Archive for January, 2011

Play Mistley for me

Mistley Towers

Anyone who has travelled by rail from London Liverpool Street to Ipswich and beyond can’t have failed to notice the estuary of the River Stour that opens up wide before you as head north out of Manningtree station on the railway bridge. The estuary is a nature reserve which, according to the RSPB, is one of the best places for wildlife in the UK.

On the southern side of the estuary, less than a mile from Manningtree town centre, you can find a large herd of swans (yes, that is the correct collective noun) that at one time numbered around 1,000 but as the result of the usual suspects (mans destruction of their habitat, etc) is now down to around 250.

With a population that is swollen by many hundreds of geese, ducks and seagulls, this still creates an impressive sight so much so that they’ve become a bit of a local attraction (a tea and burger van is parked permanently nearby to tend to the needy human visitor). Tame would be the wrong word to use for the Swans but they are certainly well used to people wandering in their midst. Although being followed by a group of birds that individually can weigh up to 33 pounds with wing spans of 10 feet is a bit unnerving.

Mistley Towers

As is the case with most things rural the ‘mock country folk’ (Londoners who have escaped it all for a quieter life out east) are up in arms about the nuisance the swans make of themselves by wandering into the road that hugs the estuary, crapping in their gardens and causing other grave annoyances.

A little ways beyond the swan reserve are the Mistley Towers, the twin towers of a once magnificent 18th century church. The towers – all that now remain of the structure – were added to the church at the behest of wealthy politician Richard Rigby. He wanted something to look at from the windows of his nearby mansion, and also a suitably grand church to act as a backdrop for those arriving in the village of Mistley, a village that he planned, but ultimately failed, to transform into a spar town.

I’m sure he wouldn’t have approved of the swan crap either.


Cosmos doubled, Willie Morgan, Foulkes quits

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 2

1976: The Sting’s second season saw the arrival of more players from the British Isles and the return to Chicago of Polish striker Janusz Kowalik. Kowalik had hit the heights with the Chicago Mustangs eight years earlier scoring 30 goals in 28 appearances in the Mustangs one and only season in the NASL.

Although the British incomers were less well known – John James (from Tranmere Rovers), John Lowey (from Manchester United’s youth team) , Lammie Robertson (Exeter City) and Alan Waldron (Bolton & Blackpool) – the side were good enough to win the club its first honour in the form of the Northern Division title.

Although the team were unable to make it past the first round of the playoffs, bowing out to the Toronto Blizzard, they had doubled the star studded New York Cosmos in regular season play, winning two-nil in New York, and in front of 28,000 home fans had beaten Pele, Chinaglia and company in a 4-1 romp.

1977: Head coach Bill Foulkes headed for Britain yet again before the ’77 season to sign a player who would prove to be one of the most successful and popular players in the NASL’s history – Willie Morgan, the Scottish international midfielder. Morgan, who arrived on loan from Bolton had played over 500 games in the Football League for the Trotters, Burnley and Manchester United.

Also arriving from the UK was Ronnie Moore a prolific striker from Tranmere, but despite these additions the Sting had a very poor year and Foulkes resigned halfway through the season leaving Willy Roy, his assistant, as interim coach.

Roy, a German by birth who had arrived with his family in Chicago at the age of six, was a veteran of the early years of the NASL and its forerunner the NPSL. The Sting finished the season with a 10 win 16 loss record. Unsurprisingly attendances were not improving, and a dramatic drop seemed likely when the Sting started the ’78 season by losing its first ten games!

Whitton United 6 Halstead Town 0

29-01-2011 Whitton United 6 Halstead Town 0 (Ridgeons Division One) King George V Playing Fields, Ipswich, Suffolk

Whitton United

Whitton United look an impressive outfit and the three goals that I saw (I left twenty minutes from the end due to the biting cold and missed all three second half goals) would grace a game at any level. The best of the bunch was the opener from Jamie Clark who cut in from the left, brushed off the challenge of two Halstead defenders and fired home from twelve yards. On this showing Whitton look a good bet for promotion. Seven points behind leaders Cambridge University Press, but with four games in hand and the Press still to come to the King George V Playing Fields in March. Hopefully it will be warmer then.

Kersey & Lavenham


Having lived in Suffolk for the majority of my life it is quite easy to become blasé about the beautiful county that it is (for the most part). It’s not a stunning county (we don’t have the Jurassic Park like coastline of Cornwall, or the dramatic lakes of the North West, etc) but we are surround by some picturesque country side and many many villages and towns that just ooze quaintness. Two such examples are Kersey and – six miles away – Lavenham, that myself and the ministering angel of domestic bliss visited earlier today. Not the first time we’ve been but then neither losses its appeal no matter how many times you visit.


Kersey takes its name from the woollen cloth that was once produced hereabouts. The main street is lined with timber framed buildings all of which are immaculately maintained. The ford half way through the village has the tourists oohing and aahing during the summer months I’m sure, but today just the boss and I were doing that as we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Pretend that the cars aren’t there and the village is probably much as it was 500 years ago.


Lavenham was once one of the wealthiest settlements in England and had made its name – and money – in the wool trade too. The church which looms over the town is of cathedral like proportions (built by wealthy wool merchants buying their place in heaven) but it is the profusions of timber framed buildings and the main market square with its Guildhall that draws in the crowds. It’s a mandatory place for US tourists to tick off the list too, not least because it was home to USAAF 487th Bomb Group during WW II. They flew 185 missions from Lavenham airfield losing 48 planes.

Gipping House, Dock Street

Listed Buildings in Ipswich: No 17 Gipping House, Dock Street

Gipping House, Dock Street

Suffolk has historically produced some of the best malting barley in the country and malt has been processed in the county town of Ipswich for many hundreds of years. Back in the middle ages it was one of the most important trades in the town, so important that only freemen of the borough were permitted to produce it.

Gipping House, Dock Street

Gipping House on Dock Street, which is now a warehouse and offices, dates from the late 18th/early 19th century. In its early years it was used as an infantry barracks, but became, in 1849, one of many buildings in the town to be converted into maltings. Lettering on the brickwork at the east end of the premises suggests that as a maltings it was owned and operated by Edward Fison Ltd one of the first British companies to produce malt extract for brewers and bakers.

In more recent years the building was home to the London Underground computer centre. While the centre has since moved elsewhere an Underground sign can still be seen above one of the water facing windows.

4, College Street

Listed Buildings in Ipswich: No 16 4, College Street

4, College Street

This two storied 16th or 17th century timber-framed house has been vacant since 1981, was damaged by fire in 1992 and has been on the Suffolk Register of Buildings at Risk ever since. It’s one thing listing a building and quite another ensuring that the building is suitably maintained.

This is not the only building in the town to have been on the register for close to twenty-years and it’s not as though the local authorities have no powers to do anything about it.

Should an owner choose not to co-operate with the Local Authority in an effort to improve the condition of the building at risk, the Authority has statutory powers (Urgent Works Notices, Repairs Notices and Compulsory Purchase Orders) available to it to bring about a resolution.

Stern, Foulkes and Hill

A Brief History of the Chicago Sting: Part 1

The Chicago Sting were the dream child of Lee Stern, a leading Chicago broker who in 1974 took a not inexpensive gamble that his hometown would accept football as a major league sport. And he wouldn’t be without competition for the Chicago public’s sports dollar as the city already had five major sports franchises in the shape of the Bears (American Football), Cubs and White Sox (Baseball), Blackhawks (Ice Hockey) and Bulls (Basketball). He applied for, and won, a franchise with the North American Soccer League and the Sting were born on 31-10-1974.

Stern turned to England for a coach in the shape of ‘Busby Babe’ Bill Foulkes, the former Manchester United defender. Foulkes built a team of predominantly British players (there were 10 in the 1975 squad and 11 in ’76 and ’77) including Gordon Hill who would later win 6 England caps and play over a hundred games for Manchester United including the 1976 FA Cup Final. In Chicago he hit six goals in the Sting’s inaugural season and firmly established himself as a fan’s favourite.

In the summer of 1975 a sparse crowd of 4,500 watched the Sting’s very first home game and as it began so it continued with an average that year of around the 4,000 mark – although close to 14,000 did turn out to see the Sting take on the 1974 Polish World Cup team in a friendly.

The Sting missed out on the playoffs by a single point losing the final game of the season in a penalty shoot-out (Hill missing his attempt).