FOR centuries it has been one of the main links between the town and its most famous son – but for decades Wolsey’s Gate has appeared an abandoned relic beside one of the busiest roads in the town.

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But now there is hope that with a small land purchase, it could become a major feature of one of Ipswich’s most valuable heritage sites.

The Gate itself is owned and maintained by the borough council. Although it faces on to College Street – one of the major routes around the Waterfront – experts agree that the condition of the brickwork is actually sound.

However while Wolsey’s Gate is owned by the borough, the land immediately behind it is part of the site of the proposed St Peter Port Development.

Local historian Dr John Blatchly said if the borough was able to buy a small strip of land behind the gate it would be able to integrate it with St Peter’s Churchyard which is right next to it.

Cardinal Wolsey

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s Chancellor, established the Cardinal College of St Mary the Virgin in his home town in 1528 – incorporating the Medieval church of St Peter as its chapel.

The building was never fully completed because Wolsey fell from favour in 1530 and died on his way to London where he was due to go on trial.

After his death, Henry VIII seized all Wolsey’s assets – including the college – and many of the bricks were used to build Hampton Court palace.

The College was actually a school which had been founded in Medieval times – Wolsey had wanted it to be a rival to Eton College – and survived by returning to its previous premises.

Over the next few centuries it occupied several different properties before it moved into its current home in Henley Road as Ipswich School in 1852.

“You would only need about six feet – although 10 feet would be wonderful! You would need to get permission to make a gap in the wall of the churchyard, but it would be ideal to have the gate integrated into that site.

“Wolsey’s Gate was the watergate to the College. When it was built (in the 1520s) the river came right up to where College Street is now and the gate opened straight on to the river. It is in the right place and it is in good condition. It just needs to be in the right setting.”

A spokesman for Applekirk, which owns the land, said there had been no contact from the borough and it was not possible to comment on a subject that had never been considered.

The company had worked with the borough to get Wolsey’s Gate cleared of rubbish and graffiti earlier this summer.

Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere said the authority would be interested in talking to the owners of the land about buying a strip.

He said: “Wolsey’s Gate is important to the town and we would like to find a way of enhancing it. It has been maintained and is in a good condition, but if there is any chance of taking on a small strip of land to link it with the churchyard we would like to look at that.

“I will speak to officers about talking to the landowners to see if it would be possible to buy a strip of land there so it could be linked to the churchyard.”

The Ipswich Star is championing projects like this that will help regenerate our town through the I Love Ipswich campaign.

Should the borough buy a strip of land to improve the setting of the gate? E-mail starnews@archant.co.uk or register to leave your comments here.

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