Reading the article about Charles Whitfield King and Morpeth House in Lacey Street (in the GeoSuffolk Times, 2014) reminds me that I used to live at the opposite end of Lacey St in 1984-6 at the bottom corner in a peculiar shaped building called The Warren at TM 1701 4477 and access to our garden was situated at the end of a lane called Arthurs Terrace which is easy to miss but situated about 30 metres to the south west of the junction of Lacey St & Woodbridge Road. I used to live in the flat at the top section of the building and if I went through the hatch above my bedroom leading to the top of the tower I had a fantastic view over central Ipswich.
The garden used to be quite extensive and at the bottom of the steep slope it had its own orchard, but a care home has now been built on it, and there is the St John's Ambulance compound built on the rest. Doing research at the Suffolk Record Office led me to discover that it used to be called Rotherham House and was much bigger, judging by old OS maps kept at the SRO.
Unsafe spiral steps led down from the balustrade garden to the bottom of the slope which gave access on the right to a narrow curved tunnel about 30 metres long into the face of the hill which came out in a different part of the garden. It was all blocked with builders' rubble when I moved in, but I cleared it out to try to work out what its purpose was. Half way along was a sort of blocked off window which being in the hillside was pretty pointless - it may have been to place a candle and was either a servants' passageway or, more probably, a folly or grotto built to impress friends.
On the other side of the 'cliff face' to the left of the steps were three bricked-off 'cave' entrances which, if indeed they were caves, would have gone under the house itself. My landlord told me off for clearing out the tunnel as he said it could collapse on trespassing children so I never got round to removing any bricks to see if the arches were bricked off caves, but an old local person told me that years ago a chap used to keep chickens in there.
When I was in Morrison's superstore, Sproughton Road a few years ago I saw a copy of a well-known painting of the old Stoke Bridge but I spotted in the background, above where the railway station now is, a house which looks like a mirror image of what The Warren looks like and I wonder if either is a copy or based on the design of the other?
All the digging must have exposed the face of the hillside/cliff face but it is overgrown with vegetation now. When I revisited the hillside in 2013 from above and below I noticed that the tunnel was now filled in again, the balustrade wall had collapsed and fallen down the steep slope, the spiral steps were blocked off to prevent tenants in the flats making a short cut to the shops in Blanche Street via the St John's Ambulance compound and, by enlarging the photograph of the building taken from near Blanche Street, I saw that the window frames of my old flat looked in a sorry state. There is a story waiting to be told about Rotherham House!
Rotherham House: some notes passed on by our Chairman, John Norman
‘The most interesting house in the group is The Warren, built around 1853 for his own occupation by the Ipswich architect J. Rotherham Cattermole (designer of the town's finest villa ‘Woodside', Constitution Hill) and for many years known as Rotherham House.
The house once had very extensive terraced pleasure grounds which ran down the steep slope to the rear of the houses in Samuel Road. These are clearly shown on the 1886 Ordnance Survey maps and there were also fountains and a long curving pedestrian tunnel. A long pathway traversed the slope from the top adjacent to Bunn's Cottages.
Any surviving buried structures from this mid-Victorian garden (although partly outside the Conservation Area) would be of considerable interest in garden history terms.
The house itself has been greatly abused by unsympathetic alterations. Although it retains an interesting belvedere with open laced white brick parapet walls and vertical zig-zag white brick decoration to the side elevation, the decorative front brickwork has been painted and the elevations mutilated by unsympathetic window alterations and a prominent black painted metal fire escape.
Currently a chain link fence at the top of the escarpment marks the boundary to the conservation area. It is partly obscured by Yew trees and other vegetation which overhang it and which provide a pleasant sense of enclosure which it is important to manage and maintain. The appearance of this small identity area would be much enhanced by improved, sympathetic surfacing more appropriate boundary treatment and the reinstatement of architectural detailing when the opportunities arise.'
Mike Taylor (Senior Conservation Officer, IBC), Character Appraisal - St Helen's
Joseph Rotherham CATTERMOLE 1824-1900. builder, architect and surveyor, 58 Carr St.
William Cattermole was a bricklayer. His son, Joseph Rotherham Cattermole, followed his father into the building trade as a joiner. Joseph later developed to become an architect and surveyor (1871 census).
William Eade was his architectural assistant, becoming a partner in the practice in 1886.
The Warren was designed by J.R. Cattermole, probably 1850-53 (he lived there from 1853); it was called Rotherham House for obvious reasons. Joseph Rotherham Cattermole owned and developed considerable property interests locally (Lacey Street).