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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.

Suffolk Show 2017 – A Great Day Out

If you’re visiting the Suffolk Show on Wednesday 31 May and Thursday 1 June come along and see us in the County Council tent. Record Office staff will be there with an update on The Hold and Mapping Suffolk Stories projects.  We can also provide general advice on your research and suggest where to start.

This year we are hoping to collect visitors’ memories and photographs of this show and previous ones. If you have any Show memories and photographs that you’d like to share with us and contribute to the archive please email us at

Our page about the Suffolk Agricultural Association has some of our older photographs and a brief history of the Show – why not check it out!

Record-Keeping Service of the Year

Suffolk Record Office has been nominated for Record-Keeping Service of the year at this year’s Archives and Records Association (ARA) Excellence Awards.

The ARA Excellence Awards are in their second year and comprise three categories:

  • Distinguished Service Award
  • Record-keeper of the Year Award
  • Record-keeping Service of the Year Award.

The awards celebrate the achievements of record keeping professionals across the UK and their contribution to society. The Record-Keeping Service of the Year Award will recognise achievements by an archive, conservation or records management service within the last eighteen months.

Suffolk Record Office has been nominated for the development of its digital preservation system along with their new website and online payment service. Digitisation of records is now being done in-house on wills, marriage licences, gaol books, photographs, coroners’ records and more. This follows the Record Office’s success in being a finalist in the Digital Preservation Coalition Awards last year.

In addition to this, Suffolk Record Office has recently secured Heritage Lottery Funding of £538,100 for a new heritage centre in Ipswich, in partnership with the University of Suffolk. ‘The Hold’ will not only completely transform its ability to care for and showcase the county’s records and collections, but will also promote them and give access to a broader audience.

The project to develop ‘The Hold’ includes a programme of activities and events highlighting the national and global relevance of record office collections. Part of this is ‘Mapping Suffolk’s Stories’ which will use historic maps as a starting point for uncovering stories about people, places and events. Record Office staff, aided by the University of Suffolk, heritage organisations and teachers, will work with community groups and schools to explore local heritage.

Kate Chantry, Manager of Suffolk Record Office, said: “We are thrilled to have been nominated for the Record-Keeping Service of the Year at this year’s ARA awards. This recognition reflects the hard work we do to help residents of Suffolk to access information about their heritage and history as well as to preserve these records for future generations to discover and enjoy.”

Last year’s award was keenly contested and over 2000 votes were cast for the five nominated services. This year, four services have been nominated, they are:

  • Suffolk Record Office
  • Aviva Plc
  • Bishopsgate Institute
  • Worcestershire Record Office

Jon Elliott, Head of Public Affairs at the Archives and Records Association, said: “Four strong candidates are going head-to-head in 2017 for the prestigious ARA Record-Keeping Service of the Year award. This award is open to all providers of records and archives in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The winner will largely be determined by the votes of fellow records professionals and customers of archives and records offices, hence why it is especially prized. We at the ARA wish all the candidates the best of luck.”

More information about each of the candidates is available on the Archives and Records Association’s website:

Voting is now open for the Record-Keeping Service of the Year. You can vote via the link below and you have until midnight on Sunday 30 April to do so:

Charity Farm at Shotley

In 1982 the records of the Blue Coat Foundation (GA400) were deposited at Ipswich Record Office.  The records of the foundation contain a veritable goldmine of information on a farm and its estate in Shotley and Chelmondiston. The collection’s minute books reveal that the estate was purchased in 1734 and for many years Charity Farm, as it is now known, was leased to the Berners family of Woolverstone Hall.

Ipswich Journal 28 October 1848 advertising the sale of Shotley Farm

The Foundation’s records show that Charles Berners and his son appointed under-tenants to work the Charity Farm. Timber from the estate, mainly ash, alder and oak, was used to repair the house.  In 1808 the Trustees of the Blue Coat Foundation ordered that the backhouse and the dairy be pulled down and rebuilt at the end of the house, and that a cow-house and cart lodge be erected.
In 1830 the under-tenant was Samuel Gardiner and the estate was valued at £154 1s 16d.  At the same time observations were made as to the upkeep of the farmhouse and estate with the information being recorded in the quarterly minute books.  The minutes also reveal that relations between the Berners and the Trust were sometimes strained.  In 1841 some ash trees were felled and the timber was sold but ‘…no request was made in writing pursuant to the terms of the lease.’

1904 map of Charity Farm

Without the minutes of the Blue Coat Foundation there would only be limited information available as to how the farmhouse at Shotley and surrounding land developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They provide us with knowledge far beyond what the historian can usually expect, making Charity Farm a truly remarkable property history case.

Stories from our conservator

Dominic Wall is the Conservator for Suffolk Record Office and has a role to play in conserving and preserving archives across all three branches.

In this section Dominic looks at some of the items he’s recently worked on and the challenges they have posed.

Conservation of Ubbeston Town Book

Conservation of Ubbeston Town Book

Conservation of Stradbroke Tithe Map

Conservation of Stradbroke Tithe Map

Burrell album before conservation (K997)

‘Communities of Dissent’ research project


Invitation to participate in a new research project for local and family historians

Religious dissent, its impact and changing role, is the focus of a new research project for local and family historians.

This is the latest major venture of the Family and Community History Research Society (FACHRS). The society was established in 1998, initially by former Open University students of courses in social, family and community history who wanted to continue their involvement in active research, including shared, major projects done collectively and comparatively by members throughout the country. It has continued independently of the OU with current membership of over 250, of whom on average around 50 take part in major projects. Previous themes have included Swing riots, allotments, and almshouses.

Now attention is turned to the local history of Nonconformity, with Dr Kate Tiller of Oxford University as Project Director. Researchers will begin by assessing the presence of religious dissent in their chosen locality during the heyday of Nonconformity from 1850. In the following period ‘Chapel’ was a widespread and significant feature of local and national life, often drawing on proud earlier antecedents, but now with enhanced status and scale. To be ‘Chapel’ was an important source of choice and identity for individuals, families and groups. It touched not only on the spiritual but also the social, educational, political and cultural aspects of people’s private and public lives. The presence of Nonconformity gave a distinctive character to many communities.

The Communities of Dissent project will involve participants with experience in researching local and family history in two phases of active research. Phase One will produce a profile of local dissent, recording (or recovering a record of) its buildings – chapels, schools, Sunday schools, meeting rooms, institutes, ministers’ houses- and making an initial assessment of the Nonconformist culture of which they were part. A range of ‘universal’ records, including the 1851 religious census; population census; directories; newspapers; standing buildings; large-scale OS and other maps; 1910 Domesday; denominational magazines will provide a shared basis for comparative local profiles of Nonconformity. This profiling will also reveal the extent of surviving evidence for local chapels and lead into Phase Two of research involving the in-depth use of chapel records, links to other sources and analysis on topics chosen from a range of possibilities according to researchers’ interests and the available source material. Research guidance, case studies and a dedicated website will be provided. The FACHRS spring conference at the University of Leicester, 6-7 May 2017, will feature plenary contributions from Kate Tiller and project participants and a project workshop.

Researchers are being recruited fast (see map). Individuals and small groups may take part (provided at least one is a member of FACHRS and acts as contact person with the network). Recruitment is open until the end of January 2017 if space permits. If you are interesting in joining the FACHRS project, either in the areas shown or other places not yet covered please contact Janet Cumner, the project coordinator, at She will also be interested to hear from those who may have relevant information on the Communities of Dissent being studied, a map of which will be posted on the FACHRS website.

communities of dissent

Meet Steve Gilby, our Activity Plan Officer

This October, we welcomed Steve Gilby to the project team for ‘The Hold’.  Steve is our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, and will drive forward our proposals for ‘Mapping Suffolk’s Stories’ and develop an exciting Activity Plan, reaching out across all of Suffolk.

Steve said, “I’m thrilled to be working on such an exciting project and looking forward to meeting groups and communities who share my passion for Suffolk and its heritage.”

Our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, Steve Gilby

Our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, Steve Gilby

Meet Steve Gilby, our Activity Plan Officer

This October, we welcomed Steve Gilby to the project team for ‘The Hold’.  Steve is our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, and will drive forward our proposals for ‘Mapping Suffolk’s Stories’ and develop an exciting Activity Plan, reaching out across all of Suffolk.

Steve said, “I’m thrilled to be working on such an exciting project and looking forward to meeting groups and communities who share my passion for Suffolk and its heritage.”

Our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, Steve Gilby

Our new HLF Activity Plan Officer, Steve Gilby

Sergeant Joseph Claude Hoxley

5 October 1916
Sgt Joseph Claude Hoxley   s/no 8091   age 24
buried Struma Military Cemetery  plot III H 7

Joseph, and all his siblings, were born in Ely.  But his mother had been born in Bury St Edmunds and the family moved from Ely to Bury in the 1900s.  The entry in the CWGC register states that Joseph’s brother, William Arthur Hoxley, also died in WW1 and my investigations showed a strongly military family.  William Arthur and Mary Jane Hoxley had 10 children between 1883 and 1899.  Of the 9 that survived after 1911 – 2 sons died in WW1 – 3 more sons fought and returned – the husbands of the 2 daughters fought and returned – and there’s a strong possibility that the remaining 2 sons also fought, their names are quite common.

Looking further back, William Arthur and his brother John Thomas were also military men.
The 1891 census is quite revealing.  William was age 36, a soldier, and he and his family lived on Walpole Lane in Ely.  His brother John, age 37, a ‘col/sgt on permanent staff’ lived next door with his family.  3 of John’s children survived after 1911 and one of his boys was also military.  My rough map shows the cathedral and a tangle of streets that suggest a barracks – Parade Lane – Militia Way – and Walpole Lane now Silver Street.

Carol's map of Ely showing the site of a suggested barracks

Carol’s map of Ely showing the site of a suggested barracks

In 1881 the Cambridgeshire Militia amalgamated with the Suffolk Regiment and the militia barracks in Barton Road were sold in 1913/4, the documents are at The National Archive.

So there are 4 Hoxley brothers on the same page on the Suffolk Regiment Medal Roll.

Suffolk Roll of Honour

Suffolk Roll of Honour

Joseph Hoxley's headstone

Joseph Hoxley’s headstone

October 1916

October 1916 was one of the big months for the 1st Suffolks in Salonika.  Having secured the Orljak bridgehead, the forces were pushing north and east.  They were taking part in larger operations in the Struma valley.  The French and the Serbs were trying to take Monastir, a town on an important route between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas.  It is now called Bitola and is in the south western part of Macedonia.  The operations were intended to break the deadlock on the Macedonian Front by forcing the capitulation of the Bulgarians.

Meanwhile, the 28th division, including the Suffolks, were assisting at the Rupel Pass, where the Struma river came down through the mountain range that runs east/west at the top of the Struma valley.  This was intended to prevent the movement of the Bulgarian reserves and supplies.   As in September, the action seems to have involved strategies to deceive – making the attack look bigger than it really was – disrupting the enemy’s supplies and relief – withdraw to a safer, more defendable position – thus luring the Bulgarians to press forward… into a place where the Allies’ artillery could be successful.

The Suffolks’ first action was towards Mazirko.  This village was attacked, defended, reattacked many times during the first week of October.  I believe this is the location for the village, there’s nothing there now.   (Please excuse the photograph, taken from a moving car.)


Possible location of Mazirko

Then it was on to Jenikoj, a larger village further east.  Again, advance – capture – withdraw – shell.  Then on to assist in capturing enemy trenches just north of the Serres road, around the 78/79 kilostones.  During two days, 3rd and 4th October 1916, 16 Suffolks died or were fatally wounded.

On the 10th the Suffolks moved to a camp at Idris Mah and spent about a fortnight working on defences and training.  The next camp was a donga near Turica which is a village in the hills west of the Struma river.  On the last day of October, whilst the 83rd Brigade attacked Barakli Zuma, a large village held strongly by the Bugarians, the Suffolks were asked to ‘make a demonstration’ on the village of Kumli.  This ‘demonstration’ resulted in the death of Pte Haselwood whilst D Coy were putting out a line of wire.

Barakli Zuma became Iraklia and now looks like a typical Greek country village.

Barakli Zuma

Iraklia, formerly known as Barakli Zuma

And, in the middle of this moving camp, building defences and fighting, they marched back to the Orljak bridge to be inspected by HRH the Crown Prince of Serbia.

A ‘donga’ is a dry gully and a ‘nullah’ is a stream or watercourse.  The maps are full of Tommy’s names for local features.


Trench map

Just south of the Orljak bridge is ‘Suffolk Wood’.  And further north, the bridge that carried the road from Orljak to Cuculuk was called ‘Cuckoo Bridge’ – no, I don’t know the proper pronunciation either.  But I’m fascinated to know what the ‘Fortnum and Mason Trees’ looked like.

Incidentally, this is the month that my distant cousin Joseph Tyrrell died – and he and his colleagues also rest in the Struma Military Cemetery.

The Suffolks in Salonika during WWI

When we think of the Great War, everyone knows about the trench warfare, many people know about Gallipoli  –  very few people know about the Salonika Campaign… but the Suffolk Regiment was there.

The Suffolk Regiment (aka “The Suffolks”) were part of the British Salonika Force.  The Allied forces had been asked by the Greek government to help the Serbians against the Bulgarians and they started to arrive, many straight from Gallipoli, in the autumn of 1915.

But conditions in ‘Muckydonia’ (as it was referred to by the British troops) were appalling.  In summer, the Struma river plain was covered with stagnant pools and in winter the surrounding hills were bitterly cold and the few tracks through the hills were muddy.  As many, if not more, soldiers died of disease as in battle – mostly malaria, but inevitably dysentery and other disease-related outcomes of poor sanitary arrangements.

Suffolk Record Office’s very own Carol Henwood has uncovered the stories of several Suffolks from the Salonika Force.  She has worked with the Suffolk Regiment archives at the Bury branch of the Suffolk Record Office, and has spent four holidays in that part of Greece with her husband, visiting a friend who shares an interest in this aspect of WWI.  As a result, Carol knows quite a bit about Salonika and shares that knowledge with us here, including her own photographs of the terrain where the Suffolks fought, the cemeteries where they are buried, and many if not all of their grave-stones.

Her other sources include:

October 1916

September 1916

During the whole of September 1916 the 1st Suffolks were based near the Orljak bridgehead. They were either improving the defences and the trenches or making advances towards the enemy.  The pattern seems to be that an advance was made towards a village on the east side of the River Struma. The Bulgars were driven out and the village was occupied, then the troops were withdrawn back to the defences on the west side in the hope that the Bulgars could be enticed to follow and could then be shelled.

It was during the preparation for one such advance that the Bulgars attacked D Coy and the war diary reports that one was killed. That would be Private Rolfe. For the 24th September there is a plaintive entry stating that the river rose 3 ft during the night and flooded part of the defences. It doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that would leave cold stinking water, and mud, in places that the troops were temporarily considering ‘home’.

Three Suffolks died in Salonika in September 1916, and 2 of those had lived in Suffolk.  The numbers involved may seem tiny compared with the carnage on the Western Front. But these men also played their parts.

A view of the Struma valley from the Old Serres Road. The river follows the line of trees crossing mid picture. The Serres Road is a faint white line visible beyond the line of trees and leading to Jenikoy (now Provotas), which can be seen in the distance, mid picture

A view of the Struma valley from the Old Serres Road. The river follows the line of trees crossing mid picture. The Serres Road is a faint white line visible beyond the line of trees and leading to Jenikoy (now Provotas), which can be seen in the distance, mid picture

The Suffolks were not alone. There is mention in the war diary of the 2nd Cheshires and the 5th Fusiliers. If the war diary cannot be found for the regiment being researched, the war diary of any other regiment involved will still provide a picture of the activities and daily lives of all.

And another snippet from the war diary reads: “Two scouts returned with a red flag which had been planted by the Bulgars, in the area of the advances, and with a message “written in very bad French to the effect that the enemy wished us to go back to England as our interests were not here”.

Click on the links below for details of casualties from September 1916:

Private Arthur Edward Rolfe

Lance Corporal William Watson

August 1916

Here, Suffolk Record Office’s Carol provides an account of the activities and events of the Suffolk Regiment in Salonika for August, 1916.

“During July and August 1916 the Bulgarians had advanced into Greek territory, proceeding south along the Struma valley, on the east side of the river where the Allies were on the west. Over 2 nights (31st July and 1st August) the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment marched from the camp near Big Tree Well to the Orljak area and set up camp at the 64 kilostone. The Serres Road was an important link from Salonika on the Aegean Sea north east to Serres, a town in the foothills of the range of hills now known as Oros Vrontous. It was one of the few better constructed roads in the area and it had stones to mark the kilometres, as we would the miles; the 64th representing the distance from Salonika. The Orljak Bridge is where the Serres road crossed the River Struma, just short of the 76th kilostone.

Matching the names in the war diaries to the current names on the ground is extremely difficult. Many of the names 100 years ago were Bulgarian or Turkish. Since then, villages have disappeared – or moved – or established out of nothing – and most have been given new Greek names. To which we add that the trench maps drawn up during WWI are of far better quality than any maps published today. Our Greek friend doesn’t possess a road map, or even a satnav, he just goes roughly in the right direction then asks a pedestrian.

The Old Serres Road has been bypassed but, comparing the topographical map with the current map I can make a good guess as to where the 64th kilo camp was – a flatter area part way up from the Struma valley into the hills.

Old Serres Road close to location of 64 kilostone

Old Serres Road close to location of 64 kilostone

Typical view on the Old Serres Road near Lachanas, formerly Lahana

Typical view on the Old Serres Road near Lachanas, formerly Lahana

On 19th August the 1st Suffolks moved to a gully near the town of Orljak. This was the start of their involvement with defending the Orljak bridgehead and the subsequent advance into the villages beyond. During this last part of August they occupied trenches near the bridgehead and the only activity was shelling by both sides.”

Orljak, now Strimoniko, from the Old Serres Road

Orljak, now Strimoniko, from the Old Serres Road

Click on the links below for details of casualties from August 1916:

Private George Merrington

July 1916

The 1st Battalion were on the Struma front in July 1916.  They had relieved the 1st Welch on 7th, making their base at Big Tree Well.  They were responsible for the right bank of the Butkova River, from the junction with the Struma River to the western end of Lake Butkova, a distance of about 7 ¾ miles.

looking north east, over the Struma River valley, towards the hills above Sidirokastro, formerly Demirhisar

looking north east, over the Struma River valley, towards the hills above Sidirokastro, formerly Demirhisar

Click on the links below for details of casualties from July 1916:

Lance Corporal Herbert Gilbey

Private Harry Parr