43-64 AD
Roman pottery found at Moatyard Covert Henham, possibly a site of a small Romano British settlement, a Minerva type bronze coin depicting the Emperor Claudius I (c 43-64 AD) also found in this vicinity.
654 AD
The Battle of Bulcamp was fought between the armies of or Onna, the Christian king of the Angles and those of King Penda (pagan king of Mercia) after a long pursuit took him up ’Kings Lane’, a road that cuts through the parishes of Sotherton, Henham & Blyford. When Onna and his men reached Bulcamp they turned and stood their ground. Both Onna and his son Firminus were killed in the battle and legend has it that the ‘Tramps Rest’ beside the current A145 at the junction with the A12 is built over a well (or perhaps a spring if place name evidence can be trusted) which is said to mark the spot were he died.
1085 -86
Domesday Book records the Lordships of Wangford and Henham held by Ralph Baynard.
Lordships of Wangford and Henham held by the de la Poles, Earls of Suffolk.
22nd April Henry VIII succeeded to the throne.
Edmund de la Pole, the leading Yorkist claimant to the throne is executed by Henry VIII and Henham is granted to Charles Brandon, The Regent’s oldest friend and recently created Duke of Suffolk.

A large Tudor hall is built on the park.
Sir Anthony Rous of Dennington purchases Henham.
Local legend claims that in this year a large black ghostly dog called Black Shuck terrorised the nearby village and church of Blythburgh. On the 4th August 1577 Black Shuck is reported to have burst through the large wooden doors before running up the nave, past the congregation and killing a man and a boy. On leaving Black Shuck left scorch marks on the north door which can still be seen to this day.
1643 (est)
Sir John Rous was a Cavalier during the time of Englands Civil war and when the Parliamentarians came searching for him he hid inside a tree for several days, his wife secretly bringing him food and water by night. The Rous Oak as it became known saved Sir Johns life and in the later years during Cromwells Protectorate the Rous family would gather there after dark to pledge their loyalty, and to drink to the health of their monarch, ‘the King across the water’.
After a bitter civil war Charles the 1st is executed and Oliver Cromwell is created Lord Protector.
Sir John Rous, MP for Suffolk is granted the title of Baron Rous by Charles II in gratitude for devoted service and is given control of the Cinque Ports in France. (His wife, Elizabeth Knevet is the daughter of Thomas Knevet, a direct descendant of Edward II).
The Tudor hall is razed to the ground by fire after a drunken butler drops a candle in the cellars. The Sixth Baronet is away on the Grand Tour in Venice.
After two advantageous marriages and the release of money in trust the 6th Baronet John Rous employs James Wyatt to design and build a new hall while Humphrey Repton lays out plans for a grand parkland setting.
John Edward Cornwallis Rous, eldest son of the Sixth Baron joins the Coldstream Guards as an ensign at the age of 16. He rises quickly to the post of Lieutenant and takes part in the battles of Salamanca, Burgos, Vittoria and San Sebastian. He is present at the crossing of the Bidassoa, at the Nivelle and Nive, the crossing of the Ardour and the invasion of Bayonne. Attaining the rank of Captain his service earns him the Peninsula War medal with five clasps.
Emperor Napoleon of France escapes from Elba quickly forming an army and marching against the allies at Waterloo and leading to his final defeat John E C Rous returns to Henham for 12 months leave but is ordered to rejoin his regiment in Brussels following Napolean’s escape from Elba in March. Serving in Wellingtons campaign in Belgium, Rous is wounded at Quatre Bras and cannot take part in Napolean’s defeat two days later at Waterloo.
Sir John Rous, Sixth Baronet is granted the title of First Earl of StradbrokeHis wife the first Countess of Stradbroke erected the ‘Lady’s Fountain’ which can be seen on the Beccles Road today (A145) and is reputed to be the place of King Onna’s death (654 AD). The edifice housed brass cups and a fountain and was described in a poem by Agnes Strickland in 1833.

The First Earl of Stradbroke dies and John E C Rous succeeds him to the title and Henham. The second Earl pursues an active life as a peer, politician, Lord Lieutenant and Vice Admiral of Suffolk.The second Earl’s younger brother, Henry Rous is meanwhile a very successful Captain in the Royal Navy and is credited with the discovery and naming in Australia of the Richmond River, Lennox Head, the Clarence River and notably Stradbroke Island in Honour of his father. In addition Henry Rous renamed the town of Limestone to be Ipswich after his friend the Earl of Ipswich.


Henry J Rous earns more fame after bringing his 36 Gun Frigate across the Atlantic from Labrador with a sprung foremast and without keel, forefoot or rudder while the ship is making 23 inches of water per hour.


Henham Hall is given a Victorian gloss by the Second Earls wife Augusta Bonham from plans by architect Edward Barry.

Henry J Rous is now a Lord of the Admiralty and becomes Steward of the Jockey Club writing a book on handicapping ‘ The Laws and Practice of Horse Racing’. He becomes known as the ‘Blackwater of the Turf’ in reference to the famous lawyer of the time Mr Blackwater.


George Edward John Mowbray Rous, future 3rd Earl of Stradbroke is born in November 1862.


John E C Rous, 2nd Earl of Stradbroke dies and his son George, a Masters student at Cambridge, becomes the 3rd Earl at the age of 24.


The 3rd Earl is made Vice Admiral of Suffolk.


The 3rd Earl marries Helena Fraser, daughter of Lt-Gen James Fraser.


The 3rd Earl of Strabroke is appointed aide-de-camp to his Majesty Edward VII. His son, the future 4th Earl is born on April Fools Day.

3rd Countess of Stradbroke and Children


The 3rd Earl is delighted when his second son and the future 5th Earl of Stradbroke is born.

Third Earl of Stradbroke with the Henham Harriers


King Edward VII dies in May and George V takes the throne. The third Earl is named aide-de-camp to the new King.


The third Earl continues to serve as aide-de-camp and has been appointed Colonel Commanding, Kantara area.


During the first World War the 3rd Earl of Stradbroke was a Colonel in the Royal Artillery, serving in France and the Middle East. On November 19th, 1916 he was aboard the steamer Arabia which was homeward bound from Australia, when she was torpedoed without warning by the German submarine U43. Luckily for the Earl and most of the people on board, the Arabia sunk slowly allowing lifeboats to be lowered and lives saved. The 3rd Earl was later made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael.


The 3rd Earl of Stradbroke is appointed Governor of Victoria, Australia and moves into Stonnington Hall.


The 3rd Earl and Countess are devastated when their youngest son Christopher dies in Melbourne at the age of nine and embalm him awaiting burial upon their eventual return to Henham. Legend has it that his ghost still walks the corridors of Stonnington Hall in Melbourne.


Having completed his tour as Governor of Victoria the 3rd Earl returns to Henham. On their departure Alister Clark names a rose ‘The Countess of Stradbroke’ after the wife of the 3rd Earl.

Family Photo of the 3rd Earl and Countess with His wife and sons


John Rous, Viscount Dunwich and future 4th Earl marries Barbara Grosvenor, youngest daughter of Lord Arthur Grosvenor.


William Keith Rous, second son of the 3rd Earl and future 5th Earl of Stradbroke marries Pamela Kay-Shuttleworth.


Robert Keith Rous, the future 6th Earl of Stradbroke is born in England on the 25th March.


William Keith Rous divorces his first wife who moves to London with her two sons, Robert Keith and William Edward Rous.


Pamela Rous is in London during the sustained bombing of London and survives the destruction of their house after which Robert Keith is sent to the country to live with his maternal grandmother.

While in the country Robert Keith sets up a business ferretting for rabbits and selling to local butchers.During these early years young Robert Keith receives a letter from his paternal grandmother, Helena Countess of Stradbroke stating “we are at war with Mr Hitler” and notes that she is enclosing a guinea for him to invest in war bonds at 2.5 % interest to help defend Britain – however she forgets to enclose the guinea.Robert Keith (“Keith”) a fairly precocious six year old dictates a letter back to his grandmother pointing out that she has omitted to enclose the promised guinea in her letter and would she be so kind as to forward the sum immediately – together with the 2.5 % interest which would have accumulated in the meantime.The Countess is impressed with the boys temerity and reads the letter to the assembled 139 staff of Henham – after which she sends her husband, the 3rd Earl to the family lawyers on a pivotal errand in the future of the estate.


William Keith Rous, future 5th Earl remarries. His bride is Mary – eldest daughter of Brig-Gen Hon Arthur Asquith – son of a former Prime Minister of England. Mary is the sole heiress of the Clovelly Estate in North Devon.


The 3rd Earl dies however his will stipulates that his oldest son should be a life tenant of Henham only – with a condition that the Estate is passed to his second son, William Keith and from him to Robert Keith.

A number of reasons support this decision including the fact that John Rous, 4th Earl had only daughters and at the time it was inconceivable to separate land from title. In addition a supporting coidicil added by the 3rd Earl in 1942 maintained young Keiths right to Henham – the errand to the family lawyers was finally revealed. Unfortunately John Rous, 4th Earl, was unhappy about the will which did not include his daughters, Mary and Penelope and his grandson Charles Forbes. He formulated a plan to demolish Henham Hall for cost saving and prevention of high death duties.Keith commences his education at Harrow however struggles academically due to dyslexia – an unknown condition at that time. He quickly establishes several businesses including bookmaking for his fellow classmates and selling contraband, such as leather jackets and magazines– this leads to his expulsion from Harrow at the age of 15.During this time William Keith is locked in a ferocious court battle with his brother John over plans to demolish the Hall.


Countess Helena, wife of the 3rd Earl dies saddened at the emnity between her two sons and the impending destruction of Henham Hall.


William Keith offers to rent Henham Hall and maintain it however his brother the 4th Earl is adamant the court battle to save the family home continues.


John Rous, 4th Earl of Stradbroke wins the right to demolish the family home and sells the entire building to Crowthers for three thousand five hundred pounds. Crowthers then proceeds to sell the Adam fireplaces, the Wyatt Staircase and Italian ceilings to US dealers for an alleged one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. At the same time John Rous orders the demolition of the interior of the 4 acre walled Garden and its large conservatories, selling the topsoil from half the garden and depositing tonnes of foundations removed from the Hall in its place. Park Farm House becomes the new residence for the 4th Earl and his family.


Keith marries Roseanna Reitman from Somerset.

The Sixth Earl and Countess of Stradbroke (2006)


The 4th Earl dies leaving only two daughters and no sons and as stipulated in the 3rd Earls will the Estate should now have passed to William Keith, 2nd son unencumbered. However four days after his brothers death William Keith also passes away and within the space of 5 days Keith has gone from Sydney businessman to Viscount Dunwich to 6th Earl of Stradbroke and owner of Henham.


The 6th Earl discovers a harsh reality in England with the threat of substantial death duties owing on the estate and the risk of losing his inheritance altogether to his cousin, the grandson of the 4th Earl, Charles Forbes. This was due to a complex lease structure put in place by the 4th Earl to get around the terms of the will.Keith received advice that the ensuing court battle could go on for 6-7 years and promptly challenges Charles to a duel on the village common. Finding that duelling was not legal in england Keith offered Charles a one way ticket to South America and the choice of pistols, swords or pieces of four-by-two.Charles very quickly hands the keys over and Keith pays large amounts of death duties on the property before beginning the properties long needed restoration.


Keith – now known as the ‘Aussie Earl’ completes one of the final recommendations of Repton’s Red Book from 1791 and constructs a lake at the southern end of the park. The one remaining piece of Repton’s design awaiting completion is the heart of the park – the focus of all the tree lined avenues, the copses of ancient oak and the lake – a building to match its grand environment.


Keith adds an Australian motto “We fight like Lions and Breed Like Rabbits” to his families English motto “I live in hope”


Keith’s son Hektor comes to Henham to manage the property. 2005 sees the return of the Steam Rally and and a new event Wings and Wheels. 2006 witnesses the first ever Latitude festival by Festival Republic and visitor numbers at Henham increase from 150  to over 75,000.