Curson Lodge history unveiled

AT last the buildings at the junction of Silent Street and St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, have been restored and the covers are off to reveal this beautiful grade two late medieval timber-framed building.

AT last the buildings at the junction of Silent Street and St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, have been restored and the covers are off to reveal this beautiful grade two late medieval timber-framed building.

Curson Lodge which was reopened on Thursday as reported by The Evening Star, has often mistakenly been referred to as the birthplace of Cardinal Wolsey, who became, for 14 years, Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII.

Wolsey was born on the opposite of the road in about 1475. His parents were Robert and Joan Wolsey. His father was thought to be a butcher. Those buildings were demolished centuries ago.

Quite when the myth started that it was here that Thomas Wolsey was born is not clear.

Local photographer William Vick published sets of photographs in bound copies in 1890 and his caption says 'Reputed birthplace of Wolsey'.

In Victorian English, William Vick's text accompanying the photograph says: “This is one of the 'pretty bits' of our old borough, and stands facing southward over an open space of notoriety, into and along St Peters Street; to the east side of it once stood the Bishop's palace, previously Lord Curson's house, where in 1517 Catherine of Arragon, Queen of Henry VIII, and in 1518 the King himself visited him.”

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The thousands of families who lived in the terraced streets where Cardinal Park now stands would have been regular users of the chemist shop, which occupied the building for over a century, to pick up medicine and in the 20th century take their films of family snaps for processing.

In more recent years in parts of the building facing St Nicholas Street was the Cardinal Cafe and sweet shop.

Visitors to the Hippodrome theatre, which opened in 1905 and became the Savoy Ballroom and bingo hall in 1959, attracted a good trade to the two little businesses.

The layout of the building would suggest that it was at one time an inn or high status lodging house.

The building is thought to be one of the finest and best preserved inns from the later Middle Ages.

Its location just north of the commercial port area would have attracted a great many visitors seeking accommodation. From 1838 the corner premises were occupied by William Silverston a chemist. The junction then became known as 'Silverston's Corner'.

A street directory for 1881 lists beer retailer, John Codgebrook at number 45 and William Silverston at number 47.

John Codgebrook was there from 1868; his business was a beer and ale house and the St Nicholas ale store.

There was evidence of this until very recently with broken glass scattered on the cellar floor.

By 1890 Wiggin and Son had taken over the chemist business. They had another shop in St Matthews Street.

By 1894 the beer retailer had gone and their premises became part of Wiggin's. There was a chemists shop there until 1970.

Then the building was used by an antique dealer for a few years before being boarded up.

Work to restore the building was funded by a grant aid from English Heritage and Ipswich Borough Council and reserves of the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust.

The building is now for sale for £675,000 including two shops and two flats.

The sites associated with Cardinal Wolsey have long looked sad and neglected.

At last the building opposite where his birthplace once stood looks attractive again.

A fine brick gateway in College Street, a small feature of Wolsey's planned college for the town, now as if by some twist of fate, has now been clad in corrugated iron sheets to protect it while building work goes on all around.

Let's hope this will sparkle again before too long.

Do you have memories of the chemist's shops, café or sweet shop which once occupied this building at the corner of Silent Street? Write with your memories to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

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