Remembering a remarkable woman

This article is written in remembrance of Miss Bertha Barnardiston who died on 9 March, aged 92. She was a longserving volunteer at Westminster Abbey and her funeral was held in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

Both a founder and life member of the Suffolk Records Society, she helped Norman Scarfe to edit her mother’s book, Clare Priory, Seven Centuries of a Suffolk House in 1962.

In July 2006 hers was a lively presence at the launch of that year’s SRS volume Savage Fortune at Melford Hall; she remembered attending dances there before the war.

No doubt the Barnardiston family sprang originally from the parish of that name just north of Kedington, but in its heyday Kedington Hall was the principal seat, though a third son migrated east to Brightwell in 1664, building a hall there which was demolished in the 1730s. Kedington Hall lasted almost until the end of that century.

We can show the drawing of the family residence made by Mrs Anne Mills of Stutton in the 1820s which Bertha owned. It is titled ‘Kedington or Ketton Hall, as standing in 1785’.


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The front, which probably faced south, appears totally symmetrical, even to the placing of eight tall chimneys, and it is strange that four-bay wings are detached from the main range.

Perhaps they were for the servants. On the left there is a tall dovecote, probably hexagonal. All four gables present curved outlines to the viewer.

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When Kedington Hall was dismantled, two coats of arms were rescued by Mary Barnardiston, proud of her ancestry, and taken to Brent Eleigh Hall near Lavenham.

Her husband, Edward Goate of Thrandeston, inherited Brent Eleigh when its owner Edward Colman died in 1739. Goate was a son of Colman’s first cousin.

Together Edward and Mary Goate made their heraldic mark on the magnificent staircase ceiling. They left Colman’s coat of arms to the left of the rectangular display but overpainted their own Goate and Barnardiston coats to the right, next to the banisters.

They then cut a rectangle of plaster from the central oval to accommodate, rather roughly, a splendid coat of arms supported by five festive winged putti.

Its heraldry shows the marriage Sir Thomas Barnardiston, 2nd Bart, and Elizabeth King, owners of Kedington Hall 70 years earlier.

In the pediment over the north front they installed the same 70 year-old arms surmounted by Sir Thomas’s baronet’s helm, also rescued from Kedington.

The lodge at Brent Eleigh Hall was built in the 1920s by a Mrs Barrington Barnardiston, who added the family coat and motto ‘Je trouve bien’.

Bertha marked her books with the Barnardiston arms in proper colours within a lady’s lozenge, the bow and border in the 18th Century taste.

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