Situated at 52° 3’ 34” N 1° 9’ 20” E, Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk in the region of East Anglia. It is located on the River Orwell estuary & also on the River Gipping, approximately twelve miles from the coast & 70 miles north east of London.
Population:- The population of the Borough of Ipswich at the 2011 census was 133,384.
How to get there:-
By road: From London & the south take A12 (junction 28 from M25) northbound. From Cambridge & the Midlands take A14 eastbound. From Norwich take A140 southbound, then head east on the A14.
By rail: Ipswich is on the Great Eastern Main Line. From London, use London Liverpool Street Station. Connections also to Norwich, Harwich, Felixstowe & Lowestoft.
From the west, Ipswich is reached on the Ipswich to Ely Line, via Cambridge & Bury St Edmunds.
Nearest major airport is Stansted in Essex. From there take A120, then A12 northbound.
Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight saving time in summer +1 hr.
Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)
Sport:Ransomes (Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies/Ransomes & Rapier)
County Town of...
Please note that the sections on the Ipswich Window, Viscount Ipswich, & Ipswich Almond Pudding have now been moved to the Ips Misc page.
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
Evidence of settlements going back to the stone age have been found in and around what is now known as Ipswich, making it one of the earliest known inhabited sites in Britain. Paleolithic, Mesolithic & Neolithic artifacts, including stone axes & pottery, have been found in various areas of the town & surrounding countryside. During the Bronze & Iron Ages the area was inhabited by a Celtic tribe called the Trinovantes, whose capital was on the site of modern day Colchester.
Although there was no town in the area in Roman times, there are known to have been a few farmsteads. A large villa is known to have stood to the north west of the present town centre, in what is now Castle Hill. This was discovered in 1854, but not excavated until 1948 & is one of the largest & wealthiest villas to have been discovered in Suffolk. Roman burial sites have also been found in the Dales Road & Tuddenham Road areas. There also seems to have been a river crossing point with a few buildings close to modern day Handford Road, where pottery & coins have been unearthed.
There are two main theories as to the origins of the town's name. One is that the town took its name from a seventh century Saxon named Gippa (or Gipe), who was known as ‘Gippa the Yawner’. Whether this man actually existed is now impossible to ascertain, although it should be noted that the Old English verb to yawn was ‘Gipian’.
The other possibility is that the name derives from ‘Gipa’, meaning an opening or estuary, & ‘Wic’ meaning a town, dwelling or settlement. Whichever version is correct, the town that came to be known as ‘Gippeswick’ was established on the Orwell estuary where it could most easily be forded, near to the present day Stoke Bridge. The Domesday book lists the town as Gipeswic. Other spellings include Gippeswiche and Gypewici. As the G was silent, the name eventually, evolved into Yppyswyche, before eventually becoming Ipswiche & finally the spelling we know today.
The name Gippeswyk still survives today in Gippeswyk Road & Gippeswyk Avenue, plus the nearby Gippeswyk Park. Adjacent to the park is the red bricked Gippeswyk Hall, which is a Grade II listed building that dates from c.1600.
There are two notable hoards that have been discovered in Ipswich; the first in 1863, the other in 1968 & 69.
Discovered in an earthenware pot, buried 10 feet beneath the ground, the first hoard was found in 1863 during demolition & road widening on the corner of The Buttermarket & White Hart Lane. The find is alleged to have originally consisted of some 150 silver pennies, although the whereabouts of only half that number are now known. The coins date from the time of Æthelred II, often called Æthelred the Unready, (c. 968 – 1016) who was king of England between 978–1013 and 1014–1016. The coins were minted in Ipswich & London, & are thought to have been buried sometime during the period 979 -985.
The second hoard was discovered during building work in Holcombe Crescent in the Belstead Hills area of south west Ipswich in 1968, with the initial find consisting of five Celtic gold torcs or neck rings (see photo, left). The items show design features associated with the Celtic La Tène culture, & are thought to date from around 75 BC. A sixth torc was found in the following year, some distance from the others but thought to be from the same collection. The find’s proximity to the Belstead Brook has led to speculation that this hoard was associated with a spring or holy well in the area. The torcs are now housed in the British Museum in London, with copies on show in Ipswich Museum.
Ipswich Ware Pottery dates from the period 650-850 AD, or what is known as the Middle Saxon period. Ipswich Ware remains have been found in the area of the present day town centre, most notably the site of today's Carr Street, where remains of kilns have been excavated. As well as in the town itself, Ipswich Ware has been found over much of East Anglia from Norfolk to Essex & from the coast to the Fens, & as far away as Kent & Yorkshire. It is the earliest discovered remains in Britain of pottery turned on a slow wheel & kiln fired, & was probably introduced from the Rhineland or Frisia during the fifth to seventh centuries. Usually grey & smooth, although sometimes with a large amount of sand in the clay, remains of cooking pots, bowls of varying sizes, pitchers & bottles are among the more usual finds. From the middle of the ninth century onwards, Ipswich Ware was superceded by pottery known as Thetford Ware, or Ipswich-Thetford Ware. Despite the name, this also originated in Ipswich. This was finer, thinner pottery than Ipswich Ware as it was turned on a fast wheel. This pottery dates from approximately 850 to 1150 ad. (photo - Colchester & Ipswich Museum Service)
The first written reference to the town appears c.955 in the will of Theodred, Bishop of London, in which he bequeaths “a messuage at Gypeswich for his sister’s son, Osgod”. (A messuage is a house and its lands.) The first definite dateable record is in the year 970, in the form of a grant of land to the Prior of Ely by King Edgar. During this period the town was granted a royal licence to operate a mint. The earliest discovered coins, from around 973, bear the head of King Edgar & also the names of the minters; Leofric & Lifringe. Minting continued in Ipswich up until the reign of King John, who shut the mints down in about the year 1215.During the late 11th or early 12th century a wooden castle was erected in Ipswich by Roger Bigod, Sheriff of Norfolk & Suffolk. The castle was attacked & besieged by King Stephen in 1153, after he had been betrayed by Roger Bigod’s son Hugh, who had sided with Henry of Anjou (later King Henry II) after being granted the Earldom of Norfolk & Suffolk in 1140 by the king. The Bigod family later changed allegiances again when Hugh’s son, also named Hugh, sided with Beaumont, Earl of Leicester, who attacked & took the castle with a mercenary army in 1173. As revenge for this, in 1176 King Henry ordered that the castle be demolished. There is no evidence of the castle today & the exact site is not known, although the Upper Arboretum in Christchurch Park is one possibility. The most likely location, however, is in the present day Elm Street in an area once known as The Mount, where the police station now stands. It was definitely not in the area of today's Castle Hill, which was too far outside the town at that time.
Although Ipswich was never enclosed within stone walls, around the year 900 earth ramparts & a defensive ditch were constructed around the growing settlement; probably the work of the Vikings, who had invaded in 869. Viking rule lasted until 917 when the town became part of the Kingdom of England. Viking raids continued through the tenth & eleventh centuries, including two after the Norman conquest of 1066. The defences were reconstructed & reinforced several times over the next few centuries. From the east, the ramparts seem to have run in an arc northwards from the marshland in the area of modern day Greyfriars, up to the Westgate, then proceeded around Tower Ramparts, close to modern day Crown Street (where vestiges of the earthen banks could still be seen until at least the 1930's), on to the Northgate. From here they began a southerly arc down today’s Upper & Lower Orwell Streets, passed the Eastgate & on down to the river. (The southern approaches to the town, being bordered by the River Orwell & marshland, had no such defences).
Although there may have been other entry points into the town at various points in the ramparts, the three main ones were Westgate, Northgate & Eastgate.
Shown on John Speed’s map of 1610 as Barre Gate, the Westgate was the main point of entry to the town from the west & was also known as St. Matthew’s Bargate. It stood where modern day Westgate Street meets St Matthew’s Street. From at least the fourteenth century, a solid archway of brick & stone stood here; the building also being used as a gaol up until the eighteenth century. It was pulled down in 1781.
Another entrance, built around 1603 & known as the Bull Gate (after Anthony Bull, who had a house close by) was situated to the north east of the Westgate, in the area where modern day High Street joins Crown Street. On Speed’s map of 1610, however, this gateway leads only into open fields & this was probably never a major route into town.
The Northgate, also known as the Barr Gate, Bargate or St. Margaret’s Gate, stood at the top of modern day Northgate Street. It was demolished in 1794, although some of the remains can still be seen in the cellars of what used to be the Halberd Inn.
There are differing opinions as to exactly where the Eastgate stood. Although the logical point seems to be at the eastern end of modern day Carr Street (known as Major’s Corner), another possibility is the junction of Tacket Street & Orwell Place. It seems probable that there were entry points to the town in both these locations, although what form they took & when they were taken down is unknown.
The area today known as St Margaret’s Green was, from Anglo-Saxon times onwards, a meeting place known as Thingstead. Whilst this could have been the main meeting place, or folkmoot, for the people of Ipswich, the fact that it was located outside of the town’s northern ramparts has led some to believe that it was actually the meeting place for the much larger area known as Wicklaw; the five & a half hundreds to the east of Ipswich that belonged to the Monastery of Ely, also known as the Liberty of St Etheldreda. The name Thingstead, is thought to be of Scandinavian origin; the ‘thing’ element meaning an assembly or meeting place. The name also appears in Suffolk as Thinghog, or later Thinghoe, which refers to the Liberty of Bury St Edmunds in the west of the county.
Why not sign the Guestbook?
On 25th May 1200, King John granted the town its charter, making Ipswich a ‘Free Borough’ & giving the town the right to self government. On 29th June of that year, a meeting of the whole community took place in the churchyard of St. Mary Le Tower to elect its own bailiffs & coroners. It was also decided that the town should elect a council, made up of twelve ‘portmen’. Contrary to popular belief, the king didn't visit Ipswich to present the charter, as he was in France at the time.
One of the first tasks of the new government was to set the town’s by-laws, which were detailed in a document called “Le Domesday”, named after William the Conqueror’s famous Doomsday Book of 1086.
In 1271, however, a town clerk named John Le Blake disappeared with the original Domeday, as well as other records, & neither he nor the documents were ever seen again. It wasn’t until 1291 that a new document was written out based on the stolen records, after Ipswich had endured a period of eight years during which the constitution was suspended & direct rule by the Crown imposed. When the new council was established, the bailiffs, coroners & portmen were supplemented by a council of 24 men elected by the whole town (This arrangement lasted until 1835, when a new corporation with a mayor, aldermen & councillors came into being). The new volume was called “Domesday des Leyes e des usages de Gippeswiz” but is more commonly known as the “Little Domesday Book”. The original “Little Domesday” also disappeared some time during the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries. Several copies have survived, however, two of which are now in the British Museum.
In 1521 the “Great Domesday Book” was compiled; being a larger, expanded edition of the earlier work. Written on 271 sheets of vellum, the “Great Domesday Book of Richard Percyvale” as it was also known, is divided into seven books, which include, amongst other things, the original charter of 1200, the 1512 charter confirmed to the town by Henry VIII, as well as one of the most complete records of taxes, fees, grants & memoranda to have survived anywhere in England from this period.
Several months after the granting of Ipswich’s charter in May 1200, the town’s newly formed government designed a town seal (see picture, left). Depicted on it is a Man o’ War vessel with castles fore & aft; much different from the small coastal vessels that would have been in use by the Ipswich merchants of that time, & possibly an early representation of the collier ships that would, in future centuries, become known as ‘Ipswich Catts’ (see page). But what is most interesting about the design, is that it is the first known example anywhere in the world of a ship with a movable rudder, as opposed to a steering oar commonly in use during that era.
The reverse of the seal depicts the church of St Mildred on the Cornhill, which would eventually become the town’s court & Town Hall.Top of Page
The design of Ipswich’s Coat of Arms is based on the arms of the Cinque Ports of Kent & Sussex, which provided support for the Royal Navy in centuries past.
The shield shows a lion rampant on the left, with the sterns of three ships on the right. This is supported by two seahorses. Above the shield, an armoured helmet is topped by a lion holding a sailing ship.
The Augustinian Order (also known as the Austin Canons or Black Canons), established two priories in Ipswich during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189); Holy Trinity & St. Peter & Paul.
Although there had been an earlier church called Holy Trinity mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, Holy Trinity Priory, located on the site of what is now Christchurch Mansion, was built in 1177. In 1536 it was seized by the Crown and the priory was suppressed the following year. The site was purchased in 1545 by Paul Withipoll, a London merchant, whose son Sir Edmund commenced building the Mansion in 1548.
The Priory of St. Peter & Paul was located on modern day College Street, near St. Peter’s church. In late 1296 & early 1297 King Edward I stayed at the priory for the wedding of his daughter Elizabeth. In 1528 Cardinal Wolsey obtained papal permission to suppress the priory, and it became his shortlived Cardinal College of St. Mary. After his fall, in 1531 the property was sold to Thomas Alvard, a member of the King’s Household.
During the latter half of the thirteenth century, the Dominicans, Franciscans & Carmelites all set up friaries in Ipswich.
The first to arrive were the Dominicans, or Blackfriars. Founded by Henry III, the order established themselves in Ipswich in 1263, their church & buildings being located in between modern day Foundation Street & Lower Orwell Street. The excavated remains of their buildings can still be seen today (See photo, right).
In 1278/9 the Carmelite or Whitefriars established their community in the area between the modern day Buttermarket & Falcon Street. King Henry VI was entertained here in 1452. Remains of their buildings were still in existence in the late nineteenth century. In 1987, during excavation works in the Buttermarket, the remains of the Carmelite church, chapter house & cloisters were discovered, although nothing is visible above ground today.
The Franciscan or Greyfriars, also known as the Friars Minor, established themselves in what is now Franciscan Way & Friars Street, close to St. Nicholas’ church, probably around 1280. Although nothing remains of their buildings, the area is still known as Greyfriars. (See also Ipswich Man - BBC Documentary)page
As the three friaries were not particularly wealthy, they were not suppressed until 1538.
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
In 1297, the daughter of King Edward I, Princess Elizabeth, married John, Count of Holland in the Chapel of Our Lady near the Westgate in Ipswich. Also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, the chapel, built around 1152, housed a statue known as the Madonna of Ipswich. The statue was believed to perform miracles, & was a destination for pilgrims from at least the thirteenth, up until the sixteenth centuries.
Sir Thomas More, in 1515, witnessed a miracle in which a girl was supposedly cured of blasphemy at ‘Our Ladye of Ippeswitche’ (see The Maid of Ipswich, below). Other notable visitors were Catherine of Aragon in 1517 & Henry VIII in 1522.
When the Church of England broke with Rome, Henry VIII ordered the destruction of shrines like Our Lady of Ipswich. In July 1538 the statue was removed & taken to London, the intention being that it, & many others like it, were to be destroyed by burning. However it is possible that the statue survived & found its way to Nettuno on Italy’s west coast. One theory is that it was taken by English sailors who were shipwrecked there in 1550. Another is that, rather than being destroyed, it was sold. Whether the statue that stands in the Piazza Massino is the Ipswich Madonna, or how She came to be there, will probably never be known with certainty. However, the Nettuno statue is known as ‘The English Lady’ & the front part of her shoes are made of silver. It was recorded, when the statue was moved from Ipswich to London in 1538, that She possessed ‘half shoes of silver’.
It is not clear exactly when the Chapel of Our Lady was destroyed, but it would probably not have survived long after the Madonna’s removal. Today, a bronze statue & a plaque adorn the wall of Lady Lane, just off Westgate Street (see picture, above right). A replica of the Nettuno statue can also be found at the rededicated shrine in St. Mary Elms church in Elm Street.
Anne Wentworth (c.1503-c.1572) was the daughter of Sir Roger Wentworth of Gosfield, Essex, who was twice MP for Ipswich, and also a friend of Sir Thomas More. Around 1515, when Anne was twelve, she fell ill and suffered from seizures in which she blasphemed and began to have visions, all of which were believed to be the work of Satan. Then one of her visions convinced her that she must go on a pilgrimage to the Virgin at Our Lady of Ipswich (see above). She did so and went through various torments there. However, these torments supposedly drove out the devils that had possessed her and, in the presence of the whole company, she was suddenly restored. Anne was left with the gift of prophesy, and thereafter was sought after as “The Maid of Ipswich”. In grateful recognition of the miracle, she took the veil and became a nun. She entered the convent of Bruisyard in Suffolk and, after the dissolution of the monasteries, she lived in Framlingham.
Situated in Christchurch Park in central Ipswich is a memorial to the Nine Ipswich Martyrs. Erected in 1903, the stone monument commemorates nine Protestants burnt at the stake for their beliefs during the period 1538-1558. Seven of the nine people whose names are commemorated; N Peke (1538), ? Kerby (1546), Robert Samuel (1555), Agnes Potten (1556), Joan Trunchfield (1556), Alexander Gooch (1558) & Alice Driver (1558), were burnt on the Cornhill in Ipswich. The other two; John Tudson (1556) & William Pikes (1558), were Ipswich residents burnt in London & Brentford respectively.
With a base of Ketton stone & a shaft of polished red granite, the 27 ft high memorial was designed & created by the Art Memorial Company of West Norwood & was funded by private subscriptions, after a series of articles by Nina Frances Layard had appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times between 1898 & 1902, which brought the executions to public attention . These articles were republished in book form in 1902 as Seventeen Suffolk Martyrs.
Most of the executions occurred during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553-58), during which time she re-established Roman Catholicism, & is known to have had more than 280 Protestants put to death; earning her the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary” in the process.
It has been said that no other town of comparable size in England has preserved as many of its medieval churches as Ipswich. The Norman Domesday Book of 1086 lists twelve churches in Ipswich (although the omission of others such as St Mildred’s, known to have been in existence on the Cornhill at that time; All Saints, which may have been situated in the modern day London Road/Handford Road area ; & Osterbolt, whose location was in the area of present day Shire Hall Yard/Foundation Street & which is possibly another name for one of the churches mentioned in Domesday that remain unidentified, all points to the fact that the list is incomplete). Five, or possibly six of the Domesday churches still exist to this day. These were all of Saxon origin & were probably all wooden structures at that time; the Normans rebuilding them in stone during the late eleventh or twelfth centuries. Those listed in Domesday that no longer exist are:
Holy Trinity, which was situated on the site of the present Christchurch Mansion in Christchurch Park, which ceased to be a parish church when it became part of the Priory of the Holy Trinity in 1177 (see Priories & Friaries section, above).
St Augustine’s, on the Stoke side of the river, which is known to have been in existence until the second half of the fifteenth century, but was probably demolished soon afterwards.
St George’s Chapel, which was just outside the Westgate in St George’s Street (also known as Globe Street), & is known to have been in existence, although derelict, until the early nineteenth century.
St Michael’s, the location of which is uncertain, although it is thought by some to have been on the site of St Nicholas Church.
St Julian’s, site unknown.
St Peter’s. There are two St Peter’s listed in Domesday, the one near Stoke Bridge (see below) & a second, location unknown.
Those listed in Domesday that are still in existence today are, St Lawrence, St Peter’s, St Stephen’s, a church on the Stoke side of the river in the holding of St Etheldreda, & two by the name of St Mary’s. If we assume that the church belonging to St Etheldreda, (& therefore the monastery at Ely) is St Mary at Stoke, then the two other St Marys are probably St Mary Le Tower & St Mary at the Elms.
St Mary Le Tower: As the name suggests, this was probably the first church in Ipswich to have a tower; an indication of the wealth of the parish. Situated in modern day Tower Street, it was in the churchyard of St Mary’s in June 1200 that the townspeople of Ipswich met to receive the borough’s first charter, which had been granted by King John on 25th May of that year, & to codify the by-laws. Most of the church in evidence today was rebuilt in during the period 1860 – 80, including the present tower which stands at a height of nearly 200 feet; the previous tower having fallen into ruin around 200 years before.
St Mary at the Elms: Often known simply as St Mary Elms, this church on Elm Street may have been built on the site of an older church called St Saviour’s. The church doorway is thought to date from as far back as the eleventh century, whilst some of the bricks intended for Wolsey’s Cardinal College of St Mary were used in the rebuilding of this church after the Cardinal’s fall from favour in 1529. The church today contains the rededicated Shrine of Our Lady of Grace (see Our Lady of Grace section, above). The row of cottages behind this church are thought to be the oldest buildings in Ipswich, whilst situated at the front of the church is a modern bronze statue of a girl sitting cross-legged handling a ball of clay. Named ‘Tam’, the sculpture was created by Honoria Surie.
St Lawrence: Accessed by the pedestrian Dial Lane & St Lawrence Street, which both connect Tavern Street with the Buttermarket, St Lawrence’s main claim to fame is its bells, which are the oldest surviving set of church bells in the world (see ’ section, below). The church was rebuilt around 1440, although the extant tower dates from 1882. Prior to this, the clock on the old tower had protruded at an odd angle into what had been known since medieval times as Cook’s Row. From the middle of the nineteenth century, however, it became known as Dial Lane. The building is no longer used as a place of worship, but is in the care of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust &, as the St Lawrence Centre, is run as a café & bistro, as well as being available for private hire.
St Peter’s: Located by Stoke Bridge, St Peter’s is probably the site of the first church in Ipswich, as this area was the hub of the original settlement by the river. Now known as St Peter’s by the Waterfront, the church stands between College Street & Star Lane, although originally the river ran much closer to the church than it does today. In 1130 the Augustinian Priory of St Peter & St Paul was established just to the north of the church, with the present church dating from the fifteenth century. The Priory was dissolved in 1526 to make way for Wolsey’s Cardinal College of St. Mary, & the church became the college chapel; although after the Cardinal’s fall from favour, St Peter’s reverted to a parish church in 1537. St Peter’s by the Waterfront is today a heritage centre & concert venue, & is the permanent home of the Ipswich Charter Hangings (see separate section, below).
St Stephen’s: Originally standing in St Stephen’s Lane, the development of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre & the widening of the lane means that the Domesday listed St Stephen’s Church now stands in Arras Square. The building seen today dates from the fifteenth century, but ceased to be used as a church in 1975. The church is now the town’s Tourist Information Centre. Inside, the church features a memorial to Robert Leman, one time Mayor of London, who died in 1637.
St Mary at Stoke: Situated in a prominent position on the south side of the river, the Grade I listed St Mary at Stoke stands at the junction of Stoke Street & Belstead Road. The medieval church belonged at the time of Domesday to the Monastery of Ely. St Mary at Stoke was extended & refurbished in the nineteenth century; the main benefactors to this work being the Burrell family who lived at Stoke Park Mansion (since demolished).
St Mary at the Quay: Situated to the east of St Peter’s, in an area now enclosed by Star Lane, Key Street & Foundation Street, St Mary at the Quay (also known as St Mary at Quay or simply St Mary Quay) is thought to have been in existence since the late eleventh century, although it is not thought to be one of the St Marys mentioned in the Domesday book & may have at one time been known as Stella Maris. Once part of the Priory of St Peter & St Paul, the present church was built in the mid fifteenth century. One of the church’s major benefactors was Ipswich merchant Henry Tooley, after whom Tooley’s Almshouses in Foundation Street are named, & whose tomb can still be seen in the church. No longer in regular use, St Mary at the Quay is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
St Clement’s: Situated to the east of St Mary at the Quay, & also on Star Lane, is St Clement’s Church. The parish was originally outside the town ramparts & is thought to have been established in the twelfth century; possibly on the site of an older church. It is known as the Sailor’s Church due to its proximity to the river, & is the burial place of Thomas Eldred & Sir Thomas Slade (see relevant sections below). It is no longer in use as a church.
St Margaret’s: St Margaret’s is a Grade I listed building situated in a commanding position at the junction of Soane Street, Bolton Lane & St Margaret’s Green, adjacent to Christchurch Park. It was built to replace the parish church of Holy Trinity, sometime after the latter became part of the Augustinian Priory in 1177. After the church was damaged by bombing during the Second World War, two leaded stained glass medallions, dating from the 17th century & featuring St Luke & St Mark, were presented to St Paul’s Church in Ipswich, Queensland (see St Paul’s Church - Link with Ipswich, England section on the page, & the Ipswich, Queensland album in the Photo Gallery).
St Matthew’s: Thought to have been built in the late eleventh century, most of the building seen today was designed in the nineteenth century in the English Gothic Revival Style by Sir George Gilbert Scott. St Matthew’s became known as the Garrison Church during the nineteenth century, as it was the closest church to the army barracks which stood from 1795 until 1929 in the Norwich Road/Anglesea Road/Berners Street area. The church is situated between Civic Drive & Portman Road.
St Helen’s: Situated on St Helen’s Street, this church has been in existence since Norman times & was originally outside the town walls. St Helen’s was largely rebuilt & restored from the 1830s onwards, with the tower being erected around 1875, although the porch is much older & thought to date from the fifteenth century. Being somewhat away from the main settlement, in medieval times two leper hospitals were situated in the general vicinity; St James & St Mary Magdalene. One of these is thought to have stood very close to St Helen’s church, although opinion is divided as to which one. The Leper Hospital of St Mary Magdalene is known to have been in existence since at least the year 1199.
St Nicholas: St Nicholas stands on Franciscan Way & was built in the fourteenth century on the site of a previous church. This may have been the Domesday mentioned St Michael’s, as in 1818, during restoration, workmen discovered a wall painting of St Michael fighting a dragon, with a carved Anglo-Saxon inscription. Another inscription, this one in Latin & thought to date from the early twelfth century, is a dedication to a church called All Saints. This panel of Caen stone may have originally come from the lost church of that name that is thought to have stood near Handford Road Bridge.
Thomas Wolsey, whose house was in nearby St Nicholas Street, was probably baptized here & would have attended St Nicholas as a boy. His parents are buried here. Today the church is owned by the Anglican Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, & run as the St Nicholas Centre; a conference & events venue, which also includes The Sanctuary restaurant.
Unitarian Meeting House: Built in 1699 & opened the following year, this timber framed Grade I listed building is located in Friars Street, & is today overshadowed by the modern glass structure of the adjacent Willis Building. The Meeting House was built by English Presbyterians, but during the 18th century the congregation gradually moved to a Unitarian position. When legal restrictions were removed on calling themselves Unitarians (1813), & having possession of their own places of worship (1844 Dissenters’ Chapels Act), the Meeting House became known as Unitarian. The word Church, Chapel and Meeting House have over time been used to describe the building, although for many years it has been known as a Meeting House as in the original Trust Deed of 1711. It is one of the finest surviving examples of a purpose-built seventeenth century Nonconformist church in England. The interior includes many impressive original features, including an elaborately carved pulpit.
Just outside, between the Meeting House & the Willis Building, stands the Millennium Obelisk; the four faces of which celebrate: the Millennium, the 300th anniversary of the Unitarian Meeting House, the 25th anniversary of the Willis Building, & the 800th anniversary of the town’s first charter.
(Please note: All the churches listed above are Grade II listed buildings, unless otherwise stated)
See the Churches: Ipswich, England album in the Photo Gallery for pictures of all the churches featured above.
The set of five bells in St. Lawrence Church in Dial Lane, central Ipswich are the oldest surviving set of church bells in the world. Often called “Wolsey’s Bells”, four of them were cast around the year 1450, with the fifth being added around 1480. They have remained undamaged for over five hundred years & still retain their original clappers.
The tower in which they were housed was deemed unsafe in 1985 & the bells were removed while the tower was reconstructed & fortified. A new bell frame was also installed & the bells were returned to their rightful place in September 2009.
(See also Historic Churches section, above)
Click here to sign the Guestbook
The Cornhill in the town centre has been the hub of Ipswich life since at least the Saxon era. In ancient times the Cornhill was a marketplace where the people of the region would come to buy & sell produce such as livestock, meat, fish, timber &, of course, corn. (Painting on left - View of the Cornhill by George Frost).
On the south west corner, on the site of the modern day Town Hall, once stood St. Mildred’s church. Probably built around the year 700 AD, it was named after the daughter of Merewalh, King of Mercia. As a girl, her mother sent her to live in a convent in France. Upon her return to Britain, she became abbess of Minster-in-Thanet in Kent. Said to have been very generous to the poor, her popularity spread & her tomb became a place of pilgrimage. The church survived until the fourteenth century, when it was converted to become Ipswich’s first Town or Moot Hall, which was also used as a court house. Outside stood the stocks & pillory, & in this area public hangings took place. It was also the place that heretics were burned during the sixteenth century, including nine protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake during the period spanning the years 1538 to 1558; a memorial to whom now stands in Christchurch Park.
Although there may have been some sort of cross on the Cornhill since the time of Ipswich’s charter in 1200 AD, the first recorded Market Cross was erected in 1510; a gift to the town from Edmund Daundy, a relative of Cardinal Wolsey. This was replaced in 1629 by an octagonal shaped, open sided structure with a statue of Justice on top, complete with sword & scales (see picture, above). This structure was finally removed from the Cornhill in 1812.
On the south east side of the Cornhill, on the site of what is now the Old Post Office, stood a timber structure with an open ground floor area known as the Shambles. Built around the thirteenth century, this building housed the meat & fish markets & was also used for the slaughter of livestock. Nearby was situated a stake used for bull baiting; a practice that continued until 1676.
Sometime around 1792-1794, the Shambles was demolished & its place taken by the Rotunda; a circular market building with a domed roof & living accommodation for the market traders on the first floor, designed by George Gooding. This building, however, was poorly built & badly ventilated & stood only until around 1810, when it was condemned & pulled down.
In its place rose the first Corn Exchange, also designed by George Gooding. Above the entrance, the statue of Justice, taken from the now removed Market Cross, was re-erected; transformed into Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, with her sword & scales being replaced by a sickle & a bundle of wheat ears. When first built this structure was roofless & open to the elements. It took until 1849 for a roof to be added, during a period of complete rebuilding. Thirty years later, however, the Corn Exchange moved to new premises in King Street, behind the present Town Hall, & once more this area of the Cornhill saw a period of demolition & rebuilding. Designed by Brightwen Binyon & opened in 1882, the imposing Post Office building still stands today, although it is now a bank. The statues above the entrance represent Industry, Electricity, Steam & Commerce (see photo, above).
The last remnants of what had formerly been St. Mildred’s church were finally pulled down in 1867, & the following year saw the opening of the Venetian style Town Hall. As with the Post Office, the Town Hall also has four statues above the entrance; in this case representing Commerce, Agriculture, Learning & Justice. The building housed the courts & police station, as well as the administrative offices of the corporation; an arrangement that continued until the 1960s, when the police, courts & council offices were moved to new premises in Civic Drive. The Mayor’s office, however, is still located here. Today the Town Hall also features an art gallery, whilst at the rear, the Corn Exchange is now a concert & entertainments venue.
Today, the oldest surviving buildings on the Cornhill are the timber framed Mannings pub & the Golden Lion, on the western side of the square; the latter having been in existence since at least the sixteenth century. On the north side of the Cornhill is the Lloyds building; built in 1890, it gives its name to Lloyds Avenue, which is reached by way of an archway that was cut through the building in 1929. Once open to motor traffic, the arch is now a pedestrian only thoroughfare.
With Lloyds Avenue leading away northwards, Princes Street running to the south, Westgate Street & Tavern Street dissecting it from east to west, & the pedestrian Thoroughfare & Lion Street at the south east & south west corners respectively, the Cornhill is still, as it has been for more than 1300 years, the hub around which Ipswich life revolves. The market, too, still survives; being held here on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays.
Don't forget to sign the Guestbook
Built by Thomas Fastolf of Nacton, it was extended by George Copping, who built the ‘long gallery’; having acquired the house in 1567. In 1591 it was taken over by William Sparrowe, who turned it into a grocery & spice shop. The Sparrowe family owned the property for the next three hundred years, hence the building’s alternative name of ‘Sparrowe’s House’. It was the Sparrowe family that added the elaborate wood carving & extensive decorative pargeting (plasterwork) that can be seen today.
Legend has it that King Charles II hid in the house after the Battle of Worcester in 1651; the Sparrowes being secret Royalists. However, this seems unlikely, as the King was Catholic & Ipswich at that time was staunchly Puritan. In 1801, however, a secret chapel was discovered in a concealed loft, in which were found wooden angels & other Catholic artifacts. The King did visit Ipswich in 1668, after the Restoration, & his Royal Arms can be seen in the pargeting. Also to be seen are the four known continents (Australasia having not been discovered at the time), the elements earth, air & water, & St.George slaying the dragon.
The interior boasts decoration dating from every century from the fifteenth to the twentieth, including elaborate wood carvings, plasterwork & fireplaces. During restoration work, two painted linen wall hangings were discovered depicting the Labours of Hercules; one shows Hercules slaying the Hydra (see left), the other his battle with the giant Antaeus. These 4 feet by 8 feet cloths can be dated to the sixteenth century, as they are mentioned in George Copping’s will of 1578. Replicas of these hangings now adorn the walls above the main staircase in the house, whilst the originals are housed in Christchurch Mansion.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, the Ancient house was a bookshop. It was acquired by Ipswich Borough Council in 1980 &, after much needed renovation work, is now a Lakeland shop, with a small art gallery also on site.
Pykenham’s Gatehouse is a Grade I listed building located in Northgate Street, just opposite Ipswich Central Library. It was built around 1471 by William Pykenham, who had just been appointed Archdeacon of Suffolk at that time. Having decided that the house he had rented from the Priory of the Holy Trinity was not fitting for his status, he proceeded to have the gatehouse built on adjoining land. The front of the gatehouse consists of a large brick four-centred arch, whilst the back is timber-framed with wattle & daub filling between the studs. The room above the gateway was used as accommodation by the gatekeeper. Archdeacon Pykenham later had the Deanery Gateway built in nearby Hadleigh. He died in 1497.
Today Pykenham’s Gatehouse is owned by the Ipswich & Suffolk club, whose premises are situated behind the gateway. It is leased by them to the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust, who use it as their headquarters. In 1983 the Trust carried out extensive restoration work on the building.
Located in Foundation Street, close to the ruins of Blackfriar’s church, are Tooley’s & Smart’s Almshouses. Originally established in 1550, they were originally known as Tooley’s Almshouses & took the name from Henry Tooley (or Toolie), who left money in his will of November 1550 for the building & upkeep of almshouses for 10 townsmen who “shall be tried unfaynedlye lame, by occasion of the kynges warres”. In other words, soldiers injured in action.
Henry Tooley (or “Great Tooley” as he became known), was an elected portman & well known merchant in the town, who established trading links with France & Spain; importing wine & salt, & exporting Suffolk cloth. He is known to have rented a house & cellars in Bordeaux, & often made twice yearly excursions there. He also sent his ship, the Mary Walsingham, to Iceland on at least one trading mission.
Tooley’s date of birth is unknown, although it is thought he was born in Norfolk. He is first recorded as a householder in Key (or Quay) Street in Ipswich in 1499, when he was probably in his 20s. Around this time he married Alice Purpet, & they had three children, although none survived to adulthood. Henry Tooley’s tomb can still be seen today inside St Mary at the Quay church.
When local draper & portman William Smart died in 1598, he bequeathed several estates in his will to the poor. It was decided that a portion of the existing almshouses in Foundation Street were to be used for the recipients of this charity, & thereafter the Tooley & Smart foundations joined together. A painted memorial to Smart can be seen in St Mary Le Tower church, which depicts a panoramic view of Ipswich as it would have been in the late sixteenth century. His name is also commemorated in Smart Street, which leads off Foundation Street by the side of the almshouses.
In 1846 the old almshouses were demolished, & the Grade II listed buildings standing today date from this time (see photo, right).
Another benefactor was Nathaniel Catchpole, alderman of the Borough of Ipswich & justice of the peace for Suffolk, who left a gift of money to the almshouses in 1902. Like Tooley & Smart before him, he is commemorated in stone on the walls of the buildings.
The forerunner of what would become Ipswich School, at that time known as The Grammar School, is known to have been in existence before the year 1400; probably founded by the existing priories of Holy Trinity & St Peter & Paul, together with the local Merchant’s Guild. The site of the original school is unknown, although one possibility is St Mary Le Tower church. In 1483, however, former town bailiff Richard Felaw bequeathed his house near to the Blackfriars in Foundation Street (then known as St Edmund Pountney Lane) to the school, as well as providing funds for the education of boys of poor parents. (Felaw’s name lives on in Felaw Street, & Felaw Maltings off Wherstead Road; now an office complex).
Thomas Wolsey (see below) who had been a pupil, incorporated the school (to be called The King’s School) into the plans for his Cardinal College of St Mary, which opened in 1528. When Wolsey fell from favour, however, the buildings were seized by Henry VIII, & it was one of his chief ministers, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex (1485 1540), who persuaded the king to re-endow the school. The school’s charter was confirmed in 1566 by Queen Elizabeth I, whose arms & motto Semper Eadem (Always the Same) have also been adopted by the school.
The school remained in Foundation Street, having taken over parts of the former Blackfriars, until 1842, when it moved temporarily to Lower Brook Street whilst new premises were sought. In 1852, Ipswich School relocated to its present site on Henley Road, close to Christchurch Park; the foundation stone for the new building being laid by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert in July 1851.
The school became independent after the Second World War, having previously been closely connected with the Borough. In 1977 girls were admitted for the first time & the school is now fully co-educational. The school has now moved away from the previous boarding school tradition, & today the majority of the students are day pupils.
As well as Thomas Wolsey, other notable Old Ipswichians include author Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856 -1925), pioneering neuro-physiologist and Nobel Prizewinner Sir Charles Scott Sherrington (1857 -1952), & artist, designer & President of the Royal Academy Sir Edward John Poynter (1836 -1919).
Established in April 1873, Ipswich High School for Girls is an independent school that originally operated from The Assembly Rooms in Northgate Street. Having moved to a large house in Westerfield Road in 1905, the school relocated in 1992 to its present location; the Grade I listed Woolverstone Hall, set in 80 acres of parkland on the banks of the River Orwell just outside Ipswich. Notable former pupils include children’s author Enid Blyton (see below) & Eastenders actress June Brown (Dot Branning).
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
The Master’s House, situated at 19 Lower Brook Street, is so called because it was once the dwelling place of the Master of Ipswich Grammar School. Built in the 1590s, it was originally known as the Preacher’s House, as it was built for Dr John Burges, who was town preacher or lecturer at the time; a post that had been established by the Town Corporation during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1556-1603). It was also later the home of another more famous town preacher named Samuel Ward (1577–1640).
Puritan preacher Samuel Ward was born in Haverhill, Suffolk & moved to Ipswich in 1605, having previously attended St. John’s & Sidney Sussex Colleges in Cambridge. Aside from a brief spell in Holland in the late 1630s, he would remain the town lecturer of Ipswich until his death; preaching from the pulpit of St Mary-le-Tower Church. During this period, Ipswich was a staunchly Puritan town, & although popular with the local people, the outspoken Ward was often in trouble with both the Church & the Crown. In 1621, he spent a short spell in prison for producing an anti-Catholic/anti-Spanish engraving entitled Double Deliverance, with caricatures of both the Pope & the King of Spain. These were seen as an insult by the Spanish ambassador in London, at a time when King James I was attempting to negotiate the marriage of his son Charles to the Spanish Infanta Maria. In the following year, Samuel Harsnet, the Bishop of Norwich, began proceedings against Ward for non-conformity, although he was subsequently released from prosecution. He was sent to prison again in 1635, however, having fallen foul of the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud’s attempts to impose conformity on the Church.
Samuel Ward died in March 1640 & was buried in St Mary-le-Tower Church in Ipswich.
One of Ward’s brothers, John, was rector at St Clement’s Church in Ipswich. Another brother, Nathaniel Ward (See Page), emigrated to America, where he is regarded as the ‘Father of the First American Constitution’.
After the house was acquired by Ipswich School, it was the birthplace of William King (1786-1865), whose father, the Rev. John King, was master of the school at that time. King became a physician before moving to Brighton, where, in the late 1820s, he founded a Co-operative Benefit Fund, whilst also writing & publishing a periodical called The Co-operator. Although the latter was only produced for two years (1828-30), it is now seen as the inspiration for the Co-operative movement in Britain; with the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, established in 1844, being seen as the first successful co-operative enterprise. A blue plaque commemorating King now adorns the walls of the house.
What would become the Ipswich Institute was founded in 1824 as the Ipswich Mechanics’ Institute. The seeds of its establishment were planted in the winter of 1823/4 by John Raw, who ran a bookshop & library in The Buttermarket, whose suggestion it was to form an organization run along the lines of Dr. George Birkbeck’s Mechanics’ Institution in London & Glasgow. In an age when there was little at no education for working people, the aim of the Ipswich Mechanic’s Institute was to provide lectures on instruction in the arts, sciences & other ‘useful knowledge’.
Initially based in St Matthew’s Church Lane, the Ipswich Mechanic’s Institute soon moved to The Buttermarket. Its first president was John FitzGerald, father of the poet Edward (see Edward FitzGerald section on the Suffolk, England page of ). Other early supporters were Robert Ransome & Richard Dykes Alexander. In 1834 the Institute acquired new premises on the site of a former chemist’s shop at 15 Tavern Street. Later, in 1849, adjoining premises were bought in Tower Street, where a lecture hall was built. In 1893 the word ‘Mechanics’ was dropped, at which time it became known simply as the Ipswich Institute.
During the period 1909-40, the lecture hall in Tower Street was leased to Poole’s Picture Palace, & after the Second World War became the Ipswich Arts Theatre. It is now the Old Rep public house.
The Ipswich Institute is still going strong today, with the Tavern Street site still serving as the Institute’s library & reading room. In 2001 the Institute acquired the nearby listed building known as The Admiral’s House in Tower Street. Once home to Admiral Benjamin Page, & visited by the Duke of Wellington, it is now used as an art centre & study rooms, whilst also housing the Institute’s restaurant & coffee lounge.
With the exception of Birkbeck College in London, the Ipswich Institute is the only surviving Birkbeck foundation, & still operates as an independent subscription library and educational charity; providing an extensive programme of leisure learning courses, talks & other activities. Of all the UK’s independent libraries, Ipswich Institute has the largest membership outside London, with around 2,500 members.
In 2009, the Institute founded the New Angle Prize for Literature. This biennial £2,000 prize is awarded to a book set in or influenced by the East Anglia region.
The Grade II listed building on Ipswich waterfront now known as the Old Custom House was opened in 1845, & replaced an even older timber framed custom house on the Common Quay, which had numerous pillars running along the front that formed a colonnaded walkway known as ‘Mariner’s Walk’. Dating from the sixteenth century, this building was described by GR Clarke in 1830 as “a low, ill-shaped, isolated building”, & by the time of its demolition in 1843 it was in a dilapidated, run down condition.
The new building was designed by John Medland Clark. It was constructed from red & cream bricks & features two stairways leading up to a first floor entrance surrounded by a four-columned portico facing the waterfront, with the Ipswich Coat of Arms above. The rear of the building features a clock tower.
The building was originally known as the New Hall of Commerce, & as well as the customs & excise offices, featured warehouses, a coffee house, & rooms where the merchants could carry out their business transactions. It is now the headquarters of the Ipswich Port Authority; the successor to Ipswich Dock Commission. The building has been restored in recent years & now boasts a conference centre on the ground floor.
During the late 1920s & 1930s, Tollymache Brewery built a series of public houses in Ipswich that would become known as “Tolly Follies”. Mainly built on housing estates away from the town centre, the architecture of these ornate mock-baronial buildings is loosely based on the fifteenth century moated Helmingham Hall (see North & Central Suffolk section on the Suffolk, England page of ); the Tollemache family’s home located around ten miles to the north of Ipswich. None of the Ipswich pubs are completely identical, & some bear more resemblance to Helmingham than others. They are all spacious buildings with Tudor style chimneys, & many have their own clock towers. Helmingham Hall
Sadly, two “Tolly Follies” have since been demolished. The Safe Harbour, which stood on the corner of Highfield & Meredith Roads on the Whitton estate, closed for business in 1995 & was demolished two years later. A supermarket now stands on the site. The Waveney, at the junction of Bramford Road & Adair Road is also no more; having closed in 1995, it became a private members club named Churchill’s until 2004, when it too was demolished to make way for flats to be built on the site.
Of the surviving buildings, the fate of at least one is unclear. This is the Haven Hotel, which was built in 1928 on the corner of Felixstowe Road & Ransome Road. It was renamed the Crown in 2009, but currently stands unused after closing in late 2011.
The other surviving “Tolly Follies” are:-
The Cricketers in Crown Street (the only one in the town centre)
The Golf Hotel on Foxhall Road
The Golden Hind on the corner of Nacton Road & Maryon Road
The Suffolk Punch at the junction of Norwich Road & Cromer Road
The Margaret Catchpole on Cliff Lane
The Royal George at the junction of Colchester Road & Sidegate Lane
There are only two “Tolly Follies” built outside Ipswich, both in Cambridge. The Golden Hind on Milton Road, an almost identical building to its namesake in Ipswich; & The Cow (formerly The Red Cow) on Corn Exchange Street. They were built after the Tollemache Brewery took over Cambridge’s Star Brewery in the 1930s.
The title Baron Tollemache was created in 1876 for John Tollemache, who had been a member of parliament in Cheshire. The Tollemache family began brewing in Ipswich in 1888, when three of Lord Tollemache’s sons took over the Upper Brook Street brewery, which had been set up by Charles Cullingham in 1856. Tollemache Ipswich Brewery Ltd began to acquire public houses, both in Ipswich & further afield, as well as expanding the business with such acquisitions as Collier Brothers of Walthamstow in 1920 & Star Brewery of Cambridge in 1934. In 1957 the brewery merged with another local family brewing firm, Cobbold & Co, to form Tolly Cobbold, at which time the Upper Brook Street brewery closed. Tolly Cobbold finally ceased trading in 2002 (see also The Cobbold Family, below).
The Cricketers The Golden Hind
Originally the headquarters for insurance company Willis Faber & Dumas, the Willis Building, as it is commonly known, was designed by architect Sir Norman Foster & built between 1970 & 1975. Officially opened by former Prime Minister Sir Harold Macmillan, the outside of the building is constructed from 890 sheets of toughened, half inch thick, darkly tinted glass, with a further 180 panes around the roof top restaurant. Also on the rooftop is a garden, complete with lawn & hedges, from which stunning 360 degree views of the town are possible. The building is in the shape of a grand piano, although to appreciate this fully you need to see it from above.
In 1991, the Willis Building became the youngest building in Britain to be granted Grade I listed status. It is currently owned by Willis Group Holdings.
In 1987, the Willis Building was featured on a Royal Mail postage stamp (see right) as part of the ‘British Architects in Europe’ series.Top of Page
Ipswich Museum was originally established in 1847 at newly built premises in the equally new Museum Street. Designed by architect Christopher Fleury, one of the early promoters was Charles Darwin’s tutor at Cambridge, Reverend Professor J S Henslow.
John Stevens Henslow was a clergyman, botanist and geologist, who became rector at Hitcham, Suffolk in 1839. In 1831, Henslow had been offered a place as naturalist on board HMS Beagle. Although he declined the offer himself, it was he who recommended Darwin to Captain Robert FitzRoy. A species native to North America, Henslow’s Sparrow Ammodramus henslowii, is named after him. He was elected President of Ipswich Museum in 1850.
In 1851 Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, visited the museum & is said to have been very impressed; speaking of very little else for several days, as the Queen is reputed to have remarked. The aim of the museum had always been to benefit & help educate the working classes & once Ipswich Corporation had taken over its management in 1853, the museum was open free of charge four days a week. In 1878, however, it was decided that bigger premises were needed & the present site was acquired in High Street. Opened in 1881, the new complex was designed by Horace Chesterton & included an art gallery & the School of Art. The original building in Museum Street is now occupied by ‘Arlingtons’ restaurant.
Today the museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday & entrance is free. Highlights include the replica woolly mammoth, Indian rhinoceros, giraffe & gorillas in the natural history gallery, as well as the Egyptian gallery, gallery of British birds & many other artifacts & exhibits from all around the world. The Ipswich Story, on the first floor gallery, tracks the history of Ipswich & Suffolk from prehistoric times up until the present day.
Ipswich Transport Museum is located on the eastern outskirts of Ipswich in the former Priory Heath Trolleybus Depot on Cobham Road (just off Felixstowe Road). The museum was established in 1988 & exhibits include horse drawn carriages, trams, trolleybuses, buses, coaches, lorries, fire engines, a police car & an ambulance; all of which were either made in Ipswich or operated in the area. The museum is also home to the Ipswich Engineering Collection, which includes such items as cranes, fork lift trucks & lawn mowers manufactured by local companies such as Reavells, Ransomes Sims & Jeffries and Ransomes & Rapier. The museum opens on Sundays, bank holidays & school holidays from April to November. There is a charge for admission.
Situated at Clifford Road Primary School just off Foxhall Road, Clifford Road Air Raid Shelter Museum is housed in a World War II shelter beneath the school playground. Built during the first three months of the war, it was sealed up after the cessation of hostilities & largely forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1989, when workmen excavating a pond came upon one of the original entrances. Originally there had been thirteen sections of tunnel, each with its own stairway from the playground.
One section of the tunnel has been retained as closely as possible to how it would have looked during the war. Other exhibits include features on school life during the war, air raid precautions, a shop display showing items from the 1930s & 1940s, & rationing. Also on display is a section of a restored London Underground carriage dating from 1938.
The museum is open on selected weekends from April to October.
Set within the 70 acre Christchurch Park, the mansion is a grade I listed building that stands on the site of the Priory of the Holy Trinity. The Augustinian priory, built in the twelfth century, was suppressed in 1537 and the lands were sold to the London merchant Paul Withipoll in 1545, whose son, Sir Edmund Withipoll, built the mansion in 1548-50. In 1649 the estate was inherited by the Devereux family.
In 1735, the estate was sold to the Fonnereau family, who occupied the house until 1894, when their intention had been to sell the mansion & land for demolition & development. Fortunately, local businessman Felix Cobbold stepped in, bought the mansion & presented it to the town corporation, on condition that they purchased the surrounding park.
In 1904, a bronze statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in front of the mansion. This only survived until 1942 however, when it was decided that the metal was of more use for the war effort.
Today Christchurch Park includes ponds, a wildlife area & the Upper & Lower Arboretums. Christchurch Mansion is a museum & art gallery, with a number of paintings by local artists Thomas Gainsborough & John Constable. Events & concerts are staged in the park each year, including the annual ‘Music in the Park’ festival in the summer & a firework display on the nearest Saturday to Guy Fawkes night.
If you look closely at a picture of Christchurch Mansion, then look at a picture of Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts, you will note some striking similarities. In 1919, when Richard Teller Crane Jr was looking for somewhere to expand the Crane Co of Chicago into the UK, he chose the town with the same name as that in which he had built his home; Ipswich, Massachusetts. How much the design of the second mansion (built in the 1920's) is based on the English house, & how much is mere coincidence, is not known. (See page & Ipswich, Massachusetts album in the Photo Gallery for comparison). The Crane name is still represented in Ipswich today by Crane Fluid Systems Ltd.
(See also The Ipswich Martyrs section, above)
Built in 1814 by John Cobbold, & the home of the Cobbold family for much of the nineteenth century, Holywells Mansion was presented to the town by Arthur Churchman in the late 1920’s. The 67 acre Holywells Park was opened to the public in 1936, but the mansion fell into ruin & it was demolished in 1962. All that remains are the stables, clock tower & orangery, which are now Grade II listed buildings. As the name suggests, the park is on the site of a natural spring & is reputed to have been the site of a manor owned by Edward the Confessor’s wife, Queen Edith.Top of Page
Originally built in 1688 by Edmund Ventris, Chantry Mansion had several owners & underwent much alteration before being bought by Arthur Churchman in 1927 &, like Holywells Mansion, was presented to the town. The 126 acre Chantry Park, between London Road & Hadleigh Road, was opened to the public in 1928. It is Ipswich’s largest park. The mansion is a Grade II listed building & now operates as a Sue Ryder Care Home.
Situated at the Hadleigh Road entrance to the park is Chantry Park Gate Lodge. This Grade II listed building was probably built in the 1850’s by Sir Fitzroy Kelly, the mansion’s owner at the time.
Also within the park is a signposted walk known as the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. This is named after the Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007), who was also a prolific author, artist, poet, athlete & musician. He visited Ipswich twice in the 1980s & 1990s. His statue, sculpted by Kaivalya Torpy, was unveiled in the park in July 2013. The statue was a gift from the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, an international event which seeks to promote peace & harmony throughout the world.
Established in 1991, Belstead Brook Park incorporates a connecting series of local nature reserves on the southwest outskirts of Ipswich, that stretch from Bourne Park in the east to the Copdock Interchange in the west, on the northern side of the A14. The park includes a number of diverse habitats such as reedbeds, water meadows, marshland, grassland & ancient woodland. The one constant feature of the various sections of the park is the shallow, meandering Belstead Brook, that rises near Hadleigh & flows into the River Orwell at Bourne Bridge. The park is managed by local volunteers, together with the Greenways Countryside Project. The park includes six Local Nature Reserves, as defined by the government’s environmental advisor Natural England.
Lying adjacent to, & on the south side of Bourne Park, is the Bourne Park Reedbeds Local Nature Reserve, which are thought to be the largest reedbeds in the south of Suffolk. The Belstead Brook flows through the reedbeds, close to its confluence with the River Orwell. Otters can be found along this stretch of the brook, & the reedbeds are home to a number of species of warblers & wildfowl. Between the reedbeds & the A137 road can be found the stretch of grassland known as Ostrich Meadow, & the privately owned Braky Woods. The origin of the name Ostrich Meadow derives from Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) a barrister & Chief Justice to King James I, who was lord of the manor of Bourne Hall. His coat of arms shows an ostrich in the process of swallowing a horseshoe; symbolizing the Chief Justice’s capacity to digest legal problems, no matter how unpalatable. (The public house at Bourne Bridge was once called the Ostrich, but the name was changed in the early 1990s, when someone, misguidedly, assumed that Ostrich was a corruption of Oyster Reach, which is what the pub is now called).
Not actually part of Belstead Brook Park, but bordering it to the north is Bourne Park. This park, which stretches from Wherstead Road to Stoke Park Drive, was gifted to the people of Ipswich in 1927 by Alderman William F Paul, & was officially opened by HRH Prince Henry, son of King George V, in October of that year. At this time the trees for Corporation Avenue, which runs the length of the park, were planted. In recent years the Bourne Park Barn Owl Project has been established in the area adjacent to the reedbeds, to encourage this endangered species to breed here.
Opposite the Stoke Park Drive entrance to Bourne Park is the small Stoke Park Wood Local Nature Reserve. Now an area of woodland, scrub & wildflower grassland, it had originally been the location of Stoke Park Mansion. Although an earlier house had existed here, the last mansion was built in 1838 by Peter Burrell, a magistrate & High Steward of Ipswich, who became Lord Gwydyr in 1870. The mansion was demolished in the 1920s, & no trace of it now remains.
To the southwest of Bourne Park is Ashground Plantation; a wooded area with boardwalks, that follows the course of the brook through to the flood meadows of Bobbits Lane Meadows (see photo, right). The meadows & lake, home to a wide variety of birds including little egret & heron, are overlooked by a bird viewing screen & platform. Both Ashground Plantation & Bobbits Lane Meadows are part of Bobbits Lane Local Nature Reserve. It was in this area, when the nearby sewage works were being built in the 1950s, that the deposits which gave rise to the naming of the Ipswichian Interglacial Period were first discovered (see separate page).
Declared a nature reserve in 2012, the 11 acre Kiln Meadow Local Nature Reserve lies on the opposite side of the single track Bobbits Lane. It is predominantly shrub & wildflower grassland, as well as being home to one of the largest toad colonies in the UK, which migrate across the narrow lane to the Bobbits Lane Meadows in their thousands every spring.
To the south of Kiln Meadow is Spring Woods Local Nature Reserve. This is an ancient woodland, where coppicing is still practiced, as it has been for hundreds of years. (Coppicing is a form of woodland management, in which trees are cut back close to the ground to encourage new growth.) Nightingales can be heard here in the summer, & wildflowers include bluebells & wood anemones.
In contrast to the ancient Spring Woods, the neighbouring Millennium Woods Local Nature Reserve was, as the name suggests, planted by local volunteers in the year 2000. Approximately 5,000 trees were planted, with around a third of the site being left to regenerate naturally.
Across Stoke Park Drive from Bobbits Lane, the Belstead Brook winds through Ellenbrook Open Space, where areas of meadow & grassland are interspersed with sports & childrens’ playing facilities. The brook then flows under the road again, passing Ellenbrook Playing Fields & Quilter Drive Open Space, before meandering through Belstead Meadow; the westernmost section of Belstead Brook Park. Belstead Meadow is now a wildlife haven, with the grasslands being grazed by cattle during the summer months. In 1996, 8,000 trees were planted along the western boundary of the meadow, close to, & acting as a screen from, the main A14 road. Five years earlier, in 1991, the 90 trees that make up the Oak Avenue were planted to commemorate the 90th birthday of the Queen Mother. The avenue leads up to Belstead House (see photo, left), parts of which date back to the seventeenth century, although there are known to have been buildings on the site since at least the twelfth century. Once the the residence of visiting circuit judges, Belstead House is now run by Suffolk County Council as a residential conference & training centre.
Straddling the boundary between Ipswich Borough & Suffolk Coastal District Councils, Bixley Heath is a 12 acre site that was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1997. The reserve is located to the north of Bucklesham Road, just east of Ipswich Golf Club. The site consists mainly of heath & grassland, along with areas of woodland, scrub & reed beds, & is an important breeding site for birds in springtime.
The reserve is managed by Ipswich Borough Council & has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Located on Dales Road in north west Ipswich, & surrounded by residential streets, the 14.5 acre Dales Open Space Local Nature Reserve is situated in a former sand & clay quarry which ceased operations in 1959. It was bought by Ipswich Borough Council in 1973.
The southern section of the reserve is steeply sloping, due to this area being one side of a now dry valley, whilst the terrain on the northern side of the site is much flatter.
Dales Open Space is characterised predominantly by woodland & scrub habitats. The reserve boasts varying plant communities, due to the two different soil types present here. There are also two spring-fed ponds which support a limited amount of aquatic flora.
Straddling the boundary between the Borough of Ipswich & Suffolk Coastal District, Orwell Country Park is a 200 acre site along the north bank of the River Orwell to the southeast of Ipswich. Officially opened in 1995, it is part of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The park includes a variety of habitats along the river estuary, such as ancient woodland, reedbed & heathland. From the shoreline, the park is dominated by the Orwell Bridge, & the park straddles both sides of the major A14 road. At low tide, the mudflats are an important feeding site for many species of waders & wildfowl.
Included within the park is the ancient Bridge Wood Local Nature Reserve, where many oak trees over 400 years old can be found, as well as sycamore, scots pine, elm & hazel. On the ground, bluebells, wood anemone & foxgloves abound, whilst wildlife includes foxes & deer. In summer, nightingales can be heard here. The name Bridge Wood is thought to derive from the idea that there was once an ancient river crossing point located here (see Myth of the Roman Road over the Orwell, below). To the north of the A14, is Braziers Wood, which also contains remnants of ancient woodland (to be defined as ancient woodland, there has to be evidence of continual woodland for at least 400 years).
The northern section of the park (the part within Ipswich Borough) is Piper’s Vale Local Nature Reserve, an area that was bought by the Borough Council in 1926. Known locally as “The Lairs”, this piece of rough recreational land on the shoreline includes heath, scrub & reedbed habitats. The area is a haven for birdlife, with more than 100 species being recorded here, as well as several rare species of plant such as sulphur cinquefoil & meadow-rue.
The park also includes the Grade II listed Pond Hall Farm, which was once part of the thirteenth century Alnesbourne Priory.
The area around Alderman Canal was declared a nature reserve in 1997. It comprises two Local Nature Reserves as defined by Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment; Alderman Canal East & Alderman Canal West. The short canal joins the River Gipping at Handford Sluice (formerly Handford Lock) & then wends eastwards towards the junction of Handford Road & Alderman Road. The canal may have once been a tributary of the Gipping, but was converted into a canal with the construction of the Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation in the late eighteenth century (see River Orwell & River Gipping section, below). As well as the canal, the 2.5 acre nature reserve also features reedbeds, hedgerows & grassland managed for wildflowers, which allows a wide variety of wildlife to flourish close to the heart of Ipswich. Wooden Walkways have recently been constructed through the reserve.
It is undoubtedly true to say that Ipswich is situated where it is because of the River Orwell. And it is also the case that the river, together with the town’s proximity to the North Sea & therefore the continent, was responsible for making Ipswich a major port, & probably the most important commercial centre in England, from the seventh century AD. As R A N Dixon remarked ‘‘Ipswich was a flourishing port when Liverpool was still a swamp and Hull an insignificant village’’.
The name Orwell is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon meaning ‘river near the shore’ although it is sometimes claimed that the ‘Or’ part of the name is Celtic or even pre-Celtic.
The Orwell empties into the sea at Harwich, where it is joined by the River Stour. Historically, the estuary close to Harwich was known as the ‘Port of Orwell’, or the ‘Salt Water’. Daniel Defoe noted in 1722 that although the name Orwell was in use, the more common name for the river was the ‘Ipswich-Water’ with the Stour being the ‘Maningtre-Water’ (see also Ipswich Water on page).
During the late sixteenth century, with naval expansion caused by the threat from the Spanish Armada, Ipswich became a leading centre for ship building, due partly to the excellence of the local Suffolk timber. At this point Ipswich was being referred to as the “Shipyard of London”.
During the eighteenth century the Orwell became badly silted up, to the extent that only small vessels were able to reach the quays. From 1805 onwards, the task of deepening, widening & improving the river was undertaken & the New Cut was created to allow the flow of the river to by-pass the new Wet Dock, which was opened in 1842. Separating the dock from the New Cut was a 14 acre man-made spur of land known as the ‘Island’, which was originally laid out for public use with a tree lined promenade, seats, a bandstand/shelter known as the ‘umbrella’ & a statue of the winged horse Pegasus. Sadly the promenade, umbrella & statue were removed during the early twentieth century & the ‘Island’ is now an entirely industrial area.
Although they are in reality one river, in Ipswich the River Orwell becomes the River Gipping; this name being derived, as was Ipswich itself, from the name Gippeswick. However, at least until the fourteenth century, the whole length of the river, right to its source beyond Stowmarket, was known as the Orwell. When the change came about is not certain, but it is known that originally the name Gipping was given to a different stream; a short tributary that flowed through the marshes to join the Orwell just to the west of Stoke Bridge. Apart from a short spur on the waterfront, this river no longer exists.
Today, the Gipping rises from a small spring near Mendlesham, around 20 miles from Ipswich, flows close to the tiny village of Gipping, then down through Stowmarket to become the Orwell. Where the Gipping ends & the Orwell begins is open to debate. Some say it is at the Constantine Road weir, although this was only opened in 1903 (close to the new Sir Bobby Robson Footbridge). Others maintain that the name change occurs at the Horseshoe Sluice near London Road Bridge. The most common opinion is that the metamorphosis occurs where the river becomes tidal, or where the ‘salt water’ meets the ‘sweet water’.
Between 1790 & 1793 the Ipswich & Stowmarket Navigation was constructed on the Gipping. This consisted of 15 locks which allowed boats to traverse the 17 miles & 90 feet rise of the river between the two towns. With the coming of the railways, river trade dropped & the Navigation was finally closed in 1934. Much renovation has been done in recent years, however, & today a footpath called the ‘Gipping Way’ follows the towpath for most of the route.
For about five years, from 1929 onwards, the writer Eric Blair (1903-50) lived in the town of Southwold, on the Suffolk coast north of Ipswich. He is, of course, better known as George Orwell, whose most famous works include“1984” & “Animal Farm”. His pen name derives from the fact that he enjoyed many inspirational walks along the River Orwell.
(See also The Lost Port of Orwell, below)
Please sign the Guestbook
Taking into account the navigability of the river, it is unsurprising that shipbuilding would become a major industry on the Orwell; & as the largest town on the river, that Ipswich would become the hub of this activity. Although shipbuilding all but ceased during the early years of the twentieth century, during the sixteenth century, with naval expansion precipitated by the threat of invasion from Spain, the town’s importance as a ship building centre resulted in Ipswich being referred to as the “Shipyard of London”.
Probably the earliest representation of an Ipswich built vessel is the ship shown on the Town Seal (see above), which dates from the year 1200. Many other collier ships, or Ipswich Catts (see Ships Named Ipswich page) as they became known, would also have been built here, although very few records have survived relating to the exact location or date of their construction.
Although it is not known with any certainty, it is possible - indeed quite likely - that the Mayflower, the ship that took the English Puritans known as the Pilgrim Fathers to America, was built at one of the early shipyards at Ipswich before being taken to Harwich where she would have been fitted with sails & launched. The precise date of building is also unknown, although she appears in the Port Books of 1609-11, where she is designated as being ‘of Harwich’ (later records show her as being ‘of London’). Her captain, Christopher Jones, was born in Harwich around 1570, & many of the pilgrims who left England on the Mayflower in 1620 were from Suffolk. During the 1630s, many ships left Ipswich carrying settlers to the New World.
St Clement’s: It would seem that St Clement’s parish, on the eastern shore of the river, was probably the earliest location for shipbuilding in the town. Although records prior to the eighteenth century are scant, it is known that a ship which has become known as the Ipswich Galley (see Ships Named Ipswich page) was built in 1294 for the war with France, & one of the builders, Philip Harneys, is known to have had a shipyard in the area of today’s Neptune Quay in St Clement’s. Many of the vessels listed in the Ships with the suffix ‘of Ipswich’ section on the Ships Named Ipswich page would also more than likely have been built here. Pennington’s map of Ipswich, dating from 1778, shows three shipyards side by side in St Clement’s, situated at the bend where the river turns to the south (in the vicinity of today’s University Campus Suffolk building, near to the junction of Fore Street & Duke Street). Three other shipyards are known to have been built prior to the construction of the Wet Dock in 1840; the most southerly two, together with a ballast yard, being created on land reclaimed after 1808. Surviving registers of ships, lease agreements, rate book & tax returns provide evidence that ownership of these yards changed hands on a fairly regular basis. The leasing out of the yards by their owners to various shipbuilders was also a frequent occurrence, & very little is now known about many of these people or the vessels they built.
The best known shipbuilder in the parish during the eighteenth century was John Barnard (born c1705), who took over the shipyard from his widowed mother in 1734 (his father, also named John, having owned the yard from around 1710). Establishing himself in the second most northerly of the yards, Barnard launched the 24 gun sixth rate Biddeford, built for the Royal Navy in 1740. Around this time, the man responsible for designing Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, Thomas Slade (see below) was employed by the Navy Board to oversee Barnard’s work. Barnard also built the fourth rate Hampshire for the navy in 1740/1, although due to her size, she was built downriver at John’s Ness (see below).
From around 1742, Barnard leased the navy yard at Harwich, where he concentrated most of his efforts thereafter. He did still build the occasional ship at his St Clement’s yard, however, where he also opened the town’s first public swimming bath in 1767. He was declared bankrupt in 1781, at which time, as well as shipyards in St Clement’s & Nova Scotia, he owned several farms in Essex & Suffolk & a large house in Duke Street, just behind the shipyards.
A painting by John Cleveley the Elder entitledLaunch of a Fourth Rate on the Orwell , depicts John Barnard’s Hampshire being built at John’s Ness. Also in the picture are two other ships built by Barnard, namely the Biddeford, shown being towed down to Harwich to be rigged out, & the Granado. The fact that all three were built by Barnard suggests that he may have commissioned the painting himself.
In 1818 Jabez Bayley, a member of the famous Ipswich shipbuilding family whose businesses had until now been concentrated on the other side of the river (see below), leased two shipyards in St Clement’s; seemingly in an effort to monopolise the shipbuilding industry in Ipswich. These yards were in need of repair, however, & Bayley soon found himself in financial difficulties, which culminated with him being declared bankrupt in 1825. He later resumed business here, & although most of the Bayley family’s ships were built at the St Peter’s, Nova Scotia & Halifax yards, some were launched from St Clement’s, such as the Indiaman Childe Harold of 400 tons. At the time of his bankruptcy, a relative of Jabez, William Bayley, took over the lease of two yards in St Clement’s & this business began to flourish during the 1830s.
With the gradual silting up of the river over the centuries, in the 1830s a proposal was made to create a new channel from a point just south of the St Clement’s yards around to the St Peter’s dock, in order to divert the river & create a new non tidal wet dock. A consequence of the New Cut, as this bypass channel came to be called, was that all six of the old yards in St Clement’s were now within the newly created Wet Dock. The last ship to be built in the old yards was the schooner Doctor, launched by Bayley in 1841. (One final vessel, a small iron steamer named Chevalier, was built on this part of the waterfront in what was by then the Wet Dock in 1851. She was built by Ransomes & May (see Ransomes section, below), but due to difficulties encountered in launching a large craft in such a confined space, this event proved to be a one-off & no further records exist of shipbuilding here).
The Wet Dock necessitated the owners of the old yards & their tenants relocating, in 1841, to reclaimed land to the south of the dock. This land belonged to John Chevallier Cobbold, who had purchased the foreshore down as far as his brewery at the Cliff in 1829. Three new shipyards were established here, the westernmost one being first worked by William Colchester, (this would later become known as Dock End Yard). The central yard of the three was occupied by William Bayley, whose old yard, like Colchester’s, had also been owned by John Cobbold. The first vessel known to have been built here was the cutter Eagle in 1841. On the other (eastern) side of William Bayley’s yard, John Cobbold himself briefly established his own shipyard in the 1850s, although after his death in 1860 this became incorporated into Bayley’s premises.
When the elder William Bayley died in 1857, his two sons, William & James took over the firm. The younger William continued the family business here until 1889; latterly building mainly barges, although some deep water craft were still built, such as the barquentine Lucy in 1879 & the brigantine Clementine in 1885. The last vessel built by William Bayley & Sons was the Inflexible in 1889.
The Dock End Yard passed through various hands after William Colchester retired, until it was acquired by R & W Paul Ltd in 1901. They built several barges for their own use, & carried on repairs here until the yard finally closed in the 1970s.
In 1865 a new yard had been opened in St Clement’s parish, further south than the other three & closer to the Cliff Brewery. Known as the Cliff Yard, the first builders here were John & Alfred Lambert. They remained here for around five years, after which the Bayley brothers briefly occupied the premises before it was taken over by William Curtis. When Curtis retired in 1885, the Cliff Yard was taken over by his nephew William Orvis, whose company continued to build here until Orvis’ death in 1909. In that year, the firm launched the last sailing barge ever built in Ipswich, the Ardwina. The last occupants of the Cliff Yard were a company called Dan Marine, who introduced steel shipbuilding to Ipswich; the first being the motor barge Eaglet in 1910. The company went into liquidation in 1913, & the Cliff Shipyard disappeared with the construction of Cliff Quay after the First World War.
Nova Scotia: It is unclear exactly when the shipyard that became known as Nova Scotia in the parish of St Mary at Stoke, was first established, although the sale of a shipyard is recorded in the area in 1713. The site, three quarters of a mile downriver from Stoke Bridge, is in the vicinity of today’s West Bank Terminal. The name Nova Scotia was given to the site soon after John Barnard, who already owned a shipyard on the other side of the river in St Clement’s (see above), bought the land in 1749. For a theory as to why this & the neighbouring Halifax yard were so named, see The Villages & Hamlets of the Liberties of Ipswich section, below. By this time Barnard was concentrating most of his activities in Harwich, & used the Nova Scotia yard to store timber & coal & was soon letting it out to others. Barnard’s son William, in partnership with William Dudson, did build several ships here in the early 1760s, the largest being the Speaker, a 702 ton East Indiaman launched in 1763.
After Dudman & the younger Barnard relocated to Deptford on the Thames in 1764, William & John Bayley (exact relationship unknown) hired part of the yard from Barnard Snr. This was the start of the Bayley family’s involvement in Ipswich shipbuilding, which would see them almost monopolise the industry during the nineteenth century. John Barnard was declared bankrupt in 1781 & in the following year the yard was purchased by Timothy Mangles.
William Bayley soon set up his own yard, & it seems he had left Ipswich by 1785. When John Bayley died in March of that year, the business was taken over by his widow Elizabeth. Their four sons all worked in the yard at various times, although it was the second son George, & the youngest Jabez, whose names would become well known as Ipswich shipbuilders.
It was during the period 1787-92 that the short-lived whaling industry thrived in Ipswich, & it was probably during this period that the Bayleys’ moved the main focus of their business to the St Peter’s shipyard. Although Mangles built several ships from Nova Scotia in the late 1780s & early 1790s, such as the Ferdinand in 1791, the yard’s days as a shipbuilding centre were numbered. The Bayley family may have continued to use the yard until the end of the century, but after this time there seems to have been little ship building here.
St Peter’s: One of the earliest records of a shipyard on the western bank of the Orwell dates from 1702, when Joseph Clarke was assessed for tax on a shipyard & house not far below Stoke Bridge, close to today’s Great Whip Street. Very little is known about activities here until the 1770s, when a man by the name of Pearl Betts is recorded as building several vessels here, such as the 140 ton brig Mary and Ann in 1777, & the Ark in the following year. During the early 1780s, the yard was occupied by Captain Timothy Mangles, who was involved in the town’s brief whaling industry (see Ipswich (whaler) 1786 section on the Ships Named Ipswich page), although by 1783 he had moved to the Nova Scotia yard, further down river (see above). Conversely, it seems that the Bayley family, who had been at Nova Scotia since 1764, moved their business to St Peter’s in the late 1780s, at the time that Mangles was using Nova Scotia as his centre of operations for the whaling ventures.
In 1812, George Bayley’s son, also named George, was apprenticed by his uncle Jabez, who encouraged his nephew to open his own business at the St Peter’s yard in 1821. At this time Jabez put the Halifax yard up for sale & continued his own business on the other side of the river in St Clement’s (see above). The younger George, with financial assistance from another uncle named John Ridley, continued to build ships in St Peter’s until 1831. These included the steamers Ipswich & Suffolk in 1825. In 1831, however, he leased the yard back to Jabez Bayley. When Jabez Bayley died in 1834, George leased the yard to Jabez’s former business partner William Read who, along with Enos Page, built here until 1838, at which time they moved to the Halifax yard. This move was necessitated by the commencement of the construction of the Wet Dock & the New Cut, which signalled the end of the old St Peter’s shipyards, as they were directly in the path of the New Cut.
This was not quite the conclusion to shipbuilding in St Peter’s parish, however, as in 1852, after giving up his business at the Halifax yard, William Read opened a new yard on the “Island”, within the tideless Wet Dock. When Read retired in 1866, this yard was taken over by his foreman Ebenezer Robertson who installed a patent slip, after which this yard became the most productive in Ipswich during the 1870s. Robertson gave up the yard in 1886, at which time shipbuilding finally came to an end in St Peter’s.
Halifax: The first record of a shipyard at Halifax, further down river than Nova Scotia & close to Bourne Bridge, dates from 1783. The yard may have been established by Stephen Teague, a shipbuilder formerly plying his trade at the nearby Nova Scotia yard. In 1797 Teague launched the 18 gun brig-sloop Cruizer of 384 tons from Halifax. The Cruizer design was so successful that she soon gave her name to a whole class of warships; 111 being ordered by the navy over the next 30 or so years, nine of which were built by Jabez Bayley.
Bayley, who was renowned for the attention he paid to ventilation & rot prevention, had begun to attract orders from the Royal Navy, & expanded his activities to the Halifax yard in 1805; having found the St Peter’s yard unable to cope with the increase in business, & the waters there too shallow for the launch of larger vessels. In the decade between 1804 & 1814 he built more the 30 ships for the navy, although it is not always known in which yard, St Peter’s or Halifax, many of these were built.
One vessel that can be placed with certainty as being launched from the Halifax yard, however, is the Transit; a narrow, barquentine rigged craft built to a revolutionary new design by Capt. Richard Hall Gower (1767 – 1833). Gower had already designed a similar vessel in 1800 (also named Transit & built at Chichester), that had proved extremely successful in tests, although he was always unable to persuade the Royal Navy to adopt his design. Part of Gower’s education had taken place at Ipswich School, & from 1816 onwards he lived in the town.
Jabez Bayley also built a host of vessels for the merchant service, including brigs, cutters, packets, schooners, sloops & smacks, as well as several Indiamen such as the 579 ton Harleston in 1811 & the Georgiana of 256 tons in 1816. Another Indiaman, the Orwell, launched from Halifax in August 1817, was at 1,337 tons, the largest vessel ever built in the town.
When Read & Page (see above) were forced to leave St Peter’s in 1838 due to the construction of the new Wet Dock, they moved into the Halifax yard. It was here that they built some of the first ever iron barges, such as the Ironsides in 1841 & the Gipping in the following year.
In 1850 the yard was acquired by Thomas Harvey. He & his two sons worked the yard, building two mortar vessels for the Royal Navy in 1856. The dissolution of the partnership in 1864 signalled the final closure of the Halifax shipyard.
Above Stoke Bridge: The only known instance of any vessels being launched above Stoke Bridge occurred around 1874, when George Mason & Co. built two barges from their shortlived yard situated off modern day Burrell Road. The narrowness of the river at this point made the launching of craft difficult here, & the company’s future vessels were built in the St Clement’s yard of William Colchester.
John’s Ness: Close to the eastern end of today’s Orwell Bridge lies John’s Ness (sometimes called King John’s Ness). This site was used only occasionally for the building of larger ships, due to the deeper water required for launching. William Hubbard, whose main business was in the St Clement’s yards, built the fifth rate Greyhound here for the Royal Navy in 1703, & John Barnard also launched at least two warships from this location during the eighteenth century; the Hampshire (1741) & the Champion (1779).
Top of Page
The transformation of Ipswich Wet Dock from an area of warehouses, wharves & quays, to a vibrant, lively centre with marinas, restaurants, luxury dwellings & leisure facilities, began in 1999 with the completion of 69 apartments in the vicinity of Neptune Quay. What was once one of the largest wet docks in Europe has, during the first decade of the twenty first century, become the biggest single regeneration project in the east of England, with more than one billion pounds either having been spent, or earmarked for future development.
From this beginning on Neptune Quay, the development has spread along the northern side of the Wet Dock to include St Peter’s Quay, Albion Wharf, Common Quay, Wherry Quay & around to Orwell Quay. As well as many new cafes, bars & restaurants, the Waterfront boasts Ipswich’s only four star hotel (Salthouse Harbour), a dance studio (DanceEast), plus the University Campus Suffolk building, which was officially opened in 2009 (for further details see University Campus Suffolk section on the Suffolk, England page of ).
Although many old buildings have been demolished in the past few years, some still stand alongside, or have been incorporated into, the newer ones. These include The Old Custom House (see separate section, above), parts of the Salthouse Harbour Hotel, & the Isaac Lord complex. Known as Isaacs on the Quay, the latter features a number of bars, & hosts live music events & barbeques. Parts of this complex of buildings dates back to Tudor times, although for whom the property was built is not known. Isaac Lord acquired the house & adjoining warehouse (known as the saleroom), from the Cobbold family in 1900, & the Lord family occupied the premises until the 1980s. Both the house & saleroom are Grade I listed buildings.
One of the more unusual eateries on the Waterfront is Mariners, a floating restaurant which is permanently moored on Neptune Quay. The boat on which Mariners is located was built in Bruges, Belgium, & was launched as SS Argus in 1889. She was subsequently requisitioned by the Belgian navy in 1940, before being sunk by the Germans, who then raised & repaired her. In the 1950s she was fitted out as a Red Cross hospital ship, & was renamed Florence Nightingale, sailing under the Dutch flag. In the 1970s & 80s she operated as a party boat, before being brought to Ipswich & opened as the Italian restaurant Il Punto in 1990. She became a French brasserie in 1994, & subsequently underwent the name change to Mariners.
Operating from Orwell Quay, the aptly named vessel Orwell Lady (see photo, left) has, since 2001, run regular cruises along the River Orwell & down to Harwich Harbour between the months of April & September. Built at Twickenham, London in 1979, the Orwell Lady previously operated on the Thames & at Poole, Dorset, before being brought to Ipswich. She is also available for private charter.
Sailing cruises are also available on the Orwell during the summer months from several Thames sailing barges that operate from the quay. Common in the nineteenth century, Thames sailing barges are flat bottomed vessels, around 80 to 90 ft in length, & usually spritsail rigged on two masts. Most have large mainsail & foresail, with a topsail above.
Spanning the River Orwell just to the south of Ipswich is the 4,222 ft long Orwell Bridge, which carries the A14 road from Wherstead on the west bank to Gainsborough on the east. Designed by Frederick Gibberd Partners & funded by the Dept. of Transport, construction began in October 1979 & the bridge was opened in December 1982. The 623 ft main span of the bridge was, at the time of construction, the longest pre-stressed concrete span in existence. The bridge is used, on average, by over 60,000 vehicles per day.
(See also the header photo of this website)
Orwell Haven or the “portus de Orwell” is the estuary of the River Orwell, but there is a strong tradition that there was once a town of Orwell located here that belonged to Ipswich, but was swept away by erosion of the coast. Some historians consider this to be a myth, but written evidence is available of such a place, as noted below:
- Between 1229 and 1466 writs were directed towards the men of Orwell town (ville de Orwell), and since these appear in the same context as Ipswich and Harwich, it must have been recognised as a separate place.
- In 1173 Queen Eleanor and Prince Henry, in rebellion against King Henry II, landed their forces at Orwell.
- In 1326 Queen Isabella with Prince Edward and Roger Mortimer landed at Orwell in Suffolk in their successful attempt to overthrow King Edward II.
- In 1338 King Edward III sailed with his invasion force on France from the “port of Orwell”.
- In 1347 a ship from the “town of Orwell” is recorded.
- In 1408 an arrest was made at the “town of Orwell”.
- 1466 is the last record of a “ville de Orwell”.
It is clear that writers of the time had a place on shore or a harbour in mind, not a stretch of water. “Oruelle” is marked on maps of this period in this vicinity, but they are not accurate enough to locate precisely where it was.
Historians who claim that such a port is a myth maintain that it actually refers to Harwich which is sometimes recorded as “Harwell”, and that “Orwell” is just an earlier form of its name. Harwich is not mentioned in the Domesday Book so at that time if anyone lived there it must have been a very small settlement. It is known to have existed by 1177, and is first recorded by the name of Harwich (Herewyk ) in 1238. “Arewan” is the early Anglo-Saxon name for the River Orwell adopted from the Celtic Briton’s name meaning ‘the river’. It is recorded as this in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1016, and is spelt “Orewell” in 1216. It is a far older name than Harwich, but nobody can explain why “Orewell” should become “Herewyk” which means ‘army camp’. The fact that both names co-existed for another 200 years would indicate that they are different places. However, there is a connection between the two. Harwich is said to have grown in importance on the decay of a “town named Orwell” which is said to have been located about two or three miles east of the present shore, where there is now a shoal called West Rocks. It was on the south side of the Orwell Haven on a ridge of land jutting out from Essex. Harwich fishermen claimed that brickwork and mortar were still visible at low water, and in the late 19th century dredging brought up building stone.
At this early period there were no other port towns that could claim jurisdiction over the Orwell estuary other than Ipswich. Then in 1253 the Earl of Norfolk turned the hamlet of Harwich into a town, and started a weekly market. Medieval Harwich grew rapidly and in 1318 it was given a charter and had become a busy little port. When Harwich developed as a port in the 1270s it started to make claims to the mouth of the estuary, and began diverting ships to its own port to collect tolls. It then became necessary for Ipswich to protect its long-held rights over this same stretch of territory. In 1340 a commission concluded that the “port of Orwell” was within the jurisdiction of Ipswich, and in 1378 it decided that this extended to “the arm of the sea thereto running from a place called Polles on Andrew Sand in the deep sea”, and that it was the Ipswich bailiffs and burgesses that had the sole right to take the custom duties for goods coming into the port of Harwich.
Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that Harwich is in the County of Essex, so it needs to be seen how Ipswich could claim jurisdiction over the opposite shore. This would relate to the movement of the River Orwell at its estuary. The River Stour flowed into the River Orwell before the latter river reached the sea, and there is no doubt that the River Orwell did once flow into the sea much further north under Bull’s Cliff in Felixstowe, roughly where Felixstowe Pier is located. Since it was important for the people of Suffolk to secure the approach to Ipswich they had to hold both sides of the River Orwell. This is clear from the Domesday Book (1086) where “Langestuna” or “Langar” (today Landguard Point) was a manor held by Roger Bigot as part of his lands at Walton in Suffolk. At the time this manor would have been south of the River Orwell on a ridge (Langar is Anglo-Saxon for ‘long gore’ (a long strip of land) that was probably still attached to Essex, although separated by low-lying marshland. The question is when was the shoreline breached further south?
The argument against the existence of Orwell is that it is not recorded in Domesday and neither is there a record of a major inundation resulting from a breach that destroyed the town of Orwell, as there is with Dunwich on the coast further north. This could be because the breach occurred before Orwell really existed. It is known that there were gales and floods about the year 1100. The river may have changed direction then and burst through marshy land to the sea along its present course, although the new estuary would be very much narrower and shallower than it is now. No record survives because neither Orwell nor Harwich existed at that date. However, it appears that after the breach there was still a neck of land extending out from Essex that had not yet been washed away. There was also a headland that projected out east of today’s Landguard Point, known as Pollshead (see below). These two headlands provided shelter for a harbour protected from the east and northeast winds. The “port of Orwell” would then have developed. It would not have been a town in the sense of having churches and major structures, but an anchorage place and harbour. There would have undoubtedly been rudimentary wooden and stone warehouses, and the places usually associated with sailors at leisure, on the land immediately adjacent to the harbour.
It was essential for the Ipswich burgesses to keep control of the estuary, wherever it was located. If the rivers were now flowing through a southern entrance as well as the northern channel, it made sense to claim jurisdiction over the southern shore, regardless of the county in which it was located, and to ensure that the anchorage afforded by the place now developing as “Orwell” was under the authority of the corporation of Ipswich. There are references to “bailiffs at Orwell” in the time of King Henry III (1216-1272), but these could be representatives coming from Ipswich, rather than being resident at the port.
The port of Orwell must still have existed in 1340 because Ipswich was given jurisdiction over it. It is also apparent that some of the land had been eroded by 1378 since Pollshead was already under the sea. For some time the previous exit further north near Felixstowe must have continued to be used, but became more difficult because of longshore drift gradually closing the passage with shingle and sand. The main river currents then deepened the channel to the south. Sailing directions dating from the 15th century make it clear that the present estuary mouth was then in position and being used. Since the records relating to the “ville de Orwell” peter out around 1400, it is likely that in the intervening years the sea had gradually eroded the headland jutting out from Essex, taking the anchorage and harbour with it.
William Camden, writing in 1578 about East Anglia in his topographical and historical survey of Britain, states that “in his time at Langar Point or Langar stone there was a larger ridge of land than can be seen now which ran out to sea for above two miles, and this was put to great use by the Harwich fishermen for the drying of their fish. Now this vast ridge is mostly washed away and the port of Orwell is gone”. Charles Lyell in his “Principles of Geology” in 1830 states that “within the memory of persons now living, the Orwell river continued its course in a more direct line to the sea, and entered to the north instead of the south of the low bank on which Landguard Fort is built”. By 1504 it is known that Landguard was definitely an island. A map of “Orwell Haven in Essex”, dating from about 1543, shows that Landguard Fort is located on an island. In 1587 it is recorded as being an island at every high tide. Landguard is only shown for the first time as part of the mainland in a map of 1790.
The area between Landguard Point and Felixstowe was still tidal marshland in the 19th century, and the inhabitants referred to the area as “The Fleets”, retaining a tradition of the original course of the river being over this marshland. Maps up to 1881 clearly show an inlet from the River Orwell along Horseshoe Creek where the present docks are situated, and a tidal creek reaches almost to the sea before being diverted north by the shingle beach along the route of the present Langer Road. In 1874 permission was granted by parliament for a sea wall to be constructed to prevent the tidal waters from encroaching on to Landguard Common from the west, and with the building of the Felixstowe Beach railway in 1877, this area was finally recovered from the sea and stabilised. The area itself was built on only in the early 1900s.
It is definite that the “portus de Orwell” was a harbour belonging to Ipswich. It appears that Orwell was never a town in the traditional sense but a port covering an area of land and water rather than a specific centre of permanent population. It extended to “Polles Head or Paul’s Head”, noted in 1654 by Nathaniel Bacon as a tongue of land beyond Landguard Point on Andrew Sand, but “now eroded away”. Andrew Sand is marked in the sea immediately southeast of the present Landguard Fort. (“Polle” is Anglo-Saxon for headland so “Pollshead” is tautologous). It seems that the jurisdiction of Ipswich extended for a few miles seaward along both shores of the estuary. To some extent this would have covered the seas off Harwich which was not a separate port for the purpose of customs and tolls until 1698.
The movement of the estuary may also be reflected in uncertainty as to which county Landguard Fort was situated. Silas Taylor, who was keeper of the King’s store at Harwich from 1665 to 1678, says in his history of that town, written in 1676, that “Landguard Fort is within the limits of Essex, though it seems to belong to Suffolk”. The fort was considered part of Essex in the 18th and 19th centuries; births and deaths within the garrison were recorded as ‘Landguard Fort, Essex’. However, it is known that at the time of Domesday the manor of Langerston was in Suffolk despite the fact that it may have been on the “Essex side”. This was because Suffolk was deemed to hold both shores of the River Orwell and at that time the river flowed north of Langerston. After it became isolated as an island amidst marshland, it was abandoned as a permanent settlement place. When it became a military post it was quicker and shorter to supply it from Harwich, hence Landguard Fort was considered part of Essex only as an administrative convenience.
Until 1805 Ipswich Borough owned the estuary and could charge dues on shipping. That year the Ipswich Docks Commission was established and took over the rights of the borough to the river and estuary. The town’s jurisdiction over the estuary was removed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, but the right to collect dues continued to 1863. However, the Harwich Harbour Act of 1863 defined the limits of the Port of Harwich, and with regard to the River Orwell the limit was along an imaginary line from Shotley Point to Fagbury Cliff on the Trimley shore. This effectively abolished the dues that Ipswich could collect from ships entering the estuary. This limit to the jurisdiction of Ipswich was finally accepted by the Ipswich Docks Act 1877, and the town’s maritime boundaries along the Orwell have remained the same ever since. It should be noted that the port authorities, whether under Ipswich or Harwich, straddled the county boundary which still runs down the middle channel of the River Stour, and at the estuary (Orwell Haven) runs midway between Landguard Point (Suffolk) and Blackman’s Head (Essex).
There is a persistent story that has even found its way in some recent brochures regarding Ipswich and its environs. This is that the Romans built a road across the River Orwell and, in particular, from Nacton Shores. Many of us from Ipswich can recall playing on and using the “Roman road” in our youth, and our parents and grandparents also remembered referring to this stretch of material jutting into the river as “the Roman road”. It has become what is recognised today as a modern “urban myth”.
The “old Roman crossing point” is to be found just below Bridge Wood on the northern side of the river. At low tide a straight stretch of stones can clearly be seen appearing just above the mud, projecting out into the river. It was said that this allowed people to reach the centre of the river which they could ford, and thus the river was crossed over by a sort of “bridge”, hence it was given the name of Downham Bridge and, by extension, the nearby wood was called Bridge Wood.
“Downham”, earlier “Dunham”, is an Anglo-Saxon place-name meaning “a settlement (ham) on a hill (dun)”. This is a strange name to give to part of a river, and there is absolutely no record of a nearby settlement with that name. It seems more likely that the incoming settlers adopted an older British name for this part of the Orwell; “dubno” is Celtic for “deep”, hence it could mean “a low-lying meadow (hamm) by deep water”. Dunwich is believed to have a similar origin “harbour (wich) by deep water”.
Before considering whether this could be a Roman construction, we need to look at how long it has been known as a “bridge”. The earliest reference we can find dates back to 1565 when a commission of enquiry into the conditions of English harbours found that “Ipswich is not so much frequented as heretofore” as nothing above 60 tons could come “above Downham (Dunham) Bridge”. In the middle ages the nearby northern shore of the Orwell was held by Alnesbourne Priory, and in 1530 the manor is referred to as “Alnesborne et Ponds”. The latter word is believed to be derived from the Latin “pons” meaning “bridge”, and has been preserved in today’s Pond Hall Farm. So there was obviously a feature of some sorts here. Whether it served as a crossing point or just a “bridge” across the water to ships moored out in the river is another matter.
We do know that during the 16th century the Orwell began to silt up, forcing ships to unload further downstream. We know for certain that Downham Bridge was later used as a quay. In 1634 Trinity House gave permission for a quay and dry dock to be built at Downham Bridge, and in 1667 the Admiralty gave an order that “if anyone should dig or break the soil between high and low water mark at Downham Bridge they should be sued”. By 1744 there was no depth to unload at Ipswich even at high tide, so that vessels that had a draught greater than eight feet had to unload their cargoes into lighters at Downham Bridge to be taken the last four miles to port. The crews would frequently walk to shore along the “bridge” in order to get to Ipswich; in 1793 this is how Margaret Catchpole met her lover (see Margaret Catchpole section, below). With the building of new docks at Ipswich in 1805 the need for Downham Bridge passed, and the quay soon disappeared. However, the material used as foundations remained. Nineteenth century maps clearly show a “boat hard” extending out into the river at this point.
So what is this feature? Nacton cliffs are mainly composed of London Clay with bands of shale and mudstones. Where faults occur, erosion causes rotational slips onto the river shore. The river then further erodes the softer clay to leave the harder band of shale and stone above the level of the beach material. This geological feature did provide a dry route out into the river. Undoubtedly early ship owners enhanced this feature by depositing their own stones on top of it in order to preserve it as a “hard”.
We need to look at the “Roman” connection. It is acknowledged that nearby Wherstead on the southern shore appears to have been a Romano-British farming settlement, but this hardly constitutes a reason for there to have been a crossing. The main Roman road from Colchester (Camulodunum) to Caister (Venta Icenorum) crossed the River Gipping to the west of Ipswich at Baylham House (Combretovium). The Roman road to Walton Castle at Felixstowe ran from the main road after it had crossed the river, along the centre of the peninsula. In depth archaeological surveys when the Orwell Bridge was built did not show any evidence for there being Roman activity in this locality. If the Romans did construct the “bridge”, it needs to be asked why the Romans never continued it on the southern shore, and why build a “road” that comes to an end at the bottom of a cliff ?
It is noticeable that no written references can be found to a “Roman road” at Nacton Shores before the 20th century. In our view, this expression arose in oral tradition during the mid-19th century. In the London Clay cliffs at Nacton are layers of nodules called “septaria”. In the 1780s James Parker developed a natural cement made by burning “septaria”, which he patented in 1796 under the name of “Roman Cement”. In 1807 a Roman Cement works was established at Harwich. In G R Clarke’s book “The history & description of the town & borough of Ipswich” (1830) he notes that “George Tovell has recently erected buildings for the manufacture of Roman Cement near to the Nova Scotia shipyard”. The “septaria” was colloquially known as “Roman Cement stones”. Boats from Pin Mill, on the opposite shore to Downham Bridge, from about 1840 specialised in dredging of such stones from the London Clay deposits washed into the River Orwell, and in 1855 had the largest fleet with over 50 vessels. This industry had ceased by the end of the century, but it seems very likely that looking for “Roman Cement stones” around the structure known as Downham Bridge soon gave rise to the belief that the Romans must have built a road there.
During the late eighteenth century, fears of an invasion of Britain by the French, coupled with the convenient situation of the town’s port for embarkation to the continent, resulted in large numbers of troops being billeted in Ipswich. In 1795, the first permanent barracks were built in the town, in the area just north of the St Matthew’s Street/Norwich Road junction (still known locally as Barrack Corner), on the site of the present day residential streets of Cecil Road, Geneva Road & Barrack Lane.
Known originally as the Horse Barracks, the first regiment to move in were the 2nd or Queen’s Regiment of Dragoon Guards. They were succeeded by other cavalry regiments until, in the second half of the nineteenth century, artillery regiments such as the Royal Field Artillery & the Royal Horse Artillery took over. St Matthew’s became the garrison church, with troops parading through the streets to the church each Sunday morning.
The 2 ½ acre site initially consisted of a large parade ground, surrounded on three sides by the barrack rooms & officer’s mess. In early 1855 the barracks were rebuilt. The Illustrated London News of 17th February 1855 described the new barracks as “the first that have been erected upon a regularly fortified plan”. The Barracks were closed & demolished around 1929, at which time the land was acquired by Ipswich Borough Council for residential development. Parts of the barrack walls are still in evidence at the bottom of some of the gardens of the houses in Geneva Road & Cecil Road, & in Barrack Lane gate posts still exist with stone balls on top & inscriptions on the pillars (see photo, left).
Around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, there were also two other less permanent barracks in the town. One was known as Stoke Barracks, situated in the maltings buildings off Wherstead Road (now Felaw Maltings), which were converted for the purpose. The buildings reverted to maltings around 1813. There is no visible evidence today of the second site; a wooden hutted camp known as St Helen’s Barracks that was situated just north of Woodbridge Road, in the vicinity of Brunswick Road, Belvedere Road (formerly Parade Field Terrace) & Parade Road. This too closed about 1813.
In 1794 Ipswich Corporation put forward a proposal to raise an Ipswich Regiment of regular troops. Although this plan never came to fruition, an internal defence force known as the Loyal Ipswich Volunteer Corps was proposed & came into being in that same year. This was in response to the growing threat of an invasion by France during the War of the First Coalition, (1793-97) which followed the French Revolution, & the later Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), during which time many towns raised their own defence forces.
The picture left shows a Loyal Ipswich Volunteer Corps button from the early 19th century.
Although the troops were part time volunteers, the Loyal Ipswich Volunteer Corps were willing to take garrison duty if required. They received new colours in 1803, in which year they spent three weeks on permanent duty in Hadleigh. A further three weeks of permanent duty followed at Ipswich barracks in 1805.
The Corps’ first taste of serious action, however, came not from a foreign invasion force, but a much more local source, when in 1800 the Volunteers were called out to quell a riot at Stoke Mills, caused by protests over inflationary prices after seven years of war. Initially being pelted with bags of flour from the mill, the trouble shifted to St Peter’s churchyard, where the Volunteers found themselves under fire from rocks & bricks. The crowds were eventually dispersed when cavalry troops from the barracks were called in.
There is very little information available about the demise of the Loyal Ipswich Volunteer Corps, although it seems likely to have been disbanded around the year 1816, after the threat of invasion had diminished.
(You may also be interested in the sections on the Suffolk Regiment & Reserve Forces in Britain Bearing the Name Suffolk, on the Suffolk Misc. page of Planet Ipswich’s sister site www.planetsuffolk.com).
It is a little known fact that an army mutiny at Ipswich was instrumental in a change of military law.
When King James II fled Britain in December 1688, William of Orange and his wife, Mary, the daughter of James II, became king and queen, thus ensuring the Protestant ascendancy in the country. William had come to Britain accompanied by his Dutch guards and most of the troops in Britain went over to his side. However, the loyalty of some of the British forces, particularly the Scots, still seemed favourably disposed to the cause of King James. The government resolved to retain the Dutch troops in England, and send over to the Netherlands, in case of French intervention, those British regiments that were considered the most disaffected.
Therefore, on 8th March 1689 certain regiments were ordered to march to the sea coast, and embark for the Netherlands. Of these the Scottish regiment of Dumbarton mutinied on its march to Ipswich on 12th March whilst the Royal Scots, already at Ipswich, mutinied on 14th March. The mutineers seized the military chest, disarmed the officers who opposed them, declared for King James and, with four pieces of cannon, 800 men marched out of the town to make their way to Scotland. King William ordered General Ginckel to pursue them with three regiments of Dutch dragoons, and the mutineers quickly surrendered. As the mutineers were citizens of Scotland, which had not yet agreed to the new government, the king did not wish to punish them as rebels, but ordered them to proceed to the Netherlands.
Though this attempt proved abortive, it made a strong impression upon parliament since it appeared that the mutineers had not actually done anything seriously wrong. The army was under the control of the monarch in respect of his sovereign prerogative and acted in accordance with military law as laid down by articles. However, these articles of war could not prevail over common law in England, and whilst in England the soldiers remained subject to common law and were still regarded as civilians. These rights could only be over-ruled when the soldiers were overseas or if martial law applied in times of war, and Britain was not in a state of actual war. Punishment that might “endanger life or limb” was the preserve of common law, so the military could not take immediate action to discipline the men while in England and at a time of peace.
It seemed that the men, being civilians, could just walk away and return home. There may have been remedies under common law for breach of their contract with the sovereign, or theft of military equipment, but this was a slow and cumbersome procedure. Parliament felt that soldiers who mutinied, stirred up sedition or deserted should be brought to “a more exemplary and speedy punishment than normal civil law would allow”. Therefore, a bill was introduced and passed all its stages with rapidity, receiving royal assent on 28th March, and became effective on 12th April 1689. The British Mutiny Act of 1689 provided the discipline needed for a standing army in times of peace, and initiated modern Anglo-American military law. It allowed a court-martial to take life or limb in cases of proven mutiny, sedition or desertion. And it all began at Ipswich.
Proposals to bring rail travel to Suffolk, & Ipswich in particular, can be dated back to the mid 1820s, when an abortive attempt at setting up a railway company was made. This occurred in February 1825, when a meeting in the Shire Hall, chaired by Rev. Dr. John Chevallier of Aspall Hall, Suffolk, proposed plans to set up a company that was to have been known as the Ipswich and Suffolk Railway Company. The proposal was for a line that connected Ipswich with the Suffolk town of Eye, & then onwards to Diss in Norfolk. This, & a further attempt to bring the railway to Suffolk in 1833, failed to get off the ground.
The prospects of rail lines being laid on Suffolk soil really began to take shape in 1834, however, when the Grand Eastern Counties Railway proposed to build a line from London to Great Yarmouth. Although the company’s bill was successfully introduced into the House of Commons in 1836, with work beginning on the line in the following year, by 1838 it had been decided that, due to lack of funds, the line would terminate at Colchester. Many of the directors of the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR; the ‘Grand’ having by now been dropped), were from other parts of Britain & were therefore unconcerned about where the line ended, providing it proved profitable. Three of the directors, however, were Suffolk men, & they fought for the continuation of the line into Suffolk. John Chevallier Cobbold (see The Cobbold Family section, below), together with his father John & uncle the Rev. Dr. John Chevallier (see above), had been some of the earliest champions of rail travel & were determined that Suffolk should not miss out.
Being a minority on the ECR board, they were continually being outvoted, however, & by the early 1840s it became apparent that the only way forward was for the formation of a new company; the result of which was the birth of the Eastern Union Railway Company (EUR). For this project, the EUR hired Peter Bruff as the company’s chief engineer, & he proposed a different route from that originally planned by the Eastern Counties Railway. Bruff’s route crossed the River Stour into Suffolk at Cattawade, reaching Ipswich via Brantham, Bentley & Belstead. The Eastern Union received the go-ahead from parliament in July 1844 (despite opposition from the now rival Eastern Counties Railway Company), with work on the line from Colchester to Ipswich commencing almost immediately. A subsidiary company, the Ipswich and Colchester Railway, was set up to build the line.
The Ipswich to Colchester line was opened with great ceremony on 11th June 1846, with a special train running to Colchester from Stoke Station; at that time the northern terminus of the line, located in the vicinity of today’s Station Street & Croft Street (to the east of Stoke Hill & the present station). The journey took around 1 ½ hours. The public passenger service commenced four days later on 15th June, with stops at Ardleigh, Manningtree and Bentley. Relations between the EUR & the rival ECR, at the confluence of their lines at Colchester, were always uneasy. Passengers journeying from Ipswich to London had to change to ECR trains at Colchester, & the ECR made connections as difficult as possible, using such tactics as altering its timetable & ordering its ticket inspectors & clerks to make life awkward for passengers wishing to change trains. Under no circumstances were Eastern Union trains allowed onto the lines built by Eastern Counties. The dispute between the two companies would last until 1854, when the Eastern Union was taken over by the Eastern Counties, although it would be a further eight years until the companies were formally merged in 1862 as the Great Eastern Railway (GER).
In July 1845 the Ipswich and Bury Railway Company (I&BR) had been formed to extend the line a further 26.5 miles from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds. Although a separate company, the I&BR had many shareholders and directors in common with the EUR, as well as sharing offices, & the two companies formally amalgamated in 1847. It was the Ipswich and Bury Railway Company who built the tunnel under Stoke Hill, just to the east of today’s station. Being on a sharp curve, the tunnel was the first of its kind ever attempted. Opened in early December 1846 for freight transport, a passenger service commenced on the line from the 24th of that month. Stations along the route were located at Needham Market, Stowmarket, Haughley, Elmswell & Thurston.
In 1846, a venture was authorized to build a new junction at Haughley, with an extension line to the junction with the Norfolk line at Trowse, to the south of Norwich, which would then connect to Norwich Victoria station. This was built by the Ipswich and Norwich Railway, another subsidiary company of the EUR. The line opened in stages, finally being completed on 12th December 1849. Once again, the opening of this line brought the EUR into confrontation with their rivals the ECR, who already ran a service to Norwich via Cambridge.
A proposal for a rail service from Ipswich to Woodbridge had first been muted in 1847, with the Ipswich and Bury Railway having secured the rights to build the line. Financial constrictions, however, caused the postponement of these plans. In 1859, the Ipswich and Woodbridge Railway, a subsidiary of the Eastern Counties Railway, was set up to build a line that would link the East Suffolk Line at Woodbridge with Ipswich & the main line to London. The line opened in June 1859.
Ipswich Station: The station at Stoke Hill, to the east of the tunnel, served as Ipswich station from 1846 until July 1860. The reason for its location here, away from the town centre, was due to its convenience for passengers transferring from the steamboats that docked on Stoke Quay (close to today’s Steamboat Tavern on the New Cut West). With the construction of the new station at the other, western, end of the tunnel, the Stoke Station closed, although the site remained in use as a railway siding & engine shed until the 1980s, when the lines were removed for development into a residential area. One of the roads in this area has been named Bruff Road, after the engineer responsible for bringing the railways to Ipswich.
The present station (see photo, above right) was built on the western side of the tunnel, & opened in July 1860, with the island platform being built in 1883. Located on Burrell Road close to the junction with Princes Street, the station now serves the Great Eastern Main Line from London Liverpool Street to Norwich. It is estimated that around 3 million passengers use the station annually.
Ipswich Airport was located on 144 acres of land in the far southeast corner of the Borough of Ipswich. Established in 1930, the Ipswich Municipal Aerodrome, as it was then known, was opened on 26th June of that year by the future King Edward VIII, who was Prince of Wales at the time. He described the new airfield as “one of the finest in the country”. His brother, Prince George (King George VI after Edward’s abdication), also flew into the airport less than a month later. Throughout its existence, the airport was always predominantly used by privately owned & flying club operated aircraft, although passengers services did fly during the first decade of the airport’s existence, & again after the war, to such destinations as Southend, Ramsgate & the Channel Islands.
The start of the Second World War, however, saw the abrupt cessation of all civilian flights. With the beginning of hostilities, the RAF took immediate control of the airport, which became a satellite base for RAF Wattisham, around 15 miles from Ipswich. No. 110 squadron quickly moved its Bristol Blenheim IV bombers to Ipswich, & aircraft flying from Wattisham & Ipswich are thought to have mounted the first air raid of the war; an attack on German warships in Schillig Roads (the approaches to the Jade Bight and Wilhelmshaven in Lower Saxony on Germany’s North Sea coast).
Despite a new terminal building being opened in 1938, & plans for expansion being mooted on several occasions, these schemes never came to fruition & the airport was earmarked by Ipswich Borough Council for closure in 1993; the reason given being that the land was needed for housing development. Ironically, the early 1990s had been some of the busiest years for the airport, which now included a parachute centre & helicopter school, & hosted regular airshows. Campaigns to keep the airport open, however, resulted in a stay of execution until the Civil Aviation Authority delicensed the airport on 31 December 1996. Even so, efforts were made to keep the airfield open, until the last plane finally departed in January 1998.
The terminal building (see photo, left), which was declared a Grade II listed building in 1996, lay derelict for several years before being developed into a community centre and apartments for the new Ravenswood housing estate, which has now been built on the site of the airport.
The site of Ipswich Racecourse was situated in the east of the modern day town, in the area now known as the Racecourse estate. With a total length of one mile seven furlongs, the course ran along modern day Lindberg & Cobham Roads, then parallel to Felixstowe Road as far as Hatfield Road, before looping around & running parallel with Nacton Road for the six furlong finishing straight. The finishing line is said to have been in the vicinity of the Racecourse pub on Nacton Road, which was demolished in 2009.
The first recorded race meeting was held in 1710, & for over 170 years both flat & National Hunt racing took place here. Ipswich Races gained in stature in 1727, when a Royal Plate worth 100 guineas was awarded. In 1775 a gallery was erected, followed a year later by a covered structure called the ‘Gentlemen’s Stand’. Support steadily declined in the late nineteenth century & the final flat race was run in 1884, although the course continued as a National Hunt venue until the last meeting on 29th March 1911.
The First Steeplechase on Record: Also on the subject of horse racing, a popular myth has arisen over the years that Ipswich was the location for the first ever steeplechase to be held in England.
Whether based on fact or fiction, the story goes that on an evening in December 1803, an officer named Hansum from the 7th Hussars Cavalry Regiment stationed at Ipswich, challenged anyone in the regiment to race against his horse across four & a half miles of countryside to Nacton church. Seven others took up the challenge &, dressed in nightshirts over their uniforms, & with nightcaps on their heads, they set off in the moonlight.
The scene was later depicted in a set of four paintings produced in 1839 by Henry Alken, collectively entitled “The First SteepleChase on Record”, which gave rise to the myth. (see Paintings of Ipswich, England album in Photo Gallery).
However, even if this event took place (which is very doubtful), the first recorded steeplechase in England was in 1790 in Leicestershire over 8 miles from Melton Mowbray to Dalby Wood.
The name of Ipswich Town Football Club has probably done more than anything else to put the town of Ipswich on the map; not just in the UK, but in Europe & throughout the world.
Founded in 1878 as Ipswich Association Football Club, their first ground was at Brook’s Hall, just off Norwich Road. The club’s first president was T.C. Cobbold (see The Cobbold Family section, below), starting a family association that continues to this day. In 1888, the club changed their name to Ipswich Town, which coincided with a move to Portman Road, where they have been ever since.
In 1936 the club turned professional &, after playing for two seasons in the Southern League, joined the Football League in season 1938-39; playing in the Third Division South.
In 1955, Ipswich acquired the services of Alf Ramsey as their new manager. Then still in the Third Division South, Ramsey led the side to the Second Division title in 1960/61, then to the ultimate prize of First Division Champions in the following year; the club’s first ever season in the top flight of English football. Ramsey left the following season to take over managership of the England national side, which he led to World Cup glory in 1966; a feat for which he was later knighted. After his death in 1999, Portman’s Walk was renamed Sir Alf Ramsey Way & his statue erected at the junction with Portman Road.
Ipswich’s greatest sustained period of success was still in future when Ramsey left, however. The seeds of this success were sown in 1969, when a young manager named Bobby Robson was appointed. After three seasons of struggle against relegation from the First Division, Ipswich finished fourth in the table in 1972/73 & qualified for the UEFA Cup. Until his departure to manage England in 1982, Ipswich would be second only to Liverpool in league consistency; qualifying for European competition in nine out of ten seasons. In season 1977/78 Ipswich beat Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley to lift the prestigious FA Cup for the first & (so far) only time in their history. Three years later, in 1980/81, Ipswich achieved success on the European stage when they beat the Dutch side AZ 67 Alkmaar 5-4 on aggregate in the UEFA Cup final. During Robson’s reign, several Ipswich players went on to represent their countries at international level including: Mick Mills, Paul Mariner, Kevin Beattie & Terry Butcher for England, George Burley, John Wark & Alan Brazil for Scotland, Allan Hunter for Northern Ireland & Arnold Muhren & Frans Thijssen for Holland. Robson himself later received a knighthood & the CBE for his services to football. His statue now stands in Portman Road &, since his death in 2009, the North Stand has been renamed The Sir Bobby Robson Stand in his honour. A new footbridge, the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge also opened in 2009 over the river, near to Constantine Road weir.
Since the Robson era, it has been an up & down journey for the club, alternating between spells in the top division & periods in the league below. As at 2014 they are in the second tier of English football.
(see Statues, Plaques & Signs:Ipswich, England album in Photo Gallery for pictures of Sir Alf Ramsey & Sir Bobby Robson statues, & Rivers & Bridges:Ipswich, England album for the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge).
Since 1990, outdoor concerts have been staged occasionally on the Portman Road pitch during the summer months. Beginning with Tina Turner, subsequent acts to appear include: Rod Stewart, Status Quo, Dire Straits, Bryan Adams, Elton John, REM & The Red Hot Chili Pepper.
Foxhall Stadium, situated on Foxhall Road, was opened in 1950 & hosts both stock car racing & speedway. The outer track is a 382 metre tarmac oval & is used for stock car racing. The inner, shale track is used for speedway. The stadium is run by Spedeworth Motorsports & is home to the National Hot Rod World Championships, held over the first weekend in July every year. Other big events are the Gala Night, held on the nearest Saturday to Guy Fawkes Night (5th November) every year, & the Unlimited National Bangers Championship of the World, which is held in October. Other events take place regularly, featuring stock cars, stock rods, superstox, hot rods, bangers & lightning rods, amongst others.
The stadium is shared with the Ipswich Witches speedway team, one of the oldest & most established teams in the country. Since 2011 the Witches have competed in the British Premier League, having dropped down from the Elite League at the end of the 2010 season.
The first speedway meeting in Ipswich was held at Ipswich Town FC, in Portman Road. After plans to build a track in Bramford Road were turned down, Foxhall Stadium was purpose built for speedway & the first meeting took place in 1951; continuing until 1965, when the stadium was converted to a stock car track. In 1969 the inner track was built & speedway recommenced & has been held there ever since. The Witches’ best ever season was 1998, when they won the Elite League, the Knockout Cup and the Craven Shield. Probably Ipswich’s most famous rider is John “Tiger” Louis, who rode in the 1970’s & later became the club’s promoter.
Speedway meetings are normally held on Thursday evenings. The season runs between March & October.Top of Page
Although most sources state that Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, there is no evidence of his exact place of birth & it is possible that he was born in Ipswich. The year of his birth is also uncertain, but it is most often recorded as around 1343.
Chaucer’s family kept at least three inns in Ipswich, two of which stood on opposite corners of Tavern & Tower Streets. One of these was run by Geoffrey’s grandfather, the other by his great aunt Agnes. Another relative, Albreda, also kept a hostelry further along Tavern Street. The family name was originally Malyn, & it seems that they were also involved in the shoemaking industry; the name Chaucer deriving from chausseur or shoemaker. Geoffrey’s father John was known to have been in Ipswich after the death of his own father, when his aunt Agnes ‘kidnapped’ him & brought him to Ipswich from London, in the hope of marrying him off to her daughter.
Even assuming that he wasn’t born in Ipswich, from 1374 to 1386 Geoffrey Chaucer was employed as Controller of Customs in the Port of London, & travelled frequently around the country on the King’s business, which would probably have included visiting such an important port & town as Ipswich during the course of his work. This would account for the fact that, in his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer satirises the merchants of Ipswich.
In the general prologue, line 275, speaking of the merchant who later features in The Merchant’s Tale, the River Orwell is mentioned:
"His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sownynge alway th’ encrees of his wynnyng.
He wolde the see were kept for any thing
Bitwixe Middleburgh and Orewelle."
A rough translation from the Middle English is as follows:
"His boots were fastened neatly and elegantly.
He spoke out his opinions very solemnly,
Stressing the times when he had won, not lost.
He wanted the sea were guarded at any cost
Between Middleburgh & the Orwell."
Geoffrey Chaucer - Ipswich Library
Thomas Wolsey (or Wulcy as the family spelt the name at the time) was born in Ipswich between 1471 & 1475. His father Robert, an innkeeper & butcher, & his mother Joan, lived at that time near St. Mary Elms church, but moved soon afterwards to St. Nicholas Street where Thomas grew up. A plaque now marks the spot near to where this house stood.
Thomas attended Ipswich School before going on to study theology at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he later became a master. He was ordained in 1498 & became rector of the Church of Saint Mary, Limington, Somerset in 1500, before becoming chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury two years later. In 1507 he entered the service of King Henry VII as Royal Chaplain. When Henry VII died in 1509 he was succeeded by his son Henry VIII, who appointed Wolsey to the post of Almoner; a position which gave him a seat on the Privy Council & allowed him to raise his profile & get himself noticed.
Wolsey became a Canon of Windsor in 1511, & in 1514 he was consecrated as a Bishop; being made both Bishop of Lincoln, & then Archbishop of York in that same year. In the following year he was made a Cardinal. The Pope made him Papal Legate to England in 1518, & in 1523 he became Prince-Bishop of Durham.
Running parallel with his religious career, his rise to power in the Royal court saw him become a powerful & controlling figure in most matters of state, & the King's most trusted advisor and administrator. By 1515 he had become Lord Chancellor. Over the next 14 years he gradually destroyed or neutralised many other influential courtiers who he perceived as a threat to his position.
One of his greatest triumphs was arranging the Field of the Cloth of Gold; a meeting between King Henry VIII & King Francis I of France, that took place in June 1520 near Calais. The object of the meeting was to increase the friendship between the two nations following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514.
Wolsey had an interest in architecture; having Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames built around 1514, as well as rebuilding York Place in Whitehall, London around the same time. Both properties were seized by the King after Wolsey’s downfall.
This came in 1529, when he was unable to get Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled by the Pope. He was stripped of office & had his property confiscated; although he retained his position as Archbishop of York. It was whilst travelling to York in the following year that he was arrested & accused of treason. He died at Leicester on 29th November 1530, on his way to stand trial in London. He was buried in Leicester Abbey.
Wolsey had a great interest in education. In Ipswich he had sought permission to build a school, the aim of which was to act as a feeder for Cardinal College, Oxford (now Christ Church), which he also founded. The site chosen was near St Peter’s Church in what is now College Street, close to the quay. The school opened in 1528, but within a year was being dismantled after his fall from power. All that remains today is the gateway to the Cardinal College of St. Mary, commonly known as Wolsey’s Gate (see photo, above right).
Apart from Wolsey’s Gate, there are several other places in Ipswich named either Wolsey or Cardinal in his honour, such as:
Wolsey Street, Cardinal Street, New Cardinal Street, Cardinal House (offices in St Nicholas Street, close to where his house stood), Wolsey House (offices in Princes Street), New Wolsey Theatre (in Civic Drive), & Cardinal Park (leisure complex on Grafton Way, featuring restaurants, bars & cinema).
Sculpted by David Annand, a bronze seated statue of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was unveiled on 29th June 2011 on Curson Plain, at the junction of Silent Street & St Peter’s Street; close to the site of the house that Wolsey grew up in (see photo, above).Top of Page
Ipswich is mentioned twice by William Shakespeare in his play King Henry the Eighth, both in relation to Cardinal Wolsey.
In Act 1 Scene 1, the Duke of Buckingham, talking about Wolsey to the Duke of Norfolk says:
I’ll to the King, and from a mouth of honour quite cry down this Ipswich fellow’s insolence, or proclaim there’s difference in no persons.
In Act 4 Scene 2, Griffith, Gentleman-usher to Queen Katharine of Aragon, says to her, again referring to Wolsey:
Those twins of learning that he raised in you, Ipswich and Oxford! One of which fell with him, unwilling to outlive the good that did it.
It is thought that Shakespeare may have visited Ipswich on more than one occasion, as part of a travelling troupe of actors, during his early years.
Thomas Eldred was born in 1561 in Brook Street, Ipswich. In July 1586 he was part of Thomas Cavendish’s expedition that set sail from Plymouth on the second English circumnavigation of the world (Drake’s 1577-80 voyage having been the first). Cavendish himself was also a Suffolk man; being born in Trimley, ten miles east of Ipswich. The master of one of the three ships, the Desire, was Thomas Fuller, also from Ipswich. (see also Thomas Cavendish section on the Suffolk, England page of )
Upon his return in September 1588, Eldred settled back in Ipswich, where he became a successful merchant; exporting, amongst other things, cloth to the continent. He was elected to the 24 man Council in 1608 & was the town treasurer in 1613-14. In 1620 he became one of the 12 portmen of the town & became eligible for the office of bailiff the following year. He died in 1624 & is buried in St. Clement’s church. For many years he lived in Fore Street &, although the house has since been demolished, the overmantel from the largest room can now be seen in Christchurch Mansion. It features three oil painted panels showing a ship, a globe & Eldred’s portrait.
Until recently his name was commemorated in the Thomas Eldred public house on the corner of Cedarcroft Road & Burke Road. This has, however, been demolished in 2012.
Why not sign the Guestbook?
The title High Steward is an honorary title given by the local council of some towns or districts of England. It is the highest office that the Council can bestow. Originally this was a judicial office with considerable local powers, although over the centuries the duties of the High Steward have gradually declined, until today the post is largely ceremonial.
Although the practice can be traced back to the Middle Ages, Ipswich began conferring the office of High Steward in 1557. Today, Ipswich is one of 25 communities in England that possess the right to appoint a High Steward, although in some of these locations the practice has fallen into disuse. Ipswich, however, still retains its High Stewardship, which is normally awarded for life. There have been 23 High Stewards of Ipswich.
The office of High Steward of Ipswich was first bestowed on Sir William Cordell in 1557. Cordell (1522–1581) was Solicitor General and Master of the Rolls during the reign of Queen Mary I, & Speaker of the House of Commons during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He lived at Long Melford, Suffolk, where he founded the Hospital of the Holy and Blessed Trinity in 1573.
The most famous High Steward of Ipswich was undoubtedly Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté (1758 - 1805), best remembered for his service with the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, & particularly at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he lost his life. He was High Steward of Ipswich from 1800-05. (See also Admiral Lord Nelson section, below).
Others to have held the post include:
The 1st, 2nd & 3rd Earls of Suffolk during the seventeenth century
John Chevallier Cobbold from 1875-82 (see The Cobbold Family section, below)
Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (1850 -1916), who served in the British Army in the Franco-Prussian War, Second Boer War & First World War, & whose iconic image appears on the much imitated 1914 “Lord Kitchener Wants You” recruitment poster (see right). Although born in County Kerry, Ireland, Kitchener’s mother was Frances Anne Chevallier-Cole of Aspall Hall in Suffolk. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. John Chevallier, had been one of the leading figures in the fight to bring the railways to Ipswich from the 1820s onwards (see Railways section, above).
The present holder of the office of High Steward of Ipswich is Stuart Whiteley, CBE, QPM, who has held the post since 1990.
Born in 1727 in Sudbury, Suffolk, the portrait & landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough lived in Ipswich between 1752 & 1759; at first in Lower Brook Street, then moving to 34 Foundation Street. In 1759 he left Ipswich & moved to Bath.
As well as his famous works such as Mr and Mrs Andrews (1748/49) & The Blue Boy (1770), he also painted landscape scenes of Christchurch Park & Holywells Park in Ipswich (See Paintings of Ipswich, England album in Photo Gallery). He died in London in 1788.
34 Foundation Street was knocked down in the 1960’s, but a commemorative plaque adorns the wall of no.32.
For a more in depth biography of Thomas Gainsborough, see the Suffolk, England page on
Top of Page Holywells Park by Thomas Gainsborough
One of the most influential English actors of all time, David Garrick (1717-79), made his professional debut in Ipswich in 1741, when he appeared with a travelling troupe from London as an African slave named Aboan in Thomas Southerne’s play Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave at the Playhouse in Tankard Street (modern day Tacket Street). At the time he was using the pseudonym Lyddal & he seems to have been lacking in confidence prior to his appearance here, but this was boosted by the reception he received. He played other roles that summer in the town, before returning to London, where he made his debut as Richard III at the Goodman's Fields Theatre, before going on to have a very influential 30 year acting career, as well as being a successful playwright, theatre manager and producer. He died in London & is buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. Several theatres are named after him, the most notable being the Garrick Theatre in Charing Cross Road, London.
Opened in 1736, The Playhouse, or New Theatre, was built by Ipswich merchant & brewer Henry Betts, next to his tavern, The Tankard, in what was then called Tankard Street. It closed in 1892 after the opening of the Lyceum Theatre in Carr Street.
In September 1797 Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a house in Rushmere Road, Ipswich called Roundwood (since demolished). Set in 50 acres, Roundwood was described as having a “barn, stables, cow-house and other offices and a well-planted garden”. Although he was seldom there, his wife, Lady Nelson, & his father, the Rev. Edmund Nelson, lived there for several years. Nelson sold the house in January 1801.
In 1800, Nelson was appointed High Steward of Ipswich (see above), a position he held until his death. It is also known that Nelson visited the Great White Horse Hotel in Tavern Street in November 1800.
Born in Norfolk, Nelson’s Royal Navy career began in 1771 & he soon began to rise rapidly through the ranks; obtaining his own command in 1778. He was renowned for his inspirational leadership & his grasp of strategy & tactics, winning many important victories & rising to the rank of Admiral. He served during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, & the Napoleonic Wars. Injured several times in the line of duty, he suffered the loss of both one arm & one eye. His most famous victory was at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, in which he received a fatal wound. His funeral was held in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where his body is interred.
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
Designer of Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, Sir Thomas Slade (1703/4 - 1771) spent some time early in his career in Ipswich, as surveyor for the Navy Board supervising the ships being built at John Barnard’s shipyard in St Clement’s parish. In 1747 he married an Ipswich woman named Hannah Moore. He later rose to the post of Master Shipwright &, in 1755, was appointed Surveyor of the Navy. Both he & his wife are buried in St. Clement’s churchyard, where a memorial to him now stands.
Up until the late twentieth century, the names of the firms Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies, and Ransomes & Rapier were known throughout the world for their engineering & machinery; the former company producing ploughs, agricultural implements, lawn mowers, tractors, fork lift trucks & the like; the latter being involved in the manufacture of railway components, cranes, excavators & sluice gates.
Robert Ransome (1753 – 1830), who was born in Wells, Norfolk, set up his first general ironmongery shop in Norwich in 1774; later establishing a foundry there. In 1785 he patented a process for tempering cast iron plough shares, before moving his operations to Ipswich in 1789; probably due to the better port facilities that made the import of raw materials & the export of finished goods easier. Initially setting up at St Mary at the Key, the business soon relocated to a newly built foundry in the area then known as St Margaret’s Ditches (now Old Foundry Road).
Initially called Ransome & Co, the firm became Ransome & Son in 1809 when Robert’s son James became a partner. An ‘s’ was added to become Ransome & Sons in 1818, when James’ younger brother, also called Robert, joined the firm. After the senior Robert Ransome retired in 1825, the firm became J. & R. Ransome, whilst a further name change was required five years later when James’ own son, James Allen Ransome, joined as a partner & the company became J. R. & A. Ransome. It was the younger James who would publish, in 1843, The Implements of Agriculture, which proved to be one of the most popular books on agricultural implements & machinery prior to the age of steam.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, the firm underwent several other names changes as various other partners joined:
Ransomes & May in 1846, when long term employee Charles May became a partner.
Ransomes & Sims in 1852, after James Allen Ransome’s nephew William Sims was invited to become a partner.
Ransomes, Sims & Head in 1869, when John Head became a partner.
Ransomes, Head & Jefferies in 1881, when James Allen Ransome’s son-in-law John Jefferies was made a partner (with William Sims temporarily leaving the business).
And finally Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies in 1884, upon the death of John Head & the return of William Sims. Under this name they would become a limited company in 1911, & the name would remain until 1998.
In 1841, the firm began to move their business to Orwell Works on Duke Street by the docks. This move was completed in 1849, when the foundry in St Margaret’s Ditches finally closed. By this time the firm employed more than a thousand people. The Orwell Works site was in operation until 1966; new premises having been opened in Nacton in 1949, with the business gradually being transferred there. From the 1830s onwards, Ransomes had been manufacturing lawn mowers &, in 1902, produced the first commercial powered lawn mower, driven by an internal combustion engine. They also later went on to produce electric mowers.
Ransomes supplied munitions during both World Wars; manufacturing Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 fighter biplanes for the 1914-18 conflict, whilst gun carriages & parts for tanks & aircraft were amongst the armaments produced from 1939 onwards.
In 1987, Electrolux Group bought the agricultural division of the company, leaving Ransomes solely as a lawn mower manufacturing concern. In 1998, a takeover bid was accepted from Textron Inc. Of Providence, Rhode Island, & three years later the company was rebranded Ransomes Jacobsen Ltd, which still survives to this day as part of the Textron Group. Today the company’s site is part of the Ransomes Industrial Estate, also known as Ransomes Europark; a combined retail and business park on the south eastern outskirts of Ipswich.
Ransomes & Rapier: Although the Ransomes reputation had been built on ploughs & other farm machinery, with many patents having been taken out from the earliest days, by the 1830’s Ransomes had diversified into other areas, especially the manufacture of railway materials, which were being developed by employee & future partner Charles May at a time when the railways were expanding to cover the whole of Britain. Eventually, in 1869, a separate firm was established named Ransomes & Rapier, which took over the railway side of the business, leaving Ransomes, Sims & Head to concentrate on their agricultural machinery. The latter half of the new firm’s name was derived from Richard Rapier (1836 – 97), who had been in charge of the railway division since 1862.
Ransomes & Rapier moved into the Waterside Works on the Stoke side of the River Orwell, where they went on to produce locomotive turntables, water control & sluice gear, cement mixers & cranes. They also made some of the world’s largest walking draglines for open cast coal mining. They were involved in the construction of the Niagara hydro-electric power station &, in 1902, produced the sluice gates for the Aswan Dam on the River Nile in Egypt. Like their neighbours on the other side of the river, Rapier’s also supplied munitions during the world wars, including shells, guns and tank turrets.
In 1875, Ransomes & Rapier had sent several of their workforce out to China, where they were involved in building the first railway in that country (linking Shanghai with Woosung on the Yangtse River, a distance of around 12 miles). Two engines built in Ipswich were shipped to the Far East to operate on the narrow gauge line. The line, however, was shut down & destroyed the following year for political reasons, after it had been handed over to the Chinese.
Another feat of engineering attributable to Ransomes & Rapier is the turntable built in the 1960s for the revolving restaurant in what was then known as the Post Office Tower in London (now the BT Tower).
Ransomes & Rapier merged with Newton, Chambers & Company of Sheffield in 1958, after which a subsidiary company was formed named NCK-Rapier. When NCK was acquired by Robert Maxwell’s media group, the rights to their walking dragline technology and patents were sold to Bucyrus International of Wisconsin, & in 1988 the Waterside Works in Ipswich closed & Ransomes & Rapier ceased to exist.
Ever since the middle of the eighteenth century, the Cobbold family have played an important part in the development of the Ipswich we see today.
Thomas Cobbold (1680-1752) began brewing at Harwich in 1723, before moving to an existing brewery in Ipswich in 1743. Three years later he built Cliff Brewery on the east bank of the River Orwell (see photo, right), & began brewing using waters from the nearby Holywells. Although he died six years later, his son, also named Thomas, continued brewing, as did his own son John on the death of the younger Thomas in 1767.
For more than 250 years the Cobbold name was synonymous with brewing in Ipswich. Merging their business with the Tollemache brewing operation in 1957, the two families ran the business for twenty years, under the name Tolly Cobbold. In its heyday during the 1970s, the company owned around 400 pubs, more than 80 of which were in Ipswich. In 1977 the business was taken over & changed hands several times before it was announced in 1989 that the Cliff Brewery was to close. At this time the brewery was classified as a listed building &, after a successful management buy-out, brewing recommenced once more in 1991; with the building now also housing a brewing museum. It finally closed in 2002. Part of the premises are now used by the Cliff Quay Brewery. (See also “Tolly Follies” section, above)
John Cobbold (1746-1835) who took over the business on the death of his father, was not only a brewer & maltster, but also had many other business interests in the town such as banking, ship owning & corn merchant. He had Holywells mansion built as the family home around 1814. It was he, along with his second wife Elizabeth, who employed Margaret Catchpole, about whom John’s son, the Rev. Richard Cobbold (1797-1877) wrote a semi-factual account . (See Margaret Catchpole section, below)
Another of John’s sons (he had twenty two children), also named John (1774-1860), together with his son John Chevallier Cobbold (1797-1882), were to become leading figures as Ipswich developed into an industrial centre during the nineteenth century.
John Chevallier Cobbold, who represented Ipswich in parliament during the years 1847-1868, was instrumental, along with his father, in forming the Eastern Union Railway, which brought the railways to Ipswich in 1846. The Eastern Union Railway was established by the father & son partnership when the Eastern Counties Railway decided not to extend their line any further than Colchester. The official opening of the new line took place on 11th June 1846 & was opened for public passengers six days later. The line from Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds opened in December of the same year & was extended as far as Norwich in 1849. For the next few years there was much rivalry between the EUR & the ECR, until in 1854 the two companies amalgamated, before becoming the Great Eastern Railway in 1862.
As well as the railways, this father & son team were also Dock Commissioners during the period in the late 1830s & early 1840s when the new wet dock was being planned & built. John Chevallier Cobbold was mayor of Ipswich in 1842 when the dock was opened. In 1875 he was made High Steward of Ipswich; a post he held until his death. (See also River Orwell & River Gipping section, above)
Felix Cobbold (1841-1909), son of John Chevallier Cobbold, is best known for donating Christchurch Mansion to the town; having bought the estate from the Fonnereau family. He also gave land & provided funds for the construction of Fore Street Baths in 1894. He was elected as one of the town’s MPs in 1885 & became mayor of Ipswich in 1896. Two of his brothers, John Patteson & Thomas Clement Cobbold also represented Ipswich in parliament.
From its very earliest days in 1878, the Cobbold family have been influential in the running of Ipswich Town Football Club. The club’s first president was Thomas Clement Cobbold (1833-83), son of John Chevallier Cobbold.
Captain John Murray ‘Ivan’ Cobbold (1897- 1944), grandson of John Patteson Cobbold, became president of the still amateur club in 1935 & then chairman of the new professional Ipswich Town Football Club Ltd in 1936; a position he held until his death during World War II. His sons John & Patrick would both also hold the post of chairman during the club’s most successful period between the 1960s & the 1980s. Ivan Cobbold’s widow, Lady Blanche Cobbold, also served as honorary club president until her death in 1987. Other family members to have served as club chairman are John Patteson’s son Philip Wyndham Cobbold from 1944 to 1945, & his son Alistair Philip Cobbold from 1945 to 1957. (See also Ipswich Town Football Club section, above)
Margaret Catchpole was born in 1762 in the village of Nacton near Ipswich. In 1793 she found employment in the household of John & Elizabeth Cobbold, who lived at Cliff House, Ipswich, as a nurse & cook; a position she held until 1795. It was during this time that she learned to read & write.
Catchpole’s boyfriend was a smuggler named William Laud, who was a wanted man after shooting another of Margaret’s admirers, John Barry. In May 1797, when she found out that Laud was in London, Margaret stole a horse from her former employers & rode the 70 miles or so to London to meet him. On arrival, however, she was arrested & tried for theft at the Suffolk Summer Assizes at Bury St. Edmunds. Initially sentenced to death, her sentence was commuted to seven years imprisonment at the intercession of the Cobbolds, from whom she had stolen the horse.
For three years she seems to have been a model prisoner, until in 1800 she escaped from Ipswich gaol by scaling a 22 ft wall using a clothes line, having heard that Will Laud was waiting for her; their intention being to go to Holland. They were apprehended, however, with Laud being shot dead & Margaret being recaptured. Tried for gaol breaking & once more sentenced to death, her punishment was this time commuted to transportation to Australia.
Arriving in New South Wales in 1801, she at first found employment as a servant; later becoming a midwife as well as keeping a small farm. Although pardoned in 1814, she never returned to England. She died of influenza in 1819 & is buried in Richmond NSW (near Sydney, around 450 miles south of Ipswich, Queensland).
In 1847, ‘The History of Margaret Catchpole: A Suffolk Girl’ was published. Written by the Rev. Richard Cobbold, son of John & Elizabeth, the book is based on fact, but with a large element of fiction thrown in. For example, Cobbold claims that Catchpole was born in 1773, making her 20 years old when she went to work for his family, whereas she was, in fact, 31. He asserts that she married in 1812, although there is no evidence of this. He also states that she died in 1841, even though there is clear evidence from the register of burials at Richmond that the correct date was 13th May 1819.
Today, the Margaret Catchpole public house can be found in Cliff Lane (see “Tolly Follies” section, above).
Charles Dickens stayed in Ipswich, at the Great White Horse Hotel in Tavern Street, for the first time in 1834. In The Pickwick Papers, published in 1836/7, he mentions the hotel:
“In the main street of Ipswich, on the left-hand side of the way, a short distance after you have passed through the open space fronting the Town Hall, stands an inn known far and wide by the appellation of The Great White Horse, rendered the more conspicuous by a stone statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal door. The Great White Horse is famous in the neighbourhood, in the same degree as a prize ox, or county paper-chronicled turnip, or unwieldy pig - for its enormous size. Never were such labyrinths of uncarpeted passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers of small dens for eating or sleeping in, beneath any one roof, as are collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at Ipswich.”
In the story, Mr Pickwick inadvertently strays into a lady’s bedroom &, having extricated himself from an awkward situation, gets disorientated in the maze of the hotel’s dimly lit corridors & has to rely on his servant, Sam Weller, to guide him back to his own room.
Although the hotel building still stands on the corner of Tavern Street & Northgate Street, & the signage still remains in place, the building no longer functions as a hotel; the ground floor now being split into retail units.
Elsewhere in The Pickwick Papers, Sam Weller goes for a walk from the hotel & ends up in St.Clement’s parish, where he “strolled among its ancient precincts”.
Also in this novel, the character of Mrs Leo Hunter is said to be based on Mrs Elizabeth Cobbold; second wife of John Cobbold (see Margaret Catchpole section, above). Elizabeth Cobbold wrote & published several volumes of poetry, & the character of Mrs Hunter is also a poetry lover, for whom Dickens wrote the poem “Ode to an Expiring Frog”.
In another of his novels, Bleak House (1852), one of Dickens’ characters, the rag and bottle merchant Krook, dies by spontaneous human combustion. This phenomenon, whereby a human body burns to ashes without an apparent external source of ignition, is hotly debated even today, & in the mid nineteenth century was widely thought of as being impossible. Dickens, however, believed in its existence, & one famous case that he may have heard of during his visits to Ipswich, & which may have inspired him to use this method of death in his novel, involved Grace Pett of St Clement’s parish in the town, who was found dead one morning in April 1744 by her daughter, with her torso burnt to resemble a block of charcoal, although the wooden floor beneath her, plus many other flammable items close at hand, remained unscathed.
Dickens was to come to Ipswich many times over the years. In his “Weekly Journal” issue 23, published in October 1859, he reports that he went fishing in the River Gipping.
As a girl, Jean had contributed stories & poems to various magazines, using the pen name Orris. Her first volume of poetry ‘A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings’ didn’t, however, appear until 1850 & was published anonymously. It attracted the attention of Sir Alfred Tennyson, with whom she was later to become friends. Other volumes of poetry followed; either anonymously or under her pen name. Her fame increased in 1863 with the publication of a volume entitled ‘Poems’ which proved very popular both in Britain & America. Probably her best known poem is ‘A High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire’. She also wrote novels, including ‘Off the Skelligs’ (1872) & ‘Sarah de Berenger’ (1880), as well as several childrens’ books; the most popular being ‘Mopsa the Fairy’ (1869).
John Gordon Sprigg was born in Ipswich in 1830 & attended Ipswich School. He emigrated in 1858 to East London in the Cape Colony of what is now South Africa, where he worked for a while as a journalist.
In 1873 he became a member of the Cape Parliament & was appointed Colonial Secretary & Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1878; holding the position until 1881 during a period that included the First Boer War. In all, he held the position of Prime Minister four times: 1878-81, 1886-90, 1896-98 & 1900-04. The latter period coincided with the Second Boer War. In 1897 he was appointed as a Privy Counsellor of the United Kingdom & in 1902 he received the GCMG (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael & St. George). He died in February 1913.
Neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, & pathologist Sir Charles Scott Sherrington OM, GBE, PRS was born in November 1857. His father was the eminent Ipswich surgeon Caleb Rose & his mother was Anne Brookes Sherrington, widow of James Norton Sherrington. As his parents were unmarried at the time, Charles & his two brothers, William & George, took their mother’s surname. Although born in Islington, London, the family moved to Ipswich sometime after 1861, & lived in a house in Anglesea Road. Caleb & Anne finally married in 1880.
Charles Sherrington attended Ipswich School from 1871, after which he enrolled with the Royal College of Surgeons of England at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, before entering Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1880 where he began neurological research. There he studied under the “father of British physiology” Sir Michael Foster. He earned his Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) in 1884 & his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MB) degree in the following year. In 1886 he added the title of Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP), & became Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1893. During 1884 & 1885, Sherrington moved to Strasbourg, where he worked with the German physiologist Friedrich Goltz. In 1885 he was part of a team sent to Spain to investigate a claim that a cure had been discovered for cholera. Whilst the team discredited the Spanish claim at the time, Sherrington traveled to Berlin later that year to inspect the samples from Spain & ended up spending a year there studying physiology, morphology, histology & pathology under the noted physician Robert Koch.
In 1887, after his return to Britain, Sherrington was in appointed Lecturer in Systematic Physiology at St. Thomas’s Hospital, & was also elected a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (where he is now commemorated with a stained glass window in the college dining hall. See left).
In 1891 he was appointed as superintendent of the Brown Institute for Advanced Physiological & Pathological Research at the University of London, a centre for human and animal physiological & pathological research. Also in 1891 he married Ethel Mary Wright. They had one son, Carr, born in 1897.
Sherrington’s first full professorship post came with his appointment as Holt Professor of Physiology at Liverpool in 1895, where his major research focused on muscle reflexes & reciprocal innervation. Although he had been trying for a post at Oxford since 1895, he had to wait until 1913 before being offered the Waynflete Chair of Physiology by Magdalen College. He would hold the post until his retirement in 1936. His students included three future Nobel laureates (Sir John Eccles, Ragnar Granit & Howard Florey), plus Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfold & the American pioneer of brain surgery Harvey Williams Cushing.
In 1932 Sherrington received, together with Edgar Adrian, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on the functions of neurons, in which they showed that reflexes require integrated activation and demonstrated reciprocal innervation of muscles. This was to become known as Sherrington’s First Law. Other eponyms to bear his name are: the Liddell-Sherrington reflex, the Schiff-Sherrington reflex, Vulpian-Heidenhain-Sherrington phenomenon, & Sherrington’s Second Law.
Honours bestowed upon him include the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1905 (he would later become President of the Royal Society between 1920 and 1925), Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1922 (which allowed him to use the title ‘Sir’), & the Order of Merit in 1924. Over the course of his lifetime, Sherrington accumulated honorary doctorates from a host of universities in Europe, Canada & the USA including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Paris, Strasbourg, Athens, Brussels, Berne, Toronto, Montreal, & Harvard.
Away from medicine, Sherrington’s interests included poetry, art, history, philosophy & collecting rare books. He was also a keen sportsman, having played rugby & rowed for his college at Cambridge, & was also a pioneer in winter sports. Sporting prowess ran in the family, as both Charles’ brothers, William & George (or W.S. Sherrington & G.S. Sherrington as they are often recorded), played football for Ipswich Association Football Club, the forerunner of Ipswich Town, in the years immediately after the club’s formation in 1878.
After retirement Charles returned to Ipswich & had a house built on Valley Road in the Broom Hill area of the town. (The Sherrington family owned much of the land in this area, & the modern day Sherrington Road derives from this association. Much of this land, including Broom Hill Park, was sold to Ipswich Borough Council in 1925 by Charles’ brother George). From 1944 until his death, Charles Sherrington was president of Ipswich Museum. He died of heart failure whilst at Eastbourne, Sussex in March 1952, at the age of 94.
Sherrington’s published medical works include The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1906), Mammalian Physiology: a Course of Practical Exercises (1919), The Reflex Activity of the Spinal Cord (1932) & The Brain and its Mechanism (1933). He also published a volume of wartime poetry entitled The Assaying of Brabantius and other Verse (1925) & two philosophical volumes on the works of the sixteenth century French physician Jean Fernel: Man on His Nature (1940) & The Endeavour of Jean Fernel (1946).
Edith Maud Cook was born in Fore Street, Ipswich in September 1878. As well as being a parachutist & balloonist, she is reputed to have been the first female pilot in Britain.
She learnt to fly Bleriot monoplanes in early 1910, having been a pupil at Claude Graham-White’s school in Pau, France from 1909; after which she made several solo flights. She is said to have made more than 300 parachute jumps during the first decade of the twentieth century, often using the aliases Violet Spencer & Viola Kavanagh. She also used the name Viola Spencer-Kavanagh or Miss Spencer-Kavanagh as a pilot, & may also have gone under the names Viola Fleet & Elsa Spencer on occasion.
Edith Cook died on 14th July 1910, having suffered severe injuries sustained during a parachute jump in Coventry five days earlier; having landing on a factory roof where a gust of wind caught her parachute & she fell onto the roadway below.
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
Landscape artist Leonard Russell Squirrell was born in Spring Road, Ipswich in October 1893. From an early age he showed a great talent for the art of drawing, & in 1908 he went to Ipswich School of Art, where he trained under George Rushton, before going to the Slade School in London in 1921.
Best known as a watercolour painter, Squirrell was also adept with pastels, as well as being a talented etcher. He was also an accomplished painter in oils, but produced little in this medium, preferring what he described as the “fluidity” of watercolours. He wrote books on both pastel & watercolour techniques.
Thorpeness, Suffolk by Leonard Squirrell
As an etcher, Squirrell produced many fine aquatints, mezzotints & dry-points; being awarded a silver medal at the 1923 International Exhibition in Los Angeles for his mezzotint ‘The High Mill, Needham Market’. Gold medals were to follow at this exhibition in 1925 & 1930, with ‘Notre Dame, Paris’ & ‘Shadowed Corner, Marseilles’ respectively. His pastel work included the 1928 ‘Kersey Village Street, Summer Evening’ (which is now in the Colchester and Ipswich Museums’ collection), as well as many scenes from Italy & France.
His work in watercolours included railway carriage prints & railway posters (such as the one of Monks Eleigh, left) for Great Eastern Railways/British Rail from the 1950s onwards, as well as paintings for commercial companies such as Rolls Royce, & local firms such as William Brown, Pauls, Compair, Fisons, & Ransomes Sims & Jeffries.
Although he travelled & painted widely in Britain & Europe, he lived most of his life in Ipswich, & it was East Anglia that inspired him most. He once wrote “I am abidingly glad that my eyes look upon East Anglia as home. How much it means to me is demonstrated when I come back after journeys afield. As an artist I feel more satisfied with its countryside, its villages and architecture every time I return.”
Squirrell married in 1923 & had two children; living at first in Foxhall Road & later in Crabbe Street. He died in July 1979 at his daughter’s home in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. A Blue Plaque commemorating his life & works now adorns the house he was born in at 82 Spring Road. As well as in Ipswich Museum’s collection, Squirrell’s work today can also be found in such places as the Victoria & Albert Museum & the British Museum in London, as well as Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Local art writer Josephine Walpole has produced several books on Squirrell’s life & works, the latest being Leonard Squirrell RWS RE: Artist of East Anglia 1893 – 1979, published in 2011.
A blue plaque now adorns the wall of 41 St. Nicholas Street, to commemorate where writer Sir Victor Sawdon Pritchett was born in 1900. Within a year of his birth, his family had moved from Ipswich, although they did return to live here for a year or so in 1910.
Pritchett is probably best known for his short story writing; collected & published in a number of volumes such as The Spanish Virgin and Other Stories (1930). He also wrote five novels, as well as two autobiographies; A Cab at the Door (1968) and Midnight Oil (1971). In 1975 he received a knighthood for his services to literature & was made Companion of Honour in 1993. He died in London in 1997.
Since 1999 The V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for unpublished short stories has been awarded annually by the Royal Society of Literature.
Whilst training to be a kindergarten teacher at Ipswich High School, famous children’s writer Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968) lodged for some time at 73 Christchurch Street. She enrolled on the National Froebel Union course in September 1916, having previously stayed with friends at Seckford Hall near Woodbridge. She left Ipswich in 1918, after qualifying as a teacher.
Born in East Dulwich, London, Enid Blyton is known all over the world for her Famous Five series & Secret Seven series of novels for young people. Her most famous character, however, is Noddy, about whom she wrote numerous books between 1949 & 1963. She also occasionally wrote under the name Mary Pollock.
On 27th October 1936, Mrs Wallis Simpson was granted her decree nisi from her husband Ernest Simpson at the Suffolk Assizes in Ipswich; allowing her to marry King Edward VIII.
Mrs Simpson had been living in Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast (12 miles from Ipswich) for six weeks prior to this, which allowed her to claim residence status & so have the hearing held in Ipswich. The thinking behind this was that, being away from London, the whole thing could be done quietly & with publicity kept to a minimum. The press, however, got wind of what was afoot & swarmed into Ipswich on the day of the hearing at the County Hall in St. Helen’s Street. After the 25 minute hearing was over, Mrs Simpson was whisked away back to London.
In December of that same year, Edward abdicated the throne due to the outcry caused by his wish to marry a divorcee. His brother succeeded him, becoming King George VI. Wallis & Edward were married in June 1937.
Why not also visit www.planetsuffolk.com - Bringing together the Suffolks of the world
Lewis Ernest Watts Mills, better known as the actor Sir John Mills CBE (1908 – 2005), spent some time during the 1920s working in Ipswich for the corn merchants & maltsters R & W Paul. His time in Ipswich included the General Strike of 1926, when he volunteered as a special constable for the police; their task being to maintain order on the quays & provide escorts for vehicles leaving the docks.
In 1988 the Sir John Mills Theatre was opened in Gatacre Road, to commemorate his association with Ipswich. In 2000, Sir John was awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University of East Anglia/ Suffolk College.
Sir John Mills appeared in more than 120 films, spanning seven decades, including Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939), Ice-Cold in Alex (1958) & Ryan’s Daughter (1970). He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1960 & was knighted in 1976.
The famous cartoonist Ronald ‘Carl’ Giles, better known simply as Giles, lived at Witnesham near Ipswich from 1943 until his death in Ipswich Hospital in 1995. For many years he rented a studio in East Anglia House, on the corner of Queen Street & the Buttermarket.
Giles was born in London in 1916. After becoming a junior animator at Elstree Studios, he worked for a while for the weekly Reynolds News, before being hired by the Daily Express & Sunday Express. His first cartoon for the Sunday Express appeared on 3rd October 1943. After the end of the Second World War, Giles created a group of characters that became known as the ‘Giles Family’; twelve characters spanning four generations that all seemed to live together in the same house. The most famous Family member was Grandma; a short, rotund woman always dressed in black, with hat, glasses, handbag & umbrella. The Family’s first appearance came in August 1945 & over the years they appeared in more than two thousand of Giles’ cartoons.
Giles worked for the Daily Express until 1989, but continued until 1991 with the Sunday Express. Ever since 1946, collections of his work have been published annually. In 1959 he received the OBE.
Many of the scenes in Giles’ cartoons are influenced by streets & buildings in Ipswich (the Cornhill & the Woolpack pub on Tuddenham Road being two examples).
In 1993, a statue of Grandma & several other Family members was erected. Sculpted by Miles Robinson, the statue stands at the junction of King Street, Queen Street, Princes Street & the Buttermarket; just yards from the office Giles had once rented. With Giles in attendance, it was unveiled by his old friend, actor Warren Mitchell (best known as Alf Garnett in ‘ ‘Til Death Us Do Part’). The junction has since been renamed Giles Circus & in 2010 the area has been renovated & the statue moved a few yards & raised onto a three-tiered plinth. Grandma now gazes up in the direction of the window of Giles’ former studio.
In Cromwell Square, just off St Nicholas Street, stands a statue of Prince Alexander Obolensky, who was killed in an air crash at Martlesham Heath, just outside Ipswich, on 29th March 1940 during a training exercise.
Born in St Petersburg, Russia in February 1916, he was the son of Prince Serge Obolensky, an officer in the Czar's Imperial Horse Guards, & his wife Princess Lubov. With the Russian Revolution of 1917, the family fled the country & settled in London. In 1934, Alexander went to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he represented Oxford University at Rugby Union. He went on to play for Chesterfield, Leicester & Rosslyn Park, before being selected to play for England. He gained British citizenship in 1936. Obolensky played four times for England, scoring two tries on his debut against the New Zealand All Blacks in 1936. He also played seven times for the Barbarians.
In 1939 he joined the RAF, but died when his Hawker Hurricane Mark 1 crash landed. He is buried in Ipswich.
The statue by Harry Gray was unveiled by his niece, Princess Alexandra Obolensky, on 18th February 2009. A suite at Twickenham Stadium, London is also named in his honour.
During medieval times, the fortified area of the town was at the centre of the Half Hundred* of Ipswich; an area thought to roughly correspond to the modern day borough. The area outside the ramparts was split into four hamlets or holdings; Wicks Bishop, Wicks Ufford, Brookes & Stoke, although their exact boundaries are uncertain.
Wicks Bishop: Sometimes spelt Wykes, & also known as Bishop’s Wick or Wicks Episcopi, this is generally thought to have been an area to the south east of the town, extending from modern day Bishop’s Hill down to the river, & centred on Holywells Park, which had earlier been the estate held by Edward the Confessor’s wife, Queen Edith. The name derives from the fact that Richard I granted the land to one of the founders of Trinity Priory, which came under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Norwich. It remained under their control until the reign of Henry VIII. The name is still remembered today in Wykes Bishop Street, which leads off Duke Street.
Wicks Ufford: To the north of Wicks Bishop, was the hamlet of Wicks (or Wykes) Ufford, which probably extended out as far as the village of Westerfield. Prior to the Norman Conquest, this holding had belonged to Earl Gyrth, brother of Queen Edith, but at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) was in the hands of Roger Bigod, Sheriff of Suffolk. The name is taken from the D’Ufford family; Robert D’Ufford, being made first Earl of Suffolk in 1337. When exactly Wicks Ufford was acquired by this family is not recorded.
Brookes: Brookes (Brokes or Brooks) was the hamlet to the west of Wicks Ufford, & is thought to have encompassed much of the western side of the modern town north of the river; stretching as far as Thurleston & Whitton in the north, & almost to Sproughton & Bramford in the west. The holding was originally granted to Aluric de Clare by Edward the Confessor before the Norman Conquest, & was later gifted to the Priory of St. Peter & Paul. The moated house of the Brokes Hall estate, which was located in the vicinity of modern day Westwood Avenue, was demolished in the early twentieth century.
Stoke: The location of the hamlet of Stoke can be ascertained with far more precision than the other three hamlets, as it was the section of Ipswich on the southern side of the River Orwell; the boundaries following the river from Stoke Bridge to Bourne Bridge, then along the course of Belstead Brook, before diverting away from the water towards the holy well in the vicinity of today’s Holcombe Crescent on Chantry estate, probably rejoining the river somewhere to the west of Handford Bridge. In 970 AD, Stoke was granted to the Abbey of Ely by King Edgar (great-grandson of Alfred the Great).
One part of the modern town that wasn’t within the Half Hundred of Ipswich at the time of the Domesday Book was the settlement listed as Grenewic, which roughly corresponds with the modern day Greenwich & Gainsborough estates. The area was to the south of Wicks Bishop on the eastern bank of the Orwell, with the boundary between the two probably in the vicinity of modern day Cliff Lane. At the time Grenewic was listed as being in Carlford Hundred, which also included Alnesbourne further down the river. At some point Grenewic was integrated into Ipswich, whereas Alnesbourne was transferred into Colneis Hundred, although exactly when is unknown.
*A hundred was not a fixed measurement of land, but an ancient term that relates to a hundred 'hides' or 'carucates', which themselves were units of land that could sustain an extended family. Therefore one hundred could vary considerably in size from the next. The Half Hundred of Ipswich was, therefore, made up of fifty carucates.
Sixth century Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have been found near to Stoke Bridge, Boss Hall and Handford Road alongside the original settlement areas which were used at that time, and the Anglo-Saxon town of Ipswich can be dated back to the early 600s. The communities at Boss Hall and Handford Road were located at suitable crossing points over the River Gipping just above the tidal waters and marshlands. The early Gippeswick, however, seems to have been primarily a port, and was probably centred around the dock area in the 7th and 8th centuries, near to St Peter’s church and Stoke Bridge.
The prosperity brought by trade with the Rhineland brought the first expansion of Gippeswick. Excavation work has revealed that the town expanded to become 120 acres (50 hectares) in size during King Ælfwald’s reign (713-749). In about 720 AD a rectangular grid of streets linked the earlier quayside town with an ancient trackway to the north that ran along an east-west ridge above the areas likely to be flooded. This is the present town centre along the line of Westgate, Tavern and Carr Streets. The present town hall is built on the site of St Mildred’s church. St Mildred had links with the East Anglian royal family. She died about 700, and the conjecture is that this church was built soon afterwards as the centerpiece of a new town founded around it (see also Cornhill section, above).
The medieval town did not grow much larger and as noted above ( section) the ramparts clearly defined its limits. However, some time before the year 1000 Ipswich was given the status of a half-hundred which covered the four manors beyond its ramparts of Brookes, Stoke, Wicks Bishop and Wicks Ufford (see The Half Hundred of Ipswich, above). Probably at some date after the establishment of the original half-hundred, parts of the adjoining hundreds of Carlford (Rushmere), Samford (Sproughton and Belstead), and Bosmere & Claydon (Whitton, Bramford and Westerfield) were included within the medieval limits of Ipswich. The actual extent of the administrative unit was four miles from west to east and five miles north to south.
After receiving its charter in 1200 it was important for the new corporation to impose its authority within the “Liberties of Ipswich”.
In order to ensure that the extent of the jurisdiction of the corporation was known, the boundaries of the Liberties of Ipswich were supposed to be perambulated periodically. This was done in 1351, 1522, 1674 and 1721 and the information was recorded, so it was reasonably known which lands lay within the borough. However, there continued to be disputes over detail, particularly by landowners in the neighbouring hundreds.
In 1518 goods were seized at Whitton Street by bailiffs acting for the Hundred of Bosmere & Claydon, but complaint was made to the Courts that this act was illegal because that location was within the Liberties of Ipswich. Since there was uncertainty as to where the boundary went, a commission was set up to determine the exact boundaries for the whole of Ipswich. In 1522 this found that parts of Whitton-cum-Thurleston, Westerfield, Rushmere, Sproughton, Bramford and Belstead were within the boundaries of the Liberties of Ipswich. This finally determined that these parishes were divided between the corporation and the neighbouring hundreds.
As a port town, the burgesses also exercised control over the waters giving access to Ipswich. However, there were questions over how far this control should extend. Did it end where the land boundaries reached the waters, and what about the foreshore, that bit between low tide and high tide? In 1378 the borough of Ipswich was given jurisdiction over the whole extent of the River Orwell to “Pollshead on the Andrew Sands” in the North Sea beyond Felixstowe (Pollshead was a tongue of land near Landguard Fort, now eroded). As early as 1398 the corporation had taken action to enforce its rights to the foreshore on “the saltwater” (River Orwell) at the port of Ipswich and successive actions had affirmed these rights. It remained uncertain as to how far these rights to the foreshore extended. In 1533 the Courts upheld that the boundaries of the corporation included the foreshore, i.e. the marshes in saltwater below the high water mark, along the whole extent of the river on both shores. A fish weir erected at Trimley was ordered to be demolished. (See also , above)
In 1812 a further perambulation of the boundaries was performed and this time a detailed map was produced (the John Bransby Map). Generally, the boundaries were not dissimilar to those of today. The only large areas that were outside today’s boundaries were those to the west of Ipswich, which were then part of Bramford and Sproughton. Nevertheless, there were then large areas of the divided parishes that were included within the boundaries of the Liberties of Ipswich, and the extent of these was as follows:-
There was only a small part of Belstead within the Liberties of Ipswich comprising part of the grounds of Belstead Lodge (now Belstead Brook Hotel) by Belstead Bridge. That part of the parish of Sproughton in Ipswich comprised a large area south of Crane Hill on the London Road. The boundary went along London Road to Crane Hill, and then ran down towards Belstead Brook, east of and including Stone Lodge, thus covering all except the extreme eastern end of the present Chantry Estate. The western boundary was as today, where it runs through the centre of the housing estates and then down London Road. This tract of land did not extend to Belstead Brook, but ended a couple of fields to the north. There was another small part of Sproughton in Ipswich near to Boss Hall.
Bramford in Ipswich was quite complex. The western boundary for both Ipswich and Bramford in Ipswich ran from Whitton across to and through the courtyard of Lovetofts Hall, essentially down today’s Lovetofts Drive, and then along field boundaries to Bramford Road at Lone Barn Farm (Lone Barn Court today). The eastern boundary of Bramford went from Whitton down Norwich Road to just south of White House and then diagonally across fields to Lone Barn Farm. Here a few yards separated the two boundaries. Bramford then formed a long panhandle running from west to east between Ipswich and Sproughton. The northern boundary went down the middle of Bramford Road towards Ipswich and the southern boundary followed only a few yards south of the road. As it got near to the junction with Sproughton Road the southern boundary cut across to that road so that the intersection of the two roads was in Bramford. It then ran in a diagonal direction to the River Gipping. The northern boundary continued along the Bramford Road towards Ipswich to Hampton Road where it then went straight down to the river. This peculiar appendage was originally a separate ecclesiastical holding of Bramford containing an ancient chapel of St Albright, located near the junction of Bramford and Sproughton Roads. The boundary of the Liberties of Ipswich remained the same as the southern boundary of Bramford for only part of the way, and it took a different route down to the river near Boss Hall, which included a small part of Sproughton in Ipswich. Boss Hall and the land to the immediate north of the River Gipping was part of Sproughton outside the Liberties of Ipswich.
The boundary of the Liberties of Ipswich dividing Whitton parish ran along Whitton Church Lane and then north to Thurleston Lane, to cross over the Henley Road before meeting up with the boundary at Westerfield. Whitton-cum-Thurleston extended into Ipswich along a part of, and then just above the Norwich Road to the present Valley Road area, then up to the other side of Henley Road, including Grove Farm, and then back to the boundary above.
The part of Westerfield that was in Ipswich was quite extensive and peculiar in that it divided the village down the middle, and was an odd shape. In the north it comprised a long finger of land west of Westerfield Road (B1077). The boundary ran along the middle of Westerfield Road and Cockfield Hall Lane north to Beestons Farm, and then back to Lower Road where the boundary of Ipswich ran towards Whitton. The parish of Westerfield outside the Liberties was to be found either side of this finger of land. The boundary of the Liberties of Ipswich then ran along Westerfield Church Lane to meet up with the boundary along Humber Doucy Lane. Westerfield in Ipswich extended south of the railway station, cutting through Redhouse Park estate to the other side of Tuddenham Road, and then back up towards Humber Doucy Lane.
Rushmere in Ipswich extended approximately to Sidegate Lane and the boundary then cut diagonally across the California district to Bixley Heath. The eastern boundary of Ipswich that divided Rushmere ran down the middle of Humber Doucy Lane and then across part of Rushmere Heath, not much different from today.
In 1889 the boundaries of the new County Borough of Ipswich were made co-extensive with those of the Liberties of Ipswich. It was realised that the position of the divided parishes and the former extra-parochial area of Warren House needed to be formalised. Those that had the larger population within the corporation boundaries became civil parishes within Ipswich County Borough: Warren House and Whitton-cum-Thurleston in 1889; Westerfield-in-Ipswich in 1894; and Rushmere in 1895. Those parts of Bramford, Sproughton and Belstead in Ipswich had fewer inhabitants (230, 58 and none respectively in 1891) than the rest of their parishes outside Ipswich. Thus, in 1895 the parts within the borough boundaries were formally transferred from their original parishes and absorbed by the adjacent parish in Ipswich. However, in 1903 Ipswich abandoned the parochial system, and these all became fully integrated with the rest of the town from that year. This transfer of land to Ipswich left a detached part of Sproughton near to Belstead Brook, and a detached part of Bramford by Boss Hall. Both were small and unpopulated.
In 1895 they were only sorting out the anomalies where the boundaries of the former Liberties had not coincided with those of the parishes. Up to that time there had been ample room into which the urban growth could expand. It was not until the 20th century that it became obvious that land would be required for new housing developments, and that Ipswich would expand up to and possibly beyond its boundaries. To allow for this, in 1935 and again in 1952 the boundaries of Ipswich were further extended.
The boundary south of Stoke has always run along the Belstead Brook to Belstead Bridge. However, from that bridge the fields north of the brook were long part of Belstead parish. The boundary between Belstead and Ipswich in this area was very irregular and included the detached part of Sproughton. In 1935 the position was regularised by extending the western boundary of Ipswich straight down to Belstead Brook, as it is today, thus bringing that part of Belstead which was north of the brook around Gusford Hall and the detached part of Sproughton into Ipswich. This now freed up vast areas of land for the future building of the Chantry housing estate fully within the boundaries of Ipswich.
The boundary used to run along London Road and then across to Hadleigh Road between Crane Hall (in Ipswich) and Chantry Farm (in Sproughton). In 1927 Chantry Mansion and Park (which were in the parish of Sproughton) were donated to the people of Ipswich. It therefore seemed sensible to transfer this land to the borough. This was done in 1935 and the boundary now runs along the perimeter of the park and down Hadleigh Road. This also allowed the development of the Dickens Estate on land which was once allotments (community gardens).
In 1935 the small detached part of Bramford near to Boss Hall was transferred to Ipswich.
The boundary at Warren Heath was moved slightly eastward so that the whole of Warren Heath Road was in Ipswich. The boundary used to run diagonally through what is today the Priory Heath estate. In 1935 it was moved much further to the southeast between the Felixstowe and Nacton Roads so that the housing estate could be built, and the factories and engineering works could be included within the Ipswich boundary. The latter is now the Ransomes Industrial Estate and Europark.
The boundary used to run along the edge of the Gainsborough estate through Brazier’s Wood and Pond Hall Farm to the river, leaving Ipswich Airport outside the town’s boundary. In 1935 it was moved southeast and further along the river, thus bringing Brazier’s Wood, Pond Hall Farm and the airport into Ipswich; the Ravenswood estate has since been built on the airport site.
By 1952 housing developments had reached the boundaries of Ipswich and it was obvious that more land would be needed for future expansion. The boundary in the west was subject to most change with a general move towards and along the main railway line and then north along the approximate route of the A14 dual carriageway as it is today (although, of course, the A14 had not been built in 1952). This brought substantial parts of Sproughton and Bramford into Ipswich, including Boss Hall and Lovetofts, and allowed for the expansion in that direction with both housing and light industrial estates. In Whitton the boundary moved north of Whitton Church Lane to accommodate housing on the north side of that lane in Ipswich, and also at Thurleston so that all parts of that former hamlet are now within Ipswich.
The eastern boundary of Ipswich was subject to small changes so that the whole of housing and industrial estates on that side of Ipswich could be brought into the borough. At Rushmere the boundary had always gone down the middle of Humber Doucy Lane; in 1952 it was moved eastward so that the whole of that lane now came within Ipswich. Westerfield House and Farm (now Tuddenham Road Business Centre), on the corner of Humber Doucy Lane and Tuddenham Road, had always been a part of Tuddenham parish. The boundary was moved to bring these into Ipswich. The boundary was also moved east at Bixley Heath to allow the Broke Hall estate to be built wholly within Ipswich, and the boundary at Ransomes engineering works (now the Europark) was moved further along Nacton Heath to allow expansion of the industrial estate there.
Although Ipswich has once again “burst its boundaries” since 1952 (see Modern Day Distinction Between the Town & the Borough, below), there has been only one further change to the boundaries over the last 60 years. For over a thousand years Westerfield had been a divided community with a boundary that ran through the middle of the village. It had been expected that the urban spread would reach Westerfield, but it never did. Finally, in 1985 the Boundary Commission recommended the boundary changes needed to bring unification to the village outside the area of Ipswich. It would have been impracticable to revert to the area of the original historic parish of Westerfield because so much of that parish had been encroached upon by the expansion of Ipswich, so a new boundary was created. Today this runs south of the village, embracing Westerfield Junction station, and then runs along the railway line to Tuddenham Road (see also The Village of Westerfield section on The Ones That Got Away page).
There has been much discussion on the further expansion of Ipswich (see the What Might Have Been section on the The Ones That Got Away page). The latest proposal in 2008 was for the creation of a new unitary authority called “North Haven” which would include the urban areas immediately outside the boundaries of Ipswich, and stretch to Felixstowe, thus creating a large administrative unit between the Rivers Orwell and Deben. Discussions continue in 2012.
By 1812 Ipswich had expanded beyond the town ramparts. However, the Liberties of Ipswich was far more than the “borough”, the small built-up urban area. It encompassed four large manorial estates, and embraced much agricultural land containing several hamlets and villages. For these outlying hamlets and manors, there were three ways to go during these early centuries: they could be absorbed by the growth of Ipswich, develop into a separate village, or decline to become an individual, isolated farmstead. With the exception of Westerfield, all these have now been incorporated into Ipswich by its expansion, as noted below.
The dockside to the southeast was an area of early expansion and St Clement’s parish outside the ramparts was probably established in the late 12th century as a suburb of Ipswich. By 1381 the parish had absorbed the hamlet of Wykes Bishop (or Wicks Bishop) that may have existed around the bottom of Bishop’s Hill. (“Wykes” denotes a hamlet outside a walled town.) The two areas here became known as Fore Hamlet (nearest to the foreshore) and Back Hamlet. The manor itself stayed with the bishop until 1535 when Henry VIII confiscated it. He sold it in 1545 and it remained a large farm estate until the Cobbold family turned it into Holywells Park after 1812. Further along the Orwell, the early Anglo-Saxon hamlet of Greenwich was included in the parish of St Clement’s but remained physically separate as it belonged to the Priory of St Peter. On the suppression of that house in 1528, Greenwich was granted out as a small manor, but it declined to an isolated farmstead with a few cottages.
To the north of St Clements the small market gardens supplying the town gradually gave way to the early medieval industries of Ipswich with potteries, rope making and sail manufacture. By the end of the 17th century this area had become part of the town with narrow streets and alleyways. It became an early industrial centre with a brick and tile works, and the Old Pottery Works. The Rope Walk is now the only reminder of this area’s former industrial importance.
A natural stream ran down from the hills to the east of the town along today’s St Helen’s Street, and this provided a favourable location for an early hamlet outside the town walls around St Helen’s church, believed to date back to Norman times. This hamlet, called St Hellens of Cauldwell, served the leper hospital of St Mary Magdalene, located opposite the church. It came to the town on the dissolution of the hospital in 1536. St Helen’s was one of the smaller parishes and remained an area of market gardens, hence Orchard Street, until the late 18th century. It was then easily absorbed by the ribbon development of houses along the two main arteries of Woodbridge Road and St Helen’s Street.
Former names for St Helen’s Street were Great Wash Lane and Cauldwell Lane, and this fact provides a link to another hamlet found at the top of the hills. Cauldwell is believed to have been in existence by the end of the 11th century. It takes its name from the “cold springs” that emerge from the hillsides and collect together to give the name to Spring Road. Cauldwell Hall controlled these springs that supplied much of Ipswich with its water needs, which was carried through two pipes to the town. The manor is recorded from 1300 held by the Holbroke family, and the hamlet stood south of Woodbridge Road along the Caudwell Hall Road with the church of St John the Baptist. The church was appropriated to Trinity Priory, so it seems likely that the hamlet and its church had declined before the Reformation. Cauldwell Hall itself existed until 1848 when it and its land were sold for development.
The hills also provided an ideal site for windmills which benefitted from the prevailing south-westerly winds coming up the valley, and there was a group situated at the top of the hill along the Woodbridge Road. During the Napoleonic Wars a temporary barracks was established nearby in 1803 because of its proximity to the heathland, ideal for military training. Out of patriotism this was called Albion Hill. The barracks attracted providers to the military needs, who stayed on and occupied the military buildings after the soldiers left in 1815. They established the little hamlet of Albion Hill with the windmills being known as the Albion Mills. Although now forgotten as a district name, this part of Woodbridge Road is still officially called Albion Hill, and the Albion Mills public house used to stand at the junction of Woodbridge and Belvedere Roads. Its military past is recalled in the name of Hutland Road, laid out over where the huts of the military barracks were located, and there is also a Parade Road.
A number of larger houses followed in the 1840s because of the views afforded from the top of the hills, hence there are Belle Vue and Belvedere Roads. Thus the urban area of Ipswich reached the top of the hills and spread along the Woodbridge and Caudwell Hall Roads. However, it was not to be until the 1920s that the fields out to Sidegate Lane and beyond would be built upon.
It is recorded that the original seat of the manor of Wykes Ufford (or Wicks Ufford) was at the present Cavendish Street on the north side of Bishop’s Hill near to Wykes Bishop. This too disappeared at an early date and the name came to be applied to those parts of Rushmere and Westerfield that were in Ipswich. From the time of Sir Edmund Withipoll, the manor of Wykes Ufford was always attached to the Christchurch estate. A small hamlet existed around Rushmere Hall in the 1600s but this was reduced to a solitary farmhouse by 1846. Rushmere remained an area of isolated farm estates until the building of the Colchester Road bypass in 1926 encouraged the growth of Ipswich in this direction. Westerfield (see The Ones That Got Away page) has always maintained itself as a village separate from Ipswich.
St Margaret’s parish was a large parish that extended over the northern part of Ipswich. The original hamlet was located around St Margaret’s Green just outside the northern ramparts and it was already a suburb of Ipswich in 1200. However, it is known that there was another hamlet a short distance to the north of St Margaret’s Green known as Bolton Hamlet or Little Bolton. Bolton is a common Anglo-Saxon place-name meaning ‘an enclosure around a house’. It was possibly on the western side of Christchurch Park where a Boltonhill House once stood. However, Bolton Lane is on the eastern side of the park, and in 1855 there was a Bolton Farm in the vicinity. It could be that a Bolton Hamlet developed around the castle at Ipswich. One of the locations the castle is conjectured to have stood is on the hill at the Arboretum, where Boltonhill House was located. If this is the case, when the castle was demolished in 1176 it is likely that the hamlet would also have disappeared since the reason for its existence had gone*. An earlier name for Bolton Lane is known to have been Thingstead Way. This was later changed to Bolton Lane, probably from a folk-memory of Bolton Hamlet being to the north of St Margaret’s Green. This, in turn, probably gave the name to Bolton Farm, which is known to have been on land where Hervey Street is located, two streets away from Bolton Lane. The farm was owned by a man called Hervey in 1855 who gave his name to this street. So a long tradition places the hamlet at the top of Bolton Lane. Whichever location it was, the hamlet disappeared at an early date.
* Most modern commentators favour Elm Street as a more likely location for the castle.
Further to the north of St Margaret’s, all the way to Westerfield, was an area of very large landed estates and farms. The largest was Christchurch Park and north of that was Red House Park. This is where the gentry and minor aristocracy lived. There was never the opportunity for hamlets and villages to develop on these, and even today there are not the large housing estates that can be found elsewhere around Ipswich.
St George’s was a hamlet immediately outside the Westgate lying at the bottom of today’s St George’s Street. It was already a suburb of Ipswich in 1200. It never really developed and remained one of the smallest parishes in 1381. The last record of it as a separate parish was in 1451; thereafter it was absorbed into St Matthew’s parish.
The areas immediately to the north and west of St Matthew’s church and Barrack Corner, between and around the Bramford and Norwich Roads, were not built upon until the 1830s and 1840s. Further along the road to Norwich the hamlet and manor of Brookes declined to an individual farm estate. Brookes Hamlet is recorded for the last time in 1689. However, in 1352 the hamlet around St Botolph’s church at Thurleston was described as an “appurtenance of Brookes”, and by the 16th century the two seem to be attached as the tax assessments refer to Thurleston-cum-Brooke. Nonetheless, Thurleston itself had almost disappeared by 1514 since it was united with Whitton as the parish of Whitton-cum-Thurleston. Whitton dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and grew into a reasonable size village separated from Ipswich by agricultural land until the 1930s (see Housing Estates, Neighbourhoods, Suburbs section, below).
There was little development of the western part of Ipswich until the 20th century. It remained an area of large farm estates. Like Whitton, Westbourne remained separated from Ipswich by agricultural land until the 1930s. However, it never grew beyond a small hamlet. Another two hamlets were reduced to individual farmsteads by the end of the medieval period. These were Lovetofts and Boss Hall.
Lovetofts is first recorded in 1277 as Lovetot when a John de Lovetot had grant of free warren here. However, it was also known as Tibetot in 1294 when the hall here was the seat of Robert de Tibetot. The Tibetot family held the lordship of Nettlestead and owned land in Bramford at that period. The families of Lovetot and Tibetot were related to each other and came over with William the Conqueror, both families first settling in Nottinghamshire. Both names are of Norse origin, as were the Normans. Lovetofts means ‘Lufa’s homestead (toft)’. A small hamlet arose around the manor house that became known as Lovetofts Hall. This was in Bramford, although the western boundary of the Liberties of Ipswich ran through the centre of the estate. However, the hamlet had declined to a single farm house by the 16th century and remained so until about 1955. In 1959 it was absorbed by the White House estate and is remembered in Lovetofts Drive.
The original settlement around Boss Hall appears to have been a place of some importance in the early Anglo-Saxon period. The Anglo-Saxon cemetery found there contained one grave of very high status. There was also an ancient chapel of St Albright near the junction of Bramford and Sproughton Roads which formed an outlying portion of the parish of Bramford. Since Bramford is known to have been an early royal manor, it seems that there was a long tradition of this area belonging to the East Anglian dynasty and its successors, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Ipswich burgesses. It survived as a small hamlet beside the River Gipping, and the manor is attested as being part of Sproughton in 1332. In the perambulation of 1351 it was referred to as Bordshaw Hall and Wood, which means ‘a copse (shaw) where planks (boards) were obtained’. Because of the way it was then pronounced, the name became corrupted to Boss Hall (bod-shaw to bossaw). The hamlet declined to a reasonably large farmstead with outlying cottages and remained that way into the 20th century. Boss Hall was just outside the Liberties and Borough of Ipswich in the parish of Sproughton until 1952. It is now Boss Hall Business Park.
The other original Anglo-Saxon settlement of Handford (Hana’s ford) was recorded as a hamlet in 1227, and this continued to be a separate community around a mill and Handford Hall where there was a bridge over the River Gipping, located where today’s Handford and London Roads meet. The spread of housing from Ipswich down Handford Road is noted in the 1830s, and by mid-century this hamlet had been absorbed into the main town.
Stoke, south of the River Orwell was settled at a very early date, and it was probably during the 8th century when the Stoke Bridge crossing was created. Although the hamlet itself never expanded far from the bridgehead, its ecclesiastical lords held extensive property to the south and west of Stoke. There were two parishes by the 11th century around the churches of St Mary Stoke on Stoke Hill, and St Augustine nearer to the river. St Mary Stoke was the original endowment, belonging to the Abbey of Ely, and it owned most of the lands to the southwest, some of these stretching into the parish of Sproughton. These were granted out for farming and some, such as Stoke Park and Stone Lodge, became substantial estates in their own right. However, they never really developed into separate hamlets.
To the south, Belstead Brook was a natural boundary, but further upstream from Belstead Bridge the land to the north of the brook was held by the parish of Belstead. Here there was another hamlet that existed known as Godlesford (later Gusford Hall). This name has an Anglo-Saxon origin, ‘the ford by Goda’s field (leah)’, and is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as being held by the Countess of Aumale (a place in Normandy). In the late 13th century it was acquired by the Priory of Canons Leigh in Devon. In 1327 the manor is recorded as ‘Godlesford and Belstead Parva’ (Little Belstead), and thereafter Little Belstead, which is the other side of Belstead Brook, appears as “an appurtenance” of Godlesford Canonry. At this period, Belstead was a large area of land on both sides of the brook with two areas of settlement, Great Belstead (which today is the village of Washbrook) and Little Belstead (which today is the village of Belstead). As ecclesiastical land this manor was largely free from the parochial authority of (Great) Belstead and that of the burgesses of Ipswich. The uncertainty over who had authority in this area was reflected in the irregularity of the boundaries of the Liberties of Ipswich around the later Gusford Hall.
Over the next 200 years the far away priory took little interest in its property other than to lease it out for farming. Godlesford declined to a large farm estate run by one family, while the labourers and their families preferred to live at Little Belstead. With the Dissolution of the ecclesiastical houses, in 1540 the Crown sold Godlesford (now called Gusford Hall) to the family that had farmed it for the past 200 years, and the connection with Little Belstead was broken. Since the parish of Belstead had not been able to impose its authority over the manor, the family had developed greater contacts with Ipswich and Stoke St Mary, and by the 17th century Gusford Hall had become part of that parish. The estate changed hands between prominent Ipswich merchants several times before passing into the hands of the Burrell family, owners of Stoke Park. Although it became attached to Stoke Park and was sold along with that property in 1918, Gusford Hall was never legally integrated into that estate.
The parish of St Augustine’s in Stoke covered the land south of today’s Felaw Street along the River Orwell down to Belstead Brook. The last reference to the parish was in 1459, and the Priory of St Peter & St Paul then seems to have taken over this parish. With the demise of the priory in 1527 the ecclesiastical authority was attached to St Peter’s. The actual land adjacent to the foreshore of the River Orwell to Bourne Bridge seems to have been owned by the medieval leper hospital of St Leonard. This land was purchased by the corporation of Ipswich in 1722. By 1800 there existed a hamlet called Halifax near to Bourne Bridge.
The first known shipyard in the vicinity dates back prior to 1713, as a deed enrolled with Ipswich Corporation in that year records the sale of a yard by one Roger Mather to a shipwright named John Blichenden. This seems to have disappeared by 1749, however, as the notable Ipswich shipbuilder John Barnard (c1705-84) bought the land & built a new shipyard, situated about three quarters of a mile from Stoke Bridge, near to where the West Bank Terminal is now located. He called this shipyard Nova Scotia. About half a mile away, near to Bourne Bridge another shipyard, named Halifax, is first recorded in 1783 and seems to have derived its name from association with Nova Scotia.
Although the sources state that it is not known why these names were given, it seems fairly obvious that they owe their existence to periods of national patriotism, with the two key dates of 1749 and 1783. The French and British were then vying for control of part of North America, which the French called Acadia and the British, Nova Scotia. The British had captured the capital, Port Royal, from the French in 1710, but had not been able to subdue the rest of the colony. In 1749 a concerted effort was made to achieve this, and in June of that year the British governor, Edward Cornwallis, arrived with 13 transports to establish Halifax (named after the Earl of Halifax, not the town) as the new capital of Nova Scotia. By unilaterally establishing Halifax, the British violated earlier treaties and started another war with the French. However, within 18 months the British had taken firm control of Nova Scotia. Later, in May 1783, after the American War of Independence, ships carrying Loyalists from New York anchored at Halifax to begin their resettlement in Canada. By the end of 1783, some 35,000 Loyalists had arrived in Nova Scotia.
The Halifax Shipyard was almost next to Bourne Bridge with only a house and garden in between. The first mention of a shipyard dates from 1783, probably established by Stephen Teague, who is recorded as shipbuilding here two years later. Jabez Bayley is recorded at Halifax before 1787, where he built several East Indiamen. It was at this yard that the East Indiaman Orwell was launched in 1817, the largest craft ever to be launched into the river. Over 100 men were employed in building one large vessel so, with their families, they constituted a sizeable community. This community took its name from the shipyard and Halifax remained a hamlet separate from the rest of Stoke well into the 20th century. This part of Wherstead Road is still referred to as “Halifax” by some residents today, although it is increasingly known as “Bourne End”. A Halifax House still exists on Wherstead Road, occupied today by Orwells Furniture. The name survives “officially” in Halifax Road that once linked the hamlet to Maidenhall estate, and Halifax Primary School is also located on that estate.
The development of the modern districts of Ipswich is dealt with below in Housing Estates, Neighbourhoods, Suburbs.
Individual parishes were responsible for raising taxes, establishing educational charities and looking after their own poor. However, certain areas were extra-parochial which meant that its residents were outside any parish and, therefore, exempt from parochial taxation and church tithes. Parliament abolished Extra-parochial areas in 1857, and they were integrated into the surrounding civic parish. There were a number of these within the Liberties of Ipswich, accounting for 70 acres, as noted below.
1. Warren Heath Hamlet (or Warren House) - This area made up 50 acres of the above total and comprised Warren House and the westernmost part of Warren Heath, which contained six other tenements. From 1889 to 1903 it constituted a separate civil parish within the county borough. It was probably the oldest of the extra-parochial parts of Ipswich (see Modern Day Distinction Between the Town & the Borough, below).
2. Cold Dunghills - This was situated just off Upper Orwell Street and still survives today under another name. In the 19th century it was quoted as being a “filthy, dirty, foul slum, full of disease and undesirable elements”. In 1861 it comprised some 20 tenements and 66 inhabitants, and it remained the poorest part of Ipswich. In October 1867 the residents petitioned to have the name changed and it became known as Upper Orwell Court, the name it still retains today. The area was not entirely cleared until just before 1939.
No reason is known why it was extra-parochial, but with a name like this it could have been an original waste-land where the town sewage was deposited. It was just the other side of the town ramparts. In 1632 it is recorded as “Cole Dunghill”. ‘Cole’ is the early English for ‘charcoal’, and waste-land was frequently utilised for the making of charcoal. Charcoal and dung are both used for fuel in many parts of the world today. Whichever way it is regarded, ‘waste-land’ was frequently extra-parochial because nobody wanted to go there to collect taxes.
3. Felaw’s House - In 1483 Richard Felaw, an alderman and merchant of Ipswich, bequeathed his house in what is now Foundation Street to Ipswich Grammar School, endowing it with lands so that children of needy parents could attend without paying fees (see Ipswich School section, above). As a charitable donation it was exempt from taxation. The site is now a multi-storey car park.
4. Shire Hall Yard - This still exists behind Lower Orwell Street. This was originally the site of the Dominicans or Blackfriars. At their dissolution in 1538 the property was bought by William Sabyn who sold it in 1569 to the corporation. Parts of the Friary were demolished, but in 1572 the corporation converted the remaining buildings into Christ’s Hospital, an establishment supported from charitable donations by the burgesses for the maintenance of orphans and the old. Christ’s Hospital was in fact an amalgamation of different foundations, and it stretched across to St Edmund Pountney Lane, which henceforth became known as Foundation Street after these institutions.
It included the almshouses built by the bequest of Henry Tooley, a Portman of Ipswich, who left several estates in 1550 for this purpose (See ’s & Smart’s Almshouses section, above). Tooley’s almshouses survive today, rebuilt in 1849 near the site of the original houses. In 1614 Ipswich Grammar School moved across the road to the old refectory and remained there until 1842. In 1699 Shire Hall was erected and remained the property of Christ’s Hospital. The building was leased for purposes of holding courts and assizes. Part of the Hospital was utilised as a workhouse and a bridewell (an early name for a prison). Since this area was basically used for corporation purposes, there were no private dwellings, and it became non-parochial.
Over time the buildings became so dilapidated that they were unsafe to use. In 1837 new courts and a gaol were built in St Helen’s, and the school moved in 1842. In 1851 the buildings were demolished and the area became an industrial one, with a brewery and factories replacing the foundations. These have now gone in their turn, but Foundation Street and Shire Hall Yard remain.
5. Five individual Houses in Globe Lane (now St George’s Street) - These were extra-parochial and attached to St Mary le Tower church. It is unclear why they should be extra-parochial. They may have been associated with the original St George’s Chapel in this street. This was still in use in the 16th century and, as the parish church, it was obviously exempt from imposing tithes and taxation on itself. By 1813 it had been converted into a barn, but the area that it originally covered may have given rise to these tenements.
Over the centuries, Ipswich has expanded outwards from the original settlement on the river; slowly at first then more rapidly from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Detailed below are some of the main housing estates, neighbourhoods & suburbs within the Borough of Ipswich. For details of areas of the town outside the borough boundaries see the Modern Day Distinction Between the Town & the Borough section, below).
Just across the River Orwell from the town centre & the docks, the ancient area known as Stoke was one of the earliest settled districts of Ipswich (see also The Half Hundred of Ipswich section, above). The name comes from Old English ‘stoc’ meaning an outlying farm or place, usually one held by a religious house, in the case of Stoke, by the Abbey of Ely (later Ely Cathedral). Today the estate consists of a warren of narrow streets to the west of Vernon Street, plus newer housing developments to the east of Hawes Street & to the south of the New Cut by the river. To the west, on the other side of the railway line, is Stoke High School, during the building of which woolly mammoth bones were discovered (see also Ipswichian Interglacial page).
To the southwest of Stoke, & bounded by Wherstead Road to the east & Belstead Road to the west, the Maidenhall estate reaches as far south as Bourne Park, where it then joins Stoke Park estate. Maidenhall takes its name from Maiden Hall Farm, one of the farms belonging to the Stoke Park estate. Maiden Farm or Maiden Hall, i.e. not yet old, is a common name for newer farms established on an estate. It is not found on maps before the mid 19th century. The housing estate was built from 1950 onwards.
Stoke Park is bounded by Belstead Road & the winding Stoke Park Drive, and stretches to the borough boundary at the Belstead Brook. The area was once the site of Stoke Park Mansion, now demolished (see also Belstead Brook Park section, above). Ely Cathedral leased out the agricultural land of its manor of Stoke, and references to a separate farm estate from the original manor date back to 1505. The name of Stoke Park is first recorded in 1651. The Stoke Park estate was broken up and sold in 1918 and 1921 to pay for death duties. Between Belstead Road & Prince of Wales Drive is a small housing development known as The Hayes, built on the grounds of Stoke House and Orwell Lodge, so called because each road within the cluster has this as a suffix. “Hayes” is an Old English word meaning a hedge. The main roads are Heatherhayes, Gorsehayes & Broomhayes, with several closes leading off such as Fernhayes, Rowanhayes, Briarhayes & Barleyhayes. The Hayes features in the 1984 novel The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth (see Ips Misc. page for further details).
Ipswich’s largest housing estate is Chantry. Located in the southwest of the town, it was mostly built during the 1950s & 60s. The estate borders Gyppeswyk Park in the north, & the Stoke Park estate to the east, with the London Road forming the western boundary. To the south are the new estates of Pinewood & Thorington Park which are outside the Borough of Ipswich (see Modern Day Distinction Between the Town & the Borough section, below). The southwestern portion of Chantry, closest to the meandering Belstead Brook, is known as Belstead Hills. It was during building work in this area that a collection of Celtic torcs was discovered (see Ipswich Hoards section, above).
The land was originally known as “chantry fields”; land donated to All Saints church in Sproughton to provide income for paying chantry priests. These were priests who sung (chanted) masses for the soul of the deceased donor. After chantries were abolished in 1547 the land passed to the Crown, and the Cutler family soon after occupied “a house at the Chantry”. By 1668 the land was in the ownership of Sir Peyton Ventris.
On the other side of London Road, situated in the triangle formed by the confluence of Hadleigh Road & London Road, & with Chantry Park as its western limits, is the small Dickens Road estate. Originally farmland between Chantry Farm and the railway, it became allotments in the 1920s and the estate was built in the late 1930s. Named after Charles Dickens, who was a frequent visitor to Ipswich, the estate includes roads named after Dickens’ characters, such as Pickwick Road, Copperfield Road & Dombey Road (see also Charles Dickens in Ipswich section, above).
In the northwest of Ipswich, the Westbourne area is located between Bramford Road & Norwich Road. As the name implies, this was a small stream located to the west of Ipswich. Until the 1930s it remained a small hamlet west of the railway line around a corn mill (later an organ works) in the triangle of roads where Cromer, Deben and Westbourne Roads are today.
Westbourne merges with White House estate further north still. The name refers to the White House; a Grade II listed building overlooking White House Park, in modern day Limerick Close. Parts of the house date from the seventeenth century. It has now been converted into offices. The land remained agricultural until the 1950s when the estate was built.
On the other, or eastern, side of Norwich Road, is Whitton. Once a separate village, there has been a settlement in the area since Anglo-Saxon times, with the area being recorded in the the Domesday Book as ‘Widituna’. The name is Anglo-Saxon and means ‘Hwita’s farm’. The village & the neighbouring tiny hamlets of Whitton Street and Thurleston were included in the Liberties of Ipswich, but this was disputed by the adjacent Hundred of Bosmere & Claydon. In 1514 these were all combined in the parish known as Whitton-cum-Thurleston. The original village of Whitton was round the present church of St Mary, where Whitton Church Lane joins Thurleston Lane. Whitton Street was on the Old Norwich Road and since this was the main road between Norwich and Ipswich it soon became more important than the original village, and by the 19th century was regarded as its centre. Thurleston or Thurlston is of Norse origin and means ‘Thorulf’s farm’. It had all but disappeared by the 17th century, the name being retained in scattered farms: Thurleston Lodge, Thurleston Farm, and Church Farm House down Thurleston Lane, around which the original hamlet and church was once located. The dispute over boundaries was settled in 1894 when the parish was divided and the more rural parts became the parish of Whitton (now Claydon & Whitton) in East Suffolk. Whitton-cum-Thurleston remained with Ipswich as a separate parish, and in 1903 it was fully absorbed into the county borough. As the town expanded during the 1930s, much of the present day housing estate was built. Most of the street names are named after poets and playwrights. Confusingly, the agricultural land here was situated around another “White House” where Arnold Close and Coleridge Road now stand. This has no bearing with the White House Estate and house of the same name to the west of Norwich Road.
To the east of Whitton, is the Castle Hill estate, which stretches as far as Henley Road to the east. Part of Castle Hill is frequently referred to as “The Crofts” as many of the roads in the district have names of trees, followed by the word ‘croft’ (Ashcroft Road, Fircroft Road, Pinecroft Road etc.). The area was mainly developed during the 1950s & 60s.
As far as is known, there was never a castle on Castle Hill. The name derives, however, from a Roman villa that once stood in the vicinity of modern day Chesterfield Drive. The stonework being dug up there by the ploughs gave the impression that a castle must have been located on the rising ground. The name pre-dates the 17th century since it was taken to America, where Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts, is recorded in 1637. This was said to have been named after the location in Ipswich, England (see Ipswich, Massachusetts page). The Roman villa was first excavated in 1854, & again in 1897, 1929-32, 1946-50, & finally during 1988-9. The 1946-50 excavations were undertaken by Basil Brown, the archeologist responsible for the discovery of the ship burial at Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge (see Sutton Hoo section on the Suffolk, England page of ). Parts of a patterned mosaic floor, painted wall plaster, a tessellated floor, & evidence of several buildings including a bath-house have been discovered. The villa is the largest of its kind ever found in Suffolk. It featured in an episode of the Channel 4 “Time Team” documentary series, presented by Tony Robinson, which was first shown on British television in 2004.
To the east of Castle Hill is the area known as The Dales; built in the 1960s & centred around Dales Road & Dale Hall Lane. Dale Hall itself was north of the railway where Larchcroft Road is today. Radulph de la Dale is known to have made this the seat of his manor in c.1220, and a “Dale Hall” existed on this site until the last one was demolished in about 1960.
Dale Hall in turn joins the Broom Hill area on the north side of Norwich Road. This was a privately owned hilltop wood on the outskirts of Ipswich, taking its name from the evergreen shrub that grows there. In 1925 the landowner, George Sherrington, sold Broom Hill to Ipswich Borough Council. A ring road around Ipswich was built in 1926 and Valley Road then divided the woodland in half. To the south of Broom Hill just north of Norwich Road lay the Brooke’s (or Brook’s) Hall Estate, now occupied by the houses of Westwood Avenue (see also The Half Hundred of Ipswich section, above).
To the north east of Ipswich lies the post-war Rushmere Estate. This takes its name from Rushmere St Andrew, a village and parish just outside the eastern boundary of Ipswich. The name “Riscemara” appears in the Domesday Book, and means a ‘mere’ or pond where rushes grow. In the medieval period the manor of Wykes Ufford included those parts of the parishes of Westerfield and Rushmere that were within the Liberties of Ipswich (see The Half Hundred of Ipswich section, above). Rushmere within Ipswich was the part that had been appropriated to the priory of Christ’s Church, and the parish remained divided between the corporation of Ipswich and the Hundred of Carlford from the 13th to 20th centuries.
Rushmere in Ipswich constituted most of the land east of Sidegate Lane and north of Woodbridge Road, a larger area than today’s Rushmere Estate. In 1841 it contained 5 households, and about 730 acres (out of a total of 2,720 acres for the whole parish), and a population of 230 (out of 564 for the whole parish). As can be seen by these figures, the 5 households were obviously not smallholdings, but fairly large, isolated estates with the appropriate staff to run them. There were two gentleman’s estates along the Rushmere Road of Roundwood (where Rushmere Road joins Woodbridge Road) and Pinetoft (on the corner of Rushmere Road and Humber Doucy Lane), both at one time owned by prominent men; Roundwood by Admiral Nelson (see Admiral Lord Nelson section, above), Pinetoft by Luther Holden (1815-1905), President of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Consultant Surgeon to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Little Roundwood at the end of Sidegate Lane, Rushmere Hall on Humber Doucy Lane and The Laurels on Woodbridge Road were very much working farm estates. This area remained agricultural or estate land into the 20th century. The building of the Colchester Road (A1214) bypass in 1926 encouraged the land to be sold off for housing. From 1949 through to the late 1950s the Rushmere Estate was built the other side of the bypass. The large houses were pulled down; Roundwood House itself was demolished in 1961, and Rushmere Hall (built in the 1600s) followed soon after.
The eastern boundary of Ipswich went down the middle of Humber Doucy Lane. In 1952 the boundary was moved eastward so that the whole of Humber Doucy Lane came within Ipswich, thus facilitating the construction of even more housing along this once quiet country lane.
Situated directly to the east of the town centre, between Woodbridge Road & Foxhall Road, is the estate known as California, centred around Cauldwell Hall Road. The name stems from the middle of the nineteenth century, when the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society came into being. The idea was for ordinary working people to invest their savings in the society, which in turn used the money to buy plots of freehold land, that could then be divided into plots large enough to give the owner the right to vote (at that time, a man needed to own a freehold worth at least 40 shillings to be eligible). The 98 ¾ acre Cauldwell Hall estate was the society’s first such purchase, & this event coincided with the California gold rush of 1849. Although some people used their plot to build a house, many at first used theirs simply as an allotment, & the area became known as ‘the Diggings’. A parallel was soon being drawn with the scramble for land in the far west of America, however, & the name ‘California’ was adopted; a name that has endured to this day. Incidentally, the first president of the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society was the banker & philanthropist Richard Dykes Alexander (1788-1865), who was also a pioneer photographer. He is commemorated by a blue plaque on ‘Alexander House’, close to where his house stood at the junction of St Matthews Street & Portman Road, just west of the town centre.
To the south of California, bounded by Foxhall Road to the north & Felixstowe Road to the south is the area known as Rose Hill. This takes its name from the Roe family who owned the land adjacent to Bishop’s Hill, and the property became known as “Roe’s Hill”. This was later corrupted to Rose Hill in the early 19th century. Owen Roe (1770-1825) built a house now known as Rose Hill House. The present Rosehill Road curves round close to the rear of the house, which still survives today as four flats at the end of Sandhurst Avenue. The property was sold off for housing developments from the 1870s.
To the east of Rose Hill, & on the eastern side of Bixley Road, is the Broke Hall estate, which stretches to the borough boundary in the area known as Black Heath, which is where Ipswich Golf Club is situated. This area was originally Bexley Heath (later in the 19th century it became Bixley Heath), and it was part of the large Broke Hall Estate. ‘Bexley’ means a clearing among box trees. Broke Hall itself is a Grade II listed stately home overlooking the River Orwell at Nacton opposite Pin Mill. Its name derives from Sir Richard Broke (d. 1529) who was an English judge who served as Chief Baron to the Exchequor. His daughter had married George Fastolfe of Nacton, and when the latter died without issue in 1527, he left his estates to Sir Richard. The Broke family then gave their name to the estate. (The name is a variant of Brooke and was originally applied to someone who lived near a brook.) In 1925, Captain Saumarez, the then owner, sold parts of the Broke Hall Estate in the areas of Bixley Heath and Black Heath. Part of it became Ipswich Golf Club, which opened in 1927, and a smaller part was developed in the 1930s for housing to the east of the Bixley Road (A1189). In 1954 and again in 1957 the Golf Club sold off parcels of land along their Bucklesham Road frontage for further housing and this joined with the earlier development to become known as the Broke Hall Estate. This land had been transferred from East Suffolk to Ipswich County Council in 1952 in anticipation of the expansion.
Further south still, & sandwiched between Felixstowe Road to the north & Nacton Road to the south, is the Racecourse estate. As the name suggests, this was once the centre for horse racing (see Ipswich Racecourse section, above). The last race was held here in 1911.
At the Murray Road entrance to the Racecourse Recreation Ground, a plaque in a wooden sign commemorates the presenting of this open space to the town in 1897 by John Dupuis Cobbold (see The Cobbold Family section, above).
Further out from the town centre, but also on the south side of Felixstowe Road, is the Priory Heath estate, built in the mid 1930s on heathland of the same name. It refers to Alnesbourne Priory, which is thought to have been founded in the thirteenth century as a home to Augustinian monks. The priory was already “ruinous” by 1514, & these ruins can still be seen close to the river, just outside the borough boundary & to the east of Orwell Country Park.
Further east still are Ransomes Industrial Estate & Ransomes Europark, which mark the town’s boundary, close to the A14.
To the south of Priory Heath is Ravenswood, one of the most recent districts within the Borough of Ipswich to be developed into a residential area. The estate is situated on the site of Ipswich Airport (see separate section, above), with the Grade II listed terminal building now housing the local community centre & flats. Development began in early 1999, & the area boasts several interesting public works of art, such as “Handstanding” by Martin Heron (see photo, left), “Green Wind 2” by Diane Maclean, “Propeller” by Harry Gray & “Formation” by Rick Kirby, the latter being located on the roundabout as you enter the estate from Nacton Road (see Statues, Plaques & Signs: Ipswich, England album in the Photo Gallery).
To the west of Priory Heath is the Gainsborough estate; built on former farmland from 1926 and throughout the 1930s, & named after the famous Suffolk born artist Thomas Gainsborough, who lived for some years in Ipswich. To the west of Gainsborough, closer to the town centre, is Holywells Park, which features in one of Gainsborough’s paintings (see separate sections on Thomas Gainsborough & Holywells Mansion & Park, above).
To the west of Gainsborough, but south of Holywells Park, is the Greenwich estate, which overlooks the river & includes Cliff Quay. In the Domesday Book the area is recorded as Grenewic (see The Half Hundred of Ipswich section, above), meaning a “green farmstead”. Although it is not known with any certainty when this hamlet became part of Ipswich, it seems to have been included in the parish of St Clements when that was established, probably in the 12th century. By the time Ipswich emerged as a proper Borough in 1200, its quayside parishes were St Peter, St Clement and St Mary at Quay, so Greenwich can be regarded as part of the corporation of Ipswich from its inception. It remained a small, isolated farming community outside the built up area until the 20th century, reached only by a single track from the Cliff Brewery. This track was known as Greenwich Way leading to Greenwich Farm, and then continued as Sandyhill Lane leading to a couple of cottages (Greenwich Hill Cottages). This was the total complement of the hamlet of Greenwich. The farmland was opened up for development about 1928 with the construction of Landseer Road. The Greenwich estate was built in the 1930s. The farm disappeared and on its land below the Greenwich estate was constructed a new dock area with grain and oil storage. The name survives with Greenwich Road leading off Landseer Road to the dock area, and on the opposite side the small Greenwich Business Park along Greenwich Close.
With the population growth of the twentieth century, the outward expansion from the town centre saw many new housing estates being built within the Borough of Ipswich. However, in recent years this expansion has crept over the borough boundaries into areas administered by other district councils. In other words, the Town of Ipswich & the Borough of Ipswich are no longer one & the same. This can be confusing for those not familiar with Ipswich.
Warren Heath: Situated on the southeast side of Ipswich, & bordered by Bucklesham Road to the north & Felixstowe Road to the south, is the small housing estate of Warren Heath, which now stretches almost as far as the Suffolk Showground (Trinity Park). Predominantly built in the 1990s, the area is within Suffolk Coastal District. This small development has an interesting history that goes back a long way. In 2002 a Saxon cemetery and associated settlement of 8th-12th century date was discovered on the site just south of Bucklesham Road. It appeared to be a late Saxon settlement, as Thetford Ware was present throughout (see Ipswich Ware Pottery section, above). It is thought that this could be the location of the “lost village” of Brihtolvestuna, which did exist somewhere in this area at that time. It was recorded in the Domesday Book between the entries for Nacton and Levington.
This area up to 1857 was a small administrative unit within the Broke Hall Estate known as Warren House Hamlet. It was extra-parochial which meant that its residents were outside any parish and, therefore, exempt from parochial taxation and church tithes. At the time it comprised seven houses and a population of 26. The main residence was Warren House itself. A significant proportion of the medieval diet was waterfowl and rabbits and it was important to safeguard these valuable natural resources. As such, a part of the heathland was set aside for this purpose where commoners were not allowed to hunt. This was called Warren Heath where the rabbit warrens were built, and included nearby Bixley Decoy Pond for the wildfowl (now on Ipswich Golf Course). These are recorded dating back to 1646, but must go back a lot further. Warren House was the dwelling for the warrener who managed this area. To ensure that the warrener and his gamekeepers had an interest in maintaining the system, the area that they lived in was free from taxation, and they were allowed to sell carcasses and pelts surplus to needs. Extra-parochial areas were abolished by Parliament in 1857 and most of Warren Heath was then attached to Purdis Farm. However, Warren House itself and the westernmost part of the heath had always been considered part of the ancient Liberties of Ipswich, so in 1889 they were included in the county borough. The town boundary still runs in an irregular fashion through the western part of the Warren Heath estate. Warren House was on the corner of today’s Warren Heath Road. By 1938 it had gone and the first few modern houses were built on its site. A little further to the east the present Warren Heath estate began in the 1960s and expanded rapidly in the 1990s.
Bixley Farm: In the east of Ipswich, to the north of Foxhall Road, is the Bixley Farm Estate. With the estate being bounded by Rushmere Golf Club to the north & Foxhall Stadium to the east (see Foxhall Stadium & Ipswich Witches section, above), further expansion is no longer viable. At its northeastern extremity, Bixley Farm Estate has now merged with Kesgrave, which has itself expanded greatly in the past few decades, to such an extent that it was declared a town in 2000. Like Warren Heath, Bixley Farm is in Suffolk Coastal District for administration purposes, & is in the parish of Rushmere St Andrew. The main roads in the neighbourhood are Bixley Drive & Broadlands Way.
Brook Hill: On the opposite side of Foxhall Road from Bixley Farm is the small residential Brook Hill Estate & Heathlands Park caravan site. To the south, the area is bordered by Ipswich Golf Club, with the Brookhill Woods to the east. Like its northerly neighbour, it is in Suffolk Coastal District. It was built in the 1950s and the name has long been applied to this area because of the small stream that runs between Brook Hill and Brookhill Woods, and turns east to flow into the River Deben.
Farthing Road Industrial Estate: Situated just off Sproughton Road to the west of the town, this industrial park is just outside the borough boundary, close to the Sproughton junction with the A14. There were originally sand & gravel pits here which gave rise to a concrete works. After this closed, the land continued to be used for industrial purposes, and the present light industrial estate was built.
Elton Park: To the west of Ipswich, situated on the north side of Hadleigh Road opposite the entrance to Chantry Park, is the small Elton Park development. This was land owned by William Davie Elton who lived on the London Road. After his death in 1898 the land was sold and a small residential estate of seven large houses with substantial grounds was built and named after the previous landowner. This development was, and still is, in the Babergh administrative district. The largest property was Elton Park House on the east side, whose grounds were adjacent to the Ipswich boundary. The property across the boundary remained nursery lands until 1950, when they were sold for the Elton Park Works to be built. The portion of land within Ipswich became the Elton Park Industrial Estate, later renamed the Elton Park Business Centre, comprising light industrial units. The small residential area still exists but the large properties have been broken up and there are now 33 houses, some of them converted into care homes, and many more now used as office accommodation. Elton Park House and its grounds were absorbed by the expansion of the adjacent industrial works.
Pinewood: Consisting of the adjacent housing estates of Brookwood & Pinebrook, this neighbourhood in southwest Ipswich is basically an extension of Chantry Estate. Close to the junction of the major A12 & A14 roads at Copdock Mill, & bounded to the west by London Road, the area was built during the 1990s & is administered by Babergh District Council. At its most southwesterly point, the estate has now encroached as far as the once entirely rural area around Belstead House. The population of Pinewood at the 2001 census was just over 4,000. (See also Belstead Brook Park section, above)
Thorington Park: Just to the east of Pinewood is the smaller Thorington Park. Built in the early years of the twenty first century, this residential area is situated to the south of the Belstead Brook (which, in this area, forms the boundary between Ipswich Borough & Babergh District councils). The estate has grown up on either side of Ellenbrook Road, with most of the roads & closes being named after butterflies & moths (Marbled White Drive, Oak Eggar Chase etc.). It is named after the former Thorington Hall Estate which was further to the south on the other side of the A14 bypass to the east of Belstead near the railway line. This estate was sold to the Bence family from Aldeburgh in 1691 and Thorington Hall was built in 1819. After World War II the family could no longer afford its upkeep and they sold the land. In 1949 the hall was demolished, but the name was retained by a large cottage built on the farmland.
Population figures listed at the top of this page are for the Borough of Ipswich. With the populations of the estates mentioned above included, however, the population of the Town of Ipswich is considerably higher.
The area that has in recent years become known as Ipswich Village is situated to the south west of the town centre, & to the west of Civic Drive. Centred around the Russell Road/Constantine Road area, the Ipswich Village is predominantly a business district that comprises the main offices of both Ipswich Borough Council (Grafton House) & Suffolk County Council (Endeavour House), as well as the Crown Court. Also within the area is Portman Road football ground, the BT offices in Bibb Way, & the offices of Axa Insurance. The new pedestrian Sir Bobby Robson Bridge over the river links the Village to the newly built residential area on Ranelagh Road. Greenspace within Ipswich Village is provided by Alderman Road Park, & adjacent to this is the recently rejuvenated Alderman Canal Local Nature Reserve (see above).
To celebrate the millennium, Ipswich Arts Association decided to create the Ipswich Charter Hangings; eight tapestries to depict the eight hundred years since the granting of the town’s first Charter. Isabel Clover, lecturer at Suffolk College, was commissioned to design & produce these panels.
The initial plan had been to have one embroidered panel depicting each century since the year 1200. This was later altered, however, to have the first pre-dating the Charter. The finished hangings represent the following periods:
Viking (Pre 1200 AD)
With a team of more than thirty, the Charter Hangings took over three years to complete; each panel being 3'6" wide by 5' tall. With the River Orwell a constant theme flowing through the eight tapestries, each panel is a collage of buildings, coats of arms, ships, historic events, prominent people & features of Ipswich life relevant to the particular period.
The Charter Hangings have been displayed in such places as Ipswich Museum & Bury St. Edmunds Cathedral, & are now permanently on display in St. Peter’s by the Waterfront church near Stoke Bridge.
Since 1993, Ipswich has had a partnership agreement with the town of Arras in the Pas de Calais department of northern France. This led to the Ipswich Arras Association being formed in 1995 to promote economic, educational, cultural & sporting links between the two towns. Across the channel, the French town has its own equivalent organisation known as the Association Arras Ipswich. A new Charter of Cooperation between the towns was signed in 2003.
Both towns now have squares named after the other. Situated in St.Stephen’s Lane in Ipswich is the pedestrian only Arras Square, which was created when the Buttermarket Shopping Centre was built in 1992. Inside the shopping centre stands a French yellow post box. In Arras, the Place d’Ipswich was created at around the same time. Here a British red phone box can be found.
Arras is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department & is the historic centre of the Artois region. The area was originally settled in pre Roman times & was known as Nemetacum or Nemetocenna; a name given to the region by the Belgic tribe of the Atrebates. The Romans set up a garrison town here & named it Atrebatum. The modern town grew up around the wealthy Benedictine Abbey of St.Vaast; established by the sixth century saint also known as St. Vedast, who started an episcopal see & monastic community here. During the Middle Ages, Arras was at various times under the control of feudal rulers, including the County of Flanders, the Duchy of Burgundy, the House of Habsburg and the French crown.
Arras was near the front line during the First World War & a series of offensives by British, Canadian, Australian & New Zealand troops during April & May 1917 took place in the area, which became known as the Battle of Arras. An extensive network of tunnels dug in World War I by the British can still be seen today.
During 1940, the second Battle of Arras took place, in which Allied forces attempted to thwart the Germans in their push towards the English Channel.
Arras is approximately 110 miles north of Paris by road. The population in 2007 was around 48,000.
The Ipswich or IP postcode covers much of the county of Suffolk, as well as some areas of the adjacent county of Norfolk. The bordering postcode areas are Colchester (CO) to the south, Cambridge (CB) to the west, Peterborough (PE) to the northwest, & Norwich (NR) to the north.
Although much of Suffolk falls within the IP postcode region, parts of the south of the county, such as Sudbury & Lavenham, have CO postcodes, whilst the far west of the county, including the towns of Newmarket & Haverhill, comes under the CB region. To the north, although Lowestoft & the northeast of Suffolk fall within the NR area, some parts of Norfolk, such as the towns of Diss (IP22) & Thetford (IP24) have IP postcodes.
The IP postcode region is divided into 33 districts; IP1 to IP33. The Borough of Ipswich itself is covered by IP1 (northwest), IP2 (southwest), IP3 (southeast), & IP4 (northeast). Generally speaking, the coding then radiates outwards from Ipswich, with the lower numbers being around the town & the higher numbers further afield, finishing with IP31, IP32 & IP33 in & around Bury St Edmunds & the west of Suffolk. There is also an IP98 postcode used by the Royal Mail for bulk mail (based in Diss).
Postcodes were introduced in the United Kingdom over a 15 year period from 1959 -1974, to aid the sorting of mail. They are made up of two sections, the first part consisting of one or two letters denoting the town or district, followed by one or two numbers, e.g. IP21. The second part, usually one number then two letters, denotes the road or precise location. The whole is known as a Postcode Unit, such as IP2 8RS.
Sadly, during the final month of 2006, Ipswich was thrown into the world media spotlight for all the wrong reasons, when five women - Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell & Annette Nichols - were murdered & their bodies dumped in rural locations around the town; the first being discovered on 2nd December, the final two on the 12th. On 19th December, London Road resident Stephen Wright was arrested. He was charged with the murder of all five women two days later & was remanded in custody at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 22nd December.
It was more than a year later, on 16th January 2008, when Wright came to trial at Ipswich Crown Court. He was found guilty on 21st February & sentenced to life imprisonment, with the recommendation that he should never be released.
Two books have since been published about the murders: Hunting Evil by Paul Harrison & David Wilson & Cold Blooded Evil by Neil Root.
In April 2010, the BBC showed a three part dramatisation of the events of 2006 entitled Five Daughters. Written by Stephen Butchard, it starred Ian Hart, Sarah Lancashire, Jaime Winstone and Juliet Aubrey.
Click here to sign the Guestbook
Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk on England’s east coast. With the North Sea to the east, Suffolk borders the counties of Essex to the south, Norfolk to the north & Cambridgeshire to the west. The name derives from ‘South Folk’; a name that dates from the time of the Kingdom of the East Angles which was formed in the 6th century.
In the far north east of the county is Ness Point, the most easterly point on the British mainland, which is in the seaside town of Lowestoft. In the west of the county is the cathedral town of Bury St. Edmunds &, further west still, on the border with Cambridgeshire, is the town of Newmarket. Known as the ‘Home of Horse Racing’ it’s racecourses straddle the border of the two counties. To the south of Ipswich, on the Essex/Suffolk border, is the area known as ‘Constable Country’ where the famous artist John Constable lived. Many of his paintings depict the East Bergholt, Flatford & Dedham Vale area, including his most famous work ‘The Hay Wain’.
Suffolk has many picturesque villages including Lavenham, Long Melford, Kersey, Clare & Cavendish. On the coast, to the north of Ipswich is the village of Dunwich; the last remnants of a once thriving town & seaport of the Middle Ages which has slowly been lost to the sea due to coastal erosion. Twelve miles to the east of Ipswich is the town of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port.