Ipswich Icons: Extinct Ipswich which give a flavour of what daily existence was like for our ancestors

PUBLISHED: 20:00 20 August 2017

Half moon pub. Picture: JOHN NORMAN

Half moon pub. Picture: JOHN NORMAN


To include this article under the banner Ipswich Icons is a misnomer. We usually feature buildings and other characteristics of the built environment that stand proud and prominent in the town, writes John Norman.

Horse Inn. Picture: JOHN NORMANHorse Inn. Picture: JOHN NORMAN

This week we are looking at buildings long since demolished but establishments that were, in their day, significant to the way of life of the residents.

Some were historical gems, or contained features that shouldn’t have been lost to the history of the town.

And even where architectural features have been moved to museums, they have lost their context, their setting and their purpose.

A corner post in a museum store is nothing more than a lump of wood.

Woolpack pub. Picture: JOHN NORMANWoolpack pub. Picture: JOHN NORMAN

The starting point for our survey will be the Ipswich Rates and Assessments register of 1689.

This historic document is a list of all the town’s premises, their functions, use and the “rates” payable.

There were only 24 hotels, inns and taverns in Ipswich listed in the register.

This date does not, however, mark the beginning.

Many of the hostelries on the register existed before the seventeenth century.

The Woolpack in Tuddenham Road, for example, had been serving ale to farmers and carriers for at least 100 years prior to the register, and it is certain there were ale houses alongside the quays, serving the dockers and sailors.

It was in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that inns at which “refreshment” could be obtained were introduced into England.

This early, however, such establishments could be found only within the important trading towns: Ipswich, Southampton and York amongst them.

Elsewhere, there was simply no need to travel (and virtually no means of doing so).

Thus, there was no need for hospitality other than between neighbours and friends.

Monasteries took the lead in providing accommodation for the wandering man, no doubt with the possibility of persuading the traveller to stay and join the brotherhood.

Monasteries were the source of priests for local churches, and most had “an Inn within”, as the lodging house was frequently called.

This was usually a separate detached building which over the years became a hotel, inn or tavern.

Such is the case with the Pack Horse Inn, the timber-framed building at the junction of Soane Street and St Margaret’s Plain, much altered but originally the lodging house to the Priory of Holy Trinity, which stood across Soane Street – replaced by Christchurch Mansion after the dissolution.

Amongst the hostelries originally listed in 1689 which have since been demolished are The King’s Head, The Golden Fleece and The White Hart.

The King’s Head, which was renowned for cock-fighting, was demolished in 1880 to make way for the Corn Exchange.

At The Golden Fleece in Westgate Street the sport was bull-baiting, which continued here until 1805.

There was a certain legitimacy to bull-baiting, in that a local bylaw required all beef to be subject to harassment by dogs before it was slaughtered.

The White Hart was in St Lawrence Street, on a site that has since been occupied by Frederick Fish & Son, Boots the Chemist, River Island and Poundworld.

St Lawrence Street was the home of the cloth market, Ipswich being an important centre for the export of woollen cloth.

The key to this story is the Half Moon on the corner of Foundation Street and Lower Brook Street.

This half-timbered Tudor building was reputedly the home of Henry Tooley, portman of Ipswich, whose legacy led to the creation of Tooley and Smart’s alms houses.

The pub’s “corner post” was carved with the image of a fox and geese.

This is supposed to be a satirical reference to the condition of the townspeople and the monks before the suppression of the monasteries.

Wood panelling and mantelpieces were later removed to Cobbold’s Holy Wells mansion.

The Half Moon closed in 1913 and, despite public protest, was demolished in 1960, after which the corner post was taken into Ipswich Museum’s collections.

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