The Sucklings

The Sucklings

Suckling is a Saxon name which was probably written ‘Socling’ and meant 'A person holding his estate by socrage or the tenure of the plough'.

In 1575 Robert Suckling (4x great-grandfather to Horatio, Viscount Nelson) became Lord of the whole of Woodton; he represented Norwich in Parliament in 1570 and 1585. His eldest son, Edmund, became Dean of Norwich. Another son, Charles, inherited the estate and enlarged it by the purchase of the manor of Barsham in Suffolk from the poet John Suckling (the son of his younger brother Sir John Suckling, the Cavalier Poet).

The new Woodton Hall was built in 1694 by Robert Suckling and his wife Sarah Shelton (great-grandparents to Horatio Nelson). Nelson is said to have played in the grounds, especially near a cedar tree which still stands today and can be viewed in the photo album.

Ned Baldry and 'Shell'

The grave of a famous Norfolk huntsman, Ned Baldry, can be found at the back of Woodton church yard. He was born in the parish of Woodton in 1705 and worked for Robert Suckling in the stables at Woodton Hall from the age of 13. Later, he was promoted to kennel-keeper and second whipper-in, and eventually to chief huntsman. He became famous through his skewbald horse ‘Shell’.

Robert Suckling’s death left Ned with the ownership of Shell and the hounds with ample means to support him. Ned travelled with his horse and hounds to Ireland and France, but returned to Woodton to lay Shell to rest in the park of Woodton Hall. Ned's tombstone can be visited in the north-east corner of the churchyard.

Woodton Hall was pulled down in 1841/2. 

Another family of Sucklings lived in Woodton at the same time as the Woodton Hall Sucklings. Confusingly, many of the boys' names were the same, Robert, Maurice and John, for example.

Joseph Suckling married Honor Read in Woodton church in 1793. Their seven children were all connected with Woodton: Mary, John (see below), Phobe, Harriet, Elizabeth, Maurice and Zacharias.

We are grateful for information for this page provided by Sylvia, great-granddaughter of John Suckling (see above), and her husband. Sylvia still has close connections to Woodton Church.

Image reproduced by kind permission of  Charles Miller Ltd.


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