Ipswich Icons - The unloved buildings of College Street that have stood empty for a quarter of a century

College Street - numbers 1 to 5

College Street - numbers 1 to 5 - Credit: Archant

There are two buildings at the far end of College Street that have remained unused and apparently unloved for more than 25 years, writes John Norman, of The Ipswich Society.

Number 4 College Street

Number 4 College Street - Credit: Archant

They stand forlorn and semi derelict, suffering from the ravages of the weather, the traffic and unwanted visitors.

1-5 College Street: Just before St Peter’s Church is a terrace of three properties. Formerly the offices of Burton, Son and Sanders, these buildings have had a chequered history. They’re currently surrounded in scaffolding, which is both providing support and some protection from the elements whilst a new use is found.

The owner is carrying out repairs and minor changes which will make the building habitable and allow it to stand proud alongside Wolsey’s Gate.

Of the three properties in the terrace, number 1 is probably the oldest. It is included on John Speed’s Map of 1610. Pennington, who produced a map in 1778, shows all three properties (and possibly more). What isn’t clear on either map is Wolsey’s Gate, which was built between 1528 and 1530.

We do know that the terrace was re-fronted and partially rebuilt in 1740, but the roof structure above all three properties is 17th Century. The new front elevation was in brickwork, almost certainly replacing a timber frame with wattle and daub infilling.

Amongst the changes currently underway is the restoration of the roof to include clay tiles, a material commonly used in the 17th Century.

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There is speculation that the rest of the terrace, 3-5 College Street, was first used commercially as a bank or finance office. It is in the style of a substantial house but it is unlikely a residential property of this order would have been built this close to the port.

ER & F Turner purchased this part of the building in 1881 for use as St Peter’s Ironworks. At this time, number 1 was still occupied but by 1908 the property had become vacant and ER & F Turner purchased it. Turner’s had been using number 5 (and its east end extension) as their iron foundry but later created offices on the first floor and the engineering stores on the ground. Burton, Son and Sanders acquired number 1 in 1924.

ER & F Turner continued to operate on the land further east before their move to Foxhall Road in 1937. This allowed Burton’s to purchase numbers 3 and 5. The lack of development on the site of the ironworks (opposite the west end of St Mary Quay church) is hampered both by the possibility of archaeological remains and the likelihood of contamination.

Burton’s used the whole building following ER & F Turner’s departure: the first floor as offices, with a small meeting room and the “Samples” department on the ground floor. Any customer with doubts about what he was buying could be sent a sample prior to placing an order.

Burton, Son and Sanders was sold to Unilever in 1993 and 1-5 College Street started its steady decline. Today’s restoration bodes its continued use as an important historical building.

Number 4: On the left, at the corner with Bridge Street, is Number 4 College Street, a 16th Century merchant’s house. Timber-framed, with plastered walls, it’s a quaint little cottage which includes some interesting features.

Number 4 was one of three on this side of the street, the others being demolished when Bridge Street was widened ? possibly in 1925, when the new Stoke Bridge was built. The remaining property is a gem, and would be much admired if it was restored. The first floor along the front is jetted (ie, protrudes forward of the ground floor), as does the west elevation, although here the protrusion is not much more than the width of the bressumer beam.

These buildings, and others like them, are irreplaceable. They carry a wealth of history and interesting stories, and their historical reports can run to many pages. They contribute to the very foundation on which Ipswich is built. If we don’t know where we’ve come from, we certainly won’t know where we are going.