Alexandra Park
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Alexandra fountain 12012 images
The Byles fountain was restored in 2011 with help from the lottery funding; a grant secured by The Friends of Alexandra Park. It stands near to the Grove Lane entrance to the park skirted by limes and other deciduous trees. The works included removal of the surrounding pavement area, installation of wooden benches and picnic table.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Alexandra fountain 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Alexandra fountain 3
'IN REMEMBRANCE
OF THE
BYLES FAMILY
TO WHOM THIS PARK BELONGED FOR
MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED YEARS
THIS DRINKING FOUNTAIN
WAS ERECTED IN 1905, BY

CHARLES HENRY COWELL
ALDERMAN OF THE BOROUGH
AND
TWICE MAYOR OF IPSWICH
WHOSE MOTHER WAS

MARIANNE BYLES
BORN AT THE HILL HOUSE IN 1801.'

One cannot help remarking upon the 'snugness' of the fourth line of text within the corner pillars. The whole is set out in condensed large and small-sans serif caps with variations in spacing (e.g. the inter-character gaps in 'BYLES FAMILY' in large caps) and size. The clean lines of the pale grey granite(?) are balanced by the worn, softer stone steps on all four sides (which have their own poignancy), which enabled young children to reach the water basins. For whatever reason – health and safety or fear of vandalism, perhaps – the fountain cannot perform its original function as there is no water supply. The brass fittings are still in place for taps and (beneath the word 'Alderman' on the lettered side) the loops to which, at a guess, a brass cup on a chain was attached.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Alexandra fountain 4a
There are one or two photographs on the interweb of the sorry state of the monument before cleaning.

EDWARD BYLES
COWELL (1826–1903), scholar and man of letters, born at Ipswich on 23 January 1826, was eldest son (in a family of three sons and one daughter) of Charles Cowell, who had inherited a successful business of merchant and maltster, and as a cultured liberal was active in local affairs. His mother was Marianne, elder daughter of Nathaniel Byles Byles of the Hill House, Ipswich, also a successful merchant of that town. Byles Cowell was a noted translator of Persian poetry, friend and teacher of Edward FitzGerald (translator of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859)  and the first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge University. There are memorials to Nathaniel Byles Byles, and Mary Ann Byles in Holy Trinity Church in Back Hamlet.

Hill House Road which runs off Back Hamlet and whose gardens back on to the park is the site of the original Hill House. It appears that some of the commercial premises there are in outbuildings from the big house, but we have no confirmation of this. In 1903 the Ipswich Corporation purchased one of six packages of land which was formerly part of the Hill House Estate and home of the Byles family
who owned the park for more than 100 years. Charles Cowell donated the land to the town and it became Byles Park. In 1905 Alderman Charles Henry Cowell (Mayor of Ipswich 1877 and 1892) presented a drinking fountain to the town to be erected in Byles Park. as a memorial to his mother, Marianne Byles Cowell.  Charles Henry Cowell is said to have been the founder of the famous Ipswich printing firm W.S. Cowell. The land became parkland and was named Alexandra Park after the wife of Edward VII. In June 1904 the park was officially opened to the public. In recent years, Alexandra Park has been host to the May Day Festival in Ipswich, usually held on the closest Sunday to May 1. The park has a natural slope from Grove Lane down to Kings Avenue and the 'cliff' above the Suffolk New College Art Block (the area was excavated for the clay used by the 'brick & tile works' where the art block now stands) provide views of the surrounding areas.

[UPDATE June 2016: This wooded 'cliff' to the west of Alexandra Park has been adopted as a woodland garden. The therapeutic potential of the project means that "Brickmakers Wood" can involve people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, youngsters from Pupil Referral Units and many others who find purpose and pleasure in planting  and picking vegetables, helping with paths, seats and other creative structures which make Brickmakers Wood a unique place in the town and wider region. Children from local schools enjoy the nature study and art and craft sessions in the wood, too. It is an ongoing project, always welcoming donations and volunteers to develop the overgrown and much-abused site. See Links under Brickmakers Wood.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hill House mapThe Hill House parkland 1902
See also our Cavendish Street page for a large map detail from 1867. Here there is 'Upper Hill House' and Trinity Lodge is labelled 'Lower Hill House'.

In preparing this page we came across yet another specialist preservation website (see Links): the Fountains Society which lists the above restoration.
Compare this fountain with the Brett and Burton fountains in Christchurch Park. Also Bourne Park and Chantry Park lettering.

Facing the park on Back Hamlet, we find the only local terraced house with a name: 'Park View'.

A footnote to the big houses here on the high ground overlooking what was, in the 19th century, the poorest part of Ipswich: St Clement's parish:-
"Overlooking the densely populated dockside area though hidden from view, were the houses of some important townsmen. Most notably, at the top of Bishop's Hill stood Holywells, the residence and park of the Cobbolds, the dominant ground landlord of the district below, the owner of the Cliff Brewery and a considerable employer of labour. Also at the top of the hill there were a number of new houses of men of some substance in the town's affairs including a mechanical engineer, Biddell, at Upland Gate [the big house partly visible from the present-day Rosehill Crescent], Thomas Mortimer, a merchant and Rev. Francis Maude, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church. At the top of Back Hamlet was Hill House and its grounds, the residence of the Byles family, malsters and merchants, and just below was Trinity Lodge, where the vicar of St Lawrence lived. Such residences away from and literally above the masses in the streets below and unlike those of their fellows who still lived in Fore Street and Church Street [later Grimwade Street], were part of that process of spatial distancing that was taking place in Ipswich as in most large towns as in nineteenth-century class society became more clearly differentiated. This separation of the classes is also apparent within the area as well: behind the mainly middle and lower middle class thoroughfares of Fore Street, Church Street and Borough Road lay the warren of poor housing where the mass of the labouring poor lived." Extract from Rags and Bones by Frank Grace see Reading List.

Queen Alexandra
Alexandra is commemorated by the name of this park, formerly the gardens of Hill House, and the name of the residential road which runs from the Spring Road allotments entrance to Warwick Road.

Once widowed, Queen Victoria effectively withdrew from public life. Shortly after Prince Albert's death, she arranged for Edward to embark on an extensive tour of the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut and Constantinople. In part political, the British Government wanted Edward to secure the friendship of Egypt's ruler, Said Pasha, to prevent French control of the Suez Canal if the Ottoman Empire collapsed. It was the first Royal Tour on which an official photographer, Francis Bedford, was in attendance. As soon as Edward returned to Britain, preparations were made for his engagement, which was sealed at Laeken in Belgium on 9 September 1862. Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 10 March 1863. He was 21; she was 18.

Edward and his wife established Marlborough House as their London residence and Sandringham House in Norfolk as their country retreat. They entertained on a lavish scale. Their marriage met with disapproval in certain circles because most of Queen Victoria's relations were German, and Denmark was at loggerheads with Germany over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein. When Alexandra's father inherited the throne of Denmark in November 1863, the German Confederation took the opportunity to invade and annex Schleswig-Holstein. Queen Victoria was of two minds whether it was a suitable match given the political climate. After the couple's marriage, she expressed anxiety about their socialite lifestyle and attempted to dictate to them on various matters, including the names of their children.

Edward had mistresses throughout his married life. He socialised with actress Lillie Langtry; Lady Randolph Churchill (born Jennie Jerome, she was the mother of Winston Churchill); Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick; actress Sarah Bernhardt; noblewoman Lady Susan Vane-Tempest; singer Hortense Schneider; prostitute Giulia Beneni (known as "La Barucci"); wealthy humanitarian Agnes Keyser; and Alice Keppel. At least fifty-five liaisons are conjectured. How far these relationships went is not always clear. Edward always strove to be discreet, but this did not prevent society gossip or press speculation. One of Alice Keppel's great-granddaughters, Camilla Parker Bowles, became the mistress and subsequently wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, one of Edward's great-great-grandsons. It was rumoured that Camilla's grandmother, Sonia Keppel (born in May 1900), was the illegitimate daughter of Edward, but she was "almost certainly" the daughter of George Keppel, whom she resembled. Edward never acknowledged any illegitimate children. Alexandra is believed to have been aware of many of his affairs and to have accepted them.

In 1869, Sir Charles Mordaunt, a British Member of Parliament, threatened to name Edward as co-respondent in his divorce suit. Ultimately, he did not do so but Edward was called as a witness in the case in early 1870. It was shown that Edward had visited the Mordaunts' house while Sir Charles was away sitting in the House of Commons. Although nothing further was proven and Edward denied he had committed adultery, the suggestion of impropriety was damaging.

Alexandra did not attend her son, George’s coronation in 1911 since it was not customary for a crowned queen to attend the coronation of another king or queen, but otherwise continued the public side of her life, devoting time to her charitable causes. One such cause included Alexandra Rose Day, where artificial roses made by the disabled were sold in aid of hospitals by women volunteers. During the First World War, the custom of hanging the banners of foreign princes invested with Britain's highest order of knighthood, the Order of the Garter, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, came under criticism, as the German members of the Order were fighting against Britain. Alexandra joined calls to "have down those hateful German banners". Driven by public opinion, but against his own wishes, the King had the banners removed but to Alexandra's dismay he had down not only "those vile Prussian banners" but also those of her Hessian relations who were, in her opinion, "simply soldiers or vassals under that brutal German Emperor's orders". On 17 September 1916, she was at Sandringham during a Zeppelin air raid, but far worse was to befall other members of her family. In Russia, her nephew Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown and he, his wife and children were killed by revolutionaries. Her sister the Dowager Empress was rescued from Russia in 1919 by HMS Marlborough and brought to England, where she lived for some time with Alexandra.

Alexandra retained a youthful appearance into her senior years, but during the war her age caught up with her. She took to wearing elaborate veils and heavy makeup, which was described by gossips as having her face "enamelled". She made no more trips abroad, and suffered increasing ill-health. In 1920, a blood vessel in her eye burst, leaving her with temporary partial blindness. Towards the end of her life, her memory and speech became impaired. She died on 20 November 1925 at Sandringham after suffering a heart attack, and was buried in an elaborate tomb next to her husband in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The Queen Alexandra Memorial by Alfred Gilbert was unveiled on Alexandra Rose Day 8 June 1932 at Marlborough Gate, London. An ode in her memory, "So many true princesses who have gone", composed by the then Master of the King's Musick Sir Edward Elgar to words by the Poet Laureate John Masefield, was sung at the unveiling and conducted by the composer.

Alexandra was highly popular with the British public. After she married the Prince of Wales in 1863, a new park and "People's Palace", a public exhibition and arts centre under construction in north London, were renamed the Alexandra Palace and park to commemorate her. Unlike her husband and mother-in-law, she was not castigated by the press. Funds that she helped to collect were used to buy a river launch, called Alexandra, to ferry the wounded during the Sudan campaign,[81] and to fit out a hospital ship, named The Princess of Wales, to bring back wounded from the Boer War. During the Boer War, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, later renamed Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, was founded under Royal Warrant.

Alexandra had little understanding of money. The management of her finances was left in the hands of her loyal comptroller, Sir Dighton Probyn VC, who undertook a similar role for her husband. In the words of her grandson, Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor), "Her generosity was a source of embarrassment to her financial advisers. Whenever she received a letter soliciting money, a cheque would be sent by the next post, regardless of the authenticity of the mendicant and without having the case investigated." Though she was not always extravagant (she had her old stockings darned for re-use and her old dresses were recycled as furniture covers), she would dismiss protests about her heavy spending with a wave of a hand or by claiming that she had not heard.

She hid a small scar on her neck, which was probably the result of a childhood operation, by wearing choker necklaces and high necklines, setting fashions which were adopted for fifty years. Alexandra's effect on fashion was so profound that society ladies even copied her limping gait, after her serious illness in 1867 left her with a stiff leg. This came to be known as the "Alexandra limp". She used predominantly the London fashion houses; her favourite was Redfern's, but she shopped occasionally at Doucet and Fromont of Paris.


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