Famous Faces

Engineers, pioneers, movers, shakers – meet the famous folk who made Halesworth and the big name celebrities known to have visited. 

Halesworth Heroes & Pioneers

From industrious Anglo-Norman Lords of the Manor to bankers with a conscience and wildlife champions, meet the notable characters who not only shaped Halesworth, but very much left their mark elsewhere too.

Argentein knight display in Halesworth & District Museum Suffolk

Sir Richard de Argentein

Lord of the Manor, Knight, Crusader, Cup-bearer to the King – Richard was (possibly) Rose of Halsworde’s son and the man who arranged a market licence for Halesworth from Henry III in 1222. He paid the princely sum of just two ladies’ saddle horses -allegedly!

He and his dynasty signed Magna Cartas, took seats in the earliest ‘Parliaments’ and paid for parts of St Mary’s Church in Halesworth. Their overarching claim to fame was as ‘Cup-bearers to the King’ for over 300 years. Clocking up around 11 Coronation Banquets, they served  wine to almost every English monarch from Henry I to Henry IV.    

Spot their coats of arms in mouldings and stained glass in St Mary’s Church.  

Visit St Mary’s

William Jackson Hooker

Maltster, Botanist and Director of Kew Gardens – William was master of Halesworth’s Bridge Street Maltings  in 1806 and lived on site in Brewery House (now Hooker House).

Truth to tell, he preferred his orchids to his duties! He later became Botany Professor at Glasgow University and the first ever director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Follow in his brewing or botanical footsteps on trails around Halesworth.     

Hooker Trail Malt Trail
Portrait of William Jackson Hooker of Halesworth Suffolk renowned Victorian botanist and first director of Kew Gardens
Joseph Dalton Hooker of Halesworth Suffolk renowned Victorian botanist friend of Charles Darwin and director of Kew Gardens

Joseph Dalton Hooker

Botanist, Explorer and Director of Kew Gardens – Joseph was born in Halesworth in 1817 and soon stepped into his father’s naturalist shoes.

He travelled the world on expeditions as a botanist and was a friend of Charles Darwin. He followed his father as director of Kew Gardens and is renowned for mapping the Himalayas.

Don’t miss the charmingly deco floral plaque in memory of Joseph and his father in St Mary’s Church.  

Follow in his footsteps on a  dedicated Halesworth walking trail with botanical beauties planted in his honour along the way.

Hooker trail Visit St Mary’s

Priscilla Buxton (& Andrew Johnston)  

Anti-slavery Campaigners and Local Philanthropists – Priscilla’s mother hailed from the Norfolk banking family, the Gurneys. Her father was Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bart MP –  chosen successor to William Wilberforce in the anti-slavery movement.

Priscilla campaigned for the 1834 Emancipation Bill with future husband and MP, Andrew Johnston. He managed Halesworth Bank (formerly Gurney & Turner) and the couple immersed themselves in Halesworth life.

Priscilla had six children, but died aged just 45. An endowed school (now a nursery) was set up in her memory in 1853. Andrew is commemorated in St Mary’s Church and in the Rifle Hall (now a venue) – remodelled from a 1792 Fisher Theatre – and left in trust in 1862. 

Heritage Walk
Plaque in Halesworth Suffolk remembering anti-slavery campaigner and philanthropist Priscilla Buxton
Wall tie in Halesworth Suffolk recalling properties of Victorian brewer and philanthropist Patrick Stead

Patrick Stead

Maltster and Industrial Entrepreneur – Scotsman Patrick bought Bridge Street Maltings from William Hooker, moved into Brewery House and transformed Quay Street.

The industrialist created England’s largest maltings business and first ever steam maltings. He championed the Blyth River Navigation and was key to saving Southwold harbour’s from silting issues. 

When the railways signalled the end of river transport, Patrick ran out of steam and back to Scotland, donating Halesworth a hospital in 1882. 

Heritage trails Malt Trail

Flying Officer D W Field DFC

On the night of 20th December 1943, the bravery of one man and his crew saved Halesworth from severe damage and a large loss of life. Flying Officer D W Field battled to steer his fully loaded Lancaster Bomber beyond the town.

The plane was returning home after coming under heavy attack. The crew were ordered to bale out. Crashing in fields near Wissett / Chediston, miraculously the pilot lived to tell the tale.  

Find out more
Halesworth hero Flying Officer D. W. Field in later life
Glenn Miller Swing Band which played at USAAF Halesworth (Holton) Airfield Suffolk.

Glenn Miller

WWII American Swing Band Leader – During WWII, there were 70 airfields located across Suffolk and Norfolk and 71,000 American service personnel based in Suffolk alone.

In 1944, renowned band leader Glenn Miller travelled to Britain, delivering concerts to entertain the troops  at a number of USAAF airbases in Suffolk – including Station 395 Holton Airfield Halesworth.     

Halesworth Airfield

The Woolnoughs

Richard and Judith Woolnough had a passion for wildlife and a vision for Halesworth’s Millennium Green. As the first Trustee and Secretary of the Green, the idea for the Green’s much-loved 1.4 km all weather track would never have taken shape.

Richard’s energy and skills, his engineering and conservation expertise were invaluable. Together with Judith, he ran work-parties, gave talks and got on with the job, remaining an active and encouraging Trustee until his death in 1999.

In 2013, the whole community helped to make the Track a reality. On its 10th anniversary, a community event and new signs launched it as the ‘Woolnough Way’.  

Millennium Green
Halesworth Millennium Green Woolnough Way sign honours Richard and Judith Woolnough

More Famous Halesworth Folk… 

  • Labour Party leader George Lansbury – father of ‘Murder She Wrote’ star Angela Lansbury – lived at No 14 Thoroughfare as a child.
  • Anti-slavery campaigner Rev Richard Whatley – ancestor of Inspector Morse star, Kevin Whatley – lived at The Rectory.
  • The Frost family – ancestors of David Frost of ‘Through the Keyhole’ fame – were ironmongers in the Thoroughfare – look out for the old painted sign near Ancient House.