Local history is a passion
Bramford is a village three miles west of Ipswich; it was recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Brunfort’ or ‘Branfort’. Bramford WI President Beryl Sims is an avid local historian and a fountain of knowledge, and she tells Kate Peacher, Suffolk East Frederation of WI’s trustee, she has more than 500 photographs of the area.
“We moved here nearly 40 years ago,” recalls Beryl Sims. “My husband and I bought the Old Water Mill, which was derelict, the top three floors having burned down in 1917.”
The property overlooks the River Gipping, which flows at the side of their garden and was a navigable waterway in the 19th Century.
“As young teenagers my friend and I used to cycle to Bramford and spend time sitting by the river opposite where I live now. I never dreamed I would live there one day. Although not listed, the mill does have a brick dated 1861.” And that started Beryl’s quest to find more information.
“In those days you had to visit the Ipswich Record Office, write things down and apply for copies of maps and photographs, and I was keen to learn so much more’.
Beryl enrolled on several palaeography courses held at Belstead House, Ipswich, learned to read Latin and a type of Latin shorthand which has enabled her to transcribe manorial documents, a 1420 list of debtors to Bramford Manor and the baptism, marriage and burial registers 1553-1837 from the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, which can be viewed from Bramford bridge on the south-east side of the village.
Beryl’s thirst for knowledge led her to embark on three years of evening classes at Bury St Edmunds, gaining a certificate in local history.
Bramford has a local history society, started by Beryl 25 years ago, which meets each month and continues to resource and archive documents, photographs and anecdotal information.
Book publishers Halsgrove approached the group a few years ago and asked if it would contribute to publishing a detailed history of Bramford. One third of the content was on ancient history, the remainder looking at various aspects of social history, and the development of the village. The book, now in its second edition, has about 300 photographs and the narrative was typed by Beryl!
Archaeological test pits have also been co-ordinated by the group. These are a metre square and a metre deep and took place in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Students from the local sixth form colleges found interesting fragments from early life but nothing as splendid as an Anglo-Saxon cremation urn unearthed in 1904, which is now in the Ipswich museum.
During my chat with Beryl, we looked at a vast array of photos, including one of a smartly attired and uniformed Capt Eustace Loraine , the 12th Baronet and heir to Bramford Hall and estate.
He was a test pilot for the Royal Flying Corps and died in 1912 when his plane crashed on Salisbury Plain. He was buried with full military honours in Bramford churchyard and a memorial dedicated to him and his co-pilot is on Salisbury Plain. His younger brother Percy inherited the title. He never had children and so the title died with him.
Like many WI members Beryl has added her enthusiasm to other organisations over the years, and this is her second term of office as president of the WI which meets in the aptly-named Loraine Victory Hall on the second Monday every month at 7.30pm.
Beryl Sims loves local history.
Captain Eustace Loraine.