Planet Ipswich : A bridge between the Ipswiches of the world

Ipswich, Indian River, City of Chesapeake, Virginia, USA

Ipswich, or Ipswich Townvillas, is a subdivision located in the Indian River community of the City of Chesapeake in the South Hampton Roads area of south east Virginia.  It is situated in the southern part of Indian Rivers adjacent to the Indian River Park recreational facility which is to the northeast of Ipswich, with the Hampton Roads Beltway forming its southern boundary (in Europe, the term “ring road” or “orbital motorway” is used).  Ipswich  comprises 268  houses in 21 individual roads, each road being a cul-de-sac ending in a circle.   

Population:- The population at the 2010 census was 219. The population of Chesapeake in 2020 was 249,422.

How to get there:-

By Road: From Richmond & the north, take Interstate Highway 64, via Newport News & Hampton, to Chesapeake, before turning north at the intersection with Greenbriar Parkway. From there turn right onto US Highway 13, before turning right again into Paramont Avenue.

From the south, take Chesapeake Expressway/State Highway 168 northwards, before joining Interstate Highway 64 eastbound to the intersection with Greenbriar Parkway.  From there, take route as above.

From Suffolk & the west, take US Highway 13/460 eastbound. Turn onto Interstate Highway 664 before merging with Interstate Highway 64. Turn northwards at the intersection with Greenbriar Parkway & follow route as above.

By Rail: There is currently no passenger rail service to Chesapeake.

The nearest international airport is Norfolk International, around 9 miles north of Ipswich. Chesapeake Regional Airport is located approximately 14 miles to the south.  

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hrs).  Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.


Order of contents on this page: (Click on the links below)

Pre-European Settlement

History & Derivation of Name

Indian River Park & Ipswich Mountain Bike Trail 

Norfolk County & City of Chesapeake 

The Battle of Great Bridge 





Pre-European Settlement

The Chesepian or Chesapeake were an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe who inhabited what is now the South Hampton Roads area of Virginia (the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach).  The word “Chesapeake” comes from the Algonquin Indian “K’che-se-piak” meaning “Mother of Waters”.  However, in 1607 when the first European colonists arrived there were no Chesapeake to meet them.  However, there were established Algonquin settlements of the Powhatan Confederacy.

The Chesapeake had been completely wiped out by the Powhatan, a Confederacy of 30 tribes, a couple of years before the arrival of the English at Jamestown in 1607.  Powhatan was the name given by the English to the chief of the Nansemond tribe around Jamestown, further west from the Chesapeake.  Powhatan’s priests had received a prophecy that “from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay a nation would arise which would destroy his empire, and end the Native American way of life.”  At the time there was only one group fitting that description, the small, peaceful Chesapeake tribe of 300 to 400 members who lived near the mouth of the Bay.  They seemed an unlikely source of trouble.  Nevertheless, Powhatan took heed of the prophecy and he acted.  The entire Chesapeake tribe, every man, woman and child, was killed by the Powhatans.  After eliminating the original Chesapeake tribe, other tribes of the Confederacy occupied their lands and villages, and assumed the tribal name as the name for this territory.

The new nation of white men duly arrived and by 1646 the Powhatan Confederacy was no more.  The Native Americans were forcefully dispersed by the colonial authorities, and died from the diseases brought by the settlers.  By 1669 they had entirely disappeared from the area as a distinct people.

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History & Derivation of Name

The Indian River is a 4.8 mile (7.7 km) long southern tributary of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River which runs into the wide estuary of Hampton Roads.  It is primarily a tidal river fed by a small creek that runs through the Indian River Park (see separate section below).  Ipswich is situated adjacent to the upper part of the Indian River Park.

The first English settlement in 1607 was at Jamestown, 35 miles (56 km) inland where it would be less susceptible to attacks by Spanish ships.  However, the excellent harbours around the estuary of Hampton Roads soon attracted the early settlers.  Because the land east of the Elizabeth River was the principal settlement of the Native Americans in the area, it was not until later that the territory  around Indian River was opened up for colonial settlement.  The earliest land grants were made in 1651 and these were mainly adjacent to the tidal part of the river since transport was only feasible by boat at that time.  It was not until 1667 that Henry Halstead, who was born in Lancashire, England, obtained a grant of 58 acres “at the head of Indian Creek”.  

For the next 300 years, the land around where Ipswich is now located remained a rural area of planters and farmers.  Where the land had not been cleared it remained a predominantly woodland landscape, such as the Indian River Park.  There were no roads, only dirt tracks and strawberry fields.  In the 1880s the Norfolk Southern Railroad drove a line through the area, otherwise it was left untouched by the main thoroughfares.  The small dispersed farming community was known as Indian Creek until the late 19th century when Indian River became the usual name.  It was in the Washington District, later Washington Borough, of Norfolk County, Virginia, just east of South Norfolk. (see Norfolk County & City of Chesapeake section, below).

It was only after 1910 that the Indian River community started to develop as a residential area serving the labour force of the factories and shipyards on the Elizabeth River.  Residential growth continued up to US Route 13, constructed in 1918.  However, the land where Ipswich is located was beyond that highway and remained isolated and untouched up until the 1960s.  In 1963 two events occurred that would affect the future development of this land.  First, the Hampton Roads Beltway (Interstate 64) was completed.  This ran just south of Indian Park and today forms the southern perimeter of Ipswich.  Secondly, the merger of Norfolk County and South Norfolk into the City of Chesapeake (see below) allowed the new corporation to develop a comprehensive land use plan.  This recognised that the land between Route 13 and the Beltway should be reserved for future residential and service industry growth.

The office and business park development north of the railroad track took place in the 1960s. With the railroad being abandoned in 1974 this released the remainder of the land primarily for residential use.  In 1977 construction of the Ipswich Townvillas began on what had previously been farmland.  This land had been purchased by Coleman Farms, Inc., an associate company of the Larrymore Organisation, a property developer based in Virginia Beach.  It was this organisation that gave the name Ipswich Townvillas to this development.  We have tried on several occasions to find out from the developer why this name was chosen, but our requests have met with no response. One theory, put forward by a local resident, is that the city planners decided to name subdivisions in this section of the city after British schools and colleges, such as Ipswich, Dorchester etc, although why they would choose these lesser known schools rather than the more prestigious Eton, Harrow, Cheltenham or Roedean is a mystery at present.

We are inclined to believe that the Larrymore Organisation named the location after Ipswich in Massachusetts.  It is in the public domain that the founder of this company in 1954 was Lawrence (Larry) J Goldrich (1922-2021) who came from Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens in New York City.  He enlisted in the US Army Air Force in 1942 and was posted overseas during World War II.  It is recorded that he saw action at the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific (November 1943).  It could be that he was posted to the large US base close to Ipswich, Australia, and he may have chosen the name accordingly.  However, his nephew and the present President of the Larrymore Organisation, Ivan William (Bill) Berger, who joined the firm in 1973, was at the Boston University School of Management from 1965 to 1969.  His father was Leslie Berger, and a man of that name was resident at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1940 US Census.  Cambridge is located just north of Boston, only 30 miles from Ipswich, MA.  If anybody has any further information that would indicate how the name came to be chosen, please contact us at

Each individual road is a cul-de-sac designated a “Circle” and has been given a name of a location in England (with two exceptions in the names of Drake and Jersey, and a couple of variant spellings with Glouchester and Ilkly).  The roads run in alphabetic sequence from Alton to Warwick, with Q and V being omitted.  The development was built in two stages: from 1977 to 1981 along Paramont Avenue and from 1984 to 1989 along Eaton Way.  In total there are 21 roads (Circles) and 268 houses, with 18 acres of common area property.

There are three distinct areas within the development.  The first is known as Ipswich along Paramont Avenue and comprises cedar-sided town houses (in Britain these are known as semi-detached or terraced houses), and they are found in: Alton, Bristol, Corby, Drake, Exeter, Farington, Glouchester, Hardwick, Ilkly, Jersey, Keswick, and Lydney.  The second area along Eaton Way, known as Chelsea Courts, comprises individual (detached) houses, found in: Moseley, Newstead, Orford and Penzance. The third area is Shannon’s Glen and includes Romsey, Seaton, Thames, Upton, and Warwick.  Each road name is followed by “Circle”.    

The community initially had two homeowner associations to look after its interests with the outside world.  One was simply Ipswich Homeowners, the other is Ipswich Townvillas.  The Homeowners have now dissolved their organization but Ipswich Townvillas (incorporated on 2nd March 1977) is still active.  The main road that passes through the neighbourhood is Paramont Avenue.  The Ipswich Homeowners group is on one side of Paramont Avenue and the Ipswich Townvillas section is on the other.  Although the name for the subdistrict is officially Ipswich Townvillas, the local community refers to it as Ipswich Village or just Ipswich.  It is only a matter of time before officialdom follows public usage. 

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Indian River Park & Ipswich Mountain Bike Trail

The non-tidal part of the Indian River winds through a creek in woodland.  This had little value as farming or plantation land, but at the end of the 19th century there was a movement towards preserving such areas as recreational parks for the nearby urban population.  By 1904 the City of Norfolk had acquired 100 acres and established a narrow park, several blocks long and a block wide - the Indian River Park.  Throughout the 20th century, this remained a piece of the City of Norfolk in Norfolk County.  As the urban spread encircled the park, it was expected that these communities would be annexed to the city.  However, in 1963 the surrounding areas voted to become part of the new City of Chesapeake (see section below).  The City of Norfolk thus gained little benefit from owning this park and tried for several years to sell it.  Finally, in March 2001 the City of Chesapeake bought the Indian River Park from the City of Norfolk.  

The park now comprises 91 acres located between Paramont and Rokeby Avenues, the last remaining green space in a community of residential subdivisions and business estates.  The park has a small recreational centre with a baseball field and a basketball court, but 70 acres remains in its natural setting of mature hardwoods and pines.  

Although the p
ark offers a place to walk and hike for the neighbouring communities, it is also renowned for the five mile Ipswich Mountain Bike Trail.  In the 1970s youths began using the park for “dirt jumping”.  Soon there were a series of bicycle trails threading through the trees with jumps, narrow bridges and obstacles for the use of BMX and mountain bike enthusiasts.  The area became commonly known as “Ipswich” from the home development that borders about half the park.  With its increasing popularity, and concern about the condition of some of the trails, this facility has now been given official recognition.  In 2010 the Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association (EVMA) adopted the trail and members have since been contributing to the maintenance of the park, and making the technical challenges safer.  It is now formally known as the Indian Park Mountain Bike Trail, although it is still referred to informally as “the Ipswich”.

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Norfolk County & City of Chesapeake

Norfolk County originally encompassed what are now the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake.  One of the early settlers was Adam Thoroughgood (1604-1640) from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, who settled the area he called Lynnhaven (now part of Virginia Beach) in about 1622.  In 1624 Virginia became a royal colony and the territory was included in Elizabeth City, one of the original “ancient boroughs”.  In 1634 Virginia was divided into counties of which Elizabeth City Shire was one.  In 1636 the land on the south side of that county became New Norfolk County by order of King Charles I.  Adam Thoroughgood was now the leading citizen of the area and, according to long-standing tradition, he was responsible for naming the new county after his native Norfolk in England.  This area was divided again in 1637 into Upper and Lower Norfolk Counties.  Lower Norfolk County included the entire area now within the modern cities of Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.  Upper Norfolk County was renamed Nansemond County in 1646 (see Suffolk, Virginia page in  In 1691 the western part of Lower Norfolk became Norfolk County when the eastern part was detached to become Princess Anne County.  After 1691 Norfolk County remained more or less intact for over 200 years.

As far as the settlement of Norfolk County is concerned, this was only really possible after the final defeat of the Powhatan Confederacy in 1646 and the withdrawal of the Native Americans from these lands.  In the early years the area was settled as tobacco plantations and there were no towns. Plantation owners and small farmers were not interested in creating urban centres, and these did not become common in Virginia until the 1730s.
In 1636 the first grant of land on the site of the City of Norfolk was made to Thomas Willoughby.  In October 1680, the Virginian House of Burgesses established the “Towne of Lower Norfolk County”.  However, it was not until 16 August 1682 that the County purchased the land to build a storehouse for tobacco, and the new town became the county seat.  Norfolk Town remained the county seat until 1790.  It was created a borough by royal charter on 15 September 1736, and by 1775 Norfolk was considered the most prosperous town in Virginia.  It became a city in 1846, and in 1871 it was separated from Norfolk County.  The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point.  In 1917 the US Government established the Norfolk Naval Base here, and it is now the world’s largest such base.

The Town of Berkley was located to the south of the City of Norfolk directly across the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  In 1644 and 1666 the Herbert family acquired land here.  By 1700 the community was called Powder Point because of a powder magazine situated there; the name changed to Ferry Point and then Herbertsville.  In 1790 the magisterial district for this part of Norfolk County was named Washington, one of the earliest places to be named after the first American President, and Herbertsville became the Town of Washington.  From 1790 to 1803 it was also the county seat.  In 1852 Lycurgus Berkley, a wealthy merchant, bought up most of the properties and developed the town, thus in 1890 it adopted his name.  In 1906 the Town of Berkley was annexed by the City of Norfolk.  However, the magisterial district of Washington continued as Washington Borough, covering those small communities that remained outside the town limits, such as Indian River and South Norfolk.
South Norfolk is further south of Berkley and west of Indian River. Throughout the colonial period and most of the 19th century, this area consisted mostly of individual farms and plantations. A small community developed after 1812 when Carter W Poindexter, who had been an admiral in the British Navy, settled in the area and invested in manufacturing industries.  When the railroads came through Norfolk County the industrial potential was realised and new businesses and houses appeared alongside the railroads.  At that time, the entire south side was considered part of Washington (now Berkley), and the area was regarded as its suburb.  The name of South Norfolk is said to have been coined by Reginald Poindexter in about 1889.  When Berkley was annexed to the City of Norfolk in 1906, South Norfolk remained separate as a flourishing community in Washington Borough.  In 1919 it was incorporated as a town, and in January 1921 it became an independent city separate from Norfolk County.

After 1871 Norfolk County saw its area frequently reduced as “independent cities” broke away from the county, and these then added territory through annexations from the county.  In 1871 the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth left the county structure, although Portsmouth remained the county seat.  In 1921 South Norfolk was lost.  In the first half of the 20th century, the City of Norfolk expanded its boundaries through annexation.  In 1906 the city annexed Berkley, which stretched the city limits across the Elizabeth River, & other annexations took place in 1923.  By 1960 nearly the whole of the east side of the Elizabeth River had been lost.  On the other side of the river, West Norfolk (Churchland) was lost to Portsmouth.
The City of Norfolk sought to annex land from adjacent counties because property taxes from the annexed land would flow into the city’s bank account.  The smaller City of South Norfolk felt threatened as the City of Norfolk began encircling it through these annexations.  Since the residents of Norfolk County who lived on the outskirts of the City of Norfolk did not wish to be swallowed up by that city, Norfolk County and South Norfolk became allies.  In Virginia, independent cities are immune from annexation by each other, thus becoming an independent city was a method by which the county could stabilise its boundaries with its neighbours.  On 1st January 1963, after a referendum, the new City of Chesapeake was formed by a merger of Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk.  The new name was chosen by the voters.  When this came into effect, Norfolk County ceased to exist.  

The independent City of Chesapeake is located at 36°42’51”N 76°14’18” W.  The merger accounts for the extensive area and peculiar boundaries of the “city”.  It stretches all the way to the boundary with North Carolina in the south, and now partly embraces the City of Portsmouth on both western and eastern sides.  In Virginia it is adjacent to other independent cities on all sides: Suffolk to the west, Virginia Beach to the east, and Portsmouth and Norfolk in the harbour area of  Hampton Roads to the north.  In area it covers 340.7 square miles, making it the second largest independent city by land area in the state.  It is currently the third largest city in Virginia in terms of population.  Chesapeake actually has few urban areas but has many square miles of protected farmland, forests, and wetlands, including a substantial portion of the Great Dismal Swamp. 
(see Suffolk, Virginia page on

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The Battle of Great Bridge

Another urban community located in the independent city of Chesapeake is Great Bridge.  Its name is derived from the American Revolutionary War Battle of Great Bridge, which took place on 9 December 1775 and resulted in the final removal of the British from the Colony and Dominion of Virginia.  Near the end of the war, the Hudgins family moved to Great Bridge and established the first permanent settlement there.  

Although the battles of Lexington and Concord took place months earlier, and are historically more memorable, the Battle of Great Bridge can be seen as the first important colonial victory over the British.  In early November, the Governor of Virginia, John Murray, Lord Dunmore, called for all loyal subjects to help suppress the rebellion.  He established martial law, freeing slaves, and enlisting everybody capable of bearing arms.  By the middle of November, Dunmore’s forces numbered about three hundred men.  The town of Norfolk was a Tory centre.  Hundreds of newly emancipated slaves were put to work on the fortifications to hold back patriots until work could be finished.  A detachment of Redcoats was sent to build a stockade fort at Great Bridge, almost twenty miles from Norfolk.  Hastily constructed out of planks, rotting logs, and mounds of earth, “Fort Murray” became the focal point of the Revolution in Virginia during 1775.  Bordered on both sides by the Great Dismal Swamp, access to the bridge was only possible along narrow causeways.  The little stockade, therefore, posed a formidable threat to Virginia’s security, as it enabled the British to block the main road between Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia’s assembly ordered its troops to march on Norfolk.  Col. William Woodford led the 2nd Virginia Regiment toward the bridge.  After an initial British assault on the Rebel lines had been repulsed, the Redcoats, realising they were outnumbered, were forced to evacuate Fort Murray and withdraw to Norfolk.  Shortly thereafter, Norfolk Town was abandoned by Lord Dunmore, and the British retreated to navy ships in the harbour.  The Rebel army occupied Norfolk.  On 1st January 1776 Norfolk was partly destroyed in an action begun by Royal Navy ships, but completed by the Rebel troops that continued to loot and burn the former Tory stronghold.  Lord Dunmore then occupied Portsmouth in February 1776, and used it as a base for raiding operations until late March, when General Charles Lee forced him back to the fleet.  After further raiding operations in Chesapeake Bay, Dunmore and the British fleet left for New York City in August 1776.  The British failure to secure Virginia ensured that contact was maintained between the southern and northern states during the Revolutionary War.

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