Plan for memorial for town's benefactor

By Sarah ChambersRESIDENTS are hoping to establish a permanent memorial to a little-known man whose legacy helped preserve their town's famous character.

By Sarah Chambers

RESIDENTS are hoping to establish a permanent memorial to a little-known man whose legacy helped preserve their town's famous character.

When William Godyll bequeathed much of the town lands, some buildings, the Common and the marshes almost 500 years ago, he ensured Southwold kept the green open spaces for which it has become famous.

His generous act in handing them to Southwold in 1509 helped shape the character of the seaside town over the next five centuries.


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But his legacy has only been acknowledged in Southwold in the naming of Godyll Road, which lies alongside the Common.

Southwold Town Council is now to discuss the proposal to establish a permanent memorial to Godyll, what form it might take and where it might go.

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No portrait or likeness of the town's significant benefactor survives, nor any memorial which might have been made after his death.

Knowledge of Godyll stems from the will he made, itemising his great wealth, with interests stretching from Southwold to the continent.

From that it is clear he had warehouses in Calais, a fishing and trading fleet based at Southwold harbour, as well as sheep in Reydon and a large amount of property in the area.

Former town mayor and history recorder, Ros McDermott, said: "He was the town's greatest benefactor and he seems to have been a merchant."

She added his will indicated Godyll traded with the continent and had a wide variety of business interests. Although some of the land he bequeathed to the town was sold off, most remained.

"Because of what we are and the careful prudence of the bailiffs and councillors, we have got that land in tact," said Mrs McDermott. "We are very lucky people, but he's never really been historically remembered except in Godyll Road."

Godyll was also an important figure in the church and was an early church warden at St Edmund's, which was built between about 1430 and 1460.

Mrs McDermott believed the lack of any memorial to Godyll at the church might stem from Cromwell's time, when his men swept through the area, destroying "Romeish" artefacts.

"It's quite likely there may have been memorials to him before that. We are all very sentimental about him – we would like to know more," she said.

Town mayor John Miller said: "It was aired at the last meeting, and everyone said 'That's a jolly good idea'."

He added the Common was one of Southwold's "great glories", along with the church, the lighthouse and Gun Hill.

Deputy mayor Peter Austin said Godyll's will had "protected the character of the town".

Southwold Town Council will discuss the proposal for a permanent memorial to William Godyll at its meeting in June.

sarah.chambers@eadt.co.uk

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