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Ipswich Icons: Would we risk losing town’s listed buildings in favour of larger retail units?

12:58 01 June 2015

An older)photo of the Coach and Horses

An older)photo of the Coach and Horses

Archant

Avid readers will have seen a proposal to demolish the row of Upper Brook Street shops opposite Wilkinson’s in central Ipswich and replace them with a larger, single-shop unit.

A recent photograph of the Coach & HorsesA recent photograph of the Coach & Horses

The town centre is in need of change − change of focus, change of uses and perhaps changes to the public realm − but it would be unfortunate to lose listed buildings in the process, writes John Norman, of the Ipswich Society.

English Heritage has listed the older buildings on the east side of Upper Brook Street at Grade II; that is, they are of special historical interest. It would be even more unfortunate to lose these buildings to a major store that has difficulty finding and keeping a tenant. Most readers will know of the disaster that was the Greyfriars development, built in the mid 1960s. The shopping centre had great difficultly in finding an anchor store, although a Pricerite supermarket traded for a couple of years and Ipswich Market died a death in the early 1970s before being reborn on Tower Ramparts.

There has been a string of department stores in the Buttermarket centre, each struggling to find customers before eventually closing. Owen Owen, C&A, Allders, TJ Hughes... only TK Maxx has managed to survive for more than a couple of years. So what will be lost if the shops in Upper Brook Street are demolished?

On the corner with Tacket Street, the 1934 parade was built for GW Hales (Chemists). For a while it was occupied by Avis Cook, a well known Ipswich radio and television dealer, but more recently has been a charity shop.

Just into Upper Brook Street is Stop Press, the newsagent, and next door what was previously The Fox pub, which closed in May 1970 − a former Tolly Cobbold house.

The building has seen a number of tenants since, most recently as a bookmakers − all too prevalent hereabouts. The Fox enjoyed mixed fortunes as a drinking establishment and past copies of the EADT reveal adverts of potatoes for sale (direct from Cumbria), fine wines from London at discount prices and the landlord before the magistrates for selling beer after hours. Next door is a much earlier building. Number 41-43 was the former Coach and Horses Inn, a coaching house that was the staging post for Old Blue, a stagecoach service from Gracechurch Street in London, running through to Saxmundham and Beccles. The Coach & Horses was probably built as a merchant’s house in the 17th century. By 1787 it was an inn and over the centuries a staging post (with excellent stabling), a commercial hotel and, when the railway killed the coach trade, a family hotel.

The building is currently used as two charity shops. In the foyer of the one used by the Salvation Army is a flight of stairs, together with other historical features from the inn (unfortunately not in their original location). Call in and take a look. The building was listed Grade II in 1951 and ceased trading as a public house in the late 1970s.

In the late eighteenth century George Frost, a well-regarded local artist, worked in the hotel as clerk to the coaching company and painted pictures of local street scenes, including the stable yard. A century later the hostelry was a favourite starting place for the local cycling club, hence the winged wheel plaque on the front elevation.

The passageway through to the car park was originally an entrance to the Steam Brewery, built for Charles Cunningham of Colchester in 1856, a facility that was purchased by the Tollemache brothers in 1888. Number 39 Upper Brook Street was the Steam Brewery Inn, known as the Brewery Tap, with the brewery offices upstairs. Unfortunately, this old and historic building has not had a user for some 30 years.

Next door the three-storey building (number 37), with an amusement arcade on the ground floor, was built in the early nineteenth century and is also listed. The other shops from this point north are newer and are not listed.

Nicholas Pevsner, in his otherwise excellent The Buildings of Suffolk, suggests that in Upper Brook Street “nothing calls for further notice…” The book has recently been updated by James Bettley, who at least notices the listed buildings.

18 comments

  • We have entered another philistine era - back to the '60's! - where profit matters above all else. We've started to lose many interesting old buildings countrywide. "Developers" allow listed buildings to become derelict as an excuse to demolish, seemingly with impunity. There is corruption. Sometimes brown envelopes.

    Report this comment

    catharthis

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

  • Another day, another barmy idea from some 'movers & shakers' as they like to style themsleves. So, if we start demolishing anything that is stylish and nice to look at and replace it with boring, cheap and nasty structures of glass and concrete, retailers and shoppers will flood back into the centre will they? I can't see what justification this juvenile idea can have. If they need that size of building there are other places to build it. I just can't see how it is vital to be in Brook Street. And it's not even April Fool's Day ethier!

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

  • Mark Ling sounds like a real market analyst. A true analyst does not use common prejudiced terms. A true analyst always comes up with a solution to a problem. A rubbish one............

    Report this comment

    richie w

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Fancy that. Another scheme to advance the value of the Archant site also in Brook Street. Why not just ignore all the pundits for change and just leave well alone. Shops, we don't need and many we already have should be bulldozed. A main road through Ipswich would be much more value than shops that many people cannot get to or even want to get to. Most people buy online these days and it is not a good idea to make alteration for a generation that is fast fading away.

    Report this comment

    Peter Turtill

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • sgm, as marketing analyst and former commercial director myself, I find your statements prejudiced and your data is limited and flawed. Marketing is about spotting opportunities ahead of your competitors, but I'm sure if I showed you my watch you could tell me the time.

    Report this comment

    Mark Ling

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Mr Ling .. you do keep on about Ipswich as if will become a fantastic prosperous place if only it was a unitary ( I do tend to notice the same old letters in the EADT ) As a retail analyst dealing with major chains on a daily basis , Ipswich is so far down the pecking order as a place to set up shop that it is almost laughable .... Ipswich is seen as a downmarket ' pound shop' destination , the town does not need new units as there have been plenty of opportunities to open in the town .. Littlewoods was 75,000 sqft and that stood empty for years until a classy department store took it over .. oh hold on ... sorry Poundland and Iceland ..... the Allders store is 120,000 sqft and remains empty to this day . Ipswich needs to retract and focus on a smaller core area .... the demographics of Ipswich itself are seen as undesirable to major chains - John Lewis could have easily gone into the town centre but chose not to... easy access off of the A12 A14 for the better off rural catchment area of Suffolk and North Essex which is their target audience , free car parking , Waitrose attached etc etc ... and it is a home only store , unlike Cambridge & Norwich . Trying to compare those cities retail offer to Ipswich is laughable too ... in Suffolk itself , Bury is seen as the 'go to' location for aspirational retailers , developers and agents . Ipswich needs to focus on its strengths as a value destination , clean up the town centre and approaches , contract the current centre into something more manageable and lively . TBH , if Ipswich needed more shops why isn't there a queue of retailers battling it out for the best sites ?

    Report this comment

    sgm

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Here's my blue sky thinking: To create a 500,000+ square feet Shopping Centre for Ipswich, I would suggest to redevelop the entire area between from High Street (in the west) and Tower Street (in the east), and from Crown Street (in the North) and WestgateTavern Street (in the South). Many of the historic frontages could be retained, to keep the character of Ipswich's history centre. However, the new mega centre will absorb and offer much larger units for Marks & Spenser (and the car park above), Debenhams, Tower Ramparts, all the shops in between plus all of Electric House. This floor plan is 250,000 square feet, and with underground parking, and 2-3 higher floors would create the critical mass of space to draw in ALL the big retailers. It would be in the town centre, and have adequate possibilities for parking. Part of the deal could switch NCP's Mint Quarter to form a new single transport hub for public bus transport.

    Report this comment

    Mark Ling

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • The top 100 shopping centres in the United Kingdom all have a minimum of 500,000 square feet; offering a critical mass to retailers and ensuring that the centre is attractive, competitive and sustainable. Retailers like safety in numbers, and many will move en bloc when looking at new retail investment. Norwich's Chapelfield is in 80th position with 530,000 square feet and is a beacon for 850,000 shoppers in Norfolk and beyond. Despite having a catchment of 750,000 and closer proximity to bigger population clusters; In Ipswich our biggest centre, The Buttermarket is half that scale at 270,000 square feet; and Tower Ramparts is just 128,000 square feet. You have to be realistic that neither will offer the scale necessary to really change the town’s retail offering. Equally, the town centre is a mix of smaller shops which will never appeal to the larger and more attractive retailers. So quite clearly something has to give, either we need a radical change to the town’s development to accommodate a 500,000 sqft centre; or we must be content to house larger retailers [like we have with John Lewis] at an alternative edge of town retail centre.

    Report this comment

    Mark Ling

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • I'd try filling the empty shops we have before talking about demolishing others.

    Report this comment

    Sarky Sage

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Surely this is a joke? Destroy yet more of Ipswichs heritage! Let's face it town centre shopping is one day going to be a thing of the past (in my opinion) then the town centres may well revert to residential status with folks paying big bucks to live in historic olde Gyppeswyck. I don't envisage them wishing to live in a lovely metal framed tin can. Ok, maybe that might not occur, but come on IBC how much more of this once great towns history can you destroy for yet another failed shopping premises. Let's face it, the handsome old Tower Ramparts School came down to make way for the heavily underused, unwelcoming mall. Why waste money on the centre, when we need to tidy the approaches first. You may want a 'Rolls Royce' town centre, but it won't get seen if people have to wade through s#*t to get there. We need town planners who are just that!

    Report this comment

    richie w

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Like it or not- and your mileage may vary- retail is in the process of being completely transformed by online shopping. Astronomical business rates in all our towns and cities have already destroyed an untold number of businesses, it's not just business rates it's the cost of heating, lighting, security, staff, fixtures and fittings too. The High Street is dying a natural death and demolishing the county's heritage to build more shops is the sort of retrograde dinosaur activity you'd expect from the traditionalists.

    Report this comment

    Geoff Stevenson

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • @freedom: if you just use shops as showrooms, and then buy online, don't be surprised if your opportunities for looking disappear. Shops cannot survive unless people actually buy stuff in them.

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • There are plenty of empty shop units in Ipswich already, even larger ones. I concur with Mr Norman that it would be tragic to lose even more of the town's irreplaceable historic buildings only to create more empty shops but in ugly modern units. Have they learnt nothing from the acts of vandalism committed by Ipswich town planners back in the 1960s?... And now people sigh nostalgically at all the lost buildings shown in the photo albums of Dave Kindred.

    Report this comment

    blue&white

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • There is absolutely no point in demolishing these Listed Buildings, what people and the Town Centre authorities are not taking into account is that Retailing is changing extremely fast !, the 'hey days' of the High Street have gone !, I find myself only using shops to see if I like the product, then I see how much I can save by buying online and that is what is happening !, the percentage of shopping done online is increasing year on year !

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • These buildings need to be retained. Without doubt. There's enough space in between them and the Cock & Pye to create the new units.

    Report this comment

    Scott Brock

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Twon is the name of the new Chinese they are opening...

    Report this comment

    Tedbundy

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Thanks Sentinel Red. I moved away from Ipswich several years and wondered if "TWON" was an anagram I had missed out on

    Report this comment

    B-Mused

    Monday, June 1, 2015

  • Sentinel Red

    Monday, June 1, 2015

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

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