Is historic Ipswich stone safe from vandals near Christchurch Mansion?
PUBLISHED: 07:30 29 October 2019
Ipswich council has insisted that a 700-year-old memorial stone in Christchurch Park is in good condition despite calls for it to be moved to a new site to prevent damage from vandals.
The memorial is near the entrance to Christchurch Mansion and it has recently become better known after the removal of nearby vegetation.
It is believed to have arrived in Ipswich from what is now Belgium in 1320 - and art expert Richard Morris believes it may the last remains of the Priory on the site of what is now Christchurch Park before it was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII.
He is concerned that its exposure could make it a target - and could lead to it suffering irreparable damage: "We really need to look at what can be done to preserve such an important part of the town's history," he said.
A spokesman for the borough council said a board to explain the importance of the stone would be installed - and experts had said it was still in fairly good condition.
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"However they are worried that if there was any attempt to move it, then it could be damaged - and it is very large. We really don't have anywhere to store it. They are happy with what is happening to it."
He said any damage to the stone had been caused hundreds of years ago - when Christchurch Mansion was built in the 16th century its owner Edmund Withypoll is believed to have used the stone as a doorstep.
But Mr Morris fears that the council is worried about the potential cost of moving the stone.
He said: "It looks in good condition to me - so it should not be dangerous to try to move it to somewhere safer and away from the danger from vandals.
"I fear the council does not want to spend the money and doesn't know where to put it to keep it safe so it is planning to leave it where it is.
It is thought that originally the stone, which is about 10 feet tall, had two brass effigies of a man and a woman - and could have come across to Ipswich at the same time as the famous font in St Peter's church.
And at one stage in the 1560s it featured in a court case between Edmund Withypoll and a stone merchant called William Dandy with the owner of Christchurch Mansion being accused of breaking down a fence to get hold of the stone and take it back to his home.