Freston Tower, Monkey Lodge and Woolverstone Hall carriage-drive
THE EXACT SPOT
A FOURWHEEL CARRIAGE
ON JULY 31ST 1893
ALL THE FOUR OCCUPANTS
WERE MERCIFULLY SAVED.'
The small monument is
close to the Orwell shore near Freston Tower, just a few miles from
Ipswich on the Shotley peninsular. Bathos in mineral form,
this splendid memorial commemorates an event which clearly moved those
involved. It is only when one gets to the last line that one gets a
similar reaction as when one reads the news headline: 'Tallest Man In
The World Falls Over'. A testament to the stonemason's craft, it is in
excellent condition on its bevelled plinth. The other thing which
strikes us is its resemblance to an ophthalmologist's sight-test chart.
'If you can read: "... were mercifully saved." Mrs Widmerpool, you must
have the eyes of an eighteen year old.' Thanks
to the late David Kibble for the image and for
opening up the whole subject of monumental lettering.
The Monkey Lodge
The monument stands close to a carriage-drive which ran from the
hill between the Strand and Freston Boot (the lane down to Freston
Marina is to the left in the above photograph). The attarctive building
guarding the entrance to the carriage-drive is called the Monkey Lodge,
for obvious reasons. The drive ran downhill from here between an avenue
of copper beech trees (one row of these fine trees is still standing),
around the bottom of the hill on which stands Freston
Tower (shown at the bottom of this page) and along the foreshore to Woolverstone Hall, home of the
family (after whom Berners Street in Ipswich is named – see Street name derivations). Looking
at the state of the marshy foreshore today, one wonders that it would
take the beating of multiple horses' hooves and iron-banded carriage
Above: the 1882 map of this section of the southern shore of the River
Orwell shows, at top left, the road from Wherstead to
Woolverstone Village; as it takes a
turn away from the river, it passes Monkey
Lodge (here marked 'Lodge').
The green line follows the carriage drive through the beeches, passing
below 'Freston Tower' (marked
in gothic script) – this area is marked 'Freston Park'. It follows the
shoreline until it reaches 'Deerpark
Lodge', the turns away from the river and runs up to pass 'St Michael's Church', curving round
to reach the circular drive in front of 'Woolverstone Hall'. The Hall itself
was built in a north-west/south-east orientation as the river bank
curves around the site. The 1882 map clearly shows the 'Landing Place' on the river, which
was presumably used to access the Hall and perhaps deliver building
materials and supplies in the 18th century. Just inland from this is a
building labelled 'Cat House',
The Gothic-style Cat
stands today, is reputed to have belonged to a
man who was sympathetic to boats carrying contraband along the river.
When his favoured cat died he had it stuffed and when he could see that
no customs boats were patrolling the river, he put it in the window to
signal that the 'coast was clear'. The mounted cat sitting in the
still pointed out to those on river cruises today. This was clearly the
right place for a commercial marina for leisure boaters and for the
Royal Harwich Yacht Club, slightly to the east. The latter is a
Victorian yacht club formed in 1843 and has had many Royal connections:
Prince Philip is the current Patron. The yacht club moved to its
present site (quite a long way from Harwich
in Essex) following World
War II after its previous premises had been demolished for the
expansion of the Navy Yard at Harwich.
Monkey Lodge is Listed Grade II. The Listing
text reads: "Monkey Lodge. 1861 on date plaque.
C20 alterations to rear. For John Berners. Whitebrick with ashlar
dressings. Slate roofs. 3 intersecting rectangles with C20 porch to
angle at rear. 1½ storeys. Moulded plinth. Front range has rusticated
angle pilasters with paired ashlar capitals and frieze with swag
ornament to returns. Dentilled cornice, pedimented gable end. Sashes
with glazing bars in ashlar architraves with cyma recta cornices and
brick aprons. Gable end has ashlar plaque between ground floor and
attic windows bearing coat of arms and motto DEL FUEGO EL AROLA.
Segmental arch to attic sash. Subsidiary ranges have rusticated angles
and square recesses, sunk panels above sash windows in ashlar
architraves. Moulded cornices. Stack to rear has curvilinear gable with
plaque inscribed 18 IB 61.
Further stack to rear left is panelled and
corniced with flanking scrolled brackets. Attached to front left is
short wall with rusticated corniced pier with ball finial. Formed lodge
to Woolverstone Hall. The motto and name of the lodge are said to
relate to an incident where a pet monkey saved a child of the Berners
family from a fire."
The Gateway is Listed Grade II. The Listing text reads: "Gateway at
Monkey Lodge. 1861 for John Berners. White brick and ashlar with
wrought iron. Central carriage entrance with pedestrian gates to either
side. Banded, pilastered piers on bases with cornices. Lower outer
piers, that to left attached to Monkey Lodge, that to right has cornice
and ball finial. Central double gates have arrow-head bars, middle rail
with encircled IB motifs,
lower rail and dog bars. Curved braces to
upper part. Outer gates similar. Probably later scrolled lamp brackets
to main piers, that to right with intact carriage lamps. Formed gateway
to Woolverstone Hall."
'IB' refers to the initials 'JB': John Berners. The approximate
translation of the Spanish language motto: 'Del fuego el arola' is
presumed to be 'Ring of fire'.
Why the monkeys?
A story tells us that William Berners’ pet monkeys raised the alarm
when Woolverstone Hall caught fire
enabling the family to escape
unharmed. Following this, Berners had images and statues of monkeys
made to adorn the Woolverstone Hall estate. The monkey was adopted as
an element in the Berners family crest, although it does not appear on
the stone shield above the motto on the lodge in the photograph above.
The sculpted, baboon-like monkeys are shown with a kind of belt arond
them with a ring near the spine, which suggests that they were pets
that could be kept on a tether.
See our Ipswich High School page
for an image of the Hall and our Woolverstone
Freston Tower: the oldest
folly in the
Mention of Freston Tower gives us the opportunity to
give a little detail about this fine landmark. The tower stands high up
above a steep grassy bank which slopes down to the Orwell River basin.
The view from the top of the tower is of the wide river with Piper's
Vale and Nacton foreshore on the other side plus, in modern times, the Orwell Bridge
with Ipswich docks in the distance. It was been completely refurbished
as holiday accomodation by the
Landmark Trust in 1999 (you have to like stairs). Described in Gwynn
Headley's Follies - a National Trust
guide (see Reading
List) as reputedly the oldest folly in Britain, it was thought to
from 1549, but dendrochronology fixed the date to 1578/9.
Incidentally, this is the same year as the building of the bizarre
flight of fancy that is the gatehouse to Erwarton
Hall further down the
Shotley peninsular: 'It resembles nine brick Saturn V rockets in a
square of three by three' (Headley).
Tower is a six-storey building: a single chamber on each storey. In
1850 a novel entitled Freston Tower
was published by the Reverend
Richard Cobbold, most famous for his 'imaginative' novel The History
of Margaret Catchpole.
His largely fictional plot centres on the daughter of
Lord de Freston, the beautiful Ellen, who in the late 15th century
studied a different subject
on each floor. The legend goes that on Monday Ellen studied Charity on
the ground floor; on Tuesday, Tapestry on the first floor; on
Wednesday, Music on the second floor; on Thursday, Painting on the
third floor; on Friday, Literature on the fifth floor; on Saturday,
Astronomy on the sixth floor and on Sunday she attended Freston Church.
A scurrilous version of the story has the
lovely Ellen ending up on the roof on Sunday in the arms of the
builder, furthering her education in another manner. This remarkable
survivor from the 16th century is quite remote from the highways and
byeways - one reason why it has escaped demolition or 'modernisation'
in the intervening years, perhaps. A gem of of which Ipswich can be
truly proud, this tower existed before Shakespeare was born and has
stood silent witness to the trading craft thronging the River Orwell
during the industrial revolution, now largley replaced with leisure
craft, while the surrounding countryside (the Orwell bridge aside) has
remained largely unchanged.
Panorama from the roof of Freston Tower: view over the Orwell
and the Orwell Bridge (see our plaques
page), Heritage Open Day Sunday 15 September 2013. Freston Church
is just visible above the tree line mid-left.
There are, at a rough count, around ten public houses in the
country called The Boot. Oddly, we used to have two more of them on the
Wherstead to Shotley Road: Freston Boot and Shotley
Boot. There could be a link to the branding of the long, military
footwear inspired by the Duke of Wellington and the Wellington Boot.
Sadly, the Freston Boot has been closed for business since May 2010
was bought by the nearby Paul's Estate, as was the forge opposite the
pub. It's a sorry sight in 2016. We learn from a local resident that
buildings are Listed Grade II. The core of the pub is thought to be
17th century. The
similarly boarded-up forge contains a main forge and a baby forge in
the corner (quite unusual) with a saw-pit in the yard behind and a
circle; indeed the 1882 map shown above names the wood nearby as
The old forge: a footpath leads from the lay-by shown here to Freston
Tower (discussed above).
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