Memories of old Ipswich rekindled by David Kindred’s photographic archive
Each week David Kindred takes a look back at one aspect of Ipswich’s past and his focus on Gainsborough brought memories flooding back for Colin Ranson, 65, of Hawthorn Drive.
He wrote: “The aerial picture of the almost completed Landseer Road dump just about made me weep when I saw it! It certainly brought back memories as did most of the other photographs.
“The deep valley that ran from near Tolly’s Brewery all the way to Clapgate Lane was one of the playgrounds for the children of the Gainsborough/Greenwich/Rivers estates during the 40s, 50s and 60s. The area on the far right is where part of the Clapgate Lane recreation ground used to be and was separated from the valley by a fence with a steep slope down to some shallow ponds. These were fed by water from the Red Crag fossil/seashell layer that sat on top of London Clay.
This Red Crag layer, a couple of metres thick, was a fair way down the slope so it just shows how many millions of years it must have taken to build up when this area was under part of a tropical sea, then after that the glacial era put all the soil, stones etc on top of this.
From these ponds a stream ran all the way to Cliff Lane, where it was piped off to the brewery. There was a pond, fed by this stream, that was situated close to the corner formed by Oulton Road and Dereham Avenue. This pond was very large and surrounded by iron railings – it also sported a large fallen tree that served as a fishing pier. If you look on Google you can see from the slightly different colour of the ground where the pond used to be before it was filled in. I would love to find out what the history of this pond was, it must have been hand dug, as it was a good 9ft deep. There was also a large outfall of water from the Red Crag under the Rivers Estate roughly level with halfway along Medway Road. There used to be a steep slope from the woods down to the valley and its amazing to see that these days the level of the park is now level with the houses on the estate.
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The wildlife and the habitats that were destroyed by the landfill operation would, I am sure, be classed as criminal now. Frogs, toads, newts – including the great crested newt, abounded there - as did fish like sticklebacks and minnows. There was also a large area of watercress that some people used to supplement their green diet with, my parents included.
The woods to the Rivers Estate side of the valley also supported a huge variety of birdlife, from wrens to owls, and flocks of greenfinch could be seen flying from one copse to another – another loss.
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Personally I grieve that the officers of the then County Borough of Ipswich were allowed to sanction this landfill with absolutely no thought for the environment and the local residents with regards to horrific smells and vermin. As a child I personally witnessed the dumping of dead cats and dogs, and on one occasion I saw a tipper truck dump the carcasses of two horses. Also waste from the tannery in Bramford Road was dumped, imagine the smell!
I dread to think what else was dumped there. Not to mention the disposal of foundry slag and waste from Cranes and Ransomes, plus scrap chemicals from Fisons, all a five-minute lorry trip away.
I also remember Pipers Vale swimming pool and the seemingly long trek through the Lairs to get there, especially as a little six-year-old. I learnt to swim at about the age of six or seven when my older brother threw me in the deep end! Within days I was jumping in off the diving boards.
As for school swimming lessons, it was true that during the first week of May when the pool opened it was time for our first trek from Landseer school to the pool. One May it was so cold, ‘Ginger’ Cracknell, who ran the pool, had to break the thin layer of ice on the pool before we could get in and then it was just a straight in and out job and get dressed, even some of the teachers did not live up to their cruel reputation and make us swim across to the other side.
The school swimming galas were good for a laugh, some kids, try as they may, were not good swimmers and had to be yanked out after floundering halfway down the pool. Fortunately I was blessed with being a good swimmer and went on to compete in the Suffolk championships. Among others in the team were Irene Pryke and Malcolm Saul who swam for Tower Ramparts school. I was dismayed when they demolished Pipers Vale Pool, supposedly to provide a service road, which incidentally was never laid, for the Orwell Bridge. Landseer Road Secondary Modern was a brilliant school, I was in the ‘A’ stream and the emphasis was on the three Rs, followed closely by the sciences and history/geography. One of the three Rs, namely arithmetic, was not a good subject for me because I didn’t get on with the teacher.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting at a school reunion a very elderly Mr Stimpson, who took history and geography. Must not forget to mention Mr Davey (chemistry and physics), Mr Smith (English), Mr Thorpe (metalwork), Mr Goreham (woodwork), Mr Scott (art), Mr DeVilla (French) and Mr (Paddy) Ireland, the headmaster, strict but fair – and not afraid to use the cane if need be. Mr Barker was the long suffering caretaker.
Not long after leaving school I joined British Rail and by the age of 20 I became a special class signalman working on the Kings Cross line. When I got married I moved back to Ipswich and got a job at the now defunct Alston’s furniture factory in Nacton Road - how things have now changed in that area!
Another area of Gainsborough that was developed in the early 70s were the meadows that ran from Sandy Hill Lane almost down to the river. These were paved over and used for parking imported Volvo cars, another loss of natural habitat in the quest for development.
I will be very happy if anybody from my era wishes to contact me, via Facebook would be good, and exchange memories.”
For more of David Kindred’s photographic memories, visit the Kindred Spirits page