Pakenham is a village in the English county of Suffolk. Its name can be linked to Anglo-Saxon roots, Pacca being the founder of a settlement on the hill surrounding Pakenham church, an area higher than the waters of Pakenham Fen. The discovery of many Anglo-Saxon remains, notably that of a bone-toothed comb in the old school garden (just over the road from the church) in the 1950s, testify to the authenticity of the site. The village was therefore named Pacca's Ham, i.e., the home of Pacca, a name which eventually became Pakenham, (pronounced locally with a long "a" sound.) The Anglo-Saxon family name later becomes "de Pakenham". Pacca's descendants continued to farm here until the Norman Conquest, 1066.
The village sits to the east of Bury St. Edmunds and is administered as part of the borough of St Edmundsbury. Prior to the local government reorganisation of 1974 it was part of Thingoe Rural District. The village describes itself as the "Village of Two Mills", as it has a water mill that claims to be the only working example in the county as well as a working windmill.
Nether Hall, a separate manor house positioned on the Border of Pakenham and Thurston, is also present in the village. 'Nether' refers to the Halls 'lower' position in the village, compared to a superior Hall that previously stood near Pakenham Wind Mill. The origin of the estate is linked to the early Anglo-Saxon settlement of the village. Whilst the Lord or Abbot of the area inhabited the superior Hall, Nether Hall may have been inhabited by the de Pakenham family. Nether Hall passed to Edmund de Pakenham in 1292, and when he died in 1332 to his widow, Rohais, or Rosia de Pakenham. After her death in 1352 it passed to her son, Edmund, and thence to his widow, Mary de Pakenham in 1360 (who was the first recorded person in Pakenham to show interest in education.
The Manor of Nether Hall remained in the possession of the de Pakenham's for about six descents. Theobald de Pakenham, the last holder, died without male issue. His daughter, Margaret, married Sir William de Bardwell, the standard bearer to the Black Prince; and the family of the de Pakenham's pass from the history of the village. Their memory is recorded in ancient stained glass in a window of Bardwell Church. The sword which hangs in the church is reputed to be that of Sir William de Bardwell. After the disappearance of the Pakenham family from the village the Nether Hall Manor reverted to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury. Little is known about the Inferior Manor of Pakenham until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, although we find a reference to part of it being farmed by the Drury family of Rougham, the family which gave their name to Drury lane, London. Very soon after, like all the other Manors of the Liberty of St. Edmunds, it was sold to a wealthy family. Thus it was acquired by Thomas Bacon and his son, George, who died in 1579, thence it passed to his son and heir, John. This same Thomas Bacon, a member of a branch of the famous Bacon family of that era, was seated at Hessett. The mercantile Bright family occupied Nether Hall for one hundred and sixty-four years. Robert Bright, the purchaser, is noted chiefly for the building of Newe House, Pakenham, which was completed in 1622. He erected it originally to be his own residence; and his eldest, married son, Thomas lived in Nether Hall. When he died in 1630, he left Newe House to his second son, Henry, and settled his Great Barton lands upon Robert, his third son. Nether Hall remained in the possession of the Bright family until 1765.
Mary Bright, daughter of the fourth Thomas Bright, was the last of the name to inherit Nether Hall. She married Edmund Tyrell, of Plashwood Hall, Haughley, in 1744, and the estate was inherited by their son, Edmund Tyrell, after the death of his father. This son, who had also inherited Plashwood Hall, sold the Nether Hall estate to George Chinery, of Bury St. Edmunds, in 1775. One portrait of the Bright family remains on the stairway of Nether Hall to remind the visitor of their long residence. There were originally four portraits, two half length pictures of ladies, one of whom was about eighteen years old, and the other one of about forty years; and two portraits of gentlemen, dressed in the costume of the times of James II. The surviving portrait is said to be that of Agatha, aged twenty or of Mary, aged eighteen, both the daughters of the Thomas Bright of the day.
Little is known of George Chinery, except that he was described as "a Gentleman", obviously a man of independent means and that he died in 1807, and was buried in Thurston. He left the Nether Hall estate to his nephew, the Rev. William Bassett, who was Rector of Thurston. His son, William C. Bassett succeeded by entail and was residing in Nether Hall in 1857. The Nether Hall Estate changed hands again in 1886 when it was purchased by Mr. William Hardcastle for £38,000. He never lived in Nether Hall, and he very soon sold it to Mr. Edward Greene, who was M.P. for the Bury St. Edmunds Division. Deer were reared on the deer paddock in the Park, which until the late twentieth century still bore, along one side, the incurved wire fence placed there to prevent their escape.
A pleasant feature of Nether Hall Park is the lake, the shining waters of which can be seen in its tree-lined setting from the terrace on the lawn. It is an artificial lake, excavated in the valley of a small stream which runs from Barton Mere across the Park to Pakenham Fen. This peaceful scene is the outcome of a row between Sir Walter Greene and Sir Compton Thornhill, who lived at The Lodge at the turn of the century.
When Sir Walter Greene died, in 1920, the whole Estate was sold by his heirs to Mr. A.J. Edwards, a Fenland farmer and Covent Garden merchant. Mr. Edwards lived in the Hall for only 2 years when, while retaining the farms, sold the Hall and the Park to Mr. Harold Patrick Martin. After the death of Mrs. Harold Martin, who outlived her husband for 15 years, Nether Hall was inherited by her son, T. Acquin Martin and his wife Jacqueline Martin. Determined to preserve the Hall, the fabric of which had deteriorated badly during the widowhood of his mother, Mr. & Mrs. Martin set to work to restore and modernise the Hall which was placed within the Kristina Martin Charitable Trust which had been formed in 1965 on the death of their only child aged 22. Nether Hall thus became a Country Club within the Trust. Mr Martin sold Nether Hall to the current occupants in 1987.