The Ionia

The Ionia was a very visible landmark at Slaughden to the south of Aldeburgh for many years, now missed by many.

So what was the Ionia? The two photographs below give our first clue.

A two minute British Pathé clip, entitled Many Girls in a Boat, made and first screened in the summer of 1932, shows a group of young ladies from the Greenwich Girls Home in London staying in ‘The Ionia’ houseboat, a former fishing smack, and frolicking in the sea, having lunch, and receiving and opening letters – all overseen by a rather stern-looking matron.

The Ionia became unsafe and in 1975 was deliberately destroyed by being burnt.  The barely visible remains of which can still be seen today near the Martello Tower at Slaughden Quay.

Sad farewell to old landmark

As the sun was setting on Wednesday, last week, flames began to lick round the old black Ionia – a sad but, somehow, spectacular sight.

The black hulk of the Ionia had been a local landmark at Slaughden, Aldeburgh, for more years than many people can remember. She was burnt because she was becoming a danger.

Quite a large crowd gathered on the river bank to witness the “Viking funeral,” which was arranged by the Aldeburgh Town Council, with permission of the owner, Miss Joan Berwick, of Richmond, Surrey.

Aldeburgh firemen put old rubber tyres into the Ionia to help her burn and poured paraffin over her before putting a match to her. They hosed down the bank and then stood by for several hours, the police were also there.

The Ionia’s tar-impregnated planks burnt fiercely, first at the stern with crackles and pops. The bow was the last section to fall. The slight breeze carried the pall of black smoke away down the river.

The Ionia was believed to be an old fishing vessel more than a century old and built of oak. It is thought she was washed on to the bank in the late 1890s on a spring tide. Some people, watching from the bank, could remember when the Ionia , which was converted into a houseboat, was home for school children, and Dr. Barnardo boys, while on holiday in the area.

Recently, she had been breaking up and becoming a danger to yachtsmen; it was also felt there was a danger to children who might play on or near her.

Next morning there were only a few forlorn-looking ribs pointing towards the sky to show where the Ionia had been – there is a sad gap along the river bank now.

By David Blyth.

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