Historically, Chediston is part of a long-enduring basic unit of rural settlement. No human group can live, and above all survive, to reproduce itself, unless it contains at least four or five hundred individuals. Until a hundred years ago that meant a village, or several neighbouring villages, in touch with each other, formed both a social community based on kinship, and an area distinguished by cultivation, land-clearance, roads, paths and dwellings. This has been described as a 'cultural clearing' - which for the first migrants encountering Suffolk's coastal topography, meant an open space literally hacked out of the forest.

Within the charmed circle of these thousands of small units, history passed in slow motion, lives repeated themselves from one generation to the next; the landscape obstinately remained the same, or very nearly so. Pre-industrial Chediston is reflected in its tithe map as a patchwork of ploughed fields, meadows, gardens, orchards and hemp-plots; herds grazed in the wet valley bottoms; and everywhere there were the same implements: pick, shovel, plough, and mill, all manufactured and maintained by the blacksmith's forge and wheelwright's shop.

At the level above these little communities, linking them together whenever they were less than completely self-sufficient, came the smallest possible economic unit: a complex consisting of a small market town, perhaps the site of a fair, with a cluster of dependent villages around it. Each village had to be close enough to the town for it to be possible to walk to and from market in a day. But the actual dimensions of the unit would equally depend on the available means of transport, the density of settlement, and the fertility of the area in question. The more scattered the population, and the more barren the soil, the greater the distances travelled.

With respect to Victorian Chediston, this represents the extreme rurality of the natural resources from which Halesworth’s colonists were escaping.