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10 Things You May Not Know About Clare

Discover some lesser known facts about Clare, Suffolk's smallest town, that you may find surprising...

1. Clare Castle Was Built By A Norman Knight

Clare Castle, first built in the 11th century by Richard FitzGilbert, a Norman knight who was rewarded by William the Conqueror with large estates in Suffolk, Essex and Kent. The motte at about 60 feet high is one of the highest in the country. Richard and his descendants made Clare their administrative seat, eventually taking the family name from the town.

2. One of the Most Famous Medieval Artefacts was Found in Clare

The famous medieval Clare Reliquary Cross, which is now part of the Royal Collection and can be found in the British Museum, was found in the grounds of Clare Castle in 1866 during the construction of the railway station.

Set into the beautiful gold cross is a cavity where minute fragments of wood were found when the cross was discovered, indicating that it once held fragments of what was believed to be a relic of the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, suggesting that this is a reliquary cross. It may have belonged to Cecily, Duchess of York, mother of Edward IV and Richard III, as it was discovered near Clare Castle, her Suffolk residence.

3. Lady of Clare Elizabeth de Burgh Founded the Second Oldest College in Cambridge

East Anglia’s wealthiest and most powerful woman of all time, Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare, founded Clare College, the second oldest college in Cambridge. Elizabeth, cousin of Edward II, was widowed three times by the age of 26, helped overthrow a king, and pledged to defend Suffolk against French invasion.

Her mother, Joan of Acre a daughter of King Edward I, is buried at Clare Priory. Elizabeth's story can be found at the town’s Ancient House Museum.

4. The Town ‘s St Peter and St Paul Church is Ranked as one of England's Thousand Best churches

Included in Simon Jenkins’ ‘England's Thousand Best Churches’, the church was was begun in the 13th century and the early base of the west tower remains. The nave and its arcading are 14th and 15th century. Open every day for visitors, look out for the gallery of 15th century faces in the roof, the private pews, one bearing the emblems of Catherine of Aragon, and the bellringers 'gotch'.

5. Two of the famous Magna Carta Barons Came from Clare

Richard de Clare and his son, Gilbert de Clare, were two of the 25 barons elected as the first guarantors of Magna Carta when it was sealed at Runnymede in June 1215.

The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in history as it established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial. Twenty-Five barons were elected by the baronial opposition to King John to ensure that he honoured the charter. Without them, it might just have been another piece of parchment long forgotten by history.

6. Nethergate Brewery was started in Clare

The award winning and internationally renowned Nethergate Brewery was conceived in 1985 in Nethergate Street and born in High Street in 1986 in Clare. Like many great ideas it, was conceived in a pub between two friends, one a businessman and the other a Microbiologist.

The brewery has gone on to win regional, national and international awards for its distinctive beers which include Suffolk County, Nethergate GB and Stour Valley Gold. The brewery’s shop and tap room can now be found in its expanded premises in nearby Long Melford.

7. Clare has one of the oldest religious houses in England

Historic Clare Priory, on the banks of the River Stour, dates back to 1248 was the first house of Augustinian Friars in England. The priory had close connections with medieval nobility and royalty and the ancestors and relatives of King Richard III are buried here.

8. Ancient House Museum's Exquisite Pargeting 

 The Ancient House, a timber-framed building of the 14th & 15th centuries, has some of the most impressive decorative plasterwork (pargeting) to be seen in East Anglia. The building has served many purposes over time--possibly a medieval shop, later a workhouse, a bakehouse, a priest's house, and in the early 20th century, a poultry shop. Since the 1970s part of it has been a museum, and since the 1990s, part is a Landmark Trust holiday cottage. To find out more about Clare head to the Visit Clare website.

9. Clare Railway Station was placed inside Clare Castle

Clare Railway Station was located in the Castle's inner bailey, which had been acquired by compulsory purchase from the private owner. It operated until the Beeching cuts, closing in 1967. Not long afterwards the land was reunited with the rest of Clare Castle to become Clare Castle Country Park. Now the railway line forms part of the lovely walk around the Park, which is owned by Clare Town Council.

10. Clare Castle and England's most notorious miser

Clare manor and Castle went into private hands in the 17th century and were eventually inherited by John Elwes, who also owned much of Stoke by Clare. Elwes came from a family of misers, but he exceeded their standards. His story circulated in printed pamphlets and thus he became the model for Dickens' character, Scrooge.


You can find out more about Clare on the Visit Clare website here.