Ipswich Icons: How fields surrounding Ipswich have been turned into housing developments

The original drive from Bourne Bridge to Stoke Park Mansion, which stood on the hill to the right of

The original drive from Bourne Bridge to Stoke Park Mansion, which stood on the hill to the right of the trees (on the far side of Stoke Park Drive). Picture: JOHN NORMAN - Credit: Archant

Land outside Ipswich, which was one pasture and fields, is now home to thousands of people, writes John Norman of the Ipswich Society.

The long-demolished Stoke Park Mansion, once home to Peter Burrell, whose name lives on because of a

The long-demolished Stoke Park Mansion, once home to Peter Burrell, whose name lives on because of a road to the station. Picture: IPSWICH SOCIETY - Credit: Archant

The place name Stoke occurs frequently in England (and in Suffolk). It usually refers to a community just outside, but separate from, the main town or village. Stoke derives from the word stockade, a place where animals were kept prior to their visit to the butcher.

In Ipswich, Stoke developed with the crossing of the river and the Augustinian Priory of St Peter & St Paul on the Ipswich side of Stoke Bridge. Initially, the river crossing was a ford, at the top of Great Whip Street, but later a bridge a few yards further west. The rolling hills above Stoke belonged to the priory and were used as pasture.

Stoke had its own church, St Augustine’s, until the mid 14th Century. It is mentioned in Domesday Book as being held by Lestan the priest. The church and churchyard were close to the river, graves being discovered in 2010 during an archaeological dig prior to the building of the Stoke Quay flats. St Augustine’s church fell into disuse, decayed and disappeared when the small community became part of St Peter’s parish.

Following the reformation the priory land holdings were divided into private estates, usually being transferred to the town’s burgess. As trade grew, the community developed: firstly with windmills on the crest of the hill, followed by some very large “country” houses along Belstead Road.

Another view of Bourne Park. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Another view of Bourne Park. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

South of the urban area was open farmland. There were farms adjacent to Maiden Hall, Gippeswyk Hall, Gusford Hall and on Crane Hill (Gwydyr Road). A sizeable house was built some three miles south west of the river crossing on the south-facing slope of Belstead Brook, on a site that was to become Stoke Park. The house was surrounded by some 500 acres of parkland: pasture dotted with magnificent trees (some of which still survive, particularly in Bourne Park).

When his father died in 1820, Peter Burrell inherited the Stoke Park Estate, farm and house. He became a county magistrate and High Steward of Ipswich (in 1858) and High Sheriff of Suffolk (1884-1909).

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Burrell married Sophia Campbell at Ipswich in December, 1840, and they had one son, Willoughby. His wife didn’t take to the layout of the property and Burrell had it extensively rebuilt in 1848, laid out with formal gardens and charming grounds, making the most of the commanding views of the River Orwell.

The remodelling cost some £60,000, a small fortune in the middle of the 19th century, but some of this was recovered by selling plots alongside Belstead Road on which sizeable houses were constructed.

Burrell’s marriage didn’t last. In 1856 he remarried, a Georgina Holford, and they had one daughter. On the death of his cousin in 1870 he became Baron Gwydyr, the fourth holder of the title. Burrell laid out roads to access Ipswich and the railway station, amongst them Burrell Road and Willoughby Road. He died in 1909 and the title was taken by his son Willoughby, who unfortunately died just six years later, without an heir. Death duties led to the sale of 300 acres from the estate, offered by auction on August 4, 1918.

The area remained undeveloped until later in the 20th century; Ipswich’s housing demand being met by the development of the Chantry and Maidenhall estates and private housing to the north east of the town.

When Stoke Park was eventually laid out in the late 1960s it was carefully designed in collaboration with the town’s planners, complete with generous open spaces and pocket parks, district shopping centres and community facilities. The topography didn’t make cycling easy and the wide, sweeping roads encouraged speed, later discouraged along Stoke Park Drive with central pedestrian refuge islands. Routes for cyclists have since been waymarked but it is still not easy to cycle into the town centre.

Stoke Park Mansion was situated approximately 100 yards from Stoke Park Drive on Fountains Road, at the northern edge of Fishpond Covert. The parkland in front of the mansion became Bourne Park, a gift to the town in 1927 by alderman

William Paul, farmer and maltster.

The main access to the house in the 18th and 19th centuries was Corporation Avenue, the current track across Bourne Park. Most of the trees that line this route were planted in 1928.