Ipswich: Call for the return of historic market cross to the Cornhill

Ipwich Cornhill

Ipwich Cornhill

As the shortlist for the redevelopment of Ipswich Cornhill is whittled down to two, one of the town’s leading historians has called for a re-creation of the historic market cross.

Ipswich Market Cross in the 18th century.

Ipswich Market Cross in the 18th century.

Five proposals were shown off to the public in August – attracting a mixed response among those who visited the exhibition in the Town Hall.

Now the team that is drawing up the proposals to give the Cornhill a new look is telling three of the entrants that their designs will not be used.

They have written to the other two architects to invite them to give more information before deciding on which to engage.

A final decision is due to be taken within the next month – but in the meantime Dr John Blatchly has called for the market cross that dominated the Cornhill for 300 years until the early 19th Century to be re-created.

The original market cross was erected about 1515 and was rebuilt in 1619. It was eventually taken down in 1812 at the start of a century which saw the Cornhill substantially remodelled with the construction of the current Town Hall.

Elements of the market cross were saved and are in the museum collection – although they are not always on show.

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Dr Blatchly said he would like to see a re-creation of a market cross, possibly including some elements from the original structure, included in the re-modelling of the Cornhill.

He said: “It would introduce a focus for the Cornhill and would fit much more easily into the area than a fountain that has been suggested.

“If you look at towns that have market crosses – like Bungay, Swaffham and Wymondham – they are very popular focal points for the town centre.

“We visited Dunster in Somerset and that has a wonderful market cross – it would be good to have a cross back on the Cornhill.”

He said a modern market cross with echoes of the original building, of which a few paintings and drawings exist, would be an attractive feature dominating the Cornhill.

His suggestion was backed by town MP Ben Gummer – one of the four-strong group including the borough, Ipswich Central and University Campus Suffolk (UCS) – that will be deciding on the future of the Cornhill. He said: “It is an excellent suggestion to help provide a focus on the Cornhill and well worth considering. We may suggest to the winning designer that this is something worth considering.”

It is understood that the winning design is unlikely to be realised in full – there were elements of other proposals, and the market cross idea, that may be incorporated into the final plan.

And then there would be the question of raising the estimated £3million needed to transfer the design from paper to the ground.

Mr Gummer said: “This is an absolutely crucial decision for the future of the town. It is the centrepiece of efforts to make Ipswich town centre more attractive to retailers.

“And all the research shows that the town centre is in need of an injection of new retailers to spark more interest and bring more people to the heart of Ipswich. This is the key to that effort.”