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History of Fornham All Saints

The area of the Lark Valley, around Fornham All Saints, was settled in the Neolithic Age (4000BC -2500BC)- probably later, rather than earlier, in this period. The field between Pigeon Lane and the A1101 Mildenhall Road contains the remains of a wooden henge (only visible from aerial photographs), from which a cursus- a ceremonial causeway, probably for religious purposes and almost a mile long- runs parallel to the River Lark. The cursus stops short of a field in Hengrave, which aerial photographs show to be full of evidence of prehistoric occupation, such as ring ditches and more complex furrows.

 There has long been a belief that the siting of the church in Fornham All Saints was somehow linked to this cursus. Aerial photographs, dating from the mid-1960s,show the cursus passing directly beneath All Saints Church. The building, which dominates the village at the head of The Green, is described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in his monmental "Buildings of England", as follows: "Norman southern doorway with one order of shafts.Early 13th century west tower, (with) nave of around 1300.Tall Decorated chancel, the east window reticulated."The church was restored around 1865, under the supervsion of noted church architect Sir Arthur Blomfield. Within the old parish of Fornham All Saints also lay the Franciscan Babwell Priory, dating from around 1262: the priory was replaced in the 16th century by a red-brick gabled house (now the Priory Hotel), but the long flint walls running down to Tollgate Lane date back to the original 13th century priory. Back in the village, the brick-built Mission Hall, adjacent to the Community Centre, has been used as a place of non-conforming worship until relatively recently.

 The village sign commemorates the important battle of Fornham on 17 October 1173, fought between rebel soldiers and those loyal to King Henry II. The Earl of Leicester headed rebels who were seeking to overthrow the king.The rebels (mainly French and Flemish mercenaries), having taken the royal fortress at Haughley, marched on Bury, but were confronted by royal troops as they tried to cross the River Lark at Fornham All Saints. The battle was a bloody one. The crown forces were better organised, and scattered the enemy along the sodden marshes of the Tay Fen (the site of Fornham Park Golf Course), where local people loyal to the crown killed them with pitchforks and flails. This was perhaps the turning point of the conflict.

 Several centuries later, the Lark played a more peaceful role in providing Bury with a new transport artery, when the Lark Navigation Act of 1700 authorised the canalisation of the river from Mildenhall to Bury.The promoters wanted to construct wharfage at Eastgate Bridge, but Bury Corporation opposed this, and the wharfage was instead constructed at Fornham Wharf (the warehouses of which were recently restored as affordable housing). This became the effective limit of navigation, and consequently became a busy transhipment point. The wharves were accessed by a cut from the main navigation, probably in the vicinity of the UPS depot. In the village,the walls of Fornham Park Lock can still be seen today from Fornham Lock Bridge, carrying the B1106 over the river. (The bridge is also known as Causeway Bridge.). The nearby pound, allowing barges to be held for passing through the lock, is also visible, and has given its name to the nearby "Pound Meadow" residential development".