On the trail of our forgotten railway

BRICK kilns and steam trains were once a big feature of the Dales Road area of Ipswich. Many people grew up using the brick fields as their play area, and many of the older generation can recall the large brick works - but few can recall much of the rail line which served the site.

BRICK kilns and steam trains were once a big feature of the Dales Road area of Ipswich.

Many people grew up using the brick fields as their play area, and many of the older generation can recall the large brick works - but few can recall much of the rail line which served the site.

It has been referred to as 'Ipswich's forgotten railway'

Rail enthusiast David Barton of Sunningdale Avenue, Ipswich, has sent information about the rail line, which took a route through what is now mainly a residential area.


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The narrow gauge line linked to the main East Suffolk line between Westerfield Road and Henley Road. It served the Grove Brick Yard at Grove Farm at the end of the cul-de-sac off Henley Road. Three cottages, which are still there today, were built in 1880 for the employees. The manager of the site lived at Boulder House which was where June Avenue is now.

The line carried the products of the works to be stacked for reloading onto the main line. On the return journeys the train carried coal to the kilns. The largest brick works was where Dales Road and the modern roads around are now. The rail line passed under Henley Road where the entrance to the sports club is today. One parapet of the bridge is still beside the road. The line then passed under Dale Hall Lane and through where Baronsdale Close is now.

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The line then dropped down the hill to the brick works operated by Rosher and Company until 1901 when it was taken over by Bolton and Laughlin. The Grove Brickworks had closed a century ago, but the Dales Brickworks, then trading as A Bolton and Company, worked until 1959 when the last batch of bricks were fired.

I have not been able to find out exactly when the rail line stopped working, but it seems it was soon after the First World War when driver Joseph Patterson retired and after decades of work the locomotive was probably in need of expensive work or replacement. This, combined with the fact that brick works now had better access to Norwich Road, might have brought the end of the rail line.

It must have been an impressive sight as the little locomotive puffed its way up the hill from the works, to take the bricks to be loaded onto the main line trains.

Do you know any more about the line or do you have any photographs of it in action?

Or was the brickworks and the fields around, now covered by housing, your childhood playground? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

There were several brick making sites in Ipswich. Most bricks for the expanding town over the centuries were made in the town or surrounding villages. Most of the houses built before the Second World War in and around Ipswich were built with local bricks.

The sites not only made bricks. They also made roof tiles, chimney and flower pots. Over two hundred years ago there was a kiln in St Helens making chimney pots, tiles and bricks. The area of Ipswich where the Suffolk College is now was known as 'The Potteries' because of work in the area. Trinity Brickworks was between Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet. This works closed around 1910 and hangers were built by Ransomes Sims and Jefferies in the pit and aircraft were built there for the Royal Flying Corps. There were also brick works where Myrtle Toad is now. Also at Hog Highland, now Cliff Quay beside the River Orwell and between Woodbridge Road and Spring Road. In the Victorian period there was also a brick works where the recreation ground in Sherrington Road is today. The Valley Brickworks in Foxhall Road also had it own railway sidings.

Other sites included Cemetery Road and Spring Road. A reminder of this lost trade is the public house 'The Brick Makers Arms' on the corner of Howard Street. The clay for making the bricks and tiles was dug from pits. Those now living around where the brick works once were will often find that if they dig down a little in their gardens that they are on heavy clay soil.

The lady featured recently in Kindred Spirits at her Victoria Street, Ipswich home, has been identified. Ray Brown said, “The picture is of my mother. It was taken when we lived at 57 Victoria Street. My mother now lives in Felixstowe where she has been since the death of my father. I have lived in Trimley for the last 25 years.”

Former neighbour Jean McNally added “Mrs Bernice Brown lived with her husband Ronnie and their two children, Raymond and Pamela, in Victoria Street next to my family home.”

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