As you quite possibly know by now, my middle name is Freston.
And, when I was growing up, I was aware that there was a very small place of
the same name just outside Ipswich. Not sure that I thought much more about it,
truth be told.
East Anglian Curiosities
Then, around 1992, someone kindly bought me a book by Rick O'Brien called
East Anglian Curiosities, subtitled "A Guide to
Follies and Strange
Buildings, Curious Tales and Unusual People" (pictured on the cover, by the
way, is The House In The Clouds at Thorpe Ness). There in this fascinating
book, right in the middle on page 64, was curiosity 41 out of 80, "A Place for
Study". This was when I became aware of Freston Tower.
Shortly after this some friends came to visit for a day, and I thought it would
be good to go and find this odd structure for the first time. We headed out
under the Orwell bridge to Freston, and I realised that there are no signs to
the Tower. In fact, there's no indication at all that anything remotely
interesting is there. Following the directions in the book, we parked in a
layby and made our way along a public footpath, steered past some cows and
buildings, and there it was, standing on private land. I'd half hoped it would
be open to the public, but no.
Funnily enough, when we were there, a man was out walking in the other direction
and asked if we knew anything about the Tower. I told him what I'd read in Rick
O'Brien's book, and couldn't resist mentioning the connection with my name.
Whereupon he bowed and offered to become my first subject. Which was nice.
On The Web (Part 1)
Fast forward to 1999, and I decided to try to build my first web pages. Having
found zero trace of Freston Tower on the Internet I put together a single page
of text, interspersed it with a few scanned snaps I'd taken earlier that year,
and bingo!, I was on the web.
A few weeks later I was chatting to a chap named Martin Brazill at work who
lived a little further out on the Shotley peninsula. He biked through Freston
every day, and I asked if he knew about the Tower. Sure enough he did, and he
went on to mention that he'd got a book about it. Not a guidebook, but an
ancient novel! Again, I'd not come across this before,
but then again had no reason to suspect that such a thing
existed. He was good enough to lend me his copy for me to take a look at.
On The Web (Part 2)
Then, with one short trip to the Suffolk Record Office, I found two
historical papers packed with good information. With
this wealth of new material I spent several weeks, on and off, redesigning my
Over time, though, I started to resent forking out money each month to my
service provider for web access and web space, since many companies were
beginning to offer this for free. And so my site disappeared towards the end of
Very shortly before my web pages vanished I received this email out of the
blue, dated Monday 20 November 2000:
I am researching for a new Anglia History Production which is
focusing on the waterways of our region. We will be filming the Orwell
programme on the 26th and 27th and 30th November. My Director has
asked me to find out about the possibility of including the tower in
the programme. Our presenter is Bryan McNerney (currently to be seen
on Town and Country). Filming would require access to the tower for
half a day and if possible our director would like to include the
view from the top of the tower.
I hope to hear from you soon.
This was from a researcher for Anglia Television as they were about to make the
Riddles of the River series. I can only assume that she
saw my info on the web and came to the conclusion that I was the owner. Sadly I
had to confess this wasn't the case.
So, I don't think it's mine, but I'm waiting for the right document to show up
at the Suffolk Record Office to prove otherwise!