Pictures of buildings mentioned in the “Suffolk” volume of “The Buildings of England” series by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.  Tudor Georgian

Ipswich is full of interesting buildings but suffers from a lack of town planning in the 1970s and 80s that destroyed any unity of the older parts and separated the historic waterfront from the rest of the town.  It has much improved over the last 20 years although many old buildings remain at risk.

The Unitarian Meeting House is a gem and internally is reminiscent of the one in Boston USA.  Sparrowe’s House, also known as Ancient House, is also special, as is Christchurch Mansion.  The windows on Sparrowe’s House (a Venetian Window squared off at the top  with a rectangle, but not necessarily oriel) have given rise to a type known variously as Sparowe’s, Sparrow or Ipswich windows.

Ipswich narrowly missed becoming as famous as Eton and Winchester.  Cardinal Wolsey intended the Cardinal College of St Mary in Ipswich to be linked with Cardinal College at Oxford (later Christ Church) in the same way as Winchester with New College and Eton with King’s.  He fell before it could be completed and shockingly the only fragment (a gateway - see photograph below - from 1527/9: p41) has fallen into disrepair, unnoticed alongside a busy road.

Cardinal Wolsey (from the period of Henry 8) is far and away Ipswich’s most famous son.  He was the son of a butcher and a burgess of Ipswich and was sent by his father to Magdalen College, Oxford where he became a Bachelor of Arts at fourteen and was called the “Boy Bachelor” - but later in life became known as the “Butcher’s Dog”.  He was appointed Fellow and Tutor of his college and rose to be Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor of the kingdom (which made him first man of the state), Cardinal, and Pope’s Legate (which gave him the highest place in the Church) and he had made up his mind to be Pope himself one day.  The divorce of Henry’s wife Katherine would not be sanctioned by the Pope and Henry saw that he could do without Wolsey and this was the beginning of his fall.  He was indicted, tried and condemned (to live in Esher!) in 1529.  He was later ordered to go to his See of York where he was arrested by Lord Percy on a charge of High Treason but was miserably ill and presented himself to the Abbot of Leicester Abbey where he died in 1530, aged 60.  Soon after his death Papal power in England was gone, although his daughter Queen Mary’s reign had to be lived through and it took the Act of Settlement in 1701 and the defeat of the Jacobite invasion at Culloden in 1746 to finally cement it.

A seated bronze figure of Wolsey is planned.  Bells heard by Wolsey have been refurbished by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and are the oldest circle of bells in the world.

Some related web-sites of interest include the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust (including Pykenham’s Gatehouse) and the Old Neptune Inn (86 Fore St, house rental) .

Some more pictures of buildings in Ipswich can be found at a web site that should only be viewed on April 1st (before noon).

Updated on 29/4/2011 with new photos of Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich School, Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital, Tower St, Great White Horse, St Margaret St at Soane St, Arcade and Berners St.

Back to Index