Last Friday I was lucky enough to have my own personal guide when I visited the new Cardinal Wolsey exhibition at the Hold.

The exhibition has just opened to the public for the first time and will be there until October.

There is plenty of time for you to organise a visit, its free of charge, and I couldn’t recommend it more. 

The team at Suffolk Archives have assembled an exceptional exhibition. They’re one of a number of organisations who have worked incredibly hard to ensure that the 550th anniversary of Wolsey’s birth doesn’t just simply pass us by.  

However much you know about Cardinal Wolsey and his connection to his hometown, I’m sure you will learn something new once you’ve been to the exhibition.

There was a certain amount I knew, but I came away with lots of nuggets of knowledge about our most famous son that I wasn’t aware of pre my visit to the exhibition.

It is important however that there is still some debate about Wolsey with lots of current information based on late facts during his life and the exhibition does a great job at that. 

For example, I was intrigued by the suggestion that Cardinal Wolsey was born at the Black Horse Inn pub; which his father at the time managed.

I thought his father was solely a butcher who frequently ran into trouble with the law, but it was fascinating to see the actual records of this in court papers at the exhibition.  

With regard to Wolsey’s gate, it was always my understanding that the gate was the sole part of the planned new school that was constructed. Actually, much of the school was built but then destroyed, with the gate intriguingly being left.

I have heard that it was known as the ‘Water Gate’ and was well used by those arriving by boat, most of whom were travellers. 

The exhibition poses a very interesting question, what would Ipswich be like today if Cardinal Wolsey hadn’t fallen from grace in the way that he did and if he’d had time to properly secure his vision for the school he kick started.

As is widely known, his vision for the school was for it to be the most prestigious school in the country, and the principal feeder school for Christ Church College, Oxford (then Cardinal College, Oxford).

That’s one of the most fascinating things about history, the present reality of the places where we live is so often shaped by the complex relationships that existed many centuries ago.

Ipswich Star: The Ipswich MP during a visit to the Thomas Wolsey 550 exhibit currently on at The Hold.The Ipswich MP during a visit to the Thomas Wolsey 550 exhibit currently on at The Hold. (Image: Tom Hunt)

If only Cardinal Wolsey was able to secure one divorce, how different the story of our Town could have been over half a century later. 

I share many of my constituents’ frustrations about Wolsey’s gate. It’s an extraordinary historical artifact and I wish we could make more of it.

At the very least, I was keen to ensure that the scaffolding was removed off the buildings connected to it ahead of the 550th anniversary.

Plans for a Tudor Garden around the back of the gate are also quite exciting. I do think the possibility of a building near by being used as a permanent museum commemorating Cardinal Wolsey needs to be explored.  

I’m always reminded about the richness of our Town’s heritage. Only last weekend when I was knocking on doors along Colchester Road, I came across a constituent who had published a book about a mint (coin producer) he believed existed in Ipswich in the 1100s and 1200s.

He suggested that there is some archaeological evidence to suggest it was located within the proximity of St Stephen’s Lane.  

Ipswich is now indisputably England’s oldest Town.

I felt this even before Colchester got City status, we have a continuous history founded during the Anglo Saxon times and Cardinal Wolsey adds to the rich tapestry of our town. 

Ipswich has a unique and impressive past that should always be allowed to inspire its future.