Gallery: Did you know oysters were farmed in the River Orwell? 10 more things you didn’t know about Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 19:30 28 April 2014
Evidentially, ten points were never going to be enough to do justice to Ipswich’s distinguished history, and it wasn’t hard to unearth ten more facts you may - or may not - have known.
Thanks to John Norman and his colleagues at the Ipswich Society for the next instalment in our 10 things you didn’t know about Ipswich series.
1. When the vast majority of the workforce lived within a few hundred yards of the factory - and didn’t have watches or clocks - they were called to work with a siren. Steam from the works boiler was emitted through a sounding device and a very loud whistle was discharged. The deepest noise locally was popularly known as the ‘Bull’, a hooter rather than a whistle. It ‘sounded off’ from Ransomes Rapier’s Waterside Works at 7.45, 7.55 and 8.00am, leaving the local workforce no chance of a lie-in.
2. The largest Roman Villa in Suffolk was at Castle Hill, north west Ipswich. First discovered in 1850, it wasn’t until one hundred years later that Basil Brown (of Sutton Hoo fame) carried out extensive research of the villa’s foundations. The patterned mosaic floor that was discovered and excavated is now at the Ipswich Museum. Channel 4’s Time Team carried out further excavations in 2004 and discovered that the site had been occupied throughout the Roman occupation of Britain, from the first to the fourth century AD. A remarkable duration compared with other Roman villas.
3. Oysters were a staple diet for the good folk of Ipswich, not only when the Roman’s were in residence, but also during the dark ages and into Tudor times. Oysters were farmed in the Orwell, close to Bourne Bridge (the Oyster Reach public house, close by, was supposedly named after the fishery). They were also cultivated further downstream as far as Flagbury Point (now part of Trinity Container Terminal).
4. The Ipswich Society came across an old recipe for “Ipswich Pudding” whilst researching this article, but given the high sugar content they haven’t tried it (yet). It consists of a mixture of breadcrumbs, castor sugar, and almonds, three eggs and single cream with further almonds for decoration and flavour. It was, apparently popular after the wars with France at the turn of the 19th century
5. There is a memorial in Christchurch Park to the nine Ipswich martyrs who were persecuted for their protestant beliefs. Over a period of 12 years all were burned at the stake, the chosen method of execution for religious beliefs that were at variance with those of the Crown. In 1546 a man called Kerby was tried, found guilty, tied to a stake on the Cornhill and burned. He wasn’t the last: in 1556 Robert Samuel, Agnes Potten, Joan Trunchfield and John Tudson all suffered the same fate as did Alice Driver, Alexander Gouch and William Pikes in 1558. Their names are recorded on the memorial. There were more than 70 Ipswich martyrs in prison awaiting death when Queen Mary died in 1558. They were pardoned and released.
6. Dogs Head Street is named after the Dogs Head Public House which stood on the corner with Upper Brook Street. The pub sign was a dogs head in the pot which was reputedly the full name of the pub. Loosely based on an old wives tale that if you were late back from the lunchtime drinking session your dinner would be in the dog. The pub was pulled down in the early 1900s and the (former) head office of the Ipswich Building Society built on the corner.
7. In the early years of the 20th century a Roller Skating Rink was constructed on the site of the Provisions Market (just north of the Old Cattle Market). It was a permanent facility and was described as being the finest and biggest in East Anglia but it didn’t last long. In 1912 the rink was converted into the Palace Electric Theatre which was equally short lived. This building was demolished in 1920 and the Post Office Sorting Office built on the site.
8. The Walk is one of the first purpose designed ‘pedestrian shopping malls’ in the country. Designed by Ipswich Architects, Barefoot and Cautley and resembling Elizabethan shambles in appearance, the Walk belies the fact it was built in 1938. All the shops have mock-Tudor detailing with carved timbers similar in style to church pew ends. Lesley Barefoot is commemorated with an Ipswich Society blue plaque on his office which was upstairs above the junction with the Thoroughfare.
9. Clarkson Street was named after Thomas Clarkson who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery working with William Wilberforce MP. Clarkson Street and other adjacent streets are named after team members who worked with Clarkson and Wilberforce to change attitudes. Clarkson lived at Playford Hall just outside Ipswich.
10. John Barnard who owned shipyards on the banks of the Orwell and one at Harwich won an order from the Navy to build warships including a 74-gun vessel, the Hampshire which was built in 1740 on John’s Ness opposite Freston Tower. A ship of this size required some 3,000 Suffolk oak trees (and oak was specified by the Navy) and the full order for 26 ships required 320,000 tones of oak. This led to the demise of ‘oaken Suffolk’ which Queen Elizabeth I had found so pleasing but before the order had been fulfilled suitable oak was exhausted and was supplemented with imported American white pine.