The History of Wiston

Although the official name for Wiston is Wissington, early documents suggest that Wiston is the original name, and it is certainly the one the local people always use. It had been a part of the manor of Nayland in 1066 but by 1087 had been given to a separate Norman family who lived over the river in Essex at Little Horkesley. From then on the history of Nayland and Wiston diverged. Wiston was administered from over the river and its links were with Little Horkesley rather than Nayland. The Lords of the Manor built the little Norman church, which still survives as a separate parish church, and they ran their estates in Wiston in conjunction with their land in Essex. The early wills and the taxation lists which still exist show only farmers in Wiston, and it remained purely an agricultural parish until the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1883 the new West Suffolk county council decided that the two strangely divided civil parishes should be joined together as Nayland with Wissington, a process which Wiston resented but could not prevent. The needs of the two parts of parish, part semi urban, part agricultural, still make a slightly uneasy union.

But Wiston had not disappeared. In 1896 Dr Jane Walker bought two farms (both technically in Nayland) and founded the East Anglian Sanatorium. This opened in 1901 for private patients and soon a simpler block for financially assisted patients was added. A children’s block was also built. The Sanatorium continued to treat TB until that disease was conquered in the 1950s, when it closed. The lower block was sold away for housing and the upper block became a hospital for those with learning difficulties. While they functioned the Sanatorium and the hospital were the centre of Wiston as they provided most of the local employment. In 1991 the hospital itself closed under ‘Care in the Community’. The original ‘arts and crafts’ Sanatorium ,designed by Smith and Brewer, became a listed building and was converted into eight houses, while the rest was knocked down and replaced by housing.

Wiston still has four working farms, and three smaller livestock holdings, six being old Wiston farms and one an old Nayland holding, while the other small farms and smallholdings have been absorbed into the bigger ones, leaving it is still predominately agricultural. The mechanization of farming has, however, cut the need for workers dramatically, so that most of the residents of Wiston now work either at home or elsewhere.

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