Bridgeward Club, St Peter's Vicarage, Tragedy of Lady Milbank

An enquiry from Lisa Smith in January 2018 initiated this page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bridgeward Club 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bridgeward Club 22018 images
Tucked away behind the houses in Austin Street, Over Stoke is the Bridgeward (otherwise Bridge Ward, after the electoral division) Social Club. At the time of our visit, the shuttering gates happened to be open, so these photographs could be taken. 
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bridgeward Club 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bridgeward Club 4
We understand the the club is scheduled for demolition and the site used for housing.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bridgeward Club 5
However, Lisa sent the following email, map and photograph.
'Hello Borin. I've attached a plan of the 'Bridge Ward Conservative Club' as it became known at some point in it's history... I was having building work carried out in my garden when builders came across a cellar. It turns out that I'm living on top of what was St Peter's Vicarage... The picture was part of a much larger panorama of the town taken from the Rectory Road area of the town. The Liberal Club/Conservative/Bridge Ward Club would be situated directly to the left of the Vicarage. From other papers I have I think the vicarage was demolished somewhere around 1925 [see the last passage at the bottom of the page]. Looking at the picture again today, and considering the date, I'm now wondering if the very faint image to the top left is the Ipswich Union Workhouse. If so, this is the first picture I have ever seen of it.'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage 1undated map
The map confirms that, as some period, the club was claimed by the Conservatives. The 1920s map of the location shows that Vaughan Street ran only as far as Pauline Street and the houses which were to make up Little's Crescent were only partially completed. The most interesting features to note, as pointed out by Marcus Bateman, are the Bridgeward Club (labelled here 'Club') and the remaining part of the Vicarage of St Peter – probably less than half of the footprint shown above in green. It also indicates that the green shape must predate the 1920s. Perhaps  the vicarage was demolished in stages.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage 1920s1920s map
The 1904 map detail below shows the vicarage, clearly labelled, with the club building to the north-west and surprisingly close to it. The large gardens with trees and oval driveway are shown with carriage access into Austin Street quite close to the Vernon Street junction (where the first Co-op store in Ipswich had been opened in 1878). The corner building is Uncle Tom's Cabin public house, whose first listed licencee was in 1871. The area round the vicarage was being closely built on with terraced housing by the 1920 map above.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage map 19041902 map

Is the ghostly shape to the left of the vicarage in the photograph below the Ipswich Union Workhouse which once stood on Great Whip Street/Felaw Street?
Great Whip Street Union Workhouse was a substantial set of buildings which operated on that site from 1837 to 1899 with 400 inmate spaces. The Union Workhouse moved to Heathfields (today's hospital site) and ran from 1899 to 1930 with a similar number of spaces. See the update below for another opinion.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage 2pre-1883 photograph
[UPDATE 16.2.2019: 'No new information I’m afraid. I was just musing over the Bridgeward Club page of the your excellent website ( and wonder if the St Peter’s Vicarage photo is actually from the south, looking north, and that the large building in the background is the Eastern Union Mills building on the north side of the river. Looking at the 1883 OS map, the vicarage had outbuildings to the west of the main house and it may be these that are visible in the photo. Also, the ghostly building in the photograph looks enormous, was the workhouse really that tall? Just a thought. Regards, Mark Sommers.' Thanks, Mark – more investigation required.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eastern Union Mills 1850Eastern Union Mills, 1850
This detail from an illustrated view of the town from Stoke Hill c.1850 (found on the Mills Archive Trust website) shows the Eastern Union Mills at the centre, with the tide mill at the left and Stoke Bridge at lower right; a steamer is moored at St Peter’s Wharf above the bridge. The height of the mills building (five storeys to the roofline, punctuated by teagle doors) is notable. Whether this would have been visible from south of the vicarage, given the rise in the land on the Stoke side, can be discussed.

An aerial view shows how closely the original club building – the flat-roofed extensions will be more recent – is built to the neighbouring gardens. Presumably the asphalt car park was once a garden and bowling green – a press article from 1901 reports the annual dinner of the Bridge Ward (Ipswich) Liberal Club Bowling Club.

Below is a detail from Joseph Pennington's map of 1778 showing the early nucleus of Over Stoke village. At this time, because of the angled driveway coming off Austin Street (see Street name derivations for the source), the building in red must be the vicarage of St Peter – only a modest stroll accross Stoke Bridge from the church itself, show at top centre. The vicarage is set in meadows and open land to the south, nearer to the Church of St Mary-At-Stoke than the Church of St Peter.
The map shows a period when the tide mill adjacent to the bridge was in operation, the pool of St Peter's Wharf was larger than today and long before the construction of New Cut and the enclosed Wet Dock in 1842.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage map 17781778 map
The detail below from Edward White's map of 1867 shows a wider view of the area to include the recently laid out Rectory Road at lower left to show the suggested viewpoint for the pre-1883 photograph of the vicarage, which indicates that the ghostly image to the left is, indeed the elevation of the Union Workhouse in the near-distance. New Cut, the island and the Wet Dock have transformed the eastern part of the map, the mill is still visible and Commercial Road runs horizontally from the left, running into St Peter's Quay and Albion Quay on the dockside. On the Over Stoke side, Dock Street now runs round into Stoke Quay and the housing resulting from the Industrial Revolution is increasing in density and spread. Note particularly the terraces lining Station Street and Croft Street (labelled 'Halbert Street' in 1867).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Vicarage map 18671867 map
Larger versions of this map detail can be found on our Stoke Hall page and our Brickyards page.

Who lived at the vicarage?
Census return 1871
shows Rev. Alex H. Synge (50) and family living at the Vicarage; born Dublin Ireland.
Georgina (Wife, 40); born Nottingham;
Three daughters, one son, one Governess;
Brother of Georgina, Clement J. Cobb (44), Vicar of St Georges Barnsley;
Sister of Georgina, Mary J. Cobb (37);
Sister of Alex, Julia Synge (47);
Four Domestic servants.

Census return 1881
shows Rev. R.A. White and family living at the Vicarage:
AustinStreet (The Vicarage, St Peter).
Richard Allen White. Head. Married. 40. Vicar of St Peters Ipswich. [Where born] Wexford Ireland;
Octavia M.              . Wife                      37.                                                                                         Suffolk;
Maurice R.L.           . Son.                    .   5. Scholar                                                                                 “     ;
Richard F.                . Son.                    .   3.     -                                                                                          “    ;
Alice Mary Taylor . Governess          .  26. Governess
plus Cook, Housemaid, Nursemaid.

Within a ten year period the Church of St Peter had two Irish vicars. Mr Synge's 1871 household seems to have been very full with a number of sibling residents (including another vicar). Rev. White is credited in The Ipswich Journal 1 December 1877 with 'very energetic' efforts in fund-raising for the resoration of the church and a personal donation of 200 to clear the church's debts.

By 20 May 1884 this advertisement appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times:
On WEDNESDAY, the 21st May, 1884, at Three o’clock in the Afternoon precisely,
GARROD, TURNER and SON will SELL by AUCTION, by direction of the Rev. R.A. White, who has left Ipswich, a few articles of FURNITURE, including 3 settee chairs to attach and form a central ottoman, 3 iron bedsteads, mattresses, a suite of bedroom furniture, perambulator, &c.
OUT-DOOR EFFECTS, including lawn mower, garden tools, greenhouse and bedding plants, bee-hives, side saddle, carpenter’s bench, Wheelbarrow, boardsand trestles.
Two GLASS HOUSES, one detached and one lean-to, pit lights, &c.
Catalogues may be had of the AUCTIONEERS, 1 Old Butter Market, Ipswich.’
[For a later view of the Garrod Turner & Son offices at this address, see our Giles page.]

The Club
By at least 20 July 1901 (Evening Star item) the Bridge Ward Club appears to have been active, although it is not clear what had happened on the site since the sale of vicarage furniture in 1884.

A flavour of the Liberal attitudes to women can be gained from this opening passage from a report in the East Anglian Daily Times, 21 February, 1894:
There was a gathering of between 300 and 400 members of the Westgate and Bridge Wards of the Ipswich Women’s Liberal Association at the annual Ward tea at the Co-operative Hall on Tuesday evening. After the tea the members were many of them [sic] joined by their husbands, and the Co-operative Hall was well filled when Canon Bulstrode took the Chair. The rev. gentleman was supported on the platform by Mr. R.D. Fraser, Mr. John Pratt, Mr. W.F. Paul, Mr. H.W. Raffle, together with several ladies including Mrs. R.D. Fraser, Mrs. W.O. White, Miss Oxborrow, Mrs. John Pratt, Mrs. W.F. Paul, Miss Butler, Mrs. Bloomfield, Miss Scopes, Mrs. Bulstrode, with the hon. sec. of the Association, Mrs. W.O. Owen. A forcible speech was delivered by Mr. Geake, of the Eighty Club, who described in detail the measures passed through the House of Commons during the present session; most of them unfortunately had not become law, though they had been approved by the representatives of the people…’

We can draw from the above text that, at the height of the Victorian period – and when the suffrage movement divided opinion on many sides – Liberal organisations welcomed women to most of their functions: 'Ladies cordially welcomed'. However, the chairing of meetings and many of the speakers were prominent males such as wealthy businessman and philanthropist W.F. Paul (who founded his Tenement Trust, dealt with on our More almshouses page).

Reading through the early press coverage of the Bridge Ward Club, it is clear that it was once a popular and well-attended centre of the community. Sadly, by the 21st century numbers had fallen to the extent that the club is slated for demolition.

Many thanks to Lisa Smith for sending material about the vicarage and club.

Vicarage and Club together
It would be tempting to think that the Bridge Ward Club replaced the Vicarage on the site, but Lisa Smith sent the following information:
'The census returns for 1901 show William Mayes as Steward of the Liberal Club and Rev. William Shepphard at the Vicarage and both listed at Austin Street. William Sheppard seems to have some involvement in education.
The census for 1911 still shows William Mayes at the Liberal Club and Rev. William Francis Kerr at the Vicarage and still listed under Austin Street. The two properties must have been touching one another!
On the Ipswich War Memorial Project website [see Links] there is an entry for Edward Bournes Kerr ( and picture) who was the son of William and who was killed in World War I (memorial in St Peter's Church) . This site lists William Kerr as 'Rector of St Peter 1911-1919.

The Lady Milbank incident
Star of the East
, Friday Evening, September 2, 1887:
On Thursday afternoon an accident, resulting in serious injury to Lady Susan Millbank, of Stutton Hall, a friend and a groom, occurred at Stoke, Ipswich. As Lady Millbank was driving a tandem past Stoke School, the groom sitting behind, the horse apparently shied at a wheelbarrow which was standing near the School, and bolted along the street. Lady Millbank was unable to hold the animal in, it being a very hard-mouthed one, and the groom attempted to do so. Having no foothold, however, he also failed, and the horse ran at a furious pace until it got to the top of Bell Lane. Here the carriage came in contact with a cart standing on side of the road, and going to the other side it overturned onto a brewer’s dray standing opposite at the New Anchor Inn*. The concussion was very severe, and the horse broke away from the carriage, dragging one of the traces with it. The horse harnessed to the dray also ran away, and the carriage fell on its side on the ground, on top of Lady Millbank. Assistance was speedily at hand, the vehicle was raised, and the injured persons extricated. Lady Millbank and her friend were taken to St. Peter’s Rectory, where they were seen by Drs. W.A. Elliston and Station (who remained with them two hours). As far as they could ascertain no bones were broken, but her ladyship’s knee was very badly injured. Up to a late hour they were still at the rectory. The groom, whose name was William Thompson, aged 37, was taken to the hospital, where it was found that it was he was very severely injured about the head and collar-bone.
As soon as the horse got loose it ran off in the direction of Sutton Hall, and had got as far as the Ostrich Inn [Wherstead] before it was stopped. In its mad career it managed to stamp on the loose trace and turned a somersault. The carriage was not much damaged.’
[*New Anchor Inn, 1 Austin St. The pub is also listed as the Anchor, at 33 & 35 Bell Lane in 1861. In 1861 it's listed at 33 & 35 Bell Lane, next to Little Wonder at 29 & 31 on the opposite side of road to the Good Intent. (Another Anchor is listed at 1 & 3 Bell Lane in 1861, with the Old Bell [unnamed] probably listed at 2 & 4 Dock Street.) It seems likely it's been demolished, though we don't have a concrete location yet. The closure date is recorded in the Borough Police licensed premises register 1903-1923. Information from Suffolk CAMRA, see Links]

Norwich Mercury, September 7, 1887:
MISS MILLBANK, of the Chestnuts, Stutton, near Ipswich, who was injured in a carriage accident at Ipswich on Thursday last, died on Monday afternoon from injury to the spine.Her death took place at St. Peter’s Vicarage, Ipswich, where she was conveyed after the accident.’

Our contributor writes:
‘I’ve since found references to this accident in other papers – The Western Daily Press, The Ipswich Evening Star, The Daily Gazette For Middlesborough, The Huddersfield Chronicle, The Derby Daily Telegraph, The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, The Western Morning News, The Dundee Courier, The Leeds Times, The Manchester Courier and The Lancashire General Advertiser
I have no idea who the Millbanks are/were or why news of the accident appeared in so many newspapers but it's a strange feeling being able to pin down a specific event in time to an exact location and know that you are sitting in the middle of it!’
The Stutton connection
‘Regarding the family of Milbank, to my knowledge at no time did they live in Stutton Hall. Godolphin Milbank and his wife moved into the "Chestnuts”, now named Stutton Lodge, in August 1890. They were still there in 1900 but left before 1924. We have two marked graves in St Peters Churchyard, one for Harriet C. Milbank, born 1870 died 1887.  The other for Susan Georgiana Godolphin Milbank, died 1903 age 73. We have no information on Lady Susan in 1887, and very little about the family. I hope this will be of help, and should any information come to light, I will pass it on to you. Any information or photos you have on the family will be of interest to our Group and much appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any other information. Kind Regards. Vic Scott, Stutton Local History Research Group.’

Many thanks to Vic for the information.

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