How can Ipswich make the most of the Tudor revival brought about by BBC series Wolf Hall?

Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) and Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) in Wolf Hall

Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) and Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) in Wolf Hall - Credit: BBC/Company Productions Ltd

The new BBC series Wolf Hall has brought Tudor England – and particularly the activities of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s court – to a wider audience.

Dr John Blatchly at the back of Wolsey's Gate, Ipswich

Dr John Blatchly at the back of Wolsey's Gate, Ipswich

Now there are increased calls for Ipswich to make more of its Tudor heritage – as the birthplace of Thomas Wolsey and a regular haunt of his successor Thomas Cromwell.

Wolsey’s Gate in College Street is the best-known link to the great man and the Cardinal College he founded near the river, but its condition and site has been a concern for decades.

It is owned and maintained by Ipswich Borough Council, which says it is now in a better condition than it has been for centuries.

However its setting, beside a busy road, opposite an undeveloped part of the waterfront and next to a site that has been empty for years, is a serious blight on the gate.

Wolsey's Gate, Ipswich

Wolsey's Gate, Ipswich

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who is also a respected historian, said it was important for Ipswich to make the most of its Tudor history, but that did not mean it should recreate a “Disneyland” style area.

He said: “There are many ways to show off the town’s history with the use of apps on smart phones and tablets and virtual descriptions.”

In the long term he believed his aim of building a new crossing over the lock gates would enable College Street and the bottom of St Peter’s Street to be remodelled with a redevelopment of that part of the Waterfront, allowing Wolsey’s Gate to be shown off much better as part of the environs of the church which is now a music centre.

Most Read

Council leader David Ellesmere also welcomed the attention that the new drama had brought to the Tudor era – and hoped the town would be able to benefit.

Thomas Wolsey Gate

Thomas Wolsey Gate - Credit: John Blatchly

“It reminds us that for a short time Ipswich was on the way to having an educational establishment to rival Oxford and Cambridge. There is a very important heritage here.”

There have been calls from some quarters to move it to another part of the town, possibly Christchurch Park, but historians and conservation experts say that to move Ipswich’s last surviving Water Gate from its position near the river would destroy its historical credibility.

It is also next to St Peter’s church and the last remaining section of wall from the Cardinal College. Visit Suffolk is the organisation which “sells” the county to tourists. Brand manager Amanda Bond said television exposure helped boost interest in the area.

She said: “Visit Suffolk’s mission is to promote the county and all of its wide variety of offerings to the wider public.

“Dramas like Wolf Hall that capture the public’s imagination are a gift for the county because they allow us to illustrate the rich history and cultural heritage that isn’t necessarily widely-known.

“Ipswich Tourist Information Centre has compiled a fantastic series of events to appeal to various different audiences and Visit Suffolk is supporting them with our own marketing and PR.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter