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Researching your family or house history? Find out how to access our archive material

Written by Ipswich Building Society

22 Aug 2019


Archive, Freehold Land Society, Heritage

7 min read

Blog updated on: 23 August 2023

Genealogy and family history research have become increasingly popular in recent years as people become more interested in social heritage. There’s also a growing trend of house history research, tracing the roots of a family home and the previous occupants through the years.

If you’re carrying out research in Suffolk you may have seen references to the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society and the Ipswich & Suffolk Permanent Benefit Building Society.

Who are the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society and Ipswich & Suffolk Permanent Benefit Building Society?

The Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society (FLS) and Ipswich & Suffolk Permanent Benefit Building Society (I&SPBBS) operated in tandem in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. The FLS purchased large areas of land all over Suffolk, dividing it into smaller plots, or allotments, which were then sold to members of the Society. Mortgages to purchase the plots were then arranged by the I&SPBBS.

After 1868 the FLS also built a large number of houses and it continued to ballot both plots of land, and houses for purchase by its members until 1938. Large estates in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Framlingham, Lowestoft and many other small towns in Suffolk were thus developed by the FLS between 1850 and 1938. There are also a few FLS estates in south Norfolk and north Essex.

The principal contents of our vast archive are FLS estate plans, house plans and specifications, ballot notices, minute books, mortgages and over 300 bundles of title deeds to estates across the county, though with a bias towards East Suffolk.

How can I access materials?

Our collection of materials is fully catalogued on CALM, a system used by records offices and museums, and items are on permanent loan to Suffolk Archives.

Items can be searched on the Suffolk Archives website by visiting or in person.

How can I access materials in person?

You can access material at the Hold, the Ipswich branch of Suffolk Archives, located at 131 Fore St, Ipswich IP4 1LN. Before doing so, you must book an appointment which can be done by calling 01473 296666 or through the website above. We strongly recommend that you read the section on ‘How to Plan your Visit’ to familiarise yourself with current Suffolk Archives requirements.

House Research – where to start (FLS records)

  1. Use plans to identify the name of the FLS estate on which house is built, and the date of development if not already known.
  2. Check relevant minute books for details of the estate development and ballot.
  3. Identify bundle of title deeds retained by the FLS for earlier history of land.
  4. Check mortgages for details of early owners of the plot of land and/or house.

Estate Plans, Architect’s Specifications, Plans & Drawings

The bulk of estate plans and ballot notices are bound into two very large and heavy plan books. These are now too fragile to be produced for research, but a list of their contents can be found at Catalogue References GF419/FLS1849/3/1/1 and GF419/FLS1849/3/1/2. Digital images of the entire contents of both books are available and thumbnails of these are linked to each entry on CALM. All street names on each plan are also indexed on CALM (although not yet available on the Records Office version of the database).

Estate plans usually show the name of estate, date, size and price of individual plots and are often marked in pencil with the name of the member to whom each plot was balloted.

Ballot notices give full details (including price and fortnightly repayment amounts) of property to be balloted and the date, time and place of ballot. In the case of ballots for FLS houses a description of accommodation and local facilities is often included. Occasionally ballot notices include drawings of front elevation of houses.

There are also a number of loose architect’s specifications and plans and / or drawings for houses built by the FLS. Details of these can be found at Reference GF419/FLS1849/3/4 & GF419/FLS1849/3/5.

Property Deeds – Reference GF419/FLS1849/3/2

The archive includes numerous bundles of title deeds for the large areas of land purchased by the FLS and subsequently developed as FLS estates. Many of these contain conveyances dating back to the 18th century and some to the 17th century. Several include sale particulars and plans drawn up when outlying parts of ‘country’ estates were first sold for building accommodation. Thus, researchers may find pre 19th century records for the land on which their house was eventually built.

Minute Books – Reference GF419/FLS1849/1/1

Minute books recording the work of the FLS and PBBS are available from 1869 onwards, but those relating to business matters after 1920 will not be made accessible to researchers due to Data Protection. Some early minute books are indexed; the binding of some is in rather poor condition. Included in the earlier minute books are details of all arrangements necessary for the development of FLS estates e.g. instructions to selected Committee members to attend auctions to purchase land, price to be offered, tenders received for construction of roads, fences and houses when built, ballot arrangements including price of property sold and names of successful ballottees entitled to purchase each plot of land or house.

Mortgages – Reference GF419/FLS1849/4/1

The archive contains many of the original mortgages taken out by members successful in obtaining a plot of land or house on FLS Estates. These frequently give name of member, calling (occupation) and amount of mortgage; occasionally the member’s present address is included.

War Damage Claims from WW2 – Reference GF419/FLS1849/4/

The archive includes approximately 700 claim forms for mortgaged property in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and London that was damaged by bombing. Details include borrower’s name, address of damaged property, borrower’s address if different, and date and extent of damage. A few of the claims also have builders estimates for repair. Many relate to extensive raids on Lowestoft and Ipswich.

This article was published under our previous name of Ipswich Building Society. We changed our name in 2021 – find out more.

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