Clare was recorded in the Domesday Book as Clara. ‘Always a market. Now 43 burgesses’ – an astonishingly high number, because at the time very few Suffolk towns had any burgesses or freemen, let alone 43. The entry listed 37 acres (15 ha) of meadow, woodland for 12 swine, a mill, 5 arpents of vineyard (an arpent was 4–6 acres) and 400 sheep. The sheep are fewer now, but probably of better quality (See Clare Pedigree Suffolk Sheep). There are still meadows and woodland, but only the remains of a mill are left, and no vineyard.
Today it is Suffolk’s smallest town (it is, we’ve checked with Suffolk Observatory): 2028 residents in 2011, a key service centre for a hinterland of more than 7,000 people, within a population of 112,523 in St Edmundsbury District; burgesses are no more, all of us are freemen.
The history of Clare may be found online: see the Wikipedia articles on Clare, Suffolk, Clare Camp, Clare Castle and Clare Railway Station. The name was used by a Norman family to identify themselves; they went on to become one of the premier households of the Kingdom, Earls of Hertford & Gloucester, a dynasty which ended when the last male heir died at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Other descendants lived on, one establishing Clare College in Cambridge, others marrying royalty. See Wikipedia on the De Clares.
Archaeology is found across Clare, from Paleolithic through Iron Age, from Roman & Norman to the coming of the Railway. There is a Google Map showing the range of pre-Norman finds in our area. Visit Access Cambridge Archaeology to see results from excavations across the town (33 testpits in 2011) and within the castle in 2013.
The story is incomplete: few traces of the Romans, no written records before the Domesday Book, partial accounts from the medieval period. In more modern times Clare has never had a great patron, willing to spend a fortune on a stately home. Yet it has preserved in its heart an amazing townscape of many periods.
Much more information is available through the Ancient House Museum.
We celebrated Magna Carta last year – two of the supporting barons were de Clares. In years to come we will go on to celebrate what we’re proud of and make some more history on the way.
Look up www.visit-clare.co.uk for tourists and visitors.
2016 © Clare Town Council