Suffolk's strangest quirks

WHAT is behind some of our county's place names? Why is there a Chainbridge at Needham Market, and what was so bad about Suffolk cheese that the Admiralty had to ban it in 1750?

By Tracey Sparling

WHAT is behind some of our county's place names? Why is there a Chainbridge at Needham Market, and what was so bad about Suffolk cheese that the Admiralty had to ban it in 1750? Features editor TRACEY SPARLING brings some Suffolk stories about places and events.

THERE are some things that are peculiar to Suffolk, plus a host of fascinating stories behind our place names, and the events which have happened here.

A new book called The Little Book of Suffolk by Carol Twinch has drawn together a mix of tales and facts about the county and today we bring you a taste of the highlights.

Carol was born at Eye and went to school in Lowestoft and Ipswich and after travelling the world now lives in Rendham, Suffolk.

Her book Ipswich, Street by Street was also published by Breedon Books.

Most Read

The Little Book of Suffolk costs £9.99 from bookshops, but we have five copies to give away in a prize draw.

Just send your name and address on a postcard by November 30 to Little Book Competition, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN.


Tomorrow: Tales of famous and fascinating people in Suffolk, from The Little Book of Suffolk.

The Ipswich Associated Football Club (IAFC) which was formed in 1878 at Portman Road, was one of the first teams to use goal nets. It was not until 1936 that pressure mounted for the club to turn professional and Ipswich Town Football Club was launched at a luncheon at the Great White Horse.

From 1663 to 1665 Needham Market was isolated becaue of a particularly virulent outbreak of the plague. Chains were put up to mark the parish boundaries, with Chainbridge on the west of town, Chainhouse Farm on the east, and Chainhouse road to the south as reminders of the points where those inside the chains would put money (soaked in vinegar to kill the germs) in return for food from outside.

The gradual impoverishment of those trapped inside, gave people little hope that any would survive. But after 1665 the danger abated and villagers emerged into the wider world.

Goldbrook Bridge at Hoxne is so named because in AD869 King Edmund hid under the bridge while retreating from the Danish invaders.

He was betrayed when a bridal couple crossing the bridge saw the reflection of his gold spurs in the river. Since that time there has been a tradition of ill luck for any couples that cross Goldbrook Bridge on their wedding day.

The Case is Altered in Ipswich is said to be the original that gave its well known name to public houses all over England. During the Napoleonic wars when troops were housed in temporary barracks at the top of Woodbridge Road, an inn was built for the soldiers. After the barracks were removed, 'the case was altered' as far as the publican's profit was concerned.

However the Case Is Altered at Woodbridge was said to have stood on the site of a nunnery which a Father Casey used to visit for confessions. After the Reformation, part of the nunnery was converted into an inn and Casey's Altar became The case Is Altered.

In April 1744, Grace Pett, a fisherman's wife who lived in the parish of St Clements, Ipswich was said to be a witch, and to have died from spontaneous combustion.

Her daughter found her 'like a log of wood consumed by fire, without apparent flame.'

Nearby clothing and furniture was undamaged. The coroner discovered Grace had been 'drinking plentifully of gin' the previous evening and had gone downstairs in the night where she apparently burnt to ashes.

No other cause of death was discovered and the only conclusion was spontaneous combustion.

In one of the most famous unsolved murders in Suffolk, concerning Rose Harsent of Peasenhall in 1902, the prosecution was led by Henry Fielding Dickens, son of Charles Dickens.

William Gardiner was accused of murdering Rose who lived and worked at Providence House as a maid. Gardiner was known to have had 'an association' with Rose and although he was tried twice, the juries remained undecided. He was never convicted and claimed innocence until the day he died.

Henry Dickens always maintained that the opposition had 'intrigued' against him.

This was also the first in English law where fingerprint evidence was admitted.

In the 19th century, when brewing in Suffolk was at its peak, there were many popular sayings that referred to the county's cheese, one of which was 'Suffolk cheeses are hard as stones, but Suffolk ales are sharp enough to cut them with.'

Diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), as secretary to the Admiralty, witnessed thee Navy's opposition to the hard Suffolk cheese. The Admiralty condemned it as 'totally unfit for our warships' and it was a standing joke that it needed buttering on both sides to make it edible.'

In 1758 the Navy decided to use the more expensive Cheshire and Gloucester cheese instead.

Daniel Defoe reported in the 1720s that Woodbridge is a 'considerable market for butter and corn…they are famous for the best butter and perhaps the worst cheese in England.'

Crinkle crankle walls, or serpentine walls, number 50 in Suffolk, almost twice as many as in the rest of England. The curvy design adds strength and the crinkle crankle wall at Easton is said to be the longest in the world (until it was breached a few years ago). You can also see them at Needham market, Long Melford and Bildeston.

The bow-fronted 'Ipswich Window' -as seen on replicas at the Ancient House - were taken up by architects in other towns across the country in the 17th century. Some early 19th century houses in Ipswich still sport these windows which sit on corbels projecting from wall faces.

Suffolk is famous for its pink-washed houses and cottages. Traditionally the Suffolk pink distemper was mixed with buttermilk and pig's blood and then painted on. The colour varies greatly because the pigments particularly metal oxides from natural earth, differ greatly. Blackthorn or sloe juice was added to produce a redder pink.

In the 18th century Sir Thomas Gage of Bury St Edmunds received a shipment of fruit from France that included the plum Reine-Claude from Armenia.

Mr Gage's gardener forgot its proper name so renamed it the Green gage. Most of the greengages grown in Suffolk and elsewhere were bred from Sir Thomas's original fruit.

On October 20, 1859 leaflets were distributed in Ipswich announcing that at 2pm on Tuesday Mr EJ Maitland of Worcester would walk on water, over the River Orwell from Stoke Bridge to the Griffin Inn and abck.

Naturally, thousands of spectators made their way to Stoke Bridge hoping to see the 'marvellous performance.' They lined the banks of the river, stood on the tops of houses, the ends of cranes and the rigging of ships in the dock all hoping for a good view of Mr Maitland. They waited until late in the afternoon when it was apparent that the whole thing was a hoax. Mr Maitland had takena bet that he could draw a certain cumber of people to the riverside. His 'walking on water' story won him his bet.

It is thought that the first White House in America was constructed of Woolpit bricks. The brick kilns of Woolpit were celebrated for their white bricks, made from Ice Age lake clay, which were exported worldwide.

On April 22, 1844 the Great English Earthquake occurred, damaging countless properties in Ipswich. It was estimated to have been 5.2 on the Richter scale and lasted for 20 seconds. The earthquake fault line started in France, crossed the Channel and died out near Framlingham. In Sudbury the earthquake interrupted a funeral and afterwards the town reservoir was found to be leaking.

The first working model of a hovercraft, designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell (1910-1999) was tested on Oulton broad in 1955. Sir Christopher lived nearby in a caravan and he experimented with an empty cat food tin inside a coffee tin, an industrial blower and a pair of kitchen scales.

His first prototype was launched in 1959 and crossed the English Channel in two hours.