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History & Heritage

The Colony Stud and farm at Hollesley Bay played a crucial role in the development of rural life in Suffolk, as well as farming throughout the British colonies. It has served many purposes in its 260+ year history before becoming the educational visitor attraction it is today.


1759 The Barthrop family introduced the Suffolk Punches to the Hollesley estate.

The Barthrops, who were established in the Woodbridge area, owned the estate that includes Sink Farm in Hollesley. Based at nearby Red House Farm, they kept two Suffolk Punch stallions, Boxer 82 and Briton 83.

Since then, Suffolk Punches have been continuously bred on the farm - that's over 250 years!

1886 The Farm is sold to the Colonial College and Training Farms Ltd.

The college is set up to train young men how to farm in the Colonies. Many trainees emigrated to countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Besides farming techniques, trainees also learnt farrier and veterinary skills to use in their new homes. Two diaries of a college resident are on show in the exhibition hall.

1906 The Colonial College closed and the farm was sold to an organisation - the Central Unemployed Body for London - that helped provide the unemployed in London with temporary work opportunities and loans to help them emigrate.

1912 Colony Maid 7927 was foaled and changed how pedigree horses are named.

This was the first horse to be given a prefix and a number, as well as its own name. This is for the breeds register and all breeds of pedigree stock are still named like this today.

1914 WW1 broke out and the Central Unemployed Body became largely redundant.

After the war, owing to lack of funds and support, its work was much reduced.

1930 The Colony Stud farm was sold again.

This time it was bought by London County Council. During this time unemployed Londoners worked on the farm growing produce for sale.

1938 The Hollesley Bay estate was bought by the Prison Commissioners.

Young offenders from the open prison worked here, and looked after the horses as part of their rehabilitation.

1990 The Young Offenders Open Prison became an Adult Open Prison.

Inmates continue to work at Hollesley, the biggest of the Prison's 30 farms in the UK. The estate at this time had a large dairy herd, pigs and a variety of crops including potatoes, apples and soft fruit. This produce was sent to London Prisons for use in their kitchens.

2000 The Prison Service decided to cease all farming operations and put it up for sale.

This meant the dispersal of the Colony Stud. However, the Prison Service was keen for this large breeding group of Suffolk Punch horses to be kept together to retain its history and quality.

2002 The Suffolk Punch Trust was established and given three years, by the Prison Service, to raise the money to buy the stud and 188 acres of farm.

2006 The monies needed to buy the Colony Stud and Farm was raised. Donations and support came from many people including HRH The Princess Royal and TV presenter Paul Heiney.

2010 After several years restoration work and the construction of a purpose built Visitors' Centre, The Suffolk Punch Trust opened to the public. It celebrates the history of the farm, its horses and rural Suffolk life and puts The Suffolk Punch Trust - Colony Stud firmly on the tourist map as a visitor attraction.

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