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Ipswich: New use on the way for Suffolk County Hall – where Mrs Simpson was divorced

10:27 19 August 2014

A photomontage of the proposed wedding hall.

A photomontage of the proposed wedding hall.

For a decade it has been unused and neglected – but a new use could be on the cards for part of Suffolk’s former County Hall.

The old council chamber in Ipswich could be converted into a register office – replacing the present one on the junction of Rope Walk and Grimwade Street.

However the county council, which is responsible for register offices across Suffolk, is waiting to see how much the scheme would cost before committing itself fully to the proposal.

The application is being made by the current owners of the site, MD Developments, and it is the first positive news about one of the most important buildings in the town for many years.

The proposed use has been widely welcomed – the state of the Grade II listed building has been causing 
major concern over recent years.

Last year we published photographs taken inside the council chamber showing a tree growing through one of the windows, and a general state of decay.

The new application only covers the former council chamber and the offices underneath it at the north west corner of the building – it does not cover the rest of the St Helen Court building of the former County Hall, including the former courtroom where Wallis Simpson obtained her divorce before marrying the Duke of Windsor.

However the former council chamber was considered the most difficult part of the building to find a new use – and there are hopes that the restoration of this section of the building, including its clock tower, will encourage others to take on the rest of the building.

The application for the change of use and restoration of the building is due to be discussed by the borough council’s planning and development committee later in the year.

It is not expected to attract any opposition – and the restoration work is not expected to be too major. The building was substantially restored in the early 1980s.

The council chamber – which will become the celebration room for weddings – is on the first floor with offices underneath on the ground floor.

It will be approached by stairs or a lift from what was the main entrance to St Helen’s Court from St Helen’s Street.

As well as the celebration room the first floor will also have two offices for the public to register births and deaths and a waiting room for wedding parties. The ground floor will have offices for register office staff.


  • old people! I'm sure I put old place.

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    Chris D

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • I thought I could be negative but this thread beats all! Just be a grateful the old people might be saved and put to good use. The comments regarding its royal connection are equally ridiculous given that its a mere one line reference. I for one didn't know that piece of history.

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    Chris D

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • This should be investigated by The ombudesman overseeing County Councils. It is outrageous that SCC sells the Tax Payers property to then buy it back, after deterioration is well established. What about the property in Grimwade Street? The move to Eandevour House was never required, and that Rent Money is a complete waste.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • In todays era of journalism, why doesnt the journalist ask the question... "why sell of the property then rent it back despite being in an even worse state?" Oh yes, because instead of opinion pieces they would have to actually be journalists

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • I've suggested it before and I will do so again. Google "Masson Mill" in Derbyshire for a good example of how to re-use a grand old building like this. County Hall is smaller but could still be used for multiple uses - conference centre, museum, cafe, shops .... just needs some imagination and a bit of drive from the owners, developers, and planners.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • First they close it. Then it all falls to pieces. Then somebody comes up with a good idea and they arrange to rent it back. The business acumen of SCC defies belief but the word brewery comes to mind. What on earth is happening to St Edmunds House?? Diddly squat!! Now that's a good idea..

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • Oh, the irony. A register office and wedding hall, in a building whose only claim to fame is that one of the most scandalous divorces of the 20th century was obtained in it? How auspicious!... But I suppose most people under the age of 30 no longer have any knowledge of Mrs Simpson or the Duke of Windsor, anyway.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • Another desperate attempt to shoehorn in a reference to the monarchy in an otherwise totally unrelated article. Pathetic.

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    Origami Penguin

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • Another "news" story built around the word "could" at least the word iconic didn't make a appearance ...

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • This is more good news, however it does call into question the disposal of public buildings over recent years. Our councils short term benefits do not seem to be always in the public interest and they should be taking care of public money. Who has gained from County Hall being allowed to decay and how much the public purse will be plundered to buy part of it back.

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    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • Good news. MD Developments should be made to pay for it given it is their woeful neglect of the building that means it is in its current state. I thought there were legal powers to force neglectful owners to either use it or lose it.

    Report this comment

    Sentinel Red

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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