December 13 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
A piece of history has been uncovered at a business premises in Ipswich town centre.
Elaborate artwork was found emblazoned on the façade of Pickwicks Coffee & Tea House in Dial Lane, Ipswich, drawing a possible connection to the old East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.
Staff at Pickwicks discovered the ornate, historic sign after a decorator peeled back some of the plaster at the front of the building.
The bottom of it reads ‘Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital’, however it is believed there is more writing further up the wall which has yet to be revealed.
It is hoped when the full sign is visible it will shed some light on the history of the listed, 16th-century building.
Early speculation is that the sign might form part of an artistic advertisement for an optician’s business which occupied the premises at the turn of the twentieth century.
An advert in the 1904 Post Office Directory for Mr John C. Scarborow, Dial Lane, Ipswich, refers to him as “Optician by Appointment to the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital”.
Historian John Blatchly said that in 1912 “the most distinguished shop front in Ipswich was built in Dial Lane for John C. Scarborow, qualified ophthalmic optician.
“The Art Nouveau lettering and the iron decorative features imposed on the stone front suggest to those who have made pilgrimages to Glasgow and Northampton the virtuoso work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
“In fact, the 26 year-old architect was Harold Ridley Hooper, founder that year of a firm still in local practice.”
Jane Cooper, the proprietor of Pickwicks Coffee & Tea House, said she had researched the history of the building back to 1846, but was completely taken by surprise by the sign.
“We had our wonderful decorator Mike here, I asked him just to freshen up the front of the building and lobby area,” she said. “After his hard work on Sunday I appeared on Monday morning and this amazing piece of artwork has been uncovered on the wall of Pickwicks.
“I am so excited because I’m very passionate about art and history anyway… and I have been spending money and time looking into the history of the building. So uncovering this is just so timely and I just feel it’s given us all a real boost, there’s a buzz in the shop now.
“I just want to preserve it, I feel this is quite exciting for Ipswich because the history of Ipswich is incredible and people don’t know about it. We’re right in the middle so if this brings a little bit of attention to Ipswich that’ll be superb.”
Mike Taylor, the conservation officer at Ipswich Borough Council, said the sign was “a great example of how Ipswich’s history is there to be found”.
“It’s a fascinating piece of evidence of a very well-established piece of commercial architecture in the town centre,” he said.
“Being a listed building we need to see it preserved in some form or other, ideally as part of the historic interest of the listed building. There’s also the question of the cost that imposes on the owners, so there’s a discussion that’s to be had there about what’s reasonable.
“It’s very encouraging to hear that they would like to preserve it and see it as part of the value of the property. The first priority is to make sure it’s protected as it stands at the moment and then to figure out how to cover the rest of the side without causing unnecessary damage. Then we have to work out the long term strategy for its protection into the future.
“I think this is a great example of how Ipswich’s history is there to be found really. It’s a town with a lot of history and it’s not fully recognised yet I don’t think, so discoveries like this really highlight that value.”