History of Kesgrave

A Brief History of Kesgrave

The origin of the name "Kesgrave" is uncertain. The name appears in the Domesday Book as Gressegraua, which probably derives from the Old English words meaning grass or crest and grove or grave but there are other possible interpretations. During the Saxon/Danish era, when Ipswich and Woodbridge were still small towns, the road linking them developed across the wild heathland. The small settlement established half way was Gressland or Kesgrave.

The Domesday survey (1096) indicates that there was a church at that time and it is likely that a place of Christian worship stood there in Saxon times. For over 700 years Kesgrave remained a small agricultural community with a church, and inn and a few farmsteads. In 1921 the population was only 103 housed in 20 dwellings. Since then great changes have taken place.

By 1988 Kesgrave covered an area of more than 800 hundred acres, about half of this being residential with an estimated population of almost 5,000 in over 2,000 dwellings mostly bungalows. The remainder was private woodland and agricultural land. The fastest expansion the area has seen started in 1988 when the current development on the site of the 378 acre farmland previously known as Grange Farm began. When completed the total housing will be over 5,000 with a population of 13,000 making Kesgrave larger than Woodbridge and Melton combined. Careful planning has taken into account the needs of both new and established areas of the community. A primary school for 220 pupils opens in September 2001 and can be expanded to 440 when necessary. Additional shopping facilities and other services are already in evidence. Kesgrave benefits from the community centre with sporting facilities, the Council Office, a medical centre, a day nursery, a scout hall and Superroute 66 with it's special buses using the link.

To mark the millennium Kesgrave was declared a Town on 1 January 2000.


The Kesgrave Sign

The Kesgrave sign as illustrated above was designed by the late Alfred Ribbans of Rushmere St. Andrew and depicts one of the fine cedar trees that are a notable feature of the churchyard.

The sign was presented to Kesgrave by the Kesgrave Women's Institute in 1966, to commemorate the Institute's Golden Jubilee, and now stands at the junction of Bell Lane and Church Close by The Walk.


Dobbs Grave

According to one legend, John Dobbs was a shepherd in 1750 who hanged himself in a barn on Kesgrave Hall Farm (later Grange Farm), and was buried at the four crossways here with a stake through his heart. His grave was marked by concrete head and footstones, with a cross cut on the former, and these are now surrounded by a decorative iron fence after several acts of vandalism.

Some locals, after telling the story one night in the Bell Inn, decided to take a look for themselves. They opened the grave at midnight, and found the bones of a man with a wooden stake in his rib cage. Before refilling the hole, a man named Reeves from Bealings prized out a tooth and wore it the rest of his life on a watch chain.

Some have called this the grave of a highwayman who was left hanging beside the road as a warning to others, while some believe it belongs to a gypsy hanged for stealing sheep.

A. D. Hippisley Coxe: 'Haunted Britain' (Pan, 1973), p.109.
'East Anglian Miscellany', Vol.1909/1910, No.2692.
'East Anglian Magazine', Vol.2, p.496. Robert Halliday:
'The Roadside Burial of Suicides: An East Anglian Study' in 'Folklore' Vol.121, No.1 (2010), p.86-7.


Population Record

Year Population
1801 73
1851 86
1901 74
1911 89
1921 103
1931 869
1935 1135
1951 1389
1961 3381
1971 4749
1981 4991
1991 5105
2001 9276
2011 approx 14,000


Recent Vicars

Vicar Dates
Rev. J.J. Wolsey 1897 - 1911
Rev. W. M. Abbott 1911 - 1917
Rev. F. Morton 1917 - 1920
Rev. R. W. Maitland 1920 - 1925
Rev. E Sewell 1925 - 1927
Rev. E. S. Wontner 1927 - 1933
Rev. W. M. Lummis 1933 - 1941
Rev. H. Butler-Smith 1941 - 1976
Rev. D. Hares 1976 - 1998
Rev R Spittle 1998 -



Last update on Tuesday 14 Nov 2017 by Alan Comber.

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