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The online catalogue does not include details of all our collections. Contact the relevant branch for information relating to collections which have paper and card indexes.

Stradbroke Tithe map

Practical conservation was requested for the only copy of the Stradbroke tithe map in Suffolk, FC83/C1/13.

The map was drawn in carbon ink with watercolour highlights onto 4 sheets of cartridge paper. At some point since 1841 the map had suffered water damage causing staining and mould spots on the left. The paper sheets had also started to come apart, tears had developed and some areas had separated from the cloth backing.

Damaged map, before work (FC83/C1/13)

Damaged map, before work (FC83/C1/13)

During the 20th century additional damage was done through re-attaching the paper and cloth with double-sided tape. The tape had since dried out and the layers separated again; the adhesive had ‘cross-linked’ and turned brown so becoming difficult to remove and staining the paper and cloth.

Tests were made with a detached fragment to check that water washing would be safe and that all ink and watercolours were fast. The cloth lining was readily removed and tests done with four types of organic solvents to see if the residues of the self-adhesive tape could be easily removed, but unfortunately not. An oversize bath made in-house from waste cardboard and plastic sheet was used to wash the map; during the treatment the map separated into its four sheets. An additional wash with alkaline water and steam on the vacuum table was tried to see if the staining could be reduced. Alkaline residue was applied by spraying at various stages with calcium bicarbonate solution.

Next the four parts of the map were re-adhered; a gelatine adhesive of high bloom strength was used as this way the repairs would be less likely to separate when the map was re-dampened for lining. Temporary repairs were also made. A lining was then applied overall on the reverse to secure the map together and strengthen it. For this a considerably diluted wheat starch paste and a lightweight Japanese paper was used to ensure the map would remain as flexible as possible when finished.

Applying lining of Japanese paper to rear of map with wheat starch paste (FC83/C1/13)

Applying lining of Japanese paper to rear of map with wheat starch paste (FC83/C1/13)

After lining the map was turned over and repairs were made to the front including replacing any temporary facing tissues with permanent ones and infilling gaps in the sheet. Then the map was placed between woollen blankets and boards for drying.

Map after lining and drying between woollen blankets. Margin left on all edges for final drying (FC83/C1/13)

Map after lining and drying between woollen blankets. Margin left on all edges for final drying (FC83/C1/13)

Final flattening was carried out by restraint drying. The map was re-humidified and the edges of the map secured using the generous margin of lining paper applied to the map. As the map dried and shrunk back, it flattened out (fig. 4).

Map after conservation work completed (FC83/C1/13)

Map after conservation work completed (FC83/C1/13)

Isaac Johnson Map Collection (HD11/475)

The work of Isaac Johnson (1754-1835) Woodbridge based Topographical Artist and Land Surveyor was extensive.  He surveyed and mapped estates in almost every parish in East Suffolk as well as many in West Suffolk.  His patrons included Suffolk nobility, clergy and gentry, and John Nichols, a London Author and Publisher. The antiquaries Sir John Cullum, Richard Gough and Craven Ord commissioned drawings from him to illustrate their books.

The collection of his maps, plans and drawings, HD11/475 is held at the Ipswich Record Office and is particularly significant as it often contains the earliest surviving map for a Suffolk parish.  When making surveys he also made quick sketches of impressive trees, churches, chapels, houses, cottages, castles and architectural features, including monuments, gateways, windows, porches and monastic remains.  He later used these to embellish many of his maps or worked them up into detailed drawings or watercolours.

Suffolk has fewer parliamentary enclosure maps than many counties due to earlier local agreements.  Johnson’s surveys fill this gap linking with the drafts and copies of tithe maps made by Benjamin Moulton (Johnson’s successor) which also feature within this collection.

Johnson’s work can also be found in

  • ‘Drawings of Suffolk Churches’ Ref HD484/2
  • amongst parish, diocesan, family and estate collections within the Suffolk Record Office
  • the British Library (e.g. Add MS 26108 maps and drawings of antiquities, churches, in the county of Suffolk, 1821)
  • the Society of Antiquaries (Joseph Sim Earle collection includes Isaac Johnson preliminary sketch drawings)
  • and elsewhere – he worked in 12 counties according to Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland, 1550-1850.

The East of England Regional Archive Council provided a grant to enable Suffolk Record Office to fully catalogue the over 2,000 items in HD11/475 to make them more accessible, improve their packaging for ease of handling and long term preservation and to digitise at least 50 items to enable more people to see examples of his work.  The late Professor John Blatchly MBE, MA, HonLittD, FSA, an expert on the work of Johnson and author of Isaac Johnson of Woodbridge Georgian Surveyor and Artist, helped to select the items for digitisation.

The Suffolks in Salonika – WWI Trench Map

Suffolks who died in Salonika 100 years ago - July 1916 - maps

‘Land and Shore’ to launch

Land and Shore – a journey to discover lost communities

An exciting new heritage and creative arts project is about to be launched across East Suffolk, offering residents the opportunity to become involved across Lowestoft, Dunwich and Ipswich.

Launching on August 28th at Ness Point (see below), ‘Land and Shore’ was designed by Suffolk Record Office and the Voice cLoud and will explore the stories of three lost communities across east Suffolk:

  • THE BEACH VILLAGE, LOWESTOFT – once home to a thriving fishing community in the 18th and 19th centuries of nearly 3000 people living in just 500 houses and cottages, all working in the fishing industry.
  • DUNWICH – once an international port and centre for the shipping trade, devastated by great storms in the 13th and 14th centuries which redefined the coastline and saw the sea go on to claim most of the town, including four churches.
  • ALTON WATER – a valley near the village of Tattingstone in the Shotley Peninsula; which at one time included Alton water mill and Alton Hall, was flooded during the 1970s and ‘80s to provide the area with water.

‘Land and Shore’ will use printed local studies books and archive sources, including maps, photographs, diaries, oral histories, newscuttings and ephemera available at Suffolk Record Office, with a view to promoting engagement with Suffolk’s heritage and to bring to life this important history for new audiences.

The Voice cLoud is an arts and music organisation who use the role of the creative arts to promote heritage and culture and to explore the positive impact of music and the arts on health and wellbeing. Working with a group of individuals for each lost community, they will identify resources and archives which can be used to help these stories reach wider communities and new audiences.

Participants will explore and research using a variety of history and multi-arts professionals to recreate the stories of these ‘lost communities’ in a fun and innovative way using drama and music which will be shared through performance.

There will be a taster day offering more information about the project and focussing on each lost community during September and October.  For more information, to book a place on a taster or to receive a participant pack, please email  No experience is necessary, and anybody is welcome to participate.

The launch event starts at 11.30am on August 28th at Ness Point, and features performances by the Rogue Shanty Buoys, refreshments and a singing workshop to participate in!  To book a place, please email Amy at

Rogue Shanty Buoys

‘Land and Shore’ is a ‘Sharing Suffolk Stories’ project and part of a countywide Activity Plan for ‘The Hold – A Suffolk Archives Service for the 21st Century’.  The Hold is a partnership between Suffolk County Council and the University of Suffolk, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Heritage Open Day- Ipswich

HODs Cautley and Barefoot: Ipswich’s architects. 

08 September 2018       9.30 – 13.00

Come and see the plans of Ipswich buildings, designed by the architects Cautley and Barefoot. Learn about how to undertake your property history research using the record office’s collections.

HODs Behind the scenes tours of Ipswich Record Office.

15 September 2018       9.30 – 16.30

A National Lottery grant of £10.3m to create a flagship heritage centre for Suffolk and transform people’s access to their archives, was  awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will see the completion of The Hold beside the Ipswich Waterfront and launch an exciting and people-focused future for Suffolk’s archive service. More than just a building project, The Hold is about engaging people right across the county and beyond with Suffolk’s archives and heritage. Vital to the project is an exciting programme of events, activities and learning opportunities, which will enable existing and new audiences to explore 900 years of archival material and share Suffolk’s treasured stories. Come and see the architects designs for the new building and take a tour behind the scenes of the Gatacre Road branch. During your visit you will have the opportunity to purchase a Suffolk ordnance survey map and publications by local authors in our map and book sale.

S is for Stag Beetle

“Carrying a Stag Beetle under your hat is an insurance against lightning strikes!”, taken from “Bugs Britannica” by Peter Marren and Richard Mabey

Harmless and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Stag Beetle adult (growing up to around 70mm) is an awesome sight but the larva is just as impressive, being a white grub large enough to fill a hand!

Its Latin name, Lucanus cervus, derives from Lucania in Italy (where it was named Lucanus in Roman times) and Cervus, a genus of deer – the enormous jaws of the male Stag Beetle resemble stag’s antlers, and are indeed used to fight other males and in self-defence.

Stag Beetles prefer warm, dry areas and so in the UK are found mainly, but patchily, in SE England.  They live for several years which are spent, apart from a last few summer weeks, as larvae feeding underground on decaying wood.  This is difficult to digest, so larvae rely on a specific yeast species in the gut to help break it down.  If disturbed, a larva may “stridulate” by rubbing small teeth on its mid-leg against ridges on its hind-leg.  This may be to deter predators or even to communicate with other larvae and orientate themselves to avoid competition for the rotting wood.

At the end of its life, a male will emerge from the ground and fly in search of females – it can fly for at least an hour, can cover four to six kilometres, and occasionally reach an incredible speed of 10 km/hr.  After mating the female lays her eggs in rotting wood underground.  Male and female both then die.

Sadly listed as Nationally Scarce and declining, probably due to habitat loss and disturbance, we are lucky in Suffolk to have a hotspot of their presence in and around Ipswich:

Stag beetle survey

Stag beetle survey

This map shows Stag Beetle records logged by the general public for the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service on-line Stag Beetle Survey.  During the last 20 years 1,613 records have been logged.

You can help Stag Beetles:

Thanks to local researcher Colin Hawes who has studied Stag Beetles for over 25 years and identified several colonies in Suffolk.

R is for Rabbit

Reginald Rabbett (say it in your best Suffolk accent) was a wealthy Suffolk landowner who clearly was proud of his namesake, although in his time they were more likely to be being eaten, or culled as vermin. Shown here is his beautiful coat of arms, complete with rabbits, which adorns a map of his estate in Bramfield (HD2418/94)

The rabbits (or hares?) on the coat of arms are shown in detail.  This map forms part of the Joan Corder collection of East Anglian Heraldic Manuscripts (HD2418) which consists of pedigrees, grants of arms, visitations, heralds’ notebooks and associated material relating mainly to Suffolk but also covering Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk, collected by Miss Joan Corder of Ipswich (1921-2005), together with extensive notes, transcripts and photographs compiled by her, in course of her research.

On the other hand, our Coroner’s inquests collection tells a sorrier tale of rabbits – in two cases they have been cited as being the cause of demise – for a James Reeve (HB10/9/41/26) and a Jacob Clarke (HB10/9/43/4). James appears to have been smothered when his cart, carrying rabbits, upturned and the load landed on him, and Jacob suffocated when a rabbit burrow collapsed whilst he was trying to get at the rabbits. Extracts are shown here of the inquest documents and it is also interesting to see here that there is a list of jurors, and their marks, who were on duty for that case.

Q is for Quercus

‘Quercus’ is the genus name for all the species of oak trees or shrubs; Wikipedia states there are about 600 species. Many will think of the ‘English Oak’ (Quercus robur, also known as ‘pedunculate’ oak) as Oak trees but at least 20 other species can be seen at Ipswich Arboretum and Christchurch Park, most looking very different. English oaks are numerous throughout Suffolk and in A Flora of Suffolk Martin Sanford and Richard Fisk mention ‘veteran’ oaks including the ‘Queens Oak’ at Huntingfield, the ‘Tea Party Oak’ in Ickworth Park, and the loss of the ‘Gospel Oak’ at Polstead which collapsed in 1953. They mention that place names like Oakley, Occold and Eyke may be based on ‘Oak’ and perhaps also Copdock (“meaning pollarded oak”).

Letters patent licensing the imparkment by Sir Thomas Kitson of Hengrave Park, 1587 (HA528/30)

Letters patent licensing the imparkment by Sir Thomas Kitson of Hengrave Park, 1587 (HA528/30)

Oak trees have been significant in the history of Suffolk providing wood for the many ‘timber frame’ houses built here; there are many pictures of them in Suffolk Record Office collections including the Suffolk Photographic Survey (K681) at Ipswich. Oak was also used for shipbuilding in Ipswich and no doubt elsewhere. However Oak has also played another very significant but less obvious part in the history of Suffolk: in the ink used to write a large proportion of the manuscript documents, maps and drawings that form the record of history. Documents for many centuries have been written with iron-gall ink, and as the name suggests the ink is made with oak galls and iron.

Oak galls are caused by gall wasp insects embedding their eggs into host plants. When the grubs hatch the host plant (in this case oak trees) form a growth around it which provides food and protection. When the larvae has pupated into a wasp it exits through a ‘flight hole’ and files off. Many types of galls form on oaks, roses and other trees and shrubs, each particular to the insect species. The gall wasp Andricus kollari forms ‘marble’ oak galls which are rich in tannins. During ink-making an extract of the tannins is mixed with an iron-rich material, usually ferrous sulphate and during use the dark pigmented colour of the ink evolves.

Marble galls can be found on ‘Turkey’ oaks (Quercus Cerris) and ‘English’ Oaks.

P is for Physic Garden

Today Coyte’s Garden is a paved lane which leads from Friars Street to Princes Street but it derives its name from an 18th century physick garden which once stood there.  The origins of the garden are uncertain, but it was created by Dr William Beeston, perhaps to supply medicinal herbs for his own use and that of other local medical practitioners.  He bequeathed it to his nephew, William Coyte, after whom it was named, in his will dated 1732.  The latter then handed it over to his son, William Beeston Coyte who, with his keen interest in botany, took great delight in the garden. Before 1794 Coyte began the preparation for his Hortus Botanicus Gippovicensis, a catalogue of the 24 classes of plant that presumably grew in the garden.

Extract showing Coyte's Garden, taken from Pennington's map of Ipswich, 1778

Extract showing Coyte’s Garden, taken from Pennington’s map of Ipswich, 1778

Pennington’s map of Ipswich shows us the position and layout of the garden in 1778.

More information can be found about William Beeston Coyte and his Hortus Botanicus in Volume XXXIX of the Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1999 (Pages 339-352).

O is for Orchards

One orchard in Hasketon was brought to my attention because all the names of the trees are listed on a plan of it (V5/11/2a, 2b), and are part of a series of documents (V5/11/4), which relate to the lands of William Rouse Esq in Hasketon and Burgh purchased by him in 1808 from John Packard and others. Some of the land was then sold to Mr Fitzgerald.

The orchard measures 134 x 40 yards, approximately 1 acre and ½ rood. On the plans of the estate (V5/11/4.1 and V5/11/4.3) there are several orchards, the closest in size (plot 18b) measures 1 acre 27 perches.  A note next to 18b reads “taken out of Doolittle & planted in 1814”. A note regarding adjacent plot 17 Lower Wood reads “formerly a field, planted in 1814”. The plan of the orchard (V5/11/2.a) lists the trees planted in a nearby wood, does this refer to plot 17? Does the orchard plan show how those plots were planted in 1814 after they were sold?

OS map, 1884 (67/11)

OS map, 1884 (67/11)

Those plots are still covered by trees on the 1884 and 1927 Hasketon 25” ordnance survey maps (67/11). The farm across the lane is called Lower Wood. It would be interesting to see if there is a remnant of the orchard still there today.

For more about the survey and listing of historic orchards in Suffolk, visit the website for the Suffolk Traditional Orchards group