'Russell Villas', Belle Vue Retreat & environs
Belle Vue Road
The capstone outside an unassuming semi-detached house (or more aptly two attached houses which look as if they have been sliced off an 1896 terrace, due to the bend in the road) in Belle Vue Road displays the word 'VILLAS' (close-up below).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Russell Villas2000 image
For years this white-painted composite/concrete shaped capstone was covered with ivy and creeper. When this was cleared away, the battered surface was found to proclaim the second word of the name 'Russell Villas'. There is no name and date plaque on these two houses as there often are on others in the road. They – and their companion semis at the bottom of the plot, facing Woodbridge Road: 'Shaftesbury Villas' – being built somewhat out of the main sequence of housing in the late Victorian development on the east of Ipswich. Quite where the capstone bearing the word 'Russell' is, or where it could have been sited, is a mystery, but it may be significant that the same state of affairs exists with the capstone of Shaftesbury Villas, too. Perhaps there wasn't enough money left in 1896 to commission the lettering.

And here is the picture of Shaftesbury Villas in Woodbridge Road in similar architectural style, also bereft of its title capstone:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Shaftesbury Villas2004 image
By about 2010 this eroded capstone was standing on end in the front garden.

Going back a bit...
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Russell Villas map 18671867 map
This detail from the 1867 map of Ipswich shows the area before the Felixstowe-Westerfield railway was opened in 1877 – the route marked in yellow – and before Belle Vue Road and Ashmere Grove existed. Working from the north to south several interesting features can be seen:-
1. Cemetery Road exists at this time with its closely built houses. It was the main entrance to the cemetery which opened in 1855.
2. 'Albion Hill' is clearly marked as a geographical feature on both sides of Woodbridge Road. Just off this map to the south-east of the 'Nunnery' (St Mary's Catholic Convent – now a housing estate) is 'Albion Hill House'.
3. Today's Rivers Street is marked 'Albion Road' and the area south of Parade Road is labelled 'Building Ground'.
4. It is interesting that Belvedere Road (which has a windmill clearly shown) was, in one proposal, to be continued over Woodbridge Road, following and parallel to, the line of the future railway. This 'Proposed Road' would have continued over Spring Road ('St Helens Vale'), over Foxhall Road ('Grove Hill') and would have come out just to the west of the large house called 'Rose Hill' (still there in Sandhurst Avenue – see our Rosehill case study) at the top of Bishops Hill. This southern end of the proposed road is labelled 'St Helens Road'.
5. The 'Albion Mills' which gave their name to the public house on the corner of Belvedere Road and Woodbridge Road (demolished 1995 to make way for Bristo's car sales) are well-placed on the hill-top to catch the prevalent south-westerly winds. The one relating to today's Mill Cottage in Belle Vue Road. For more on the windmill locations here see our Sunny Place page.
6. 'Belle Vue Retreat' is prominently marked just south of the actual 'Belle Vue House' as a hilltop surrounded by trees.
7. As Warwick Road curves downhill from The Duke of York public house on Woodbridge Road there is virtually no housing in 1867. To the west is shown a 'York Road'*** cutting eastwards to Palmerston Road. This road was never built and it was, at first, unclear if it became today's Upton Close or not (see our Warwick Road page for the investigation). Upton Close is actually north of this. Lancaster Road shows the terraces of houses: the first ones built by The Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society, which had been completed only one year before the date of this map. To the east of Warwick Road, across the line of Nottidge Road and up to Bartholomew Street is the legend: "Freehold Land Society", with only a few structures depicted. Alexandra Road has only five structures in it (on the north side) and one on the south side in 1867.
8. Across the rear gardens of the terraced houses (fronting Woodbridge Road) which are above 'York Road' is lettering which may read 'Victoria Terrace'.

To see this detail in the broader 1867 map see our Cavendish Street page.

Post Mill Close
Extract from the Suffolk Mills Group document on
Windmills in the Borough of Ipswich (click to open the PDF):-
22. & 23. Albion Hill (south side of Woodbridge Road) (1753,4497)
[22.] The post mill south of Albion Mills (see 17. & 18.) was one of the oldest mills in the town. It is first shown in 1783 and is mentioned in sales adverts in 1796 and 1798. At this time it had a single pair of French stones and a large roundhouse.

‘In 1804 it was sold, together with a nearby [23.] “Drug Windmill with iron cylinders and going gears”. Both mills were to be taken down and cleared away. It seems that the post mill survived, however.

‘The small drug mill is a bit of an enigma, nothing further having come to light about it. A possible site could be the circle shown on Monson’s map of 1848 at the “Lunatic Asylum” nearby, at Grid Reference 1751,4486. [This asylum would have been Belle Vue Retreat.]

‘The post mill continued meanwhile. In 1821 it was sold or let and had two pairs of stones. A mill was “to be removed” in 1824, although this may have referred to another mill (see later). About 1850 a long period of occupation began with Robert Andrews, who had one of the Stoke mills [6. & 7.] a little earlier – and had been made bankrupt at Bramfield (near Halesworth) in 1842. He ran the mill into his seventies, being last recorded in 1871. James Wood was occupier in 1873, though the mill may have ceased work by this time. It was still standing in 1877 when its presence was noted in a report of the opening of the Felixstowe Railway. It had gone by 1881 and Belle Vue Road now covers the site. An old house called ‘Mill House’ stands near the site but was not, in fact, the miller’s house, this also being covered by the road now. The site is perpetuated in “Post Mill Close”, a recent development [1978-79] behind the “Mill House”, though some way from the actual site.'

Belle Vue Villas (a long way from Belle Vue Road)
So Russell Villas and Shaftesbury Villas occupy adjoining plots between the two roads. Walking down Albion Hill from the latter, a few yards before The Duke of York public house, one sees:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Villas 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Villas 12014 images
These five terraced houses (numbers 228-236) now stand on the site of the entrance drive to Belle Vue Retreat on Woodbridge Road. Hence the name.  The detail of the 1883 map shown below, rather amusingly, coincides with the joining of four sheets (of which we've only got three). 'Bellevue House' is shown in red with its approach from Woodbridge Road in pink; the size of the gardens around it is notable. The two houses shown in blue (numbers 224-226) are set back from the present day building line and still stand today in a pleasing honey-coloured brick. The Duke of York public house, shown in purple, stands close to the junction with Warwick Road (with Connaught Buildings further down). Between the pub and the two semi-detached houses is the entrance drive to to Derby Lodge, shown in green. This has been demolished to make way for modern houses in North Hill Gardens (named after North Hill Road opposite) with the close using a widened Derby Lodge driveway. And that is why 'Belle Vue Villas' stand quite a distance from Belle Vue Road.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Retreat map 21883 map
Derby Lodge
This house may have been demolished to make way for the North Hill Gardens housing, but its named capstone still stands on Woodbridge Road between the bus shelter and the Duke of York.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Derby Lodge 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Derby Lodge 12014 images
For an eye-witness account of large, unexploded WWII bombs falling into the garden of Derby Lodge and onto the nearby Harmony Square Mission Room, see our Warwick Road page.

Belle Vue Retreat / Belle Vue Asylum / Bellevue House
Incidentally, this part of town boasted at least two asylums. Halfway up Grove Lane on the left was 'The Grove Retreat', parts of which survived until about 1990 when the bell-tower disappeared and the high strip of land along the ridge of the hill was developed as new housing. Nearer to the above house once stood 'Belle Vue Retreat'. These were both probably early Victorian privately-run workhouses (rather than Union Workhouses see Links for a splendid site on them) which also doubled as mental hospitals; cases of 'lunatics' being admitted are common. The driveway off Woodbridge Road to the remote house in a wooded area atop the hill overlooking the town probably formed the first part of Belle Vue Road. This was later cut through in a steep serpentine downward hill to meet the earlier Alexandra Road opposite the junction with Nottidge Road. Some of the gardens at the top bend of the hill still see many crocuses springing up every year behind the late Victorian houses and it is thought that these are the only traces of Belle Vue Retreat and its gardens.

Here's a citation from a Norfolk Rossbret Institutions Website(see Links).
"Belle Vue Asylum, Ipswich
Pleasantly situated on the Woodbridge Rd, is a private establishment, for the reception of persons afflicted with insanity. It was commenced in 1835, by its present proprietor, Mr James Shaw, surgeon, & has accommodations for 40 patients. Source: White Directory 1844 - p. 84"
and this from a later edition:-
"BELLE VUE ASYLUM, on the Woodbridge road, has accommodations for about 40 patients and was opened in 1835, for the reception of persons afflicted with insanity by the late Mr James Shaw, surgeon, whose widow now conducts it. THE GROVE, the residence of Dr Chevallier, is another private retreat for a select number of persons afflicted with that worst of human maladies - insanity. Both establishments have large gardens and pleasure grounds and are under excellent management."  Source: History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Suffolk  By William White, 1855 - p.99.

The area opposite the Russell Villas is called Post Mill Close to commemorate one of the local windmills which stood near the site; the Mill Cottage still stands there. These were collectively known as Albion mills as the Woodbridge Road hill at this point is called Albion Hill (probably itself named after the large Napoleonic barracks which once stood on or around Parade Road and Khartoum Road). The pub on Woodbridge Road called 'Albion Mills' was itself an echo of these windmills; while the pub was demolished in 1995 to make way for more Bristo's car display; the bus stop nearby is still called 'Albion Mills'. The windmills would have benefitted from the stiff prevailing south-westerly winds which come up the Orwell valley and strike the Albion hillside.
[UPDATE: 1.5.12. The red map shown here dates to 1883. The railway bridge at Woodbridge Road/Albion Hill over the cutting carrying the Felixstowe line (opened
1877) can be seen, but no Belle Vue Road. The lane leading southwards to Mill House close to the bridge can be seen, but no windmill at that date. However, "Bellevue House" is evident at the lower left with is 'L'-shape and circular plantings of trees nearby. It is also clear that the driveway up to Belle Vue Retreat come off Woodbridge Road (as stated in the Rossbret entry above)  just above the Duke of York pub – probably at the place where North Hill House stands, it's now beside North Hill Gardens which seems to have been built in the asylum grounds.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Retreat 21883 map
Overlaying a map in blue dated 1902 shows the developments in just a few years. Belle Vue Road has opened up the mill lane, followed the bend past Mill House (Russell Villas are on the bend, with Shaftesbury Villas on the same angled plot, but lower down and facing Woodbridge Road. Going south-westwards from the bend the road clips the ends of the two wings of the asylum; or where they would have been. We assume that Belle Vue Retreat was demolished to make way for this development. Houses were built piecemeal down this upper part of the road down as far as Ashmere Grove and the steep twisting hill from there down to Alexandra Road was built at a later date.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Retreat 11883 map with 1902 map in blue

Belle Vue Road in 1912 and 2008
Here are comparative photographs of the Victorian houses on the west side of Belle Vue Road taken from the corner with Ashmere Grove. The monochrome postcard from 1912 shows a group of terraced villas which at the time were only fifteen to twenty years old and which are largely unchanged today. Note the not-yet-begrimed contrast in brick colour of the horizontal and vertical Suffolk white strips against the Suffolk red walls of the houses in the foreground. At the time of building, it has been said that these houses were being completed at an average of one per week. They were built to 'reasonable to good' standard of construction and clearly each small front garden had a chequerboard quarry tiled path, low brick wall supporting ornate cast iron railings and gates. Much of the ironwork no longer exists due to its removal "to assist the war effort" during the 2nd World War (although it's now suggested that far from being melted down for munitions, the exercise was mainly to boost morale and the iron was dumped in river estuaries). One or two houses in the area have somehow retained their original gates and railings. The lower photograph from ninety years later, taken from the same position indicates well cared-for homes often with replacement roofing and windows and the odd regrettable satellite TV dish. An electric lamp standard has replaced the original gas street lamp. Interestingly, in 2012, at a time of national economic recession, most of the street lights including the one shown (or, more accurately, its successor) are turned off at midnight to save public money and the street is returned to a gloom reminiscent of Edwardian times once again. One anecdotal note: we wandered down to this spot expecting wall-to-wall parked vehicles on a residential road, as so often in Ipswich, built to accomodate horses, carts and bicycles; however it was fairly clear of traffic and, while choosing the correct spot to get the shot – camera in hand, a car drove up, reverse-turned in Ashmere Grove and parked in the foreground. Cheers.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue Road old & new1912 and 2008 images
[UPDATE 30.3.13: "Your web site is a treasure trove of my beloved home town and a great source of enjoyment!
  I was browsing your articles on Belle Vue Road and thought you may be interested in a little more information.
  I lived in No 95 from 1953 when I was born until 1959 when my parents also acquired No 93. We moved into that house, renting out 95.
  You mentioned the street lighting now going out at midnight and how this was reminiscent of Edwardian gloom. In fact when I live there the lighting was only run until midnight and the street then in darkness. I think the lights probably came on again on the dark winter mornings but obviously not in the summer months. The lamps were still on the cast iron posts shown in your early 1900s photo and had at some stage been converted to electric. Like so many places in the 1950s in Ipswich these were simple open fittings on a swan neck with a reasonably flat cast iron shade and a white enamelled underside with a naked tungsten lamp hanging from the centre. The springs supporting the lamp holder on the lamp opposite our house were weak and the bulb used to sway slightly in the wind. It was an endless source of joy to me – a little oasis of warmth and cheer in the dark winter nights. The electricity board used to come round regularly and change the bulbs and on the main roads where the lamps had large glass bowls they would wash the bowls also to keep the fittings in good order. How different it is today when no-one bothers to do anything until they absolutely have to.
   You also mention car parking in the road. You were lucky to find it relatively traffic free – on the odd occasions I have visited back there over the years I find the road increasingly congested and it is very difficult to navigate safely down the centre of the road at all. It seems unbelievable now but Ipswich Corporation Transport used to use Belle Vue Road for hill start practice when training bus drivers!! I remember quite often seeing a bus there on this duty – in particular the bus in the early 1960s was ADX3 (motorbus No 3) and this was definitely still going on in 1962. Even though I was not so knowledgeable about the buses in those days I clearly remember the bus having dark blue and yellow front adverts – O’Connell Plasterers, an advert signrwitten in 1962.
  What I do find particularly interesting about Belle Vue Road is that the electricity supply to the houses was underground. This was in contrast to most of the roads around where the supply was carried overhead. This was understandable on the main roads where the trolleybuses ran because the transport and electricity supply was provided by the same organisation up to 1947. It was simple to erect more of the same poles on the roads adjoining trolleybus routes and string up the supply overhead. In fact this was the practice from the early days up until at least the mid 1930s and those overhead fees have only been removed in the last few years (1994 – 2004 mainly). As you mention on your web site the houses were constructed in the earliest part of the 20th century and were initially served by gas alone. In fact there were pipes and clear signs of gas routes in our house for lighting and all other purposes. Electricity must have come in the 1920s and 1930s along with the rest of the town. I have never known how Belle Vue Road received an underground supply when most other roads were served overhead, particularly as it ran effectively between the two routes of Woodbridge Road and Spring Road. The reason is probably long buried in the mists of time.
  Hope these reminiscences are of interest. Steve Coppard" (Many thanks to Steve for his comments and his contribution.)]

Two features of these Victorian housing developments on the, then, outskirts of the town:
1. Piecemeal in the way in which they were built with infill houses added after the earliest structures, but all more-or-less completed within a small number of years.
2. Identified initially by the name plaques on the buildings (many dated, which is helpful), with house numbering often following in the first decade of the 20th century. The photographs below record all the visible house name plaques working from Russell Villas at the Woodbridge Road end and working down the right-hand side, then back up the left-hand side with a quick detour into Ashmere Grove, ending just before Mill Cottage (no. 74).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 1
107-109: Warton Terrace
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 2
99-101: Silverdale Terrace
(Silverdale is a village within the City of Lancaster in Lancs.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 3
91: Carrefour - 1893 - Selous
(Carrefour Selous is a village on the island of Jersey)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 4
79-81: Claremont - 1891 - Terrace
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 5
55-57: La Belle - 1891 - Villas
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 6
43-45: Florence - 1891 - Terrace
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 7
31-33: Byculla - 1893 - Villas
(Byculla is a neighbourhood in South Mumbai,  [Bombay].)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 8
27-29: Southfleet Villas
(Southfleet is a small village in the borough of Dartford.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 9
6-8: Hillside - 1891 - Villas
(Between two windows. Well-named.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 10
14-16: Alpine - 1891 - Villas [inset- 18-20: Belle Vue - 1890 - Villas] (Plaque squeezed between two windows.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 11
22-24: Valley-View - 1891 - Villas
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 12
30: Plemont - 1896
(Plemont is a headland in north Jersey.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 13
Spring Villas (4-6 Ashmere Grove)
(Overlooking Spring Road valley and, of course, the natural springs hereabouts, still seen in Alexandra Road below.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 14
40: May Villas - 1893
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 15
50-52: Ivy Villas - 1891
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 16
58-60: Viaduct - 1891 - Terrace
(The Felixstowe Line railway behind these houses approaches the viaduct over Spring Road.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 17
70: Nankin Villa*
(Nankin is the capital of Jiangsu province in Eastern China)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Belle Vue plaque 18
72: Agra Villa*
(Agra is a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India.)
*70-72: these semi-detached houses have Suffolk white brick frontages and differ from all others in the road. The lettering is on the lintels above the ground floor bay windows.

In Steven's Directories of 1881 and 1885 there is no trace of an opening into Belle Vue Road at the south-east side of Woodbridge Road, just next to the bridge over the Felixstowe railway line. By the 1894 edition the road is there with the following listings working down the right-hand side of Belle Vue Road:-
'Silverdale Terrace' (4 residents),
'Carrefour Selous' (
Corbel, Frank)
'Claremont Terrace'
'York Villas' (2 residents) [no visible plaque]
'Daisy Bank'
[no visible plaque]
'High View Villa' [no visible plaque]
'Albert Villas' [no visible plaque]
'La Belle Villas'
'Florence Terrace'
'Byculla Villas'
Here is Alexandra Road

For more on the Albion Hill area and the St Mary's housing development on the old convent site see our Sunny Place page and the Parade Field Terrace page.

Related pages:
House name plaque examples: Alston Road; Bramford Road; Cauldwell Hall Road; Cavendish Street; Marlborough Road; Rosehill area
Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society (F.L.S.); California;
Origins of street names in Ipswich; Streets named after slavery abolitionists.
Dated buildings list; Dated buildings examples;
Named buildings listNamed (& sometimes dated) buildings examples.
Street nameplate examples; Street index;
Windmills in the Borough of Ipswich

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