Could Ancient House become new Ipswich 'department store'?

Ancient House team

Matt West, Miranda Acres and Annie Debrick are hoping to take over the Ancient House in Ipswich. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Hopes of creating an "artisan department store" in Ipswich's best-known town centre shop will be shown off to visitors at a special event next week.

The future of the Ancient House on the Butter Market street should be known at the end of this month - two bidders are in the running to take on the lease of the building from its owner, Ipswich council.

One group is a Community Interest Company (CIC) which would take on the building and rent out space to individual traders who wanted space to sell their goods either as an "incubator unit" or in the long term.

That would give a mixture of different items for sale and the scheme would also include a cafe and a heritage centre that could also be used as a base for town guides to show people the historic sites of Ipswich.

Their bid is one of two that has been submitted to the council - a final decision is expected to be made at the end of the month.

The three-person team behind the bid has been given a licence to occupy the building on March 12 and 13, the Ipswich "Welcome Back Weekend" when the town centre will be hosting a number of events aimed at encouraging visitors and residents to return to the town centre.

Ancient House

The Ancient House has been empty since Lakeland pulled out more than a year ago. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Annie Debrick had a small shop in Orwell Place but is now concentrating on trying to reopen the Ancient House: "This could be at the centre of something really good along here - and the building itself is in very good condition. We don't want to change it. We want to show off its historical importance to the town."

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Matt West agreed that it was in a good condition, but added: "It does need to come back into use. It won't stay in top condition if it is empty. The building needs to be occupied."

The Ancient House has been empty since Lakeland Kitchen Stores pulled out in early 2021 - and if the group do get the permanent lease on the building they would hope to be open by the end of the year.

Miranda Acres said: "There would be some fitting out and planning agreements to be reached with the council and English Heritage, but we don't see any major issues."

Mr West added: "We would need to fit out a kitchen at the back for a cafe - but we have already been talking to the council's conservation officers and they have been very helpful."