Black and white photo of Margaret and Sylvia Richardson with pet badger
Sylvia and Margaret (Gargy) Richardson with their terrier and pet badger
Margaret and Kathleen Richardson with greyhounds

Both Sylvia and Margaret were brought up with their parents and older sister Kathleen at Valley Farm.Their father Leonard Richardson was a local farmer. His first wife Ada (Kathleen’s mother) died in childbirth and his second wife Louis (Sylvia and Margaret’s mother) died in a motorbike accident. Leonard married his third wife Phylis in 1946.  

Kathleen 1903-1988

Kathleen was Leonard’s daughter by his first wife, Ada. Ada  died in childbirth in 1906 when Kathleen was aged three.

Ada’s father, George King had three daughters and owned property in Hadleigh and Flatford.  George outlived his daughter Ada.  When he died he left Ada’s share of his estate to his grand-daughter Kathleen.

Kathleen was the only Richardson daughter to marry and in 1930 she married Reginald Loe.

She and her husband lived in a cottage on a large piece of Flatford land she owned called Hubletts. In 1932 Kathleen gave birth to a son Reginald (Rex).

Photo of Kathleen Richardson with fox cub
Kathleen Richardson with fox cub

 When her son married she gave him and his family the cottage at Hubletts and moved into a converted tram car on the same large field as her two sisters had their accommodation. 

Sylvia (1909-1999) and Margaret (1913-2000)

Photo Margaret Richardson with greyhounds
Margaret Richardson walking greyhounds at Flatford
Photo of Kathleen Richardson with her terrier
Sylvia Richardson with her terrier

The two younger girls Sylvia and Margaret (Gargy) were Leonard’s by his second wife Louisa. Both of them inherited their father’s enthusiasm for birds, the latter regularly brought injured birds home for the girls to nurse back to health. The girls sisters also kept a rook and a badger as pets and trained racing greyhounds for Pat Dudding.

Their mother Louisa died in a motorbike accident in November 1925 – she was aged 45. Before she died she had worried about the financial security of her daughters as she saw the family income evaporating. In order to provide her daughters with a means of earning an independent income she helped them open a tea gardens on the land where the RSPB Wildlife Garden now stands.

Late 1920s - Richardson's Flatford Tea Gardens

By 1927:

Sylvia was running the tea garden providing light lunches and afternoon teas – the tea garden was in full swing.

Margaret (Gargy) was looking after their herd of cows for whom a milking parlour was built behind the tea gardens, adjacent to the family orchard.

Flatford Tea Gardens

 Although we don’t have menus dating back that to the 1920s we do have and account book for 1927 and a menu dating from 1938

Tear Room Income and Expenditure June 1927
June 1927 - one week's income and expenditure
June 1927 - one month's income and expenditure
Tear Garden Menu cover 1938
Menu Cover - Flatford Tea Gardens May 1938
Flatford Tea Garden Menu 1938
Lunch Menu - Flatford Tea Gardens May 1938

1935 - Richardsons leave Valley Farm

After Syliva and Margaret’s mother Louisa, died (1925), their father Leonard Richardson, could not afford to maintain the family home at Valley Farm. He began a campaign to ‘save’ it which resulted in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings purchasing it in 1935.

The sale meant the family had to leave their home. Margaret cried all day when a horse and cart moved the family belongings to the site that is now the RSPB Wildlife garden.

Margaret's Caravan

Caravan at Flatford

Margaret lived in a Romany style caravan on land adjacent to the current RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden.

Margaret looked after the animals including the family’s herd of dairy cattle

Her caravan ( now in need of extensive repair) still exists and is sited in the same spot at Flatford.

Sister Sylvia initially lived with her father in a redundant trolley bus which had been sold off as scrap by Ipswich Corporation.  Leonard moved the old trolley bus to Flatford before converting it into a dwelling. 

The bus had been one of three purchased by Ipswich Corporation Transport in the 1920s to test trolley buses as a means of public transport.

Sylvia's Trolley Bus

Trolley Bus C 1925 Ipswich Station
Ipswich Trolley Bus ICT No2 outside Ipswich Station C1925

1930s - bus as a home

Trolley Bus ICT No2 converted into a dwelling by Len Richardson C1935 - photo by The Standard
  • The driver’s cab was turned into a kitchen, the seats were removed and the decks were the main living area.
  • Leonard later insulated the roof with straw bales  
  • The trolley bus was parked alongside Sylvia’s sister’s caravan.

In 1945, anticipating his third marriage (which took place in 1946), Leonard bought, transported and erected a single storey sectional building at Flatford. Leonard lived in this ‘bungalow’ with his third wife Phyllis Judd, until he died in 1963.

1950s & 60s - skating

There was usually a prolonged cold period in the winter. The Richardsons flooded the fields at Flatford and once the water had frozen, they charged people to ice- skate.

People came from miles around and in a good year it was possible to skate from Flatford to Dedham and back.

Skating at Flatford 1956 - photo by EADT

1970s - leaving the bus and caravan

The sisters continued to run Flatford Tea Gardens and live in the converted vehicles until the 1970s. By then the trolley bus had deteriorated and the sisters were getting older and finding it more difficult to manage.

They offered the trolley bus to Ipswich Transport Museum in return for the Museum providing help to draw up plans for a bungalow for the sisters to live in. In 1977 the trolley bus was acquired by Ipswich Transport Museum.

1970s-2000 - bungalow

The sisters' bungalow being demolished

After the trolley bus had departed, the sisters built a bungalow on a piece of land they owned adjacent to their Tea Gardens. They lived in the bungalow until they died – Sylvia in 1999 and Margaret in 2000. 

When the sisters died they left the land they owned (including their bungalow) to the RSPB who turned it into RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden

The bungalow was demolished in order to build parts of the RSPB Wildlife garden.