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AN INTRODUCTION TO GROTON

Groton is a parish in the district of Babergh in the County of Suffolk which probably takes its name from the Anglo Saxon word grotonea, meaning ‘a sandy stream’.

The land is still predominantly used for agriculture, covering an area of 1544 acres (625 hectares). The population in 2014 is some 260 people living in 110 dwellings. In 1841 the population of Groton was 624, but changes to the parish boundaries and the mechanisation of farming have caused the drop to the present level.

It is a scattered community, rightly and picturesquely described in a book published to commemorate the Millennium as ‘A Garland of Hamlets’.  Among these are Groton Street, Gosling Green, Horner’s Green, Church Street, Broad Street, Daisy Green, Castlings Heath, Parliament Heath and Park Corner.

Groton was listed in Domesday Book in 1086 as Grotena, and the Lord of the Manor at that time was the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds. It was leased over the years to a succession of tenants, including Adam de Cockfield and his descendants.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, the Manor was granted in 1544 by King Henry V111 to Adam Winthrop, a clothier from Lavenham. Adam’s grandson John Winthrop is arguably Groton’s most famous son, and it was he who led the great Puritan emigration to New England in 1630, founding the city of Boston and becoming the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Although present day Groton is dependent on the neighbouring village of Boxford for its shops and facilities, there is the fine church of St Bartholomew to visit, much of which dates back to the C15th although the first recorded rector was Hugh de Groton in 1220. The church contains many memorials to the Winthrop family over the years.

Other buildings for the benefit of parishioners are the Village Hall in Broad Street and the Fox and Hounds public house situated next to the church at the junction of Groton Street and Church Street. Nearby is Groton Hall and a triangle of land where the village sign can be found, together with the simple memorial commemorating the dead of two World Wars.

Visitors should also note Pitches Mount, the remains of a motte and bailey castle probably built by Adam de Cockfield during the baronial wars in the time of Stephen and Matilda c1140.

On the Croft, an area of land between Groton Street and Church Street, which is now owned and managed by the Groton Winthrop Mulberry Trust for the benefit of the people of Groton and surrounding villages, stands a mulberry tree believed to have been planted by Adam Winthrop in the 1560s.

Groton Wood, now owned and managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, is worth a visit to see what medieval woodland looked like  and contains stands of small leaved lime ( tilia cordata), that are among the finest in Suffolk.  It has been described by Oliver Rackham as ‘one of the more important woods known in Suffolk.’

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March 2017
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