Suffolk People

Throughout the centuries Suffolk has played home or host to many of England’s greatest figures, from Politics to Nobility – from the arts to sports. Whether it’s the Gosnolds and Winthrops who helped build Suffolk before setting sail for the new lands of America; or the Wingfields and Bacons who contributed to the political structure of this county and country. However the backbone must rest with the likes of the Girlings, Osbornes, Barkers etc etc etc, who formed the steadfast reliable workforce that tilled the lands, spun the wool and trawled the seas to provide for all.

A snippet of Suffolk Life:

To the overseers of Benhall, Orford July 10th 1813Sir. I have the Satisfaction of informing you that I have cure’d James Catchpole of an inflammation & blindness in one of his eyes, which was occasioned by the small pox falling thereon, and the other eye so bad he could see but little with it, and that his health being so far established that he is now gone to sea in a ship bound to St Petersburg – my having an opportunity of sending the account etc. I have done so to present his father coming over with it on purpose, & if you will be pleased to pay it into Mr Mingay’s hands who comes to Saxmundham Market, his receipt shall be a sufficient discharge. I, am Sir yr obedient humble Servt. John Randall. 1813 June; The parish of Benhall to S Randall by ye order of Mr Ablitt Overseer:  To Medicines & Attendance to James Catchpole & curing his eyes etc etc as above written. £1-4-0d  Written on reverse: Received of Mr Ablitt, overseer for the parish of Benhall. The sum of one pound four shillings being the amount of this bill   The above is transcription of ‘James Catchpole sicknote: Benhall FC131/G2/5

John Shewell Corder, 1856 – 1922

John Shewell Corder 1857 –1922 was an influential architect in Suffolk around the 1870s until his death in 1922.  

He was born in 1856 in Westhoe, South Shields, Tyne on Wear the son of Frederick Corder & Jane, formerly Ransome. It would appear at least two more siblings were born to Frederick & Jane whilst in Yorkshire. Then sometime in the early 1860s, the family relocated to St Margarets Green, Ipswich. Here the family expanded further before Jane’s untimely death in 1864.

Frederick senior originated from Writtle in Essex, while Jane’s family came from a Quaker line of Ransome in the northeast. These are two celebrated Ipswich names of the 20th century. Indeed Frederick Corder was the founder of the silk mercers and drapers departmental store: Corders of Tavern Street, Ipswich. As yet I have not identified any connection between Jane, and Thomas Ransome founder of Ransome & Rapier of Ipswich, though the fact both families had strong Quaker connections would suggest this possible.  

John was educated at Boothams School for Boys at York. On the death of his mother, his father married Maria Morris, a sister of architect Joseph Morris. This marriage proved very influential to John’s career. In 1872 he became ‘articled’ to Mr Morris in his Reading Offices. John began his own architectural practice in the Thoroughfare, Ipswich in premises adjacent to his father’s drapery stores, before setting up home and offices in Wimbourne House in Tower Street.  

John then worked on his own. it is apparent his real love was in the old buildings of the borough. This is borne out by his meticulous and tactful restoration of The Christ Church Mansion; and The Guild Hall in Lavenham. 

Christ Church Mansion is a red brick Tudor house set in several acres of parklands, which has been open to the people of Ipswich since Felix Cobbold, gave it to the borough in 1892. Inside there are many examples of fine period furnishings and art collections including renowned local artists as Constable, Gainsborough, John Moore, Thomas Churchyard, and Alfred Munnings.

As a junior member of a wealthy Ipswich family, income was not a driving motivation for work, something that would explain his ability to spend countless hours on his favourite commissions. It would appear his sketchings of the old buildings of the borough were in fact his first love. It was these he would devote much of his time to perfecting.

Two volumes he was responsible for are entitled ‘The Corner Posts of Ipswich’ and ‘a Brief History of Christchurch or Withepole House’, both of which give further evidence of this man’s incredible talent.

There are in excess of 100 commissions credited to John Corder. These range from the construction of no 65 Anglesea road, Ipswich, ‘a three storey detached house in French Empire style, with Suffolk white bricks and slate mansard roof complete with cast iron crestings to roof …’, to a large private house in Edwardian style at Hacheston lodge for a Mrs Paterson; Additional classrooms for Grammar School in Burkett road, Woodbridge, and work at ‘The Black Boy’ public house in Sudbury, in the form of exposed timbers and plaster work in tudor style, demonstrate the range of his works.

The Hadleigh Gang

Being a coastal county, smuggling was always a problem in Suffolk. Surprisingly the major centre for this activity was not on the coast, but some 40 miles inland. The otherwise delightful town of Hadleigh gave its name to one of Suffolk’s most ‘successful’ smuggling gangs.

At its height it was reputed to number 100 men, with twice that amount of horses at their disposal. Descriptions of the gang’s activities are recorded in the custom house records. They give a picture of the size of their operations.  

20 May: 70 horses with dry goods landed at Sizewell.

27 May: 27 horses with wet goods and 36 loaded with tea landed at Sizewell. 

11 June: 60 horses most with brandy, 53 with tea.

2 July: 83 horses with tea, 9 waggon loads wet goods.

12 July: 50 horses, tea. 17 Sept: 120 horses — 100 smugglers.

10 Nov: 50 horses dry goods, 1 cart w/wet goods.

23 Nov: at least 40 horses, mostly dry goods. 

One of their biggest battles with the authorities happened in 1735. Customs officers and military had infiltrated their numbers and found where their contraband was stored, at Semer.

However because of the timing of the operation, the lawmen stayed over at The George, Hadleigh. Not to be outwitted, the gang sent in a detachment to demand their ‘bounty’ back. The outcome, the gang rode off into the night with their bounty. However the authorities recognized a large number of the smugglers. Subsequently two were hanged for firing pistols. 12 years later the leader of the gang, John Harvey, who lived at Pond Hall, was transported for seven years.