Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet


Queen Elizabeth 1st visits Smallbridge Hall in 1561






Paintings by CORDER, John Shewell 1856 - 1922
Dated 1917 (The inset in the bottom left of the picture, portrays possibly Elizabeth's fireplace in one of the state rooms)

The journeys undertook by the Queen were more like expeditions, as the amount of men, horses, carts and baggage was enormous.

On the Road Again

The logistics were daunting. A baggage train of between 400 and 600 horse-drawn carts groaned beneath the weight of everything the monarch and her entourage might require on the trip: bedding, furniture, clothing, food, dishes and kitchen equipment and even the documents and office supplies needed to conduct the business of the realm.
Members of her court accompanied her, as did a full household complement of grooms and pages, wardrobe ladies and maids, guards, chaplains, cooks, and court musicians.
Travel was slow and difficult. Even on the main highways, the Queen’s caravansary averaged only ten or twelve miles a day.

An advance team scouted the destinations, arranging for the Queen and selected members of her court and household to lodge with local nobles. Other officials and servants were put up at inns or relegated to sleeping in the tents carried to house the horses and their keepers. Once settled, the retinue of people and horses occupied a considerable chunk of land. Given the rudimentary nature of the sanitary facilities, the surrounding air was doubtless also leavened by their presence.

Reference:- Summer 2007 issue of Folger Magazine.


Queen Elizabeth undertook a mammoth 61 day excursion through Essex to Ipswich, returning via Hedingham and Hertford.
On her return leg from Ipswich, she stayed at Smallbridge between the 11th and 14th August 1561

One report from a local book-"Wormingford Story, Winifred Beaumont" describes the visit:-

Sir William Waldegrave entertained his Queen, Elizabeth I, for two days in August. She came from Colchester and her progress was indeed a royal one. She travelled with a dozen coaches and 300 wagons and horsemen rode before and behind her. The local gentry came on horseback, or running on foot holding onto a stirrup. They wore cockades and carried banners and sounded trumpets.

In 1900 a story was told in the village "how once there came a great company to visit the squire. Men on hossback, men arunning and blowing bugles and hollering and they all had flags". They galloped over Lodge Hills and "wor a wunnerful sight".


NOTE:-Unfortunately for Winifred, it contained various errors:-

(a)She writes "Travelling from Colchester in coaches" -but had the coach actually been invented?
The answer is "No"
The horse drawn carriage was invented in Hungary in the Fifteenth Century, it was built to carry a Princess to her wedding but this early design had no steering as such and had to be dragged sideways by its team of horse to turn a corner. Development was slow but eventually the front axle was mounted on a turntable to provide steering and the horse drawn waggon was a semi-practical, if not very comfortable vehicle. Suspension systems evolved slowly but by the early nineteenth century most of the problems had been solved and the improvements in road construction and maintenance made the horse drawn carriage a viable form of transport.

The number of coaches in England in 1561 was exactly zero!
In 1564 Guilliam Boonen came from the Netherlands to be Queen Elizabeth's first coach-builder - thus introducing the European invention of the spring-suspension coach to England, as a replacement for litters and carts.

(Courtesy of John Moore, Colchester Archaeological Society for these corrections)

(b) The Queen did not arrive at Smallbridge from Colchester, she was travelling on her return journey between Ipswich and Castle Hedingham.

(c)In 1900 a story was told in the village "how once there came a great company to visit the squire. Men on hossback, men arunning and blowing bugles and hollering and they all had flags". They galloped over Lodge Hills and "wor a wunnerful sigh
This story is a classic example of village folk-lore, where the name of th
e Queen and her noble host were forgotten and only the turmoil and banners remembered.
The placing of the cavalcade on Lodge Hills is interesting, for the Lodge, Road and Bridge had disappeared long before the storyteller was born.
We know for certain the Queen visited Smallbridge, but the story of the Hunting Lodge could possibly be an example of an embellished village tale.

However, we know for certain the visit did leave William Waldegrave £250 poorer, having to entertain not only the Queen and her entourage, this was an enormous sum of money.

We can also determine that William Cecil, her Secretary of State was at Smallbridge during 1562
On the 12th August of that year he wrote a letter from Smallbridge to Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury

In that letter "He calls attention to the offensive indiscreet behaviour of readers and ministers in Suffolk and Essex,
and to the Queen's disapproval of matrimony of the clergy

Letter held in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford



Winifred Beaumont also mentions a second visit in her book:-

1578 : On her second visit to Suffolk, she avoided Colchester where the small pox was "very bad" and probably only came into Wormingford for a "divertisment" staged in the deer park.
Nichols, a member of the Royal household, travelled with the Queen and kept a journal of her journeys. He described in detail the grand houses visited and the wonderful entertainment's they provided but only made a sparse report on her visits to Smallbridge, over a sour footnote: Sir Edward Waldegrave was eventually held in the Tower of London for Treason


Once again this contains errors:
(a) "she avoided Colchester where the small pox was "very bad"
However Smallpox was not recorded in Colchester until 1579, a year later than the 1578 visit

(b) she refers to Nichols as a member of the Queens Household
Nichols in reality was John Nichols , who published the book over 200 years later " The Progresses and public processions of Queen Elizabeth" in 1788
Thomas Weldon was the Queens Treasurer during her reign.

(c)Later Winifred quotes:
Tradition says she visited Church Hall and partook of cold meat and drank a flagon of ale, and was so pleased that she wrote her initials on the window with a diamond ring.
There is no evidence to support this statement

This reference to 1568, appears to be total fiction.

The Queens second visit is also mentioned by Historic England in their description of Smallbridge Hall and in '"The Buildings of Suffolk by Nikolaus Pevsner

Where did this reference to the Queen visiting for the second time in 1578 come from ?

I can find no evidence of this visit with the Queen ever coming anywhere near too Smallbridge.

This is the documented route the Queen travelled, when she visited Norwich:-

The East Anglian Progress in 1578 involved 200-300 carts and 1,200-1,800 horses.
Leaving from Havering, the procession passed by Latton, Standon, Audley End, Keddington, Long Melford, Bury, Euston, Kenninghall, Bracon Ash, Norwich,

Leaving Norwich and returning via Kimberley, Wood Rising, Thetford, Hengrave, Chippenham, Kirtling, Horseheath, Ashdon, Thaxted, Little Hadham, Sawbridgeworth, Abbess Roding, Theydon Bois and Chigwell.

This extract taken from http://caguk.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Queens-Elizabeths-Progress.pdf

Reference Sources:-

I have been supported in my research by Dr Matthew Woodcock, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia
Dr Woodcock has given lectures on the 1578 tour and fully supports my conclusion, the visit to Smallbridge never took place.
Dr Matthew Woodcock link

Mary Hill Cole published a book titled, "The Portable Queen" which documents the journeys made out of London by the Queen.
Again, there is no mention in any of her work, of any 1578 visit to Smallbridge

John Nichols , published this book " The Progresses and public processions of Queen Elizabeth" in 1788
Once again in that publication, a search for the words "Waldegrave and Smallbridge" found none.

Nichols was an antiquarian who amassed over 250 manuscripts and over 850 early printed books relating to the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, his work is a valuable source of information.

Thomas Weldon, was the Treasurer to the Royal Household, meticulously recorded the dates and places where the Queen stayed, how much was spent from the Privy Purse and the items on which the money was spent.

The Golden Age, Elizabeth 1st in the East of England

The Progresses, Pageants, and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I

Colchester Archaeological Bulletin No51 also states there was no second visit to Smallbridge

Extracts from "The Wormingford Story" by Winifred Beaumont: and "Wormingford, an English Village" by Winifred Beaumont and Ann Taylor ,
Victoriana County History of Essex

My conclusion is that the 1578 visit never took place.

Published by Alan Beales 25/03/2018
updated 1562 entry:- 30/05/2018
updated 31/07/2021