St. Lawrence church, Ipswich

St Lawrence, Ipswich

The Mann family is remarkable for their long connection with Ipswich: they lived in the town from about 1500 to at least 1700.  After that their descendants either lived as country gentlemen in the Suffolk countryside or moved to London.

The first record of the family is the burial of Thomas Mann in the church of St Lawrence on 5 January 1540.  This burial was followed by that of his wife Margaret on 18 February 1547/8.  This was the year that Edward Withipole of Ipswich built Christchurch Mansion on the site of the Augustinian Priory in Ipswich, which he had acquired 10 years before at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, a process which had been begun by the Ipswich-born Cardinal Thomas Wolsey who had suppressed the alien monasteries in the 1520s.

Margaret left a PPC will which reveals that the couple had four children who survived to adulthood, three of them marrying.  Their only son, Sebastian Mann, married Beatrice Barber on 9 April 1543 in St Lawrence.  The occupations of Sebastian and his father are not recorded but they lived in the period when Ipswich was flourishing as a result of the wool trade, and leather-working was also an important industry, so they may have been connected with one of these.  Sebastian's second son Sebastian II, however, was a grocer, as his will of 1595 confirms, so it may well be that Sebastian senior was also a grocer.

At some point during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Sebastian Mann was in trouble with the law, as a warrant for his arrest as a "rebel" wanted for "various trespasses" survives in the National Archives.  It is likely that his offence was related to the non-payment of a subsidy or something similar since the warrant is an (undated) Exchequer document.  Sebastian I's burial is not recorded in St Lawrence, but nothing else has survived to give more information.  Sebastian and Beatrice had 12 children, of whom only four sons married.  Sebastian's third son John, who left no heirs, appears to have had some connection with London, as, although he died in Bramford, Suffolk in 1624, in his will he mentions property in Lincoln's Inn Fields, as well as much property in Suffolk.

St. Mary at Quay, Ipswich

St Mary at Quay church, Ipswich

Edward, Sebastian's fifth son, is the first recorded merchant in the family.  He married Catherine Dyer in1583 and the couple settled in the parish of St Mary Quay where their first 4 children were baptised.  In 1586 William Camden published his "Britannia" in which he states that Ipswich:
"has a commodious harbour, has been fortified with a ditch and rampart, has a great trade and is very populous being adorned with fourteen churches and large private buildings".
The harbour must have been very familiar to Edward Mann, as his will reveals that he had part shares in three ships: the "Diamond", the "Seaflower" and the "Swan" which he left to his son Edward and a son-in-law, Richard Massie.  The first Edward seems to have had Puritan sympathies, like many in Ipswich, as he expressed the hope that he would be received into God's everlasting Kingdom "prepared before the beginning of the world for his elect".  He also left money for "the minister who shall preach at my burial" - another Puritan custom.  He left property in the parish of St Matthew to his wife, Catherine, and may also have had an interest in a mill, since he also mentions millstones and quernstones which are left to his son, Edward.  He left quite large amounts of money in his will, as did his brother Sebastian who also left property in the parishes of St Nicholas and St Lawrence to his wife, Emma.  The Manns were by now quite a prosperous family.

The wool trade in Ipswich began to decline in the late sixteenth century and was replaced by ship-building and allied trades such as sail-making and rope-making.  The second Edward Mann was also a merchant and may well have dealt in a wider range of commodities than his father, as the economy of Ipswich became more diversified.  He married twice and lived to the age of 80, being buried in the church of St Mary on the Quay, where his children had been born and both his wives were buried.  He was sufficiently wealthy to pay for the education of his son Edward at Gray's Inn in London, and his son Thomas at the Inner Temple, on the principle perhaps that a lawyer would always be able to make a living even when the economy of Ipswich was declining, as it was beginning to do.  Both his sons spent some of their time in London although their children were all baptised in Suffolk.

Edward II's son Thomas predeceased his father: he died in 1669 in London and was buried in Temple Church.  His will shows him to be a very wealthy man: he leaves £1000 to his eldest son, John, for example.  Perhaps for this reason his children are not mentioned in the will of their grandfather in 1670: he leaves money to his unmarried daughters Jane and Mary, and the rest of his estate to his eldest son, Edward.

St. Nicholas church, Ipswich

St Nicholas, Ipswich

Edward III married three times and fathered fifteen children, but was very unfortunate in losing seven of his children, some as young adults, including his heir, Edward who died at the age of 24.  He had been a member of Gray's Inn, like his father and was a Justice of the Peace for Suffolk in the early 1670s.  Edward named the only child of his last marriage, Edward, after this son.  Most of Edward senior's children were baptised in the parish of St Nicholas but were unaffected by the severe outbreak of plague in Ipswich in 1665.

In September 1677 John Evelyn recorded in his diary a visit to Suffolk with Sir Henry Bennet, the Lord Chamberlain at the time:
"My Lord, to divert me, would needes carry me to see Ipswich where we dined at one Mr Manns by the way, Recorder of the Towne.  There was in our Company my Lord Huntingdon, sonn to the Duchesse of Lauderdail, Sir Ed. Bacon, a learned Gent, of the family of the greate Chancellor Verulame, & Sir Jo. Felton with some other knights & Gent.  After dinner came the Baylifs, & Magistrates in their formalities & maces, to Complement My Lord & to invite him to the Towne -house, where they presented us a noble Collation of dried Sweetmeats & Wine, the Bells ringing etc".
The Feltons of Playford and the Bacons of Redgrave were both members of the Suffolk baronetcy and were related by marriage.  In view of Edward Mann's legal background, and the fact that he named one of his sons Felton, it is very likely that he is the Mr Mann referred to.  Felton Mann was later a member of Barnard's Inn and did not marry: of Edward's seven other sons only the youngest, Edward may have married.  Three of Edward III's daughters married: two lived in London, while Elizabeth and her husband, Roger Bodenham, sent their son, Roger, to be apprenticed to Eleanor's husband, Daniel Puckle, a member of the Ironmongers' Livery Company.

Edward III died only three years after the social coup of John Evelyn's visit; and his sons, unlike their forebears, did not live much in Ipswich as adults.  Francis Mann is mentioned in his father's will as commander of the ship "Edward & Francis", of which he is left his father's one sixteenth share.  Francis died in 1685 leaving his house in Ipswich to his brother Felton.  James and Otho lived mainly at Bucklesham not far from Woodbridge where Oliver Taster lived.  He was an administrator of the trust set up in Edward III's will for the education and maintenance of his daughters and younger son and and it seems likely that the younger children lived with him when they were growing up, as Elizabeth was said to be "of Woodbridge" when she married in 1685, and Oliver is a witness to the will of James in 1689.  One of Edward's nephews, also named Edward, became a woollen draper in London and both Eleanor and Hannah married into the Puckle family who were involved in various trading enterprises in London.  The youngest son, Edward, may have lived in Woodbridge and Framsden and left a will in 1747 but the will is chiefly concerned with the substantial amount of land he owned in the area: in Suffolk the Manns seem to have become country gentlemen.

When Celia Fiennes, the intrepid traveller, visited Ipswich in 1698 she admired its cleanliness and the width of the streets but commented:
"There is but 3 or 4 good houses in the town, indeed the town looks a little disregarded ……for tho' the sea would bear a ship of 300 tun up quite to the key and the ships of the first rate can ride within two mile of the town, yet they make no advantage thereof by any sort of manufacture……so that the shipps that bring their coales goes light away; neither do they adress themselves to victual or provide for shipps, they have a little dock where formerly they built ships of 2 or 300 tun but now little or nothing is minded save a little fishing for the supply of the town".

It seems that the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mann family declined along with their birthplace: Ipswich was a bit of a backwater for the next 100 years.

Written by Mary Hume.

Photographs of Ipswich churches courtesy of Simon Knott whose website may be found at:

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© Geoffrey Stone, Braintree & Mary Hume 22-1-2005   Last Updated 27-1-05