Seven secrets of Ipswich's past hidden in plain sight

Here are seven historical secrets hidden in plain sight around Ipswich

Here are seven historical secrets hidden in plain sight around Ipswich - Credit: ARCHANT

Ipswich dates back to Anglo Saxon times and has a claim to be the oldest town in England — it is a town packed full of history. 

But not all of its history is obvious as you walk the streets.

So, here are seven historical secrets to keep an eye out for. 

Ancient House

The Ancient House in Ipswich - did it once hide a king?

The Ancient House in Ipswich - did it once hide a king? - Credit: David Vincent

Ancient house, located in the Buttermarket, was first referenced in the 1300s, when it was owned by a Sir Richard of Martlesham.

The distinctive front was added in the 1600s when it was home to a parliament backing merchant family called Sparrowe during the English Civil War. 

In an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the restored monarchy, the family commissioned the elaborate pargetting on the front which displays the arms of Charles II. 

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The Round Pond at Christchurch Park

The Round Pond

The Round Pond - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Located next to the mansion, the round pond is one of the oldest elements of Christchurch park — almost certainly predating Christchurch Mansion. 

Peter Gray, chair of the Friends of Christchurch park, said the body of water was "probably a fishpond, supplying the Priory of the Holy Trinity — which occupied the site for centuries before the mansion — with fish". 

Fish was an important part of the medieval diet, and at religious institutions like priories meat was only eaten on special occasions. 

Prince Obolensky's Statue

EADT/STAR; Unveiling of the Prince Obolensky statue in Ipswich by Princess Obolensky; Pictures Sarah

The Obolensky statue, located in Cromwell Square - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

This statue honouring emigree Russian Prince and England rugby player Alexander Obolensky was put up near St Nicholas Street in 2008.

Prince Obolensky's parents fled the Russian revolution in 1917, while their son was just an infant. Growing up in England, Obolensky attended Oxford University where he won two rugby blues. 

At the time, his selection for the England rugby team caused controversy since he was not born in the country. However, his two tries in the 1936 victory against the All Blacks — a team England had never beaten before — made him a national hero. 

Prince Obolensky joined the RAF in 1939 as a Pilot Officer, but died in 1940 when his Hurricane crashed during takeoff. The accident occurred just two days after he had been recalled to the national team to play against Wales. 

He is buried at Ipswich New Cemetery. 

The UK's third oldest Door

St Mary at the Elms Church in Ipswich has the third oldest door in the UK. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brow

St Mary at the Elms Church in Ipswich has the third oldest door in the UK. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Located at the entrance to St Mary at the Elms Church, on Elm Street, the UK's third oldest door is a somewhat tattered but still majestic oak, steel and stone structure that probably dates from the time of the Norman invasion. 

Considerable evidence indicates that the door is close to a thousand years old, which would make it one of the earliest structures still in use for its original purpose in the country. 

William Parsons, founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust, said: "We get used to hearing this sort of number in the UK, but 1,000 years of the same stone, wood and iron allowing and barring access is deeply special — even for old England."

The Ice House at Christchurch Park

The ice house in Christchurch park Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The ice house in Christchurch park - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Dating from the 1700s, the ice house at Christchurch Mansion was likely built at around the same time as the house itself was being built for prominent merchant and former Bank of England director Claude Fonnereau. 

Icehouses were used to keep food cool prior to the invention of refrigeration, and could keep temperatures down well into the summer months.  

Winter ice was likely collected from the nearby round pond, and placed into the underground brick-lined structure. 

The Blue Plaque of Edith Cook

STAR NEWS - REBECCA 18/7/07The new Ipswich society plaques in the town. The plaque for Edith Coo

The new Ipswich society plaques in the town. The plaque for Edith Cook in Fore Street - Credit: Clifford Hicks

Another of Ipswich's claims to fame is that it was the birthplace of Britain's first female pilot.

A blue plaque commemorating her exploits can be found at 90 Fore Street. 

Edith Cook, daughter of an Ipswich confectioner, was the first woman to fly solo in an aeroplane. 

She took to the skies in a Bleriot XI monoplane in January 1910, more than a year before Hilda Hewlett became the first female Brit to hold a pilot's license. 

Sally Smith, who researched Edith Cook's life, said her obscurity was due to her learning to fly in France.

She said: "The problem was that Edith learned to fly in France. Her background, the daughter of a confectioner in Foundation Street in central Ipswich, can easily be verified, but when it came to her flying activities, records were few on the ground. 

"It took a lot of research and enormous help from aviation historians in France but the amazing story of Edith Cook gradually unravelled."

Mariners restaurant

Joanna Carrick at The Mariners on the Ipswich Waterfront.

The Mariners on the Ipswich Waterfront. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

While the Mariners has only been open since 2009 the vessel dates back far further. 

Launched in 1899 as a Belgian customs vessel, the ship spent the first world war impounded in the neutral Netherlands. In 1922 she was returned to customs duty, this time named 'Argus'.

During the second world war, the ship briefly fought on both sides. First she was requisitioned by the Belgian Corps de Marine, then after being sunk by the Germans, she was raised and sent to Hamburg to fulfil harbour duties. 

Since then, she has served as a Red Cross hospital ship named the Florence Nightingale before being fitted out as a party-boat in the early 70s. 

In 1990 she was moored at Ipswich Docks, and became the Italian Restaurant Il Punto, which was relaunched in 2009 as the Mariners.  

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