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At first glance, Horham and Athelington appear to be ‘stereotypical' rural countryside villages; quiet and unassuming. Underneath this façade, our small community is a hive of activity - hardly surprising when you consider that the origins can be traced back over eleven hundred years ago to the time of the Vikings, when life was anything but idyllic!
Early records show that both villages date back to Anglo-Saxon times; Circa 950 Horham is recorded as meaning “muddy homestead”. St Peters' church in Athelington, (or Allington as it was sometimes known), was supposedly built during the very short reign of Edgar Atheling (a King in name only; Edgar was never crowned). St Mary's church in Horham, is of Norman origin and the building displays many feature typical of this era. An earlier church existed before St Mary's (as mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086) and this may have been situated on the site of the original post office (now the residence of the proprietor of our Post Office/Village shop). St. Mary's is also home to the oldest peal of eight bells in Christendom. The first Baptist Chapel, a wooden construction of approximately 40 feet long by 25 feet wide was built in the late 16th century. It was later replaced with the brick construction that exists today.
For many centuries both villages were quite isolated. During the latter part of the 19th century the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway was built, connecting a host of north Suffolk villages (including Horham) to each other by rail and to the Ipswich/ Norwich main line. This allowed farmers to ‘export' crops and ‘import' supplies to and from local agriculture and industry to connections further afield. From June 1943, this rail link proved invaluable to the American Airforce 95th Bomb Group, based on flat land to the north of Horham. This ‘friendly' invasion during the war years had a profound effect on villagers and a strong bond still exists today with our friends from across the pond. Sadly, the rationalisation of the UK railway system saw the ‘Middy' (as it was affectionately known), close in 1951.
Those fortunate enough to live in 21st century Horham and Athelington find themselves amongst a thriving and tight knit community. We are served by a village shop/Post Office which has been a prominent feature for over 90 years. The Old School Social Club (originally Horham National School, which was founded in 1872) has a licenced bar and holds a weekly Computer Café as well as a variety of social events. The Community Centre, also with a Licenced bar, is open several nights a week and offers a host of events from Friday night Fish and Chips and Bar Meals and to weekly Zumba classes. The recreation ground on which the Community Centre is situated hosts outdoor events during the summer months. On the old air base, the Red Feather Club have restored buildings to house the 95th Bomb Group museum. These developments are down to the efforts of a strong, supportive community who reside in our parishes and the surrounding area.
A few interesting facts about Horham and Athelington:
- Official records for Horham and Athelington date back to the early 1500s.
- The Dragon House, the one-time public house, dates from 1525.
- Sir Benjamin Britten had a cottage retreat in Horham from 1970 until his death.
Although the population of our two villages is slowly increasing it is far less than the mid-19th century figures. This may seem strange with the additional housing that has been built in the past fifty years, until you look into the occupancy figures of each house hold in the 1850s; in those days it was not uncommon for families of ten or more people reside in one home!