Soldiers on horseback, the sound of a military drum or bugle, hundreds of men marching in uniform from their barracks. All of this was a common site in Ipswich for over 150 years when the town had a barracks, which occupied a site between Norwich Road, Anglesea Road, Berners Street and Orford Street. Several inscribed stones marking the boundary survive. Brian Osborne, of Ipswich, was born on the site of the barracks. He said “My twin brother and I, were born up Cecil Road, in 1930. The walls of the Barracks are still there, including the brick gate pillars and the steps from where the Bugle Boy used to stand and blow his bugle.”
Fear of invasion during the second half of the eighteenth century, saw the establishment of temporary barracks for up to eight thousand men near to Round Wood on either side of Rushmere Lane with maneuvers on Rushmere Heath. Two thousand men were employed to build the wooded huts. This must have had a huge effect on the town’s population of around eleven thousand. The public houses would have done a roaring trade to the off duty men who would have had little chance to leave town. The camp was used as a military hospital for men returning from the Napoleonic Wars. A report from 1809 had 600 reaching the hospital where “every patient had a separate bed with comfortable bed clothing, and the attendance was entirely adequate”
The burial register of St Margaret’s Church shows that 218 men died between September 1809 and the following February. Other temporary Barracks had been set up in and around town, the maltings building close to Stoke Bridge, now converted to flats, was used. A return to peace saw the temporary sites mostly demolished. Squatters living in very poor conditions used some of the huts. In 1795 a permanent barracks for cavalry was built in St Matthews’s parish close to what has been known since as Barrack Corner. St Matthew’s Church became the garrison church. There were large parades there on a Sunday morning. The first regiment to move in was the Second or Queen’s Regiment of the Dragoon Guards. The barracks were taken over by the Royal Horse Artillery. The barracks remained until 1929. I have not found any record of a formal closing, the use of the site seems to have just run down. The council bought the site for eight thousand pounds and built Geneva Road and Cecil Road with around 100 houses. Every trade in town must have been affected. By the time the barracks closed the population of Ipswich was over eighty-thousand. Their departure must have come as a blow to traders during the depressed years of the 1920s and 30s. The huge walls of the barracks still stand at the bottom of gardens around the site; some apparently with tethering rings for horse’s set into them. Several broad arrow government marks can still be found round the site. Barrack Lane still has the gate posts with stone balls on top, reminding us of the thousands of men who marched through them to serve their country in conflict and ceremonial occasion.