Rose Hill, Ipswich – the growth of a suburb
by Margaret Hancock

Rose Hill is a fairly typical residential suburb of Ipswich.  It lies at the top of a hill to the east of the town between the Felixstowe and Foxhall Roads, bordered by Derby Road.  This study attempts to trace the history of ownership of the land; to explain how and when it changed from farm to building land, and to ‘repopulate’ the area by reference to Census material, directories and Rate Book.

From part of the Ordnance Survey Map of 1905, we can see that by that date the area had already been almost completely developed into the suburb that is still in existence.  Rose Hill was then, and is today, a collection of houses, two churches, a school, a scattering of small “corner” shops, and a railway station.  The majority of the houses are either in terraces or semi-detached, and are of the type that an Estate Agent would describe as ‘suitable for first time buyers’, a description that I think would please members of the organisation that might be regarded as being responsible for the building of those houses about 100 years ago – the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society.

In a study of this kind it is difficult to know at which period to commence, but it seems most logical to start with the man who probably gave his name to our suburb – Owen Roe.

Owen Roe was, according to a short obituary in the Ipswich Journal of May 7th 1825, one of the Contractors for the Barracks, who died ‘possessed of a very considerable property’.  Part of this property was farm land in the parish of Saint Clement and the Manor of Wix Bishop which we now know as Rose Hill, but should perhaps more accurately call ‘Roe’s Hill’.  Owen Roe had purchased this estate, a total of 236 acres, in 1812.  It seems likely that he had a quite substantial house built for his own use on the Estate.  This later became known as Rose Hill House, and is still in existence, although now converted into flats.  It stands sedately at the end of the quiet Sandhurst Avenue which was originally its carriage-way.  The house is very close to the walls that surround Holywells, which was occupied at that time by the Cobbold family.  In 1815 Roe’s only daughter and heir, Ann, was married to Charles Cobbold at St Clements Church.  It seems from his will that Roe had no great liking for his son-in-law.  His estate was left under the control of Trustees;  the income from it to be paid to his widow and to Ann, his daughter, but Roe stipulated that his daughter’s income was “for her sole and separate use” exclusive of her husband, Charles Cobbold, who should not “intermeddle therewith, neither shall the same be subject to his disposition, control, debts or engagements”.

From the Tithe Map of 1844, we can see that the area was split into three parts:

14    Rose Hill House and 5 acres of grounds.
13    Little Allins Field – just over 14 acres of arable land.
12    Great Allins Field – 36 acres of arable land with 7 farmworkers’ cottages – 5 at the North-East corner, and 2 at the North-West corner.

The Apportionment that accompanies this Map confirms the owners of the farm as “The Trustees of Owen Roe”, and indicates that Roe had once owned a very large part of the land between what is now Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet, and stretching out between Felixstowe and Foxhall Roads as far as the line of the present By-pass.  Thus, in his day, Roe had owned one sixth of the land in St Clements, and was the third largest landowner in that Parish.

The Occupier of Rose Hill House and Farm in 1844 was William Cooper, a Farmer.  Cooper and his family had lived in Rose Hill House since at least the time of the Census in 1841, and possibly since 1839, when an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal shows the House to be let with 260 acres of land.  A later advertisement suggests that Cooper had leased the House unfurnished and the Farm unstocked, as Charles Cobbold (Roe’s unpopular son-in-law, who evidently did manage to ‘intermeddle’ in the Estate despite Roe’s wishes), had given instructions for the auction of Household Furniture and Farming Stock from the Estate.  This included ‘Choice dairy cows, sheep and lambs, Carriages, Agricultural implements, Household Furniture, a superior collection of old Foreign China, Paintings and prints, about 20 dozen Port Wine of the vintage of 1812, as well as a beautiful variety of greenhouse plants and flower stands.

By the end of 1851 a few minor changes had taken place.  The House was now occupied by John King, the Editor of the Suffolk Chronicle, and the Farm was apparently being managed by a Farm Bailiff.  The ownership of the land was also undergoing changes at this time.

Roe’s widow had died in 1846 and on the death of his daughter in November 1851, Roe’s will determined that the Estate be shared amongst her surviving children.  It is sad to think that, of Ann Cobbold’s five children, only her youngest son outlived her.  Alan Brooksby Cobbold, who was then living in Edinburgh, was only 21 years of age when he inherited his grandfather’s entire estate. Cobbold owned the Estate for 12 years, but in April 1864 he sold it to the Reverend Edward Constable Alston, a Clerk in Holy Orders, of Dennington, Suffolk, and it was this sale that was to herald really major changes in the area.

Part of Edward White’s map of 1867, shows the beginnings of those changes. Rose Hill House and grounds, still occupied by John King and his family, and Great Allins Field remain largely unaltered, but development of Little Allins Field is taking place with Alan Road, Newton Road, and the town end of Rose Hill Road having been formed.  We can see that Alan Road follows approximately the line between Great Allins and Little Allins Fields from which it undoubtedly derived its name.***  Freehold Land Allotments extend along both sides of Newton Road, and the Land on the East side of Alan Road is divided into plots, 5 of which have already had houses erected on them.  From Planning Office records and the Census of 1871, we discover that many of the earliest houses on Alan Road were built for owner occupation by highly skilled men employed in the Agricultural Engineering Industry.  The major firm in this industry in Ipswich at the time was Ransomes.  Robert Ransome had set up his foundry in 1799 on St Margaret’s Plain, but soon found that his business had outgrown his original premises, and by 1859 he had moved out of the town centre to Orwell Works, with 800 feet of quay space on the new Wet Dock.  Industry such as this encouraged large numbers of workers into the town, not only from the surrounding countryside, but also from further afield.  These men and their families needed homes close to the new factory, but the parish of St Clements was crowded with poor quality housing, and one imagines the more philanthropic men seeking accommodation away from the overcrowded town, but within easy walking distance of their place of employment, as this was long before the days of public transport.  Where better than at the top of Bishops Hill where the air was clean and they were able to build their own houses?  It was men such as these who may well have been among the members of the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society which had a tremendous influence in the subsequent development of Rose Hill and in the formation of many other suburbs.

The Freehold Land Society movement was started in the late 1840’s by Radicals who believed that if more working class men were enfranchised they would return a greater proportion of Liberal candidates to Parliament who could then repeal the Corn Laws and encourage Free Trade.  Freehold Land Societies enabled their members to gain, by co-operative methods, the necessary property to take advantage of the 40/- franchise rule which gave the vote to all men owning property with an annual value of 2.

The Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society, formed in December 1849, was one of the first Societies.  It was led by many prominent Ipswich men and in its early days was one of the most successful Societies in the country.

With the changes in franchise brought about by the Reform Act of 1867, the creation of votes became of secondary importance, nevertheless, the Society continued to flourish under the guidance of its Committees, and we can see from the IFLS map of 1899, that the IFLS were responsible for the development of a large part of Rose Hill between 1869 and 1879.  The part marked ‘A’ was purchased from Alston by Robert Johnson and Joseph Pearce in October 1869;  the Society itself was not legally allowed to purchase land so it was necessary for certain members of the Committee to enter into the agreement in their own names, acting purely on trust.  The 9 acres purchased for 1,296.15s became known to the IFLS as the ‘Rose Hill Estate’.  The land was split into 51 plots ranging in size from 20 to 28 rods, and these were balloted to the Society’s members at a cost of between 40 and 60 per plot.  The Society was bound by its agreement (via Johnson and Pearce) with Rev. Alston to lay out and make up three roadways each 30 feet wide and dedicate them for public use.  These roads became sections of York Road, Derby Road and Rose Hill Road.

In July 1873 an auction took place at the Golden Lion which was to completely change the remainder of the original Estate.  Alston had died in 1870 and his Trustees put up for sale 16 lots of ‘Accommodation lands and building plots’.  This sale evidently marked the end of the farm and the beginning of the residential suburb, as one Condition of the Sale was that ‘the purchaser shall pay for the seed sowing and hoeing the root crop’ of the outgoing tenant.  Other Conditions related to the standard of houses to be built and the materials to be used in their construction.  Building lines were set, responsibility for the maintenance of roads defined and public houses banned!  Representatives of the IFLS purchased 12 acres of land at this auction.  (Plot B on the 1899 map). 
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rose Hill Estate map
'Plan of Accomodation Lands, and BUILDING SITES on the ROSE HILL ESTATE. For sale by Mr B. Rix, July 21st 1873.'

Rose Hill Estate No. 2, as it was called, was again split into lots and balloted to Society members as were two other portions of land in this area that were later purchased by the Society.  The Vale Estate (marked ‘C’) in 1875 and ‘The Derby Road Estate’ (marked ‘D’) in 1879.  Some Society members who were lucky enough to be balloted a plot of land simply sold it, others used it to build one, two or, in some cases, three houses.  One of these became the home of the member and his family, the remaining one or two were rented out, providing an income to help with the repayments to the Society.

From the Census and Directories of the time it is possible to build up quite a clear picture of the people who were among the first ‘Residents of Rose Hill’.  The vast majority of families were perfectly ‘ordinary’ with the head of the house employed as a sailor, carpenter, bricklayer, in the engineering industries or on the railway.  One example is Benjamin Whymark.  Born at Cornard, he was, at the time of the 1881 Census, aged 47, employed as an engine model maker and living at the corner of York Road and Rose Hill Road.  He was married and had a son, David, who was an apprentice in his father’s trade, and two daughters, Kate and Emily.  The family moved in the next few years to another house in York Road called Cyclamen Cottages, and in April 1886 Benjamin Whymark applied for permission to build his own house, now 83 York Road, but originally called Emmeline Cottage, perhaps named after his youngest daughter.

Also living in York Road in 1881 was James Manthorp, an engine smith born at Rendlesham.  From the Census details it is possible to build up a touching picture of his family, although it is pure conjecture.  His wife had died, perhaps in childbirth, as his youngest daughter was only three years old.  This left him in his early thirties with five children under the age of 10.  One imagines his parents rallying round in this time of trouble, bringing with them their three unmarried teenage children.  We know, at least, that in 1881 they were all living together in a small terraced house.  However, later years were brighter for James Manthorp, as in 1889 he too applied for permission to build his own house, which he extended in 1897.

A rather less typical house in Newton Road proudly bears the inscription “Bateman’s Villa AD 1876”.  This was built by Thomas Hope in the year that his son, whose Christian name was Bateman, was born.  By 1881 Hope, a 33 year old milk seller, had four children under the age of 8, and was the only person in the area, except Rose Hill House, that had a resident female servant.  Incidentally, Bateman Hope was not the only son to be given a rather unusual name – his younger brother was called Lancelot!

It was people such as these that saw the beginnings of the Rose Hill that we know today.  Perhaps they travelled, as we still do, on the train to Felixstowe from Derby Road Station after it was opened in May 1877, or used the horse drawn tram service from the Station yard to Majors Corner, that was started in the summer of 1883.  They may have been early members of the congregation at Alan Road Methodist Chapel when it was opened in 1878, or they may have attended worship at the much more imposing Anglican Church of St Bartholomew’s when it was built in 1895.  Their children may have been educated at Rose Hill School after its opening in 1885, as our children are being taught in its modern counterpart in the 1980’s.  Although Rose Hill has changed from Farm to Suburb, and life styles have changed, we still share a great deal with the families that lived in our houses 100 years ago.

[***See Street name derivations for an alternative dervation of Alan Road.]


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