Kersey, Suffolk

Kersey, Suffolk


Kersey is a village and civil parish in the Babergh district.

The main street has a ford across a stream. Its principal claim to fame is that a coarse woollen cloth called Kersey cloth takes its name from it. The cloth was presumably originally made there, but later in many other places too.

Kersey is a kind of coarse woollen cloth that was an important component of the textile trade in Medieval England.

The cloth was made in many places. It was being woven as early as 1262 in Andover, Hampshire, where regulations prohibited the inclusion of Spanish wool in kerseys. By 1475, the West Riding of Yorkshire including Calderdale was also a major producer, while Devon and Somerset were major producers and exporters until the manufacture later moved to serge making.

Kersey was a lighter weight cloth than broadcloth. English kerseys were widely exported to central Europe and other places: a surviving business letter from the end of the 16th century recommends to trade kerseys for good wine on the Canary Islands.

Kersey yarns were spun in large gauges (thicknesses) from inferior carded wool, and made thick and sturdy cloth. Kersey was a warp-backed, twill-weave cloth woven on a four-treadle loom.

As a rule, half the relatively small, numerous and closely set warp ends (threads) were struck with a big kersey weft in a two-and-two, unbalanced and highly prominent twill. The rest of the ends were simultaneously struck in a one-and-three twill, so they appeared mainly on the back of the cloth, while the back-warp stitches on the face of the cloth were concealed among the face-warp threads. One of the secrets of weaving a good kersey lay in combining the adequate stitching of the weft by the back warp with the concealment of the back-warp stitches. The back of the cloth was napped and shorn after fulling, producing a dense, warm fabric with a smooth back.[1]

The parish contains the village of Kersey and the hamlets of Kersey Tye, Kersey Upland, Wicker Street Green and William's Green.

Kersey Priory was founded before 1218 as a hospital dedicated St Mary the Blessed Virgin and St Anthony under rule of Austin Canons. It was dissolved in 1443 and the next year transferred to King's College, Cambridge.

Kersey's church is St Mary's, and the village also contains a primary school.

The population of the parish at the 2011 Census was 359.



Notable residents include Robert Gordon-Finlayson (1881-1956), Adjutant-General to the Forces, he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1937, Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1918, and Distinguished Service Order in 1915.
Lewis Lyne, (1899-1970), a Major-General who served before and during World War II and was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1945 and Distinguished Service Order in 1943.

St Mary's Church, Kersey is a Grade I listed parish church.

In Medieval times it was an important site of pilgrimage with a shrine filling the whole north aisle. This survived Henry VIII's dissolution programme but was destroyed by Cromwell's soldiers during the Civil War.

The oldest parts of the church date to the 12th century. A reconstruction of the church is thought to have started with the north aisle which was joined to the nave by an arcade and completed in 1335. Work then started on the tower, but was delayed by the outbreak of the black death in 1349. The tower was completed in 1481 and the north and south porches were then added.