Forestry Commission logo

Mildenhall Warren Lodge: Its Warren and its History

Mildenhall Warren Lodge is a building about 7 metres square of two storeys with living accommodation on the upper floor. It is built of flint rubble-cored walls with lime mortar and knapped flint facngs. The four original window openings, one on each elevation, survive with their stone dressings and there is a defensive door on the north side with a segmental arch. The quoins are of dressed stone and may have come from the earlier Mildenhall Church. There is evidence of a first-floor fireplace with a stone lintel and about fifty metres to the west is the well and a possible well or soakaway to the east.

Bury Abbey was already receiving income from the warren in 1323 (Mark Bailey, A Marginal Economy) and the Record Office in Bury St Edmunds has some medieval documents which may mention the warren. The 1540 Will of Nicholas Mey (IC500/1/36/24) includes ‘the Wareyn’.

There is a reference in about 1630 to ‘the grange with the demeanes and warren of conies are past in fee farms and no parte of this value.’ ( Valuation WSROB 633/1-2)

An inventory of 1662 for George Childerstone the warrener includes ‘at the warren lodge one bed with a flockbed 3 ould hayes or netts and other implements belonging to the warrener’.

(IC500/1/114/87).

Post-1550, Mildenhall had three owners before the Forestry Commission purchased it in 1934. They were Sir Nicholas Bacon, Sir Henry North and then Sir Charles Bunbury.

The Enclosure Map for Mildenhall Parish is dated 1807 and the warren is shown as occupying 1066 acres. Transverse roads cross it including the turnpike from Barton Mills to Brandon - the toll house is still there in the north-west corner of the warren. Ogilvie’s linear ‘Travellers Guide’ of 1675 shows three roads crossing the warren.

One section of the perimeter suggests abutment on to medieval cultivation and this may reflect the inclusion of arable land into the warren in 1425 when William Gaylon was awarded eighteen acres in recompense for his own arable lands which ‘now lay within the warren’.

The first enclosure appears to have been confined to the western half and by 1824 Bryant’s Map shows shelter belts around the enclosed fields. The warren is limited to the eastern half of the original extent.

The Tithe Map of 1859 shows the parcel of land marked as ‘Three Hills’ as arable but the 1885 and 1928 OS maps indicate this as ‘warren’. This is perhaps an instance of an area ploughed when grain prices were high but allowed to revert when falling profits meant it was no longer viable to risk expenditure on such marginal land.

High Lodge Farm is the only farmstead on the warren, a reflection of the poor, acidic, sandy soil. The 1911 Sale Particulars of the Woodlands Estate include High Lodge Farm and may give some idea of the mixed farming: ‘the buildings comprise stable for six horses with chaff and roothouses adjoining and horse yard with open shedding, open cow shed for ten cows and cow yard, corn barn with boarded dressing floor, four-bay wagon lodge with granary over, stock yard with pen shedding and bullock boxes and range of piggeries’.

  

Later maps show what happened to the warren in terms of the more general spirit of ‘Improvement’ which characterised the Agricultural Revolution as it was covered with plantations, clumps, shelter belts and a tree nursery. The warren was confined to the extreme south-east corner by 1900 but whether this was managed as the medieval warren was or just left to revert to heath may only be resolved by further research.

 

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.