Bishop's Hill / Upland Gate / The White Elm

Leaving the town centre from the Duke Street junction, Fore Hamlet starts to rise quite steeply. The retaining wall to the left of the road (pictured below) holds back the raised gardens as one reaches the top of Bishop's Hill (just before it becomes Felixstowe Road). This area was clearly a desirable spot, sitting opposite the corner entrance of Hollywells Park and looking over the docks and Orwell basin. The ancient hub of the old town has been described as dish-shaped around the entrance made by the great Orwell river. The combination of deep clays and green sands results in water percolating up from springs, filtered and cleaned and being unable to soak back through layers of clay. The springs used to flow freely down the sloping streets towards the Wet Dock (hence Spring Road - the surrounding streets still witness natural flows of water under brick walls and through tarmac, The Wash – Upper & Lower Orwell Streets– and Stepples Street. – now Orwell Place).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bishops Hill 62014 image
There is a large house and garden behind and above the two-colour brickwork wall shown. The house is accessed by a looping, sloping drive below the lettering labelled '39, UPLAND ... GATE'. This seemed a rather arbitrary name, but it does appear on an 1883 OS map of the area. This road is now inflicted with fast moving traffic; it is doubtful whether many passers-by notice the lettering. The long diamond patterning in the brick (diaper-work) stretching up this ancient wall suddenly becomes:
'BISHOPS+HILL'
though shaded by overgrowing ivy when originally photographed in March 2001:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bishops Hill 72001 image
This has since been trimmed, making the lettering more noticeable.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bishop's Hill 5   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bishop's Hill 32014 images
The Bishops Hill brickwork is Listed Grade II:
"Boundary wall, gatepiers and gate. c1863. By Hine and Evans for CA Biddell, director of Ransomes of Ipswich. Red brick with burnt brick diaper work. Iron and wood gatepiers and iron gate. Battered retaining wall approx. 2 metres high with a deep frieze and diaper work in burnt headers along the entire length to Bishops Hill which name it also incorporates in burnt headers. Single large iron gate to entrance drive is filled with lattice work and is supported on slim piers with spiked metal ball finials. Forms a group with Upland Gate (qv). "
Now, 'q.v.' means 'which see', but so far we have been unable to find a Listing text for Upland Gate itself.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate 12016 images
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate 2

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate 3
Below is a photograph of the wall in 2010: the overhanging shrubs have almost gone, but the algae on the upper brickwork makes legibility difficult. The enhancement below makes things a bit clearer.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bishop's Hill 12010 image
However, it was not always thus. The photograph from about 1905 (below) shows that Bishop's Hill was considerably narrower then with no pavement on the side which concerns us here. The tram makes its way up the centre of the incline towards its terminus at The Royal Oak public house at the junction with Derby Road, while dog-carts and horse traffic fit into the spaces at the sides. The 1921 widening clearly involved demolition of the retaining wall and a decorative rebuild avec lettering involving some loss of gardens to the properties. More on the history of Ipswich tramways.

While we're in this area, let's (for a change) take a bird's eye view of the site of this lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate aerial view
It is fascinating to see what the retaining wall bearing the 'Bishop's Hill' brickwork lettering (indicated at bottom left) is protecting. This is an oasis of tree-circled civilisation lying to the west of Rosehill Crescent and accessed by a looping drive further down Bishop's Hill to the house called 'Upland Gate' (see our Rosehill case study page for a map of this area). Despite the less endearing modern flats of 'Bishop's Garth' built on the corner – either in the original garden of the large house 'Upland Gate' (circled) – this is still a sizeable plot or on the site of another large house (see the map detail below for clarification). Here's an insight:

"On the subject of views across town, ... we looked at the big house that's hidden on the left as you go up Bishop's Hill. It's listed but was in a real state (hence the asking price that we could afford). The house was being sold by an elderly twin, his brother had died and they had lived there as recluses since birth. The place was tatty, but it was a beautiful example of Georgian architecture, loads of great detailing and original fittings that hadn't really ever been touched, particularly the shutters in the dining room - quite something. Anyway the view from the garden across the town was stunning taking in the docks and the whole of the centre of the town. We didn't buy it in the end as we could afford the house on its own but would have had to forego food and water for a few years after (to carry out renovations).

(The house has) listed status, I seem to recall the council were involved at the time and the owners wanting to ensure the house was only sold to people with the money to restore it. If I were you I'd wander up that driveway and knock on the door. To add a further twist, the remaining twin knew my late Grandfather (well, my Mum's, Mum's second husband who was always our Grandpa as far as we were aware) Noel Turner who was partner in Garrod, Turner & Son, Fine Art Auctioneers, he was involved in the collection of paintings by Suffolk artists they had up there, it was all on the wall when we looked round..."
Our thanks to Justin Kibble for this account.

This rather raw detail from the 1930 map of Ipswich shows Bishop's Hill and, left of centre that curling drive leading uphill to Upland Gate (marked in blue). It is clear that in 1930 another large house (marked in red) stood near to the corner of Bishop's Hill and Rosehill Crescent – the site of today's Bishop's Garth flats. Also clear is the north-south boundary which includes the eastern Upland Gate house wall which divides the land from the corner plot.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate map1930 map detail
This boundary still exists and can be traced on the aerial view shown above. It is visible from Rosehill Crescent between the Bishop's Garth flats and number 3 (below). The Upland Gate roof level shows the steep drop in the land on Bishop's Hill.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upland Gate viewView from Rosehill Crescent

The Mason family
[UPDATE
25.10.2015: "I've been doing our family tree, and to cut a long story short, I was looking for the house that my husband remembered visiting as a child. It was Upland Gate and was owned by my husband's Great Aunt Elsie Ellen (née Wheeler) Mason, who was married to Henry Freeman Mason. Widowed, she lived there with two of her four sons (all four boys grew up there). Two of the sons, Richard and Ivan lived with Elsie and never married. Richard Mason went on to be an artist. My husband remembers that Upland Gate was run down, overgrown, dark, spooky (certainly to him as a child) and 'smelled funny'. There were sculptures of various sorts dotted about the grounds and he found the place somewhat unsettling, although his mother has fond memories of visiting her aunt there.

Looking for images of the house, I found your article about the lettering along the boundary wall and following the link. As I had only just spoken about the house, I found it very interesting that your contributors description and my husband's were so similar. Do you know if the house still exists, or has it been demolished by the ever-grabby land developers? Many thanks for preserving the local information, I found it fascinating...

We live in Colchester, so I usually only visit Ipswich when shopping with my daughter or going to the Regent. I should get up there more often and have a wander around for fun. My husband (and his mother!!) is the one with the local knowledge. His great grandfather, Henry Ernest Wheeler (Elsie Ellen Wheeler mentioned earlier was one of his daughters), ran a bakery at 28 Great Colman Street (now a Rio Brazil café). His son, Godfrey (my husband's grandfather) delivered the bread from the bakery to their customers. He grew up to become a skilled confectioner and my mother-in-law vividly remembers being smacked for taking one of her father's expensive chocolates from his shop when she was about 5 years old (1929).

Here is a photograph of Elsie Ellen Wheeler later Mason. You have my permission to include the contents of these emails on your Ipswich page, we would be delighted to have helped preserve a little local history. I had no idea when I moved here with my job many moons ago, and met my husband in 2004, that half of my own family also lived half an hour up the road!! I look forward to hearing any further news should you uncover anything new.
Kind Regards, Nicola Tuffley" Many thanks to Nicola for the information and particularly for the striking family portrait – we don't feature people's faces on this website very often as we deal with structures, objects, architecture, local history and so on. It is good to have a glimpse of the 'real people' about whom Ipswich Historic Lettering is really about.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Elsie Ellen WheelerPhotograph courtesy Nicola Tuffley
Elsie Ellen Wheeler (later Mason), born 1887.
See mention of Mrs Mason in the following update.

Why 'Bishops Hill'?
The answer is given on our 'Ransomes' page, suffice to say that there were four hamlets into which Gipeswic (spellings vary), the ancient town, was once divided:
Wykes Bishop, Wykes Ufford – see our St Clement's Church page for a passage on this by G.R. Clarke – Stoke and Brookes. Wykes Bishop, or 'Bishop's Wick' stretched from Bishop's Hill down to the river. The moated residence of the Bishop of Norwich stood in Holywells Park from 1235 until the dissolution of Catholic institutions by Henry VIII, 1536-1541. You can still see parts of the moat around the children's play area.

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 [
C.A. Biddell, director of Ransomes], at Upland Gate, 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 [both now parts of Grimwade Street] 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.

[UPDATE 17.12.2015: "After living in Australia since 1965 I was fascinated to read information regarding Bishops Hill, where I lived with my mother and sister for a couple of years (1962-65).
 
We actually lived next door to Mrs Mason's property (on the lower side) in what we used to believe was known as The White House (still standing). My mother had bought the smaller (western) half of the house while the other half had been divided into flats.
 
As an 8 or 9 year-old I remember visiting the elderly lady (and the name Mrs Mason seems to ring a bell [see the entry and photograph above concerning Mrs Mason]) in the large house next door on only one occasion. And of course I also remember the letters on the roadside wall as I walked past them on my way to and from Cliff Lane Primary School via Holywells Park.
 
However my immediate interest is in the history of the land on the lower side of The White House (now occupied by Mitre Way and its buildings). When I was young there was a significantly lower vacant block that separated our house from a pub that stood about where the new road is now. The pub was owned/managed by a family named Hetherington and to my knowledge was called something like 'The White Horse/Bull'. It was rumoured (perhaps only among us kids) to have had false walls and secret tunnels dating back to times of smuggling.
 
The vacant block (which also extended through to border Cavendish St) looked like it had once had buildings on it. To the north of the vacant block there was a huge metal fence (which we once scaled) and behind it was what seemed to be a swampy, densly treed unspoilt area that contained turtles and seemed completely mystical to us young children.
 
I was wondering if you or any of your readers know the history of The White House, the pub, or the vacant land that used to be in between and at the back of them.
Steve Jarron"

Researching the area
We have produced some research in response to Steve's original email. One aspect is Montrose (House) in Rosehill Road which in the 1980s was Suffolk County Council’s Montrose Day Nursery. Montrose had large gardens and steeply sloping woodland before all the new housing arrived, accessed from Rosehill Crescent and Mitre Way in the 1990s.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: White Elm aerialAerial view
At the bottom of the slope, there is a kind of trapezium leading off and back onto Cavendish Street, White Elm Street. In truth, this is only a made-up road on the two sides, one with industrial structures and one with a handful of houses with the joining bit being an overgrown track. It is named after the pub Steve mentions, The White Elm.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mitre Way sign
Mitre – a Bishops' official headgear – was an obvious choice as the name for a new offshoot from Bishops Hill.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mitre Way2016 composite image
The White Elm
Pondering on the actual site of this pub, the Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) provides a remarkable, grainy image from c.1960 showing it standing just below The White House (nos. 35 and 37 Bishops Hill). It was just below the current Mitre Way: today, a wooded seating area with a small play area behind. A rough footpath below this spot leads down onto White Elm Street. The road in the right foreground of the photograph must be Myrtle Road (it suffered bombing during World War II), which is still there today, although the Myrtle public house which stood further down Fore Hamlet closed in 1936.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: White Elm pub
Photograph from Kindred, David: 'Lost inns, taverns and public houses' (see
Reading list)

From the details of the White Elm pub on the CAMRA website it had quite extensive out-buildings and land (“yard, garden & orchard”).

Now, to the area of woodland behind was the steep wooded slope of the land behind the formal garden of Montrose. The wooded bank can still be seen from Cavendish Street. They cut through Mitre Way on part of this and extended Rosehill Crescent down the hill to build a surprisingly large number of dwellings. Montrose is now divided into  flats with a number of listed trees around it.

White Elm Inn, 23 Bishop's Hill (grid reference TM 174 438); closed March 18th, 1965 last owner Tollemache. First publican listed: 1752.
Also reported at 141-143 Fore Hamlet (Bishop's Hill address from Ipswich licensing records).

Extra historical information [from Suffolk CAMRA site]
A reference in the Ipswich Journal on 11 Apr 1752 to Robert Baker at the White Elm in Ipswich. The Ipswich Journal reported on Mar 13 1802: To be sold by auction at The Bowling Green, Ipswich on Tuesday 23rd March, 1802 at 7pm, All that good accustomed Inn, called The White Elm, with the yard, garden & orchard thereto belonging, situate in the parish of St Clement, Ipswich and now in the occupation of John EASTY, or his undertenants.

A report in the Ipswich Journal in Nov 1855 states :
“To be sold by auction, by order of Mr George Bellamy, who is leaving the White Elm, Ipswich, part of the excellent household furniture, featherbeds and bedding, large willow dinner service, 33 dozen knives and forks, 20 dozen mugs, 30 dozen of beer and liquor glasses, liquor casks, spirit measures, tables, etc. To be let with immediate possession, the well frequented public house , known as the White Elm, having a large garden and saloon, a first class club holds its meetings at the above Inn”

A report in the Ipswich Journal in July 1890 states : “The estate of the late Mr Owen Ridley, a brewer of Ipswich was submitted to public competition on Wednesday 2nd July 1890 and includes the following public house details: the White Elm, Bishop's Hill, let at £10 per annum, with stables, 6 cottages, and land, let at £37 14s 6d per annum (freehold)” eventually bought by the bid of Messrs. Tollemache. A report in the Ipswich Journal on 27 May in 1893 states : “On Whit Sunday, 1893, William Exworth married Caroline Elizabeth. daughter of George MAYHEW of the White Elm Inn, Bishops Hill, Ipswich.”

Montrose, Rosehill Crescent [from Ipswich Boro’ Local List]. 1905.
Architect: Eade and Johns. Large 3 storey detached house, in a mature garden setting. Red brick, slate roof tiles. Rectangular ground plan, hipped roof. The garden facing west elevation is symmetrical; 2 story flat roofed bays at either end of the broad frontage, 3 window bays between and a modern timber terrace (plastic panels in roof). Long flat roofed dormer in roof slope above. South elevation has first floor oriel window on timber corbels, open entrance vestibule below with timber support columns on brick walls. Other elevations are more informally grouped; extensions, dormers , chimney stacks and covered porches.

And a follow-up from Steve: "Thanks immensely for the information you have provided to me. It is prompting lost memories of my childhood to come flooding back to me. It also explains some of the 'mystery' about what was beyond the high metal fence at the rear of the vacant block.
 
'The picture of the White Elm is fantastic. About once a week my mother used to take my younger sister and I for a short walk down to where a Fish & Chip van used to park in front of the pub and we would buy great fish and chips. I seem to also recall that we could buy packets of Smiths Crisps from the van. The interesting thing was that the packets contained little blue waxpaper wrappers containing salt so that you could use it to match your taste - an option we don't get nowadays.
 
There used to be a shop further down the road (on the other side) owned by a bloke I think was called Teddy Wars (or something similar). My sister and I would regularly go down there to buy sweets/lollies including Tom Thumbs, Humbugs, etc from the large range of big jars he had. As I said, I could go on for ages about life as a 8-9 year old on Bishops Hill.
 
In 2007 my wife (who had never been to England) and I were lucky enough to travel to England and Scotland for 4 weeks. I was able to share some of my childhood adventures with her and took her to Bishops Hill, Felixstowe, etc. We bought some fantastic fish and chips (further along Felixstowe Road) and had them for lunch in Holywells Park. It was an unexpected coincidence that the day we were there was the opening day for the (then new) children's play area in the park. Of course with many things still the same after more than four decades, the area immediately down from The White House had changed beyond recognition - hence my enquiry to you.
 
So thanks ever so much for your very enlightening (and extremely prompt) response. I will continue to monitor your website with interest.
Steve Jarron" Many thanks to Steve for his interest and enthusiasm.]



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