Home   Stowmarket   Article

Subscribe Now

Nostalgia: Stowmarket's history tells a tale of mayhem and marauding



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


Suffolk News' sister paper the Bury Free Press' archives have thrown up some interesting insights into Stowmarket's history.

The special Bury Free Press Millennium Memories publication, from January 2000, has informed this nostalgia feature.

It casts light on the town's connections with the Witchfinder General, the Romans and troubled political times.

Millennium Memories, from January 2000 (57264337)
Millennium Memories, from January 2000 (57264337)

Stowmarket and surrounding villages have a rich history which can be traced back to the time of the Romans.

The ruins of Haughley Castle serve as a permanent reminder of the huge Roman presence in the area.

More than 3,000 Legionnaires were stationed in the village, making up a quarter of the Legion assigned to protect the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

A Government inquiry was launched after an explosion at the New Explosives factory in August 1871 killed 28 people. The blast shattered windows in the town centre and left a crater 100ft across and 10ft deep
A Government inquiry was launched after an explosion at the New Explosives factory in August 1871 killed 28 people. The blast shattered windows in the town centre and left a crater 100ft across and 10ft deep

Roman artefacts have been discovered all over the area, including a silver coin dating to 190AD in Stowupland.

In 860AD it was the turn of the marauding Danes to exert their influence in Stowmarket.

As a large Danish army marched into Suffolk in 870AD, historians believe a battle took place against the Saxons on the outskirts of Old Newton.

In 1941 the Congregational Chapel, in Ipswich Street, Stowmarket, was completely destroyed by German bombing
In 1941 the Congregational Chapel, in Ipswich Street, Stowmarket, was completely destroyed by German bombing

Bones of horses and men have been found in the area, along with three-in wide sword blades.

The census carried out for the Domesday Book in 1086 showed the population of Stowmarket as 1,585.

According to the Domesday Book a market was already established in Stowmarket, despite an attempt by the Lord of the Manor at Haughley to lure trade away.

Stowmarket town centre in 2021 Picture by Mark Westley
Stowmarket town centre in 2021 Picture by Mark Westley

Agriculture became the town's predominant industry, although at the start of the 14th century Flemish and Dutch merchants were encouraged to settle in the area to help develop the wool industry.

The town was forced to hire soldiers to keep the peace in 1639, while the Puritans were stirring up a revolution.

Five years later, the parish church suffered at the hands of the Puritans as they ripped out the organ.

The River Gipping in the first half of the 20th century (57264364)
The River Gipping in the first half of the 20th century (57264364)

By 1870 the output of malt from Stowmarket was one of the largest in the country, with £100,000 paid in Government duty.

Trouble erupted in the General Election of 1910 after it was announced Conservative Frank Goldsmith had beaten his Liberal opponent George Hardy. A large crowd marched through the streets throwing stones through the windows of Conservative workers' homes.

During World War One, Stowmarket was seen as a prime target for the German Zeppelin in view of its enormous output of explosives.

Meanwhile, residents were forced to leave their homes and sleep in nearby fields in 1929 due to the stench caused by pollution in the River Gipping.

Stowmarket nostalgia factfile:

  • Famous witch hunter Matthew Hopkins visited the town in 1645 and tradition suggests two witches were drowned at Boulters Bridge, near Combs Ford.
  • In 1678 a serious outbreak of smallpox broke out in the town, killing 51 soldiers.
  • Disaster struck in 1703 when the parish church spire was blown off during a violent storm.
  • Oakes of Bury St Edmunds became the first bank in the town in 1805.
  • A fire destroyed 181 houses in Bury Street in 1868 and made 81 people homeless. A human bucket chain a quarter of a mile long was formed to bring water from the River Gipping.
  • The livestock market closed after 150 years of trading in July 1984.
  • The first purpose-built Post Office was opened in Market Place in 1889 and the first general supply of electricity to the town was provided in 1896.
  • The first section of the Stowmarket bypass opened in 1975. In 1991 the inner relief road was built.
  • After an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in November 1937, 587 pigs and 224 cattle were slaughtered outside the Shepherd and Dog, in Onehouse.
  • Stowmarket experienced its worst flooding in 1939, when the allotments in Combs Ford were completely submerged and the road to Ipswich was impassable.