New homes hide a once thriving site

SMART new homes now occupy a huge site in Ipswich where once hundreds of people once worked every day.The site of Bull Motors and Celestion speakers in Foxhall Road, Ipswich, is now being rapidly converted to residential use.

SMART new homes now occupy a huge site in Ipswich where once hundreds of people once worked every day.

The site of Bull Motors and Celestion speakers in Foxhall Road, Ipswich, is now being rapidly converted to residential use. The sound of huge machines making powerful electric motors and the neighbouring site producing loud speakers has been replaced by building workers and residents moving into their new homes at 'Foxgrove Gardens'.

The site covers almost fourteen acres and had been an industrial site for generations.

The Ipswich engineering company E.R and F Turner was established in 1837 in College Street. The small company developed into the milling trade producing roller mills. In 1849 the company expanded to a second works. Their Greyfriars Works was on part of what is now Cardinal Park. This Greyfriars site suffered a disastrous fire in August 1911. Until 1908 they also made steam engines for use in mills.

Other products bearing the Ipswich name included mining machinery for export.

When the company was reorganised in 1933 the business of Bull Motors Limited was acquired by Turners. Bull Motors began in Stowmarket in 1898. Thousands of Ipswich folk rode around the town in trolley buses made by Ransomes Sims and Jefferies at their site near Ipswich dock and powered by Bull Motors.

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Ransomes and Rapier, the other Ipswich engineering giant whose site was on the west bank of the River Orwell between Wherstead Road and the river, also installed the motors in their mobile cranes, many for export.

The company moved some of its production to Foxhall Road in 1918 when the foundry and pattern shops were built there. The new offices and works were completed in the summer of 1937. The site was formally the Valley brickworks. The company continued to operate on the site as Bull Motors until the 1990s.

When the company celebrated its centenary in July 1937 it had a staff of 600. The company like many others in the town had an active sports and social section for its employees with a 'spacious and well equipped' sports ground in Roundwood Road, Ipswich.

Celestion who produce loud speakers moved to the Foxhall Road, Ipswich site from Thames Ditton in 1969 and were there until 2003. Celestion moved to Claydon Business Park at Great Blakenham, where they continue to make speakers for the professional audio market.

The building of homes on the site started in October 2005 and will continue until around December 2008. Few who worked long hours on the site could have imagined that one day a four bedroom home on the site would cost in the region of £244,000. The men who made bricks there over a century ago would have thought it impossible that one day thousand of bricks would be brought to the site by huge lorries.

Did you work for any of the companies on this site? Write with your memories to Dave Kindred. Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

We often hear stories of problems servicemen can bring when they are stationed abroad, but a heartwarming story about American servicemen in Ipswich during World War Two comes from Elaine Whitmore of Rushmere Road, Ipswich.

Elaine said: “In the summer of 1943 my mother had visited Elm Street Clinic with her new baby, my sister and myself then aged three. As she was crossing the Cornhill on her way home, she was approached by an American serviceman. Knowing the reputation of these 'visitors' she wondered what to do, but the serviceman told her not to worry because he just wanted to give her a box of things for the children. My mother thanked him and when she got home she found baby clothes etc in the box and also a card with the names, addresses of each child and the teacher, of a class of schoolchildren in Iowa, who had put something in the box.

“Mum wrote and thanked them all individually, and over the years we received more gift parcels from the USA. I tasted Instant Whip before it ever caught on over here. We also received clothes, toys and food. As we grew up mum kept up the correspondence, but of course several other families lost interest. I eventually took over and I have three pen friends in America. They are all directly descended from the school children who filled that original parcel. That's not bad after sixty-three years. I've only ever met one family, but they all seemed like real friends and I treasure them.”

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Did you receive gift parcels from the American servicemen as a child during World War Two, or do you have a similar long term 'pen pal' friend? Write to Dave Kindred at the Evening Star.

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