In which – after a break for a wonderfully long, hot, summer – we visit the tiny hamlet of Sotherton in Suffolk – surely the place for whom our many Sotherton Backlers were named?
The easy part of tracing ‘our’ Backlers descended from Rev Samuel Backler, of Ashwell, Hertforshire, has been the naming of successive offspring as ‘Sotherton’. As far as I can see, there have been only two other folk with that forename – Sotherton Nathaniel Micklethwait, born in 1824 in Norfolk; and Sotherton Wadham, born in 1881, and shown in the 1881 census as living at Sotherton Farm, Sotherton. There seem also to have been a few with ‘Sotherton’ as their middle name. And, Sotherton occasionally appears as a surname, for instance the 1674 Hearth Tax returns for Henry Sotherton in Lackford in Suffolk. A Nicholas Sotherton was Mayor of Norwich in 1539. What were the origins of his surname?
On a chilly, rather gloomy early evening this past May, I was fortunate to be taken to visit the tiny, historic place of Sotherton, near to our holiday destination of Southwold in Suffolk. We missed the turning off the main road. Backtracking up a narrow lane, passing a few old houses, we came upon St Andrews Church, more or less in the middle of nowhere, with just a house alongside and fields as far as one could see. The church was locked, and it was too late to seek out the key. So our view was of the mid-19th century exterior, constructed with materials from an earlier version. This rather nice website describes it well: http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/sotherton.htm
Sotherton itself is a ‘dispersed’ village with a current population of about 70, and never with more than about 180 inhabitants. It appeared in the Domesday Book, and is home to Sotherton Hall, the late 16th/early 17th century farmhouse in which Sotherton Wadham (see above) lived.
There is something moving about being in or near the place of one’s ancestors from hundreds of years ago. Rural Suffolk may be one of the less-changed parts of the country, and there is no doubt that Backlers lived in or near to this place. Of course, I have not yet linked ‘our’ Backlers to those of earlier generations, but given the very few early examples of the surname – and almost all of them from East Anglia – I remain convinced that the links are there. Seeing this lovely church in a beautiful setting was a real treat.