Alice Housden’s weaver’s cottage in Sudbury

Number 10, The Croft disappeared many years ago when the area was redeveloped in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Alice’s Housden’s home was at the end of the terrace, Church Row, opposite St. Gregory’s Church.
(Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive )

Number 10, The Croft was what was known as a ‘weaver’s cottage’. It was built from local bricks, (probably ‘Ballingdon or Chilton whites’), with a slated roof, and was three storeys high.

Victorian wall in Sudbury built from local bricks

The rent would have been a few shillings a week. It was the end of a terrace of 12 houses and was considered, at the time, to be a more substantial and comfortable building than its neighbours. The 1885 map of the area shows, for example, that it had a garden enclosed with a brick wall and it was larger than ten of the other houses in the terrace with windows on three sides of the building. Alice Housden’s home was the only one which had a different address as it faced The Croft. She may have felt that it was not really part of what was commonly known as ‘Spike Row’ rather than Church Row due to the close proximity of the Workhouse. (‘Spike’ was a common nickname for a workhouse.)

Extract from the 1885 Map of Sudbury showing the location of Number 10, The Croft. The Waggon and Horses Inn, (where Alice’s father worked as an ostler), is marked on the map on the corner of Church Walk and Acton Green, (now known as Acton Square).
Brick floors were very common in wash houses and sculleries.

On the ground floor of the cottage was a front sitting room with a stove or fireplace and a cupboard. There may have been a keeping room as well with a coal-fired range for cooking, a cupboard and a coal place.

The 1885 map has a small extension marked at the side of the building. This would have been a wash house containing a copper which could be filled with water and heated with a fire underneath for the weekly wash. Number 10 would have had an earth closet in the garden as, by 1874 local doctor, John Cox Lynch, had campaigned for the compulsory use of this type of lavatory which relied on dry earth regularly replacing the refuse rather than allowing it to accumulate in a cess pool.

The middle floor at Number 10, The Croft was one big long room, (around 23 feet long), with more windows at the front, side and back to let as much light in as possible.

Alice Housden’s loom, sold to Mr. Charles Wade from Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire and on display in the National Trust property.

Alice’s loom was placed at right angles to a window on the middle floor. When Alice started to weave in the 1870’s, the house had no gas for lighting. If light levels were poor she used a special type of oil lamp which hung from the loom post and had a reflector at the back. Pleasance Webb’s warping mill was in the centre of the room.

There was also no indoor water supply either with water having to be collected from a communal pump and baths taken in a metal tub in front of the fire in the keeping room. Water was heated in heavy metal pots and pans on the range.

There were two small bedrooms on the top floor with a steep staircase in between which could prove hazardous for anyone going up and downstairs by candlelight. One of the bedrooms was a landing bedroom – with the staircase opening in to it. The weaving room, on the middle floor, was also used as a bedroom and it contained a double bed.

(Image of Church Row c1950’s and detail of windows taken from the Sudbury Photo Archive )