Centuries of history behind Ipswich coffee shop

Rod and his two daughters Beth and Hannah

Rod Cook and his two daughters Beth and Hannah of the Applaud cafe at St Peters Street in Ipswich. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

St Peter's Street is one of the oldest roads in Ipswich - and now a history project involving students from the University of Suffolk has unearthed some surprising facts about one of many buildings on the road.

For the last nine years 19 St Peter's Street has been home to Applaud Coffee Shop - but owner Rod Cook has been delving into the past to try to find out the history of the building.

St Peter's Street was the original route from the "Ipswich Bridge" (now Stoke Bridge) to the Corn Market and was first recorded in the seventh century. By the 13th century there were records of businesses on the street, and in the first Tudor map of Ipswich it is shown to have several businesses on it.

When Mr Cook and his wife bought the property in 2012 so their daughters could set up Applaud, they also received deeds to the property going back 250 years.

Applaud documents

Documents about the coffee shop go back to the mid 18th century. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mr Cook said: "I spoke to someone I knew at the University and he asked three of his students to take on the research as part of their local history project."

The records go back to 1757 when butcher William Easterby sold it to wig maker Samuel Howes Sr.

A survey by Suffolk County Council archaeologists in 1981 concluded that most of the building probably dates back to 1700, however parts are clearly Tudor in origin - including the fireplace near the entrance and many of its beams.

Applaud fireplace

The fireplace near the entrance is clearly Tudor in origin. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

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The building is very near what was Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's College, which was demolished after his fall from grace in the late 1530s.

Most of the bricks recovered after the demolition went to other building projects for Henry VIII - but it is possible some stayed in Ipswich to build some new properties in the area.

Between 1757 and Mr Cook buying it in 2012, the property had a number of uses and owners. Until the late 19th Century it was part of the same building with its neighbour which is now Cathy Frost's LoveOne gift shop.

Applaud in St Peters Street

Applaud Coffee Shop has been open since 2012. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

In 1839 it was bought by Robert Bowman who was a brewer who ran what is now the Falcon Pub. 

One of Mr Bowman's son in laws was Robert Burrows who was a councillor in Ipswich - and after losing his seat became one of the first photographers to operate outside London

His pictures are some of the first to show what life was like in early Victorian Ipswich.

Seven years later it was bought by Susannah and George Green Sampson. Mr Green Sampson is the only person ever to have been mayor of Ipswich on four separate occasions between 1838 and 1871. 

He was an eminent surgeon and played a leading role in getting children vaccinated against smallpox despite objections from many parents.

In the late 19th Century the building was occupied by watch and clock makers including David Birkle. One of the clocks made by Mr Birkle in the shop came up for auction in Cheshire last year. Mr Cook bought it for a total of nearly £500 and it now has pride of place in the upstairs room of the coffee shop.

Brikle clock

Mr Cook brought back this clock which was made in the shop, - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Mr Cook said: "It has been fascinating discovering the history of the building through the years - like the television programmes 'A House through time' and we have found out quite a lot.

"But there's still quite a bit we don't know and we're still looking."

There have been some interesting discoveries in the cafe's garden, including a broken clay pipe, but Mr Cook admits there could still be more to find there: "I sometimes think I'd like to borrow a metal detector!"

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