Although the records are sketchy, Alpheton was founded, it is believed, by Aefflead, whose husband Byrthnoth, Earl of Essex, was killed at the battle of Maldon, on the Blackwater River in Essex, in AD 991.
The battle was one of many against the invading Vikings from Scandinavia and might not have been of note if Byrthnoth had not decided to make a stand and fight, rather than paying the Danegeld which was, as usual, demanded by the invaders. The decision would also not have been disastrous if he had forced the invaders to fight on the soft sand, which was wholly to the advantage of the defenders. As it was they were allowed to come onto the harder ground and, with their superior numbers, they defeated and killed Byrthnoth.
Aefflead was the sister-in-law of the Saxon king Edmund the Elder, and following the battle and the death of her husband, she moved north from Maldon and settled in what was originally called Aefflead's Tun (estate) and probably lived in Alpheton Hall. The name was altered through the ages and is described as Alfreton in the Domesday Book. The origin of the present name is not known, but it would appear that it was a variation on the previous ones.
The village has changed little over the centuries and has maintained a rural farming existence. There are now four farms in the village, Alpheton Hall, Clapstile Farm, Tye Farm and the largest, Lavenham Lodge. Before the war many of the properties in the village were occupied by people working on the farms. Housing is now a mixture of local authority and privately owned homes.
The Two World Wars
Like so many other communities in the country, many of the young village men fought in The First World War. The names of those who died are inscribed on a marble tablet in the Church.
During the twenties, life returned more or less to normal, although there were changes. In 1936 the School in the Glebe closed and all the Alpheton pupils had to go to Shimpling. The school building initially became the Village Hall and then a private house when the new hall was built.
In 1939, The Land Girls of The Women's Land Army appeared in Alpheton.They came to help with the work in the fields and they were billeted in homes around the village. The Old Rectory alone had 30 living in all the rooms, which were converted to make dormitories and a sitting room. Other newcomers were the evacuees from the East End of London, some of whom were housed in Buxtons which was then empty.
In 1941 a major event occurred in the village, with the start of the construction of the airfield (also known as Lavenham Airfield) on the land belonging to Lavenham Lodge Farm. Many Irish workers moved in to work for the construction giant Laings and were accommodated in the Old School. Their weekly visits to the Post Office, which then existed where Thatched Acre is now, to pay in their wages, formed a queue right up to the top of the road. The constant flow of lorries, up the Bury Road became a familiar sight, not to say a trial with constant accidents. However it was not long before work started on the new main road to take normal road traffic away from the village. This new road was opened in 1942 to the west of the existing one, which became at that time The Old Bury Road.
Work on the airfield was completed by 1943, but it was not secured until it became operational. Many people visited it and marvelled at the luxurious accommodation being provided for the Americans for whom it was being built.
Operational aircraft arrived in 1944. They were B24H and B24J Liberator bombers of 487th Bombardment group, part of 8th Airforce of the United States. They were later reinforced by B17 Flying Fortresses who remained for a year until the end of the war. The aircraft were identified by a white P in a black square painted on the upper surfaces of the wings and on the tail fin. Their first mission was carried out 7th May 1944 and the last on 21st April 1945. During this period, on 24th December 1944, they carried out the biggest 8th Airforce mission of the war. The operation was dogged by misfortune from the start with poor weather and the escorting Mustang fighters delayed by bad visibility. As a result the bombers flew unescorted and lost four B17s, including that of the Commanding General of 4th Wing (of which 487 was a part), General Frederick Castle, who was shot down and killed. He was able to hold the aircraft long enough for the crew to bale out but he himself was lost. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour, America's highest award for gallantry. During their operational tour, 85 aircraft were lost.
The film '12 O'Clock High' was based on Lavenham/Alpheton airfield.
For more information on the airfield, go to www.lavenham.co.uk/airfield/
Peace time meant many changes. The Red Lion, known as "The 'alf eaton lion", which suffered so much loss of trade from the diversion of the road that it could not keep going, closed in 1964.
Closure of the Post Office and the village shop followed in 1975. Once the pub had closed, the adjoining land, which used to be orchards, was sold and the present chalet bungalows were built on The Glebe.
So too were a number of houses on both sides of the main road, but nevertheless there are still a number of old properties, some dating back to the middle ages. The most notable are the Mill House (c1350), Clapstile (c1390), Buxtons (c1460) and the Old Rectory (c1650), but there are others throughout the village.
Tallage is reputed to be the old Toll House on the main road between Bury and Sudbury. There was a Mission Room, housed in a small inter-denominational chapel in Bridge Street for many years. It was started in 1911. The first services were held in the barn with the congregation sitting on sacks of beans.