Where are the Cracknells?

According to the Tithe Map in 1839 about 90% of the land in Redlingfield was owned by William Adair and well over half of that was farmed by members of the Cracknell family.

I have a vested interest in the Cracknell family because the sister of my great grandfather William Leggett of Worlingworth married Syer Cracknell of Bedingfield. Also William Wardley, a cousin of my great grandmother Sally Leggett married Betsy Cracknell of Redlingfield, and took over her father’s farm.

So I decided to see if I could find the connection between the four Cracknells farming in Redlingfield and the connection between them and Syer Cracknell, if there was one.

By looking at the map and the list I discovered that the farms in Redlingfield have changed little since 1839 except that the Cracknells have been replaced by the Abbotts!

Almost all the same farms are still here except that Cross Farm house (the home of Neville and Jan Butcher) is now called Hill Cottage and the 16 acres of land has been absorbed into other farms. Also, in 1839 there were two farms on the Green. The smaller of the two which consisted of 78 acres in Redlingfield and some more over the border in Horham had the farm house and buildings standing on the site of the Pear Tree Cottages. This has now been absorbed into Green Farm and the house and buildings have disappeared with just Pear Tree Cottages to replace them.

Now, who were all these Cracknells? Where did they come from, and where did they go?

By studying parish records and Bedingfield churchyard it is easy to see the Cracknells had been resident in Bedingfield since the 1600s.

In 1750 Thomas Cracknell of Bedingfield married Mary Moore of Thorndon, and between 1752 and 1767 had seven children baptised in Redlingfield. Three of the boys (Thomas, George and Benjamin) must have taken on farms in Redlingfield, because by 1839 Thomas the son of Thomas (and grandson of the original Thomas) was farming at Wash Farm. George was farming at Redlingfield Hall and Charles, the son of Benjamin, was farming at Rookery Farm. Maria the widow of George’s nephew, Richard Johnson was farming Mill Farm and George’s son George was farming the smaller of the two farms on the Green.

Wash Farm passed down through two generations of Cracknells until Alan Thomas Edwards arrived in the early 1900s. Alan was not directly related to the Cracknells but at least three of his ancestors had married Cracknells and Johnsons. George Cracknell senior died in 1844 and the Hall passed first to his son Thomas, then his great-nephew Francis Johnson, and finally to another great- nephew George Notley, who stayed for four years before moving to Norfolk. George Cracknell senior’s son George died in 1843 and his widow farmed at the Green until his son-in-law William Wardley took over.

Rookery farm also passed down through two more generations of Cracknells until the Abbotts arrived in the 1920s. The census of 1861 and 1871 show that John Cracknell brother of Charles, was farming 12 acres at Mount Pleasant. The census also tells us that he was deaf and dumb. He had married his cousin Lucy Howes and when he died in 1883 at the age of 76 he left enough money for her to be living ‘on her own means’ in 1891.

There seemed to be a great desire to keep everything in the family so there were a considerable number of marriages between cousins. Francis Johnson of Hall Farm married his cousin Susanna Cracknell and Francis Johnson of Mill Farm married his cousin Mahala Cracknell In 1839 Hill Farm was farmed by Edward Platfoot and Green Farm by John Barnes. As far as I can tell neither of these had connections to the Cracknells.

Not only did the Cracknells hold a monopoly on the farms of Redlingfield, but in 1807 Mary Cracknell (sister of Thomas Cracknell of Wash Farm) married Oliver Howes, the village blacksmith and because of intermarriage back and forth between the Cracknell and Howes cousins they supplied several generations of carpenters, wheelwrights and blacksmiths throughout the 1800s. (The last Howes blacksmith retired in 1920). Dress-making was done by Caroline Cracknell, the wife (and cousin!) of George of Wash Farm. The only trade they didn’t monopolise in Redlingfield was milling, but their cousin Siah Cracknell owned the windmill in Bedingfield! Various members of the family were recorded as Census Enumerator, Tax Collector, Parish Clerk & Sexton.

So where are the Cracknells now? Perhaps someone can tell me.

Stephen Ling (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Autumn 2016 issue No 35).