A real benchmark in Ipswich’s history is given a new home

Official handover of the historic press bench from Ipswich Assizes – scene of Wallis Simpson’s divor

Official handover of the historic press bench from Ipswich Assizes scene of Wallis Simpsons divorce which changed the course of our history to Ipswich museum. L-R Bill Seaman, Cllr Carole Jones,Brad Jones. - Credit: Archant

It may be a humble court desk – but Ipswich Museum has just taken delivery of a piece of the town’s history that witnessed one of the great events of the 20th Century.

The press desk from the old Ipswich Assizes was removed when the court closed in 1969 to be replaced by the Crown Court in Civic Drive – but it had played a key role in the abdication crisis of 1936.

It had been in place since Victorian times – and over the years bored reporters covering cases had scratched their names into the desk.

Back in the late 1960s it was handed over to the East Anglian Daily Times and Evening Star – the company had recently moved into Lower Brook Street and was happy to take delivery of a part of the town’s news history.

However since our move to new offices in Portman House, there was nowhere for us to store the desk and it has now been donated to Ipswich Museum. Yesterday it was handed over to the museum by Ipswich Star editor Brad Jones – and it will now form part of the town’s collection.

Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for museums Carole Jones was delighted to take delivery of an important link with the town’s past.

She said: “It is wonderful to have a direct link with such an important event in the history of the town.

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“Seeing the names that have been carved into the desk really makes it come to life.”

Bill Seaman from the museum said the names were an important link with the past: “Graffiti like this is vandalism if it’s new – but after so long it becomes important social history.

“It tells us that as well as the great and good, there were ordinary people working here too.”

Mrs Jones added: “We are thrilled to be able to give this to the museum to ensure an important part of Ipswich’s history stays in the town.”

Mrs Wallis Simpson was divorced at Ipswich Assizes on October 27, 1936 before going on to marry the Duke of Windsor who abdicated as King Edward VIII just six weeks later.

The divorce was largely ignored by the British press who observed a news blackout on the King’s affair – but it was covered across the world prompting the Chicago News-Tribune headline: “King’s Moll Reno’d in Wolsey’s Town!”

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