Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 11°C

Search

Days Gone By: The history of the town’s iconic Willis building

PUBLISHED: 08:38 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:26 10 September 2017

The Willis building (centre bottom) with its roof garden, from the air in 1991. Civic Drive runs from the bottom left to top right. Picture: OWEN HINES

The Willis building (centre bottom) with its roof garden, from the air in 1991. Civic Drive runs from the bottom left to top right. Picture: OWEN HINES

archant

In 1970 the company then known as Willis Faber and Dumas decided to move all its administrative departments from Southend and London to Ipswich on a site in Princes Street, designed by Norman Foster, later Sir Norman, writes David Kindred.

The Willis building now stands on this site in Princes Street. Alfred Clark's leather goods dealers were on the corner of Thursby's Lane. The then new St Francis Tower, part of the Greyfriars development, is in the background. Picture: DEREK EGGLETON The Willis building now stands on this site in Princes Street. Alfred Clark's leather goods dealers were on the corner of Thursby's Lane. The then new St Francis Tower, part of the Greyfriars development, is in the background. Picture: DEREK EGGLETON

Several buildings were demolished to clear the site, including the building occupied for decades by wholesale druggists Grimwade Ridley and Company, two public houses, the British Lion and the Friars Head.

The structure has 890 sheets of toughened, half inch thick, darkly tinted glass, and a further 180 panes around the roof top restaurant.

Willis building became the youngest Grade I listed in Britain in 1991.

The listing meant that when the ground floor swimming pool was closed for office expansion in the 1990s the company had to retain the pool with a floor over the top.

Prior to the 1979 General Election, Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited the Willis building. Picture: CONTRIBUTED Prior to the 1979 General Election, Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited the Willis building. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

By day the glass appears almost black and reflects fragmented views of buildings around, at night it reveals the offices interior.

Do any of the photographs featured bring memories for you? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or send an e-mail.

The Willis site from the Greyfriars tower, cleared for building in March 1973. Picture: CONTRIBUTED The Willis site from the Greyfriars tower, cleared for building in March 1973. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The Willis building during construction in May 1974. Picture: CONTRIBUTED The Willis building during construction in May 1974. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The British Lion public house, at 55 Princes Street, was due for demolition when this photograph was taken by Jack Keen in 1972. What was Edgar Street on the right was part of Franciscan Way when the area was redeveloped in the mid 1960s. The road from Princes Street to the Novotel junction is now all Greyfriars Road. The British Lion was demolished during the site clearance for the Willis building. Picture: JACK KEEN The British Lion public house, at 55 Princes Street, was due for demolition when this photograph was taken by Jack Keen in 1972. What was Edgar Street on the right was part of Franciscan Way when the area was redeveloped in the mid 1960s. The road from Princes Street to the Novotel junction is now all Greyfriars Road. The British Lion was demolished during the site clearance for the Willis building. Picture: JACK KEEN

Prior to the 1979 General Election, Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited the Willis building. Staff lined each floor as Mrs Thatcher rode the escalators, meeting employees as she made her way to the roof garden. Picture: CONTRIBUTED Prior to the 1979 General Election, Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited the Willis building. Staff lined each floor as Mrs Thatcher rode the escalators, meeting employees as she made her way to the roof garden. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

A Suffolk woman forked out almost £200 a week for domestic care despite agency workers cutting visits short, a government watchdog has found.

Businesses and families across Suffolk and Essex were waiting to hear on Wednesday what Chancellor the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Budget will mean for them.

One of the most notorious mobile phone notspots in East Anglia should have better connections with the 21st century within the next few weeks.

A charity chief is calling for so-called fix rooms to be brought to Suffolk for addicts to inject safely as figures show the number of people dying from drug misuse in the county has doubled in the last 10 years.

The ActivLives Community Games return to Ipswich this Friday, to help get over 50s into sport and regular activity in a social environment.

Ipswich-based Trianon Music Group has just completed its 2017 series of concerts – but it is already preparing for next year.

The waterfront has played host to a number of vessels and ships over the years, but here we look back to 1982 when makeshift rafts were put to the test and raced around the docks.

The 1970s heartthrob David Cassidy has died at the age of 67, his family has reported.

An elderly couple’s car managed to get stuck up an embankment after it crashed into a sign on the A14 westbound slip road for the Copdock Interchange this evening.

Paramedics have treated an elderly woman for serious injuries after a crash in Hadleigh.

Most read

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24