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Ipswich: Could County Hall become the new Suffolk Records Office

08:00 20 August 2014

County Hall could become a new records office for Suffolk.

County Hall could become a new records office for Suffolk.


Only a day after we revealed that the former County Hall building in St Helen’s Street in Ipswich is set to become the town’s new Register Office, it has emerged that the rest of the building could be a new Records Office for Suffolk.

A planning application has been lodged to turn the north west end of the building – centred on the former council chamber – into a Register Office and Wedding Hall.

Now we have learned that county council officers are looking at the possibility of turning the rest of the historic St Helen’s Court building into a new records office for East Suffolk.

This would mean moving the records from their current site in Gatacre Road, and could also include records held by University Campus Suffolk – creating a major educational resource for the town.

The former courtroom where Mrs Simpson was divorced in 1936 and later became the county council committee room could find a new use as a public reading room for people searching records.

The potential new uses for the building, which has been out of use since the county council moved to Endeavour House in 2004, follow on from a tour of the building by county council leader Mark Bee and borough leader David Ellesmere earlier this year.

There are still potential problems that need to be addressed before any conversion of the building to a records office could proceed.

The building was originally constructed as a court house for the Ipswich prison which was on land behind County Hall.

On the ground floor there are a number of old cells that would be needed to store valuable manuscripts – but the Victorian prison cells are damp and would need alterations before any such use. Any changes would need to take account of the building’s listed status.

Mr Ellesmere said that during his tour with Mr Bee they had looked out of a window to the current Register Office, and the idea of moving it came to him.

“I think I was the first person to suggest that, but I’m delighted it’s been taken on,” he said.

There had been talks between the borough and the current owners of the building about a future use, and when the application for the change of use had been submitted earlier this month there was general satisfaction at his authority.

Mr Ellesmere said: “This is a very welcome development – it would give the town a wonderful new wedding venue and help regenerate a very important building. It’s great news.”

If the current Register Office came on the market in the wake of the move, the borough would consider buying it to add to its property portfolio or to redevelop the site, he added.

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  • An excellent idea. My grandfather spent his working life in this building. The proposed usage is very suitable. It will cost money to restore but that money will be used for a local resource. We need to take pride in our county.

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    Thursday, August 21, 2014

  • Waspie's wife..Not before time this lovely building should be put to good use. A Register office is a great idea. If I remember rightly Wallis Simpson resided in Felixstowe the required time to gain her divorce in this building. It was a place for legalising adoptions, including mine and I can remember standing before the judge as a young child. It was also where new police recruits used to swear their oaths to the crown to become warranted officers..

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    Thursday, August 21, 2014

  • Fantastic idea! Such a building should be used for important use, not just left to rot. I'm sure it will be a big success being used in this way and totally agree with@mmm

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • What a brilliant idea. I was very sceptical about the register office simply because its not going to be a great venue when its still attached to the remainder of the unused building, but with the records office as well, that really should work. And ideally located in or near the so called "education quarter" And di I also read above that MR Bee and Mrs Ellesmere toured the building together! that's encouraging, perhaps we need a bit more of that sort of County and Borough cooperation rather than them blaming each other for their shortcoming which has been my personal experience a few times recently.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Great idea, such a pity that the building has been so trashed since becoming empty- not just the damage previously highlighted but also fantastic brass art deco fixtures and fittings (window grills, finger plates on doors etc.) were all stripped by intruders soon after it went out of use, while security was supposedly in place. Terrible area for parking, too, hope this will be sensibly addressed.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Mr Geater gets in his usual name check to his beloved and totally irrelevant Mrs Simpson. What Mr Geater fails to mention (and perhaps doesn't even know?) is that the old Victorian cells below the building, WERE previously in use as the SCC records depository prior to the move out of County Hall! As Endeavour House has no handy cellars or other storage space, SCC have since been obliged to keep their records (i.e. the closed files of all SCC departments) at an expensive rented facility. --- Another question, what has happened - or will happen - to the former Death Cell, which had been converted to a little chapel that was available to SCC staff for quiet recollection?

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • lovely old building ,should never have gone out of use.nasty spot for heavy traffic though.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Amsterdam - FYI - the bus service is free for everyone and paid for from the income of charging council staff to park their cars at work.

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    M H

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • The records office should be in the town centre so let's hope this can be carried forward. It's a pity that SCC didn't have any creative thoughts before they rushed to sell the building off. They will need to save some money to pay for it so perhaps they could start with axing the free by bus service for council staff.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • This will be good news if the stars tea leaves are right, Essex and Norfolk have modern buildings but Suffolk has the old bramford road school which by any standards is not up to the job. Not sure about the cost by a thumb rule if the council estimate a cost of 1 million then treble it to get the final figure.

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    a west

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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