Dennington Parish Council

mobile menu button
Home > Clubs and Organisations > Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group Programme 2019

The Family History Research Centre 

The Group runs an informal family history Research Centre in Leiston.  It is in the Leiston Council offices, open to all — members and non-members — free of charge. 

Opening times are 10 a.m. to 12 noon on the first and third Saturday mornings of each month.  It can also be open on Wednesdays, by prior appointment — but if you wish to request such an appointment, please contact our Secretary, Angela Skelcher, on 01728 830949 or 

The Research Centre contains much local information which is not available online, including graveyard catalogues for Benhall, Saxmundham, Leiston, Eastbridge, Aldringham and Sutton, censuses, directories, information on local war memorials, books and historic maps.  We have a large number of CDs and microfiches of local interest — in fact, we hold a wide variety of records for Suffolk and other counties.  An index is available.  

There are also computers with internet, a printer and a scanner. 

Experienced family history researchers are present to give assistance if required.  The Group looks forward to helping you with your research, including the guilty pleasure of tracing those elusive black sheep!

The Research Centre is upstairs in the old Council Offices, Main Street, Leiston, IP16 4ER, in the same building as, and to the right of, the Library, opposite the Long Shop Museum.  Please note that access is by a steep staircase.  You can park outside free of charge for one hour, or there's an “unlimited” free car park in Valley Road — go straight down past Barclays Bank and it's 100 yards or so on the right.

To gain access to the Research Centre on a Saturday morning, you will need to ring the doorbell, and wait for one of the volunteers on duty to 'run' down the stairs to welcome you and let you in — we keep the door locked to deter nefarious intruders.

Visitors are always most welcome.



Pip Wright    The Whistlecraft family – A Poacher’s Life

The next meeting of the Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group will welcome back Pip Wright to captivate us with the true story of a notorious family from Rickinghall and Hinderclay - a tale of poaching, murder, heavy drinking and intrigue.
George Ruffels, later to be known as Joe Whistlecraft, died in 1960. Convicted over a hundred times, mainly for poaching, he was one of a notorious family who, nevertheless, are fondly remembered by many who knew them in Rickinghall and Hinderclay where they lived. Known as the man who got away with murder, Joe still served over twenty years in jail, longer than many who have received a life sentence. This included three spells in Dartmoor. His father and brothers were also regulars at both Ixworth and Eye Petty Sessions. This is the true story of a man who seems to have regarded regular imprisonment as little more than an occupational hazard of his chosen way of life.
Pip is a retired primary school teacher, living in Stowmarket, who writes local history books and gives talks to groups of all kinds and all ages across East Anglia. Together with his late wife Joy, who died in July 2005, he has spent a number of years gathering information on Suffolk’s social history.

The talk will be held on Tuesday 18 June at Snape Village Hall, IP17 1RN, starting at 7.30 p.m. Everyone is welcome; admission costs £1 for members and £3 for non-members, including coffee/tea and biscuits. We look forward to welcoming you to what promises to be a most interesting evening in the hands of another entertaining speaker.

FRIDAY   19th July   7.30pm   KELSALE VILLAGE HALL

John Bridges     Framlingham in Wartime

Framlingham - A Suffolk Town in Wartime 1939 - 1945  John Bridges gave a talk for the Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group concerning the town of Framlingham during the second World War.

His talk aroused memories in the minds of his audience of the time following that declaration, when Framlingham, along with the rest of the country suffered six years of fear, stress, destruction and loss that war brings to a country's population.

The normality of day to day life was suspended and people's lives were governed by the actions taken to protect the country and to defeat the enemy.

Although he concentrated on events in the Suffolk town of Framlingham, the experiences of people living there during the war were replicated throughout Britain, making John's talk relevant to anyone who had memories of the 2nd World War. 

It was fortunate that some of the more elderly members in the audience did in fact recall personal events of the time.

John Bridges began his talk by giving examples of the evacuation of children from larger populated cities and towns during 1939. The Billleting Officer settled children in homes that had been selected as being most suitable for them. The home owner received the sum of 10/6 per week for this service.

In May 1940 the threat of invading England had been spoken of by Hitler, prompting the government to issue leaflets such as 'If the Invader Come' and a second one in May 1941 with the title 'Beating the Invader'. This gave advice to the public concerning their well-being should an invasion occur.

Winston Churchill, meantime, kept the armed forces alert to the likelihood of any invasion. Invasion committees were formed in preparation for such an event. In Framlingham Cannon Lancaster was the head of the town's committee.

Defence of the town consisted of concrete Pill Boxes, of which there were 9 in Framlingham, including one in Well Close Square.

Iron Hairpin Tank Traps were situated on the roads into Framlingham. Pipe Bombs (Canadian pipe mines filled with explosives) were placed beneath the surface of the roads into Framlingham and Saxmundham. Camouflaged steel Machine Gun Turrets, which could rotate, housing a gunner, were installed. One of these was situated in Infirmary Lane, Fore Street. As gas attacks were a concern, Gas Decontamination Centres were set up.

In addition to these defensive measures in towns inland, it was essential that extensive coastal defences were installed. These were organised by General Ironsides. The remains of some of these installations can still be seen along east coast beaches.

An influx of army service men added to the disturbance of everyday life in towns and villages, especially after 1943 when troops of American GI's arrived to liven up communities.

Government minister Anthony Eden urged the formation of Local Defence Volunteers, otherwise known as the 'Home Guard'. Among the duties performed by these groups of men, was the search for any German paratroopers. If any were found the church bells were to be rung. Major Collins was the Commanding Officer in charge of the Framlingham Home Guard.

By July 1940 the construction of school Air Raid Shelters throughout the country was complete. 

There was a large air raid in 1940 which destroyed the Infant's School Head Teacher's house. The raid in 1940 on College Road, Framlingham killed one person.

By June 1940 117 Air Raid Shelters had been built in Framlingham. The shelters included a large one and a water reservoir situated on Market Hill.

Inside the church, sand bags surrounded the tomb of Henry Howard and others.

In June 1942 around 700 Incendiary bombs fell in raids, during which 3 people were killed in Albert Road.

The town urgently required an Air Raid Siren. However, the request for one was turned down by the County Council, prompting Framlingham to pay for its own siren. This was fixed at the front of the Police Station and was in use from 1942. Previous to the alert of the siren, people were made aware of an imminent air raid by the sound of a whistle blown by someone running from street to street. At this point in his talk John Bridges blew a whistle.

When John spoke about the V1 rocket, known as a 'Doodle Bug', a recorded sound effect was played while an image of the Doodle Bug was displayed on the screen. There was silence when the rocket's motor stopped and then the following sound of bomb blasts could be heard.

John's talk concluded with the atmospheric, continuous wailing of a siren, signalling to the audience that it was safe for us to return home

Diana Mann, Chairwoman, Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group. 

MONDAY 16th Sept   ‘A Voyage Around the Coast of East Anglia’, Robert Simper, 7.30pm, Leiston Community Centre.

MONDAY 21st Oct   “Grandparents in the Great War" (audience can bring family medals),Dave Empson, 7.30pm Leiston Community Centre