The history of Gislingham covers more than a thousand years, and there are significant indications of an even more remote past for Neolithic man has left his weapons and tools of flint in our fields and gardens.
A Roman urn containing coins was discovered just south of Laurel Farm, and subsequently there may have been a Saxon settlement here, but it is not until the end of the ninth century that the past begins to take visible form.
In 880 A.D. a Norseman by the name of Gisli brought his long-ship ashore at Frostenden, then on the coast of Suffolk; pushing a few miles inland he settled at what is now Gisleham, literally the home of Gisli, not far from Kessingland. Thirty years later, in 910 A.D., one of his sons, who would have been named Gisling by Norse custom, is said to have pushed westward and started a settlement at Gislingham – the home of Gisling.
The Gislingas were Vikings, and a Viking never walked if he could travel by water. In those times a vast forest stretched from, Halesworth to Stowmarket, making movement by land both difficult and dangerous. On the other hand, the Waveney Valley was then an estuary of the sea as far as the place now called Beccles, and the Waveney and its tributaries were substantial rivers for most of their length.
In all probability Gisling, his family and followers, launched their long-ship on the estuary near Gisleham then rowed and sailed up the Waveney to its junction with the Dove. They then turned up the Dove past Eye, and continued up Thornham Street to the present site of our village. Alternatively, following the Norse custom, he left his ship under guard behind a stockade at the head of navigation and travelled overland for the last few miles. An existing Saxon settlement may well have determined his choice of a site where the Forest was already cleared.
(from the 1970 text by Ronald J. Elliott)