12 empty iconic Ipswich buildings - What does their future hold?
PUBLISHED: 19:30 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:00 31 January 2019
From County Hall to the Odeon, a number of the most iconic buildings in Ipswich have been standing empty. What is in the pipeline for these town landmarks?
County Hall: Will former council HQ be turned into flats?
The Ipswich Vision Partnerhip has been looking for new uses for prominent buildings, including County Hall. In December, new plans were put forward to turn the County Hall building into 12 one, two and three-bedroom flats, with an accommodation block behind it including 28 flats and two maisonettes. The plans have been open to public consultation and are shortly due to go before Ipswich Borough Council’s planning committee.
The imposing Grade II listed building in St Helen’s Street has stood empty and derelict for many years, since Suffolk County Council moved out in 2004 to Endeavour House, but now there is new hope for its future. The building served as a jail and law court in the 19th century, before it was extended in 1906. The structure’s courtroom was famously the scene of Wallis Simpson’s divorce, which led to 1936 Abdication Crisis.
The Odeon: Old cinema to become a church
One of the most striking modern buildings in Ipswich, the former Odeon in St Margaret’s Street opened its doors in 1991, only to close in 2005, after losing the battle against the Cineworld multiplex in Cardinal Park. Later there was a proposal to turn it into a leisure complex including a sports bar, but the idea never came to fruition. Now, however, work is under way to turn the building into a church and finally bring it back into use.
Hope Church, which is currently based in Fore Hamlet but has outgrown its home, completed the purchase of the former Odeon in September. It plans to transform the building into a place for its growing congregation, with a large auditorium and extra rooms for children and workshops. It also plans to create a community facility to serve the town throughout the week. The church has been reporting on its work to restore and convert the building via its Facebook page, telling how work parties have cleared out the building and new floors have been laid.
Old Post Office: Looking for a new use
Facing the newly-redeveloped Cornhill, the impressive central post office building is currently standing empty, after Lloyds Bank moved out a few years ago. This is one of the buildings which an Ipswich Vision task force, led by borough chief executive Russell Williams, has been looking to bring back into use.
It is currently still looking for a new occupier. There were hopes at one stage that a national restaurant chain might take over the building, but nothing has come of this. The building was completed in 1881, with four figures over its entrance, representing industry, electricity, steam and commerce.
Grimwades: Future now uncertain
This red-brick store in Westgate Street was one of the best-known clothes shops in the town from the mid-19th century onwards, and many people will remember buying school uniforms there, as well as ladies and gents’ clothes. The building has had several uses since Grimwades closed in 1996, including as a card shop and a bargain clothes store.
Proposals to turn most of the building into a new Pret A Manger takeaway were approved by borough planners early last year, and this had been expected to open in the first half of the year, but the restaurant chain has announced that it is no longer going ahead.
BHS - Gap in heart of town centre
One of the saddest losses to Britain’s town centres in recent years was the BHS department store chain, including the large store in Ipswich Buttermarket. This important site in the heart of town has been empty since July 2016, after the chain called in administrators in 2016 and closed all its shops,
At the end of 2017, the borough council in principle approved an application to split the building’s ground floor into three restaurants and two shops, with a pub/restaurant and gym on the first floor. But, in a challenging environment for high streets across the country, there has been no progress as yet, with no tenants committing themselves to the scheme.
Co-op: From department store to school
It was announced last summer that the former Co-op department store in Carr Street is set to be turned into a new primary school, and the project moved a step further ahead when the complex sale of the site was completed.
This will be a Free School run by the ALT, which already operates several other schools in the town. A multi-party agreement has been reached between the East of England Co-op, Ipswich Council, Suffolk County Council, the Active Learning Trust (ALT), and the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to develop the new school.
Great White Horse: Upper floors are still empty
The large and rambling hotel is one of the best-known buildings in Ipswich, after Charles Dickens famously stayed there in 1835 and included it in his classic novel Pickwick Papers. There is a large Cotswold Outdoor shop in a unit downstairs, but the upper floors have been empty since the hotel closed in 2008.
Plans were approved in 2017 for a development including a business centre with start-up suites for new businesses, and an extension to the Starbucks cafe which used to have a unit in the building. However, Starbucks closed its restaurant at the end of September, and it is now unclear what the future holds for the Grade II listed building, parts of which date back to the 16th century.
Golden Lion: Could the historic pub soon serve ale again?
After centuries of serving ale in Ipswich, this Grade II listed pub closed in 2016, when JD Wetherspoon moved out. It is now believed to be under offer, after being jointly marketed by CBRE and Savills.
There was some speculation last year that Wetherspoon could return once the work on the Cornhill was complete. But chairman Tim Martin ruled this out on his visit to town this week, saying the company is more likely to open another pub in the Waterfront area.
The Maltings: Nightclub to become offices
A £3million regeneration project at the 19th-century industrial complex in Princes Street is well under way, and it is expected to open later this year as new state-of-the-art office space. The plans include a new glass atrium linking the main buildings and light wells to bring in floods of light.
There could be between 200 and 300 people working in the unique building, which is being developed by Pertwee Estates. After its original role as a maltings, the site found a new lease of life as a nightclub, under the names of Hollywood, Zest and Kartouche, but then stood empty for a decade.
Burton’s buildings: Entrance to Waterfront
This historic site is key to the redevelopment of the entrance to Ipswich Waterfront. Ipswich Borough Council bought the former Burtons buildings facing the River Orwell in 2015 and has now also purchased the former Pauls silo. and are understood to be looking at a comprehensive redevelopment of the area.
The former confectionery firm’s warehouse had stood empty for more than 20 years before the borough acquired it for £210,000 from Treasury solicitors.
The Swan: Music pub’s lease being marketed
One of the town’s oldest pubs in King Street, which has hosted gigs by Ed Sheeran and Mumford and Sons, the Swan officially closed down in September 2018, Ei Publican Partnerships said then: “We would like to reassure the local community that we plan to reopen the site as soon as possible.” News of the closure was met with dismay by music lovers.
The lease is currently being marketed by Everard Cole, which has details of the pub on its website. The Swan is thought to have been built as early as the 17th century and is Grade II listed.
Cliff Quay Brewery: Key Waterfront site
Plans were given the go-ahead in 2016 to redevelop the former Tolly Cobbold brewery on the Waterfront, with proposals including business start-ups, a cafe, restaurant and auditorium, as well as 222 homes. However, work has not yet started.
The brewery was founded in 1746, run by the Cobbold marque, and reopened in 1896 in the current Grade II listed structure. In 1957, the Cobbold brewers joined forces with the Tollemache family and the brewery was renamed Tolly Cobbold. However, the site was abandoned when the brewery merged with Ridley’s in 2002, and it went on to fall into disrepair.