With a name like Robert Sparrow, what immediately comes to mind? 'Sparrow' was probably assigned to one of Robert's ancestors with the need to distinguish him from his neighbours. I am reminded that the diminutive French singer Edith Piaf was nicknamed "La Môme Piaf" (The Little Sparrow).

Robert Sparrow entered my life in connection with 'The Sparrow's Nest', the name given to a small municiple garden tucked away below the cliffs at the north end of Lowestoft. It turned out that the name actually commemorates a holiday property of Robert Sparrow, a 18th century lord of the manor of Worllingham, a village about 10 miles inland from the town.

The Suffolk Sparrows first came to prominence in local history as 16th century merchants of Ipswich. Since 1317, they had been small-time farmers in the town of Needham Market and the nearby village of Somersham in the Gipping valley to the west of Ipswich. The transition from farmers to urban traders was commonplace after 1529 or so, when the problem of untended farmland emanating from the Black Death disappeared with a rising population. There was a desire for more arable land along with much antagonism toward the tenant-graziers with their flocks and herds. Increased demand along with a scarcity of tillable land caused rents to rise dramatically in the 1520s to mid-century, and it is from this time that the designation 'yeoman' is commonly found in wills. The 1520s appear to have been the point at which the rent increases became extreme and wealth began to accumulate from dealing in farm land. Thomas Littleton's (c.1480) definition of a yeoman as a forty-shilling freeholder probably categorised the Thomas Sparrow who described himself in his will of 1419 as a yeoman of Somersham, However, this designation was obsolete by 1550 owing to inflation and the range of differences in local usage. The yeoman's position in the social order varied in different parts of the country. While seventeenth-century Kentish wills and inventories suggest that the Kentish yeomanry were a close-knit wealthy group well connected to the gentry, the yeomen of the midlands were poorer, less socially stratified and more closely aligned with the farming population. The title of yeoman was age-specific - it was rarely attached to a man in his early twenties. The most familiar observations about the yeomanry in the early 1600s are their growing affluence, their dynastic longevity and their upward mobility. Next to the gentry they are given most coverage in the records as those most frequently called upon to act as churchwardens, constables, and tithingmen within the parish, as jurors in the manorial courts or as witnesses and appraisers to wills and inventories. Platitudes like Fuller's definition of a yeoman as 'a gentleman in Ore whom the next age may see refined' show that the term was used as a mark of personal status and worth rather than merely of wealth. This upward mobility of the yeoman is particularly well-illustrated by the Suffolk Sparrows and their pedigree, which incidentaly shows that the Robert Sparrow who built his holiday nest at Lowestoft was one of may Robert Sparrows going back to early 17th century Ipswich .


By clicking on 'Pedigree of the Suffolk Sparrows' you will go to the family tree of the Suffolk Sparrow family. The tree opens in the ‘Modern View’ where by click and drag you can view the whole lineage. The left hand pane of the Modern View presents facts about a selected individual. Click on the Profile Tab to see any notes that have been made about a selected individual.
You can change this to the ‘Classic View’ by using the tab in the right hand bottom corner. This shows up to three of a chosen individual at a time.
In both windows you can use the left hand pane to select individuals

Pedigree of the Suffolk Sparrows