Dick Stokes, Arthur Ransome and George Orwell from Ivan Cutting, Eastern Angles

Good to see the mention of Dick Stokes in the bonus Society Newsletter the other week (Issue 220: The mighty leviathan!) regarding Ransomes & Rapier. Arthur Ransome, who was related to the Ransome element, talks about him in his autobiography. Consequently I put him in the play Red Skies that we were due to tour this Spring. It tells the story of a fictional meeting between George Orwell and Arthur Ransome in 1939 in Southwold. Orwell was about to write Animal Farm when someone tells him Arthur Ransome is in the harbour with his wife Evgenia who was once Trotsky’s secretary.

In the Second Act, set in 1940, Orwell finds his way to the Ransomes’ home near Pin Mill and stays over, during which there is an air-raid. Evgenia beds him down under the table, which is ‘where we put our MP Dick Stokes when he is here’. At least the latter part of that sentence is true!


The first ‘bridge to the station’ from Spencer Greystrong, River Gipping Trust

Thanks for a most informative article by Merv Russen about the first railway station in Croft Street. Your readers might be interested in the attached painting entitled Bridge West of Stoke Bridge. The painting is in the collection of the Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service. We have their permission to use it on our web site and in our presentations.

Clearly, the only bridge currently west of Stoke Bridge is Princes Street which leads to the present railway station and this picture certainly doesn't show that.

The painting is by Robert Burrows (1810-1893) who was born in Ipswich. We believe the picture dates from around 1847 just after Croft Street Station was opened. There are references in the Suffolk Chronicle of July 1847 to 'new business premises situate in the New Street in the course of formation from the Corn Hill to the Railway Station'.

Image courtesy Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service

The new station wasn’t opened until 1860 and this bridge was constructed to take traffic from Croft Street station across the river, just upstream from Stoke Bridge. It was replaced by Station Bridge in 1860. We think the building at the end of the bridge was an ale house, once the Locomotive, later the Railway Tavern but since demolished, at the junction of Burrell Street and Willoughby Road. That must have been where ‘the working men, numbering some 200’, had their dinner. The church tower is St Mary-a-Stoke and the windmill was at the top of Stoke Hill.


Ipswich villages from Tim Voelcker

The Chairman’s remarks in the July Newsletter about additional Newsletters instead of an AGM spoke of the value of the novel form of discussion, quite apart from it saving the normal meeting’s costs of over £1000 which instead were used for the extra Newsletter. In his article Coronavirus, he expressed a hope that we will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis as a less selfish, more caring, more thoughtful nation: ‘The care we have shown to each other must continue’. It may be that (a) working sometimes from home may prove more acceptable in some cases both to employers and employees; that (b) the frail and elderly may be better placed at home, rather than in crowded care-homes with a higher risk of infection, if given the correct help.

He suggests that ‘businesses will rethink their working model’. Should the Ipswich Society likewise take a closer interest in the way the surrounding countryside is changing? The months of lock-down will have temporarily changed habits of recreation of many Ipswich residents. Will the numbers of cyclists, runners and walkers that took exercise on the Suffolk lanes this year in the fortunate fine weather have changed their minds about the importance the of countryside? How do you evaluate this against the need for more housing or the dangers and frustrations of more car traffic? How quickly the roads filled again when the restrictions were lifted. The Post Opening Project Evaluation by Essex County Council of the recent ‘improvement’ of the A120 from Braintree to Stanstead Airport was circulated by our Chairman last September. As he pointed out, it was considered to have had an adverse effect on the environment, to have increased the price of houses in a wider area, to have diminished the Flitch Way’s use by cycles and frightened away wild life by its noise.

Should the Society Newsletter and meetings be more concerned than at present with the surrounding countryside? I have found the Society Newsletter of great value ever since 1976 when we came to live in Bucklesham and I started a job in Ipswich. The information it made available under Neil Salmon’s editorship was as valuable domestically as from a business view, and it continues today. But it leaves an impression that the town and the countryside are different worlds that should stick to themselves. This is particularly relevant to planning which, perhaps understandably, seldom features sites outside the town itself. Yet steadily the Felixstowe peninsula that surrounds the town fills with buildings instead of farmland and changes its character.

In recent months, a commercial developer whose advertising boasted that ‘their objective since they started had been maximising the Financial Benefit for Landowners’. They sought planning approval for creating a new village of 2,700 houses on the farmland on the Bucklesham Road into Ipswich, including much of the existing village of Foxhall. The plans showed little of how such a large development would impact upon the two existing villages, upon secondary schooling, water and sewerage availability, on public transport or – above all – on public transport or general transport linking to Ipswich. They explained that this was because they would not be doing the actual development themselves but, if they obtained planning permission, they intended to sell the site to another developer on behalf of the local landowner. When they were told that East Suffolk had already located sufficient new sites for the forthcoming period, they believed there would be a sufficient demand from Ipswich for the housing.

Fortunately, when the planning authority considered the application, it was evident that there were a number of weaknesses in its plans, especially in the view of the objectors that the impact of traffic on what becomes  the primary road link between Ipswich and Felixstowe in the event of hold-ups on the A14, especially Operation Stack in the event of high winds. Although, for the moment, the danger of this potential problem is temporarily ended, does it indicate the potential danger and should the Society consider such events when they arise outside the actual boundaries of the town?     [A response from the Society follows. – Ed.]


Ipswich Villages – John Norman, the Ipswich Society Chairman replies.
Are there boundaries to The Ipswich Society’s patch? Do we limit concerns and comments to schemes and proposals inside the Victorian boundary? Should we expend time and resources studying planning applications in the open countryside, in the hinterland between Ipswich and Hadleigh (Wherstead and Pinewood), or between Ipswich, Woodbridge and Felixstowe (Brightwell Lakes and Foxhall)?

Clearly, the pressure is on. Suffolk, like most counties, has a housing shortage. There is little opportunity within the borough for major schemes so, understandably, developers look to the green fields beyond the boundary.  Some applications are very speculative suggesting sites that are not on the Local Plan, some suggest extending an established village and some are, in retrospect, in an area where both the housing need and the opportunity come together (for example, Trimley villages).

What the Ipswich Society doesn't want to do is interfere when the local society has a greater cause for concern; there are Civic Societies in Hadleigh, Woodbridge and Felixstowe. We do however work closely with the Suffolk Preservation Society – Mike Cook is our representative –  they have a superb, professional team of planning experts who watch, like hawks for the speculative schemes that push boundaries.

Additionally, we try to avoid comment when there is a local pressure group whose rationale may be slightly different to our own. This is particularly true when their objection involves major expenditure, a judicial review for example; our constitution limits where we spend our members’ money. We are The Ipswich Society.

In the case of the Northern Bypass I chose the neutral middle ground, presenting the outcome of building such a road elsewhere and I know that some members disagreed with this negative approach. However, those people could – as Tim Voelcker has done – write to the editor. Interesting letters will be published, particularly those which promote discussion.


Railway Correction from Merv Russen

Stuart McNae has kindly pointed out an error in my piece in the last Newsletter (Issue 222) entitled Ipswich Railway Stations: Part 1. I stated in the text that The Coach and Horses Inn in Upper Brook Street closed in 1975. In fact, it closed in 1985. Stuart knew it was later than stated because he remembers having a drink there in the 1980s. I gleaned my erroneous information from a book by David Kindred entitled Ipswich: Lost inns, taverns and public houses.


Miscellaneous matters from Graham Day

The August Newsletter was the usual treasure chest of interesting items and articles. The Chairman’s observations on the options for Local Government Reorganisation reminded me that when I was working at the old County Hall in the early 1970s the possibility  of Suffolk including the Harwich area of Essex was a live issue. This was eventually dropped. From an Ipswich point of view, a single unitary authority based upon the County Council would no doubt be problematic as the county town would lose its separate  identity and voice and probably be poorer for it as a result.

Merv Russen’s article on the Croft Street railway station was also very interesting as I noticed that George Hudson ‘The Railway  King’ was again financially involved with yet another railway company before his fall from grace. Last year, for my 69th birthday, we stayed in York for two nights. During one afternoon we stopped at a tea shop near the Minster. I suddenly became intrigued by a  stone plaque on the wall of the National Trust shop. The shop had originally been a draper’s, owned eventually by George Hudson. True to form, George had married the daughter of the owner, worked in the business and eventually became  its owner. We also had a tour around The Mansion House. On the staircase leading up to the ballroom were portraits of Lord Mayors of the City. George had been Lord Mayor twice. I saw a portrait with no nameplate, and asked if it was indeed George Hudson. The guide looked slightly embarrassed; eventually she explained because he became a disreputable figure his nameplate was removed. An early example of ‘wokeness’, perhaps.

Merv’s article also reminded me of the existence of the two pubs opposite the station site, namely the Great Eastern and the E.U.R, both many years ago being converted to residential use; a portent at the time of things to come, although we did not realise it. Part of my street scene when I was growing up and now gone.

I am also glad that there will be more in a subsequent issue about the public art of Ipswich – an underrated  feature of the town which needs to be shouted about more.

In my perambulations around Ipswich, I have also become aware of the changes being made to some of my former workplaces. No 39 Princes Street, the location of Inland Revenue Ipswich 1st District (my first job), is being marketed as a change to residential use. All I hope is that whatever happens, they take out the ‘dumb waiter’ rope parcel lift. I have not so fond memories of  having to unload the stationery deliveries and put them on the dumb waiter for hauling up to the top floor store. As clerical assistants duties go, this was the most hated. Well, we solved the problem; one day we made it so heavy that it crashed to the basement, and splintered into a myriad fragments.I don't think it was ever repaired, and other arrangements for stationery deliveries were made. Success!

In the late 1980s, I worked for Blocks Solicitors (formerly Black and Cullingham) in Arcade Chambers, Arcade Street. Blocks was a new name when I joined as partnership manager. Now I see it has become part of Ellisons from Colchester, and eventually the Blocks name will disappear.

Which brings me back to the start of this piece, and local government in Ipswich. Nothing appears to be moving  with the former County Hall premises in St Helens Street, my second job location. Bearing in mind the  history of the former court in the building, the lack of any demonstrable progress continues to be a shameful episode.

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