My Favourite Places Near the Deben (Part 1)

Waldringfield from Stonner Point with a Spring Tide

It is difficult to say which is my favourite spot in this area of The Deben because there are so many but Stonner Point across from Waldringfield is certainly one of them. Stonner Point is a quiet and beautiful place so I am going to start this blog from there. So much has been already been written about the Deben and its long history, but here are some pictures and a few facts and other areas we like, that I hope you find interesting. Not one for the locals, but I know that my blogs are read across the world so this is mostly for them. I will also describe a couple of our favourite walks. It is a long blog so I will release the blog in parts.

This opening picture was taken from Stonner Point looking across to Waldringfield. There is a small seat, quite rustic, which allows you to sit and look across to the village. On a warm day it can be very pleasant, but on a cold day it is a place to linger for a few minutes only. There is an island, covered in the spring ties, shown in the foreground of a picture below which was once the bank of a creek until the river broke through. The walk to Stonner Point is one of our favourites although we came upon it very much later than our other walks. From Shottisham by the Knowl you take Church Lane to the end and by the allotments you take the path that goes left along the allotment fence and then on the edge of the field that rises quite steeply until it falls away on the other side of the hill to Vale Farm and the site of the wartime howitzer placement mentioned in a previous blog. At the end of this path which can be quite muddy in winter very unusually for this area you approach a gate through which lays a field and the path which continues straight across the field passes over the millstream which fills the pond by the mill that would have driven the mill mechanics when it was working. The second stream that you cross feeds the rivulet that used to be the ford at Ford Hill. This eventually feeds to Shottisham Creek. Old ordnance survey maps has this unnamed at this point and the only place where I can see the ‘Shottisham Creek’ named is at the entrance to the stream at the Deben End. The path from this point is diagonally to the left side corner of the field where a gate leads across a fairly narrow plank forming a bridge over the ditch to the side of the road. Once across this ditch you are on the side of a road which you must cross and then take the road immediately opposite that passes a rather cute cottage which has the top of the wall castellated. This road will take you to Woodhall Manor which you pass on the right side past the entrance to the Old Coach House and forward until you reach a trio of pretty thatched cottages. You turn right before the cottage with a couple of hares on the apex of the roof in thatch, of course. After a while down this road which eventually leads to Sutton you come across a rather impressive house, known as Sutton Hall. Turn left opposite the Hall and down an unmade track which will reach a crossroads of tracks. Walk forward through a gate towards a house which appears to be in a constant state of refurbishment when I wrote this. Around turn of the previous century this was known as Lower Farm. Keep going straight across a farm track and towards a small weather station where you turn left past a pond on the right side in some trees to a right turn where there once was a building called Stonner Farm, but this no longer exists. A short way forward you bear left along the river wall to the rustic bench mentioned previously where you can sit and admire the view across to Waldringfield. On the ordnance survey map for 1890 approx Stonner Point is shown with a pier. There also looked to be a creek through the mud to the Deben channel. My assumption is that this creek was navigable for small boats but there is no ferry shown.

Although I have been in this area for some time my visits to Waldringfield have been very few, and mostly to enjoy a lunch at the very good Maybush Inn. To get some pictures for this blog required a specific visit.

Sailing race from the Deben’s East Bank

Waldringfield sits on the west bank of the Deben quite isolated with few business and two churches where you can cleanse your soul. You have a Baptist Church, if that is your persuasion, and the very pretty All Saints which sits high above the Village and both are quite a walk for the Villagers on Sundays and other ‘high days’. There would have been a couple of routes to the Anglican Church and one can imagine the few souls that made up the congregation trudging across the fields from the bank of the river, to attend the Sunday Morning service dressed in their ‘Sunday best’. In 1855 the time of Whites Directory, ‘Agricultural Labourer’ was shown as the main occupation, with a couple of wheelwrights, a blacksmith and the miller who occupied the mill that stood atop the hill near All Saints on Church Road. I have it from a website that the windmill was called Buttrums. This is the same name as the windmill in Woodbridge so may be it was owned by the same family of millers. One to look into in an upcoming blog perhaps. There are several references to the family name, that I have found, including appearing in the will of William Frederick Buttrum of Swilland in Suffolk.

Waldringfield looking towards Ramsholt early morning.

After cleansing their souls at either of the Churches, the Bush Inn would have called to them for a pre-prandial livener before the Sunday lunch time offering. This would have excluded the congregation who had attended the Baptist Church because of their abhorrence of the demon alcohol. The Baptists have long believed that drinking alcohol is not only unhealthy and morally lax but is in direct opposition to what God desires. Sundays for the Victorian labouring classes would have been the one day when they ate meat, a small piece of beef, mutton or pork with some potatoes and vegetables. I assume that the repast enjoyed by the Rector would have been a little more substantial than that served up to the majority of his flock. One of the benefits of being a vicar would have been a rectory and possibly some sort of home help, however the Rector of All Saints Alfred Suart, a British National born in Switzerland, aged 33 years in 1851, had the luxury of cook, kitchen maid, house maid, footman, groom and nurse ‘living in’, with his wife of 45 years and his brother in law a captain in the Royal Artillery. I would venture a guess that our Rev had substantial private means or perhaps the Church stipend run to a household of that size. The same cannot be said of the poorer Henry Thomas (surname is not decipherable), minister of the Baptist Church who lived with his wife daughter and daughter in law and no servants. So a more normal existence for Henry Thomas in comparison to the All Saints Rector. What did Jesus say, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’. Perhaps St Peter took into account for Alfred his service as a minister.

Looking towards Waldringfield below Stonner Point

The thirst quenching Bush Inn, as it was known in 1855, was a former farmhouse and was run by William Gooding with his wife Harriet, who was cutely called an Hostess on the 1851 Census. The spelling is difficult to discern owing to what appears to be a correction by the Census recorder, who in a subsequent record spells shepherd as Shepperd which is the derivative person name and not the occupation. Harriet the Pub’s hostess was only thirty, but two years older than Bill the Publican. Exactly what her job would have been in a country hostelry is a little mystery, but I do have visions of Nancy from the film version of Oliver Twist serving and singing, It’s a Fine Life! “Gin Toddies, large measures” as the song goes.

Some of the Waldringfield Huts

When the Maybush got its current name I cannot ascertain, but it was originally known as the Cliff Inn in 1825. Only serving a few people in 1855, it would have had its best period ahead of it current popularity in the latter part of the 19th Century. In 1891 from the Census records, the Landlord was called John Hill, the pub was recorded as ‘The Cliff’. John was a Brewer and Maltster as well as Publican. Funny that the pub was called ‘The Bush’ in the 1851 Census and ‘The Cliff’ in 1891 and then must have changed back to the Bush or maybe the Maybush, a prettier name. John Hill died in 1892 quite suddenly and is buried in All Saints. He left John Hill Junior (incorrectly recorded as John Hill June in the 1891 Census) who was a Maltster as was his other son Walter, but his issue were not all in the family business because his son Robert was a labourer in the Cement works, but more of that later.

In the 1860’s the village partially threw off its some of its agrarian commercial aspect and started to adopt a more industrial existence. Firstly the coprolite industry started after the Rev John Stevens Henlow discovered that this fossilised dinosaur dung when mixed with sulphuric acid was a source of phosphate and could be used as fertilizer. The area around the Deben was rich in coprolites and an industry started in various places where the faeces were dug out of the ground washed and sifted and shipped to the Ipswich factories. Some of this washing and sifting took place on the beach at Waldringfield. According to one record I have read, which I can longer find, the coprolite was dug out of the cliff down stream from the Maybush, and in this place beach huts were later built. The 1893 map does show, what I believe is the original beach hut. There is a very good article on these huts published by the River Deben Association. As an aside and at this point the 1893 map does show the Maybush as ‘The May Bush Inn’ so it must of changedd its name before.

Cottages Built for Cement Factory Workers but now Desirable Residences on Cliff Road. The River is in the background beyond the sign for the Maybush Inn

The industrial nature of the village increased with the start of the cement industry in about 1865. Cement processing lasted until about December 1907 and the kilns and buildings being pulled down in 1912. At its height the site boasted 12 kilns and a number of buildings. On the 1893 Ordnance Survey map there is what looks to be a railway line running around the works and then down to the pier which would have been by the boat yard shown in the middle foreground in the next photo. There is a photo that you can find on the net which shows the jetty and pier with the bottle kilns in the background. Very much different to the houses which were started to be built on the site after the closure of the site and the removal of the kilns. Looking at the 1891 Census and comparing it to the 1851 Census you can see the change in occupations of the labouring classes. In the 1851 the main job of the labouring class was on the land and in 1891 these farm workers were still present but they were added to by labourers in the cement works and coprolite industry. The population increased from the 169 in 1851 to 278 in 1901 and there are some interesting occupations included in that number. There was a stationary engine driver with the cement works powered by steam. There was also a portable engine driver which I assume was pulling the wagons around the works, and a steam crane. The population took a bit of tumble after the factory closed when in 1931 it was down to 205 but this increased to 392 in 1981 and is up to 464 in 2011. Some of the workers in the industries in the Village would have come from the Sutton side and would have come across in the Ferry from Stonner Point, A legacy of the cement industry is a line of cottages built for the cement workers and shown in the photo above.

Looking at the jetty at Waldringfield but not at the MV Jahan

After 1912 Waldringfield settles back to an agricultural existence until sailing took off. Boats are very much a part of The Deben, from the commercial sailing boats to the barges which brought in and took produce from the jetties and quays that provided a landing place on this tidal river. In these later times and to a very large extent the river is used for pleasure with sailing boats of various sizes, kayaks and for the very hardy the occasional swim. When I think of Waldringfield I think of the Maybush and sailing. Just look at the number or pleasure craft in the pictures in this blog. In the latter years of the 19th Century Waldringfield was very industrial and had little time for pleasure and most of the pleasure craft were based up in Woodbridge. It was after the decline of the Coprolite working and the closure of the Cement Works that sailing began to arrive on the river bank.

Waldringfield Sailing Club House

In 1921 the Waldringfield Sailing Club was born and like most pleasure pursuits of the time started small by a meeting of interested parties and grew from there with a membership of 650 in modern times. I wonder if the founders met at the Maybush.

Sailing race below Stonner Point under a very strange sky

Before I leave Waldringfield I must say something about what can be described as Beach Huts but I think that they are more than that. Beach huts came to popularity using the changing huts of the Victorian era, which would have been wheeled down to the water so that the ladies of the time could walk straight into the water to bathe segregated from the men. When mixed bathing was allowed the beach huts were put at the top of the beach, the wheels removed and they became cabins for whatever people do in them as they are today. Never having owned one and only having seen them in the places I have visited it looks to be a place to store your beach gear, deck chairs, umbrellas etc, to make and drink tea and to sit outside in fine weather or inside in inclement. The beach huts in Waldringfield were build in a flat area of glebe created from the cliffs by coprolite working. The first was believed to have been erected in 1895. There are many different types including the round style which was used during the first world war to house up to twenty soldiers in Flanders.

Stonner Point from Waldringfield or as near as I could pinpoint with the island part way across

The very pretty Waldringfield Church, All Saints, with mist hugging the upper ground