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10 things you didn’t know about Ipswich - we uncover town’s hidden secrets

12:30 24 February 2016

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July: Many of the visitors to the Royal Show used a special trolley bus service from the Ipswich town centre to the showground. 396,294 passengers were carried by the service between 3-7 July.

. July: Many of the visitors to the Royal Show used a special trolley bus service from the Ipswich town centre to the showground. 396,294 passengers were carried by the service between 3-7 July.

Think you know everything about Ipswich? Think again. John Norman from the Ipswich Society highlights ten top facts about our historic town.

Unitarian Meeting House, IpswichUnitarian Meeting House, Ipswich

How many of these facts did you already know? And how many are new to you?

1. The Willis Building - The ‘job’ architect was Sir Michael Hopkins, who in the early 1970s was working as a Partner in Norman Foster’s practice. Lord Foster outlined the design concept, particularly using glass curtain walling which he had used on the Fred Olsen building in London’s Docklands. But the practical everyday detailing and decision making was carried out by a young Michael Hopkins, aided by Birkin Haward junior (son of Ipswich’s greatest post war architect, Birkin Haward)

2. The Unitarian Meeting House in Friars Street still has the original box pews (one per family) all facing the pulpit (all pulling together as one). Daniel Defoe said of it: ‘The interior is the best finished of any I have ever seen, London not excepted’.

The Brewery Tap pub in the shadow of the old Tolly Cobbold Brewery in IpswichThe Brewery Tap pub in the shadow of the old Tolly Cobbold Brewery in Ipswich

3. WS Cowell’s Printing Works stood in Market Lane until it was demolished in 1984 to make way for the Buttermarket Shopping Centre. It was on the site of the Whitefriars Monastery which perhaps explains why workers in the factory regularly reported seeing a ghost. A similar apparition is sometimes seen inside McGinty’s public house (formerly the Halberd Inn) on the site of Ipswich’s North Gate.

4. The Royal Show was held in Ipswich on the 3rd – 7th July 1934. This prestigious event covered an extensive area of land at the top of Crane Hill, land which became the Chantry housing estate after the Second World War. The Royal Visitor was the Prince of Wales who became Edward VIII, the uncrowned King in 1936. The Suffolk Show has been held since 1831 but has only been on the showground at Trinity Park since 1960, prior to which it was held in different venues around the county.

5. Tolly Cobbold - Thomas Cobbold moved his brewery from Harwich to Ipswich in 1745 because the water, flowing out of the springs and ponds of Holywells Park was much better for making beer than the well water of the Essex town. The ‘canal’ across the bottom of the park conveyed the water to the Brewery.

6. Arlington’s Brasserie is so called because it is based in a building that was previously Arlington’s Dance Studio. Generations of Ipswich residents learned to dance here. The building was originally constructed in 1847 as Ipswich’s first museum, hence Museum Street. The first curator was the tutor to Charles Darwin, the Reverend Professor John Stevens Henslow.

7. St Peter’s Church has the finest black Tournai marble font in the whole of England. When a church becomes redundant the font is usually the first piece of furniture to go, usually to an alternative church but here the font survived in situ. It is a remarkable piece of 12th century church art, once seen never forgotten, possibly because to the primitive brooding lions carved around the rim. St Peter’s was commandeered by Wolsey for his college chapel and the congregation forcibly moved to St Mary Quay a quarter mile further east.

8. St Stephen’s Church Robert Leman, one time Lord Mayor of London and his wife died on the same day: 3rd September 1637, a tablet inside the church records the event:

Beneath this monument entombed lie

A rare remark of a conjugal tye.

Robert and Mary, who to show how neere,

They did comply, How to each other deere

One loathe behind the other long to stay

(As Married) Died together in one day.

9. The White Brick marks an unfortunate event whilst the Odeon (Lloyds Avenue) was being built in 1936. Difficult to see but high up on the west wall (it can be seen from the rear entrance to Debenham’s) is a single white brick standing out from the London commons. This discrete marker indicates the spot from which a bricklayer fell to his death whilst working on the building.

10. Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers - It is likely that the Mayflower was built at one of the shipyards on the banks of the Orwell and fitted with masts and sails at Harwich. Her captain, Christopher Jones was a Harwich man and many of the Pilgrims that sailed in 1620 were from Suffolk. On leaving Harwich the Mayflower called at Rotherhithe and her noted departure port, Plymouth. Throughout the 1630s scores of ships left Ipswich and other East Coast ports carrying settlers to America.

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