Stoke Hall Road, off the bottom of Belstead Road hill is an unassuming residential cul de sac. Its name, however, commemorates a lost great house of Over Stoke. Stoke Hall was a large mansion house built by the wine merchant Thomas Cartwright in 1744/45. Cartwright also excavated beneath Stoke hill a vast series of wine cellars, eighteen in all on three underground levels, and a total of 180 feet in length. By 1892 the Hall was up for sale following the death of the owner Robert James Ransome of Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies. The stables of the Hall were not demolished and continue to be used by businesses; indeed they and the tunnels are Listed Grade II.
At the kind invitation of the current tenant of the larger unit, Suffolk Marquees, the Society's Chairman and I were shown round on a hot July afternoon; tunnels are always intriguing. Cartwright's wine store has had a chequered history, most notably as a public air-raid shelter. Much additional rendering, wall-building and adaptation was carried out to make the spaces suitable. Former Ipswich Museum curator, David Jones' fine book Ipswich in the Second World War (Phillimore, 2005) tells us more:-
"The largest public shelters were the pre-existing cellars in Stoke Hall Road, the only shelter [in Ipswich] to hold more than 500 people. The records suggest a shelter de luxe. Like other public shelters, it had illuminated signs which were switched on in line with the blackout and off at 10.30 or during an alert. It was heated by a Cara stove. It had its own stirrup-pump, two buckets and fire extinguishers. In addition to a first aid box, [part] was set aside for a casualty holding section provided with extra lights. The emergency exit was purposely widened to take stretchers. A small canteen was set up at which tea and biscuits could be bought."
The notice reads:
Medical Attendance at Public Air Raid Shelters.
[In an] emergency the following doctors have agreed [to respond] to requests for assistance from Public [Air] Raid Shelters in the vicinity of their house.
Dr. HERMIONE BOURTON[?], Fairway, Bucklesham, Road. Phone No. 7295.
Dr. LOUISE HYDER (Mrs.), 343, Colchester Road. Phone No. 7177.
Dr. R.J. REA, 236A Felixstowe Road. Phone No. 2469.
Dr. C.S. STADDON, 174, Norwich Road. Phone No. 78807.
Dr. E. [W?] STADDON, South Bank, Spring Road. Phone No. 78807.
Dr. A.R. WALTERS, 40 Berners Street. Phone No. 3259.
Dr. L.M. HAMP, 7 Dalton Road. Phone No. 2469.
[Final passage unreadable.]