Rushmere Common

Rushmere Common is situated just to the East of Ipswich in the parish of Rushmere St. Andrew in Suffolk, UK. It is predominately heathland and popular with local residents. It is crossed by a number of footpaths, including the Sandlings Walk, a long distance footpath covering 60 miles from Ipswich to Southwold. Part of the common has been used as a golf course for over a hundred years.


Rushmere Common has probably been common land since the middle ages. For at least two hundred years, the ownership of the soil was claimed by one of the local Manors. The commoners resisted the claims of the Lord of the Manor, the Marquis of Bristol, who tried to prosecute some of the Commoners.

It was used as a place of execution with some one hundred recorded hangings between 1735 and 1797 1 most frequently for house breaking and burglary,but also for highway robbery and murder.

The heath was frequently used by the army, and in 1804 Sir James Craig had 11,000 men under arms on the common.

Nathanial Abblit championed of the commoners' rights and in 1861 he had a stone tablet erected on the outside of his cottage, setting out the rights of the Commoners. The tablet can still be seen today on the wall of the Baptist Chapel and in 1881 a Commoners Committee was established. The table reads as follows: "This tablet sheweth every person's right to the heath who lives or occupies in the parish, by the decision of Lancelot Shadwell Counsellor in the House of Lords, being applied to when the 800l was paid by the government for the troops exercising there, he gave his opinion that every person must have equal share who cut whins and feed cattle there, so we had all 8l each them and ever since the parish receive 5l a year the troops being few, this 5l is always divided. Ablitt"

In 1895 the Ipswich Golf Club was established and paid £30 for 'non-interference' and cooperation. In 1929 after the Ipswich Golf club moved to its present location on Purdis Heath the Rushmere Golf Club was formed which still uses the common.

In 1958 the title was purchased by Mr Hugh Law, Chairman of the Commoners Committee, for £500.00. He then sold it to the Commoners for the same price. The title is held in trust by the Trustees and the conduct of the Commoners' affairs is regulated by the Trust Deed.

In 1967 the common was registered as a common under the Commons Registration Act After that time, all commoners' rights not registered by individual commoners were lost.

Legal Status

The title of the common is held in trust by the Trustees and the conduct of the Commoners' affairs is regulated by the Trust Deed.


Day-to-day management of the common is performed by Commoners Committee which has nine members, three of the members are elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. Anyone who has resided in the in the ancient parish of Rushmere St Andrew for twelve months or more can vote, although one vote per household is allowed. The boundary of the parish has become indistinct over the years due to building development.

The committee is supported by a Clerk and two wardens. The wardens patrol the common on most days and keep a watching brief on the area in general and the clerk deals with the correspondence and record keeping as well as the financial accounts.

Rights of Way

There are a number of paths across the common, one of which forms part of the Sandlings Walk. These paths are used by local people for leisure and also by walkers and cyclists as a traffic-free route to the hospital, Ipswich Station, Ipswich Town Centre, BT Research at Martlesham, Kesgrave, Grange Farm and also number of local schools.

The path to Grange Farm and beyond to the East of the common is a bridleway and cycling is allowed, but the path across the common is legally a footpath and as such cyclists should push their bikes. Having said that people have cycled across Rushmere Common probably for as long as there have been bicycles, certainly for at least 70 years however, but the route cannot be shown on maps or signed and the surface is not well maintained.

Sustrans wanted National Cycle Route 1 to cross the common but were forced to make a detour to the South to avoid the area (see map below).

The only other cycling options across the common on an East-West axis that avoid the common are along the A1214 (Woodbridge Road) to the North, however this does not have enough width for either an on-road cycle-lane or a shared-use path without a strip of land from the Common or to the South along the current route of NCR 1.

Another alternative proposal has been to improve the route across the middle of the common and proposals to date have included both a paved cycle-track and the conversion of the footpath to a bridleway with a loose surface.

In [] Suffolk County Council requested a strip of land to the South of A1214 to create a segregated cycle-path, but this was considered and refused by the Commoners Committee. Suffolk County Council are now requesting that the main East West footpath (shown in Purple on the map below) is upgraded to a Bridleway so that cycling can be legally promoted and the surface can be improved, but in a way that will not detract from the natural feel of the area.

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