New book records town’s moments of fame through the ages

Author Rachel Field with her book The Ipswich Book of Days which she will be signong at the Ipswich

Author Rachel Field with her book The Ipswich Book of Days which she will be signong at the Ipswich Tourist Infromation Centre on Saturday. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

Ipswich has a long, proud, history – but some of its claims to fame are somewhat less well-known than others.

Now local author Rachel Field has brought together a list of events in the town’s history for every day of the year – covering nearly two millennia.

The first entry in the Ipswich Book of Days is on April 24 when Queen Boudicca camped near what is now the town, on her way to sack Camulodunum – the Roman name for what is now Colchester in AD 60 or 61.

This was about 700 years before the town was founded by Anglo Saxons – giving it the title of the oldest English settlement in the country.

The most recent event was the Barry Manilow concert at Portman Road, on May 16 this year.

Topics include social, political, religious, industrial, military and sporting history. Other subjects include:

How Ipswich discouraged strangers and rogue traders in 1478;

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The town’s first motorised road accident in 1898;

Who invaded England from the banks of the Orwell in 1326?

And it tells how Henry II was amused by his minstrel, Roland de Fartere.

Ms Field spent two years researching the book – using the Suffolk Records Office, local libraries and the internet.

She was preparing it part-time – although she was able to devote more time to the project after she retired from the National Autistic Society in February.

She said: “It was quite hard work, but it was a great deal of fun and I found out a lot more about the town.

“I’ve lived here for eight years now and I certainly feel that I know the place!”

The book is on sale at the Tourist Information Centre at St Stephen’s Church for £9.99.

A few snippets from the book -

1 Queen Isabella mounts a successful invasion of England from the banks of the Orwell (September 24, 1326)

Queen Isabella, estranged wife of Edward II, sailed into Ipswich with an invading army, determined to seize power from her husband and her lover, Hugh Despenser.

It took three hours to upload the men, horses and provisions. The queen’s attendants made her a tent out of carpets, open at the front, where she sat by a great fire, writing letters to London and other great cities to gain support. That night she was welcomed at Walton-on-the-Naze Castle. The next day, wearing widow’s seeds and with banners flying, she set off with her army for Ipswich, where ‘she found all the houses amply and well-furnished with provisions, but all the people fled.’

2 Ipswich man involved in conspiracy to assassinate the Cabinet (February 25, 1820)

Robert Adams, a shoemaker from Ipswich, was arrested at his central London home in a slum alley aptly named Hole in the Wall Passage.

Adams had been a private in the Horse Guards for five years and then worked as a civilian shoemaker for the British Army in northern France. Here, he got to know other English men who had been radicalised by the ideals of the French Revolution.

In January 1820, he fell in with a radical ex-solider he had known in France. They started meeting other activists and daring plans were hatched: to burst in on the entire British Cabinet as they dined together one evening, and assassinate them all. Adams was to enter the dining room, raise his sword and shout ‘Enter, citizens, and do your duty’ at which point the other conspiractors would pile in behind him. However, the plotters were arrested. All the conspirators were charged with treason, but Adam’s turned King’s Evidence. He was imprisoned for debt.

3 Roland the Farter (December 30, 1154–1189). Henry II was so fond of one of his minstrels’ party tricks that he rewarded him with the gift of Hemingstone Manor, near Ipswich. The rent was cheap - the entertainer and his heirs just had to repeat the special routine in the royal presence every Christmas. The minstrel was known as Roland le Fartere and his well-known trick was to leap, whistle and fart.

4 The Christmas truce in the First World War (December 26, 1914)

Early in the First World War, Witnesham man Sergeant Clement Barker wrote to his brother from the Ypes trenches and told him about the Christmas armistice he had just witnessed.

“A German looked over his trench - no shots - our men did the same, and then a few of our men went out and brought the dead in and buried them. The next thing that happened - a football was kicked out of our trenches and Germans and English played football.

“We have conversed with the Germans and they all seem to be very much fed up and heaps of them are deserting.”

5 Permitted size of codpieces in Elizabethan Ipswich (September 20, 1570) Over-large codpieces were condemned by the town authorises. They noted ‘the common and meaner sort of people’ were wearing excessive stuffing in their hoses, which was viewed as ‘sinful, illegal and a cause of displeasure to God’.

The authorities ordered that no member of an Ipswich trade guild, nor anyone working for them, should pad our their hose with hair, wool ‘or other stuffing therein laid’. Well-stuffed codpieces were all the rage in Henry VIII’s time, but were generally frowned upon by this part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

6 Ipswich man dies in the very first submarine accident (June 20, 1774)

Wheelwright and carpenter John Day, from Ipswich, built a watertight compartment into the hull of a small wooden ship.

In order to gain funding to develop this prototype submarine, he had to climb on board and sink it for 12 hours.

So, on this day, John took a candle, water and biscuits on board, the boat was locked, weighted down and sank beneath the waves.

Shortly afterwards, a great bubble of air burst to the surface as the vessel imploded.

John holds the sad distinction of being the first person to die in a submarine accident.

7 American women give talk in Ipswich about bloomers, and wear them in public (November 8, 1851)

Mrs Henry Knight and her daughter lectured on ‘dress reform’ wearing ‘full Bloomer Costume’ at the Temperance Hall in Crown Street. Mrs and Miss Knight were late on stage and the packed crowd whistled and stamped impatiently.

Then, as the door under the gallery opened, the ‘Two Bloomers’ emerged to great applause mingled with laughter. Some disappointed members of the audience were heard to say ‘Oh, that’s all, is it?’ which caused more hilarity.

The pair wore broad-brimmed hats trimmed with pink ribbons, black velvet jackets over white blouses, and pink satin skirts to 6 inches below the knee with matching pantalettes tied at the ankles. Mrs Knight explained that it was essential for women to be able to dress comfortably, as current fashions ‘were among the evils that beset the present condition of women’.