished when visiting
town. The charity survives in a different form, providing “extras” for
deserving people in the area at Christmas time.
When William died in 1783, the Estate passed to Alexander
Adair, great grandson of Sir Robert Adair of Ballymena and Custos Rotulorum of
County Antrim. This branch of the family, who thus succeeded to the
Flixton Estate and the Lordship of the Manor of South Elmham, were of Scottish
descent and one of their ancestors had fallen on the Flodden Field. The
family subsequently settled in Ireland. Sir Robert Adair of
Ballymena (1659-1745) raised a regiment for King William lll and was knighted on
the battlefield of the Boyne. He was married four times and was succeeded
in the Ballymena estates by the son of his first wife William Robert Adair
(1745-1760). He was a Captain in Lord Mark Kerr’s Regiment of Horse at the
Battle of Culloden.
Research next shows that, in 1805, Alexander Adair raised and
commanded the Loyal South Elmham or 9th
Troop of Suffolk Yeomanry. They encamped at Flixton Hall, and their
weapons were preserved in the Armoury at the hall until its contents were sold.
Alexander Adair died in 1834 and was succeeded by his cousin Hugh Adair, who
held a commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and was present at the
siege of Gibraltar. He married Camilla Shafto, heiress of Benwell Tower.
As he was 80 when inheriting the Hall, he made over the property to eldest son,
Sir Robert Shafto Adair, born 1786 and created first Baronet in 1838; he
latterly held a commission in the Life Guards. A fire caused major damage
to Flixton Hall in December 1846 and repairs took some years. Ten years
later, the already ruined local church collapsed further so he paid for its
complete restoration. The architect - a Mr Salvin - completed it in 1861
and the lines of the original building (Saxon tower, Norman nave, aisle and
chancel) were closely followed.
He died in 1869 and was succeeded by his son Sir Robert
Shafto Alexander Adair, 2nd Baronet. He was M.P. for Cambridge
and Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of County Antrim. Queen Victoria
subsequently created him Baron Waveney. In 1870 he had the Bungay to
Harleston road re-routed so that traffic no longer passed close to the hall.
Sir Robert died childless in 1886 so the title then lapsed. He was
succeeded by his brother Sir Hugh Edward Adair, 3rd Baronet who was
M.P. for Ipswich 1847-74. He had Flixton Hall reconstructed and a new wing
added (1888-92), making it a mansion of 60 rooms and 365 windows; he died in
He was followed by his eldest son, Sir Frederick Edward
Shafto Adair, 4th Baronet who once held a commission in the Rifle
Brigade and was High Sheriff of Suffolk 1910-11. He was very fond of his
seaside residence “Adair Lodge” at Aldeburgh and formed a strong friendship with
James Cable, then Coxswain of the Aldeburgh lifeboat. Sir Frederick died
in 1915 at the young age of 54. His funeral was made all the more imposing
because some 800 members of the Shropshire Yeomanry were then encamped at
He was succeeded by his brother Sir Robert Shafto Adair, 5th
Baronet, who was always known as Sir Shafto. He spent much of his time in
London where he was once a barrister. He was a great patron of the arts
and a director of the Royal Academy of Music. He was Deputy-Lieutenant of
County Antrim and held the unique office of “King’s Clog”, a right
granted by the King in connection with taxes imposed by the Metropolitan Water
During World War ll, the job of one special employee of the
Ministry of Economic Warfare was to go to the USA and sell antique firearms,
many of which had been donated or purchased from Britain’s country houses.
In turn, the proceeds went towards the purchase of modern weapons for the
country’s war effort. For this purpose he purchased the contents of the
Flixton Armoury - circa 100 items and mainly of the Royal Welsh Fuziliers.
Many of these weapons may still be held in the restored Powder Magazine and the
Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg in the USA. Sadly, no example
is thought to be within the UK. Around this time, an airfield was
constructed adjacent to Flixton Park and Station 125 became the home of the 446th
Bomb Group USAAF - known as the Bungay Buckaroos. This was
subsequently occupied in turn, post-war, by units of the Fleet Air Arm and the
Royal Air Force. There is more information on this within our website.
In 1948, the whole Flixton Estate of 2,970 acres - then under
the management of Major-General Sir Allan Shafto Adair - was offered for sale:
there were 21 farms, several small-holdings, two licensed public houses, two
schools, three village post offices, various houses, numerous cottages,
marshlands, woodlands, and grazing rights. The family retained ownership
of Flixton Hall and Flixton Park, plus Home Farm and Home Woods.
Everything was purchased by Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited,
although many of the cottage dwellers were later able to buy their homes.
Sir Robert died in 1949 and was succeeded by his only son,
Major-General Sir Allan Adair, CB, DSO, MC, JP, DL, 6th
Baronet who had been commissioned into the Grenadier Guards in 1916. He
then resided at Amner Hall on Her Majesty the Queen’s Sandringham Estate and
served in the Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard. He was a
distinguished soldier of both World Wars and commanded the Guards Armoured
Division in World War ll. According to his 1986 memoirs,
Sir Allan regarded Flixton Hall as
‘a vast, uncomfortable mausoleum, still with no proper central heating. In
winter the children had to wear their overcoats when moving from room to room’.
The Estate was expensive to keep and maintain, and owing to heavy death
duties levied on his father’s Estate, General Adair was forced to sell.
The decision was no doubt made easier by the fact that his only son and heir had
been killed whilst serving with the Grenadier Guards in World War II, during the
battle of Monte Camino in Italy.
On retirement General Adair had set up residence in
Raveningham and, in 1950, the massive library and all the fine contents of
Flixton Hall were offered for sale. Despite efforts by both the East and
West Suffolk County Councils to buy Flixton Hall and 250 acres of the land for
use as a joint farm institute, it was sold privately to a speculator. Two
years after the purchaser had removed and sold all the protective lead from the
roof, water was causing serious problems to the interior so he applied and
gained permission to demolish the building in June 1952. As a result, one
of the most magnificent buildings in East Anglia was allowed to disappear
forever - only the shell of part of the ground floor survives today and is used
for farm storage.
Around two acres of the museum’s land to the west stretches to
the River Waveney and is a designated flood plain. It is mainly a mature
Willow plantation but a few years ago we added a raised boardwalk so that
visitors could stroll its length and then sit and look out over the river to
tranquil scenes beyond in Norfolk. Information boards along its route
identify various plants, insects, reptiles, birds and animals known to frequent
the area, although the timid, such as deer and otters, are not always visible.
It is a popular diversion, and enjoyed by many. The Adair Walk is so named
to commemorate the Adair family’s connection with Flixton. In addition,
the cottage nearest our entrance is named Adair Cottage, and a bar in The
Buck Inn next door also reflects the family name. Leaving the museum in
the direction of Homersfield to the west and the A143 junction, the entrance to
the impressive drive leading to the old Flixton Hall Estate and Park can be seen
at the junction only 250 yards away. The original road bridge further
along on the left, close to the A143 junction, still carries the Coat of Arms of
the Adair family (motto: Loyal au mort (“Loyal to the death”).
Many members of the family were laid to rest in St Mary’s Church, Flixton, near
to this road junction. Descendants of the Estate’s large herd of deer
still roam the countryside.
The superb 2002 book 18th
Century Weapons of the Royal Welsh Fuziliers from Flixton Hall by Erik
Goldstein (Thomas Publications, P.O. Box 3031, Gettysburg Pa. 17325) is
thoroughly recommended for detailed information on these weapons and more on
Flixton Hall itself - I have referred in part to its contents in producing this
Information compiled by Ian Hancock