Ipswich: New life for two of town’s most historic buildings either end of Stoke Bridge

No. 4 College Street, Ipswich

No. 4 College Street, Ipswich - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Two of the oldest buildings in Ipswich are set to get a new lease of life as the regeneration of the Waterfront area moves up a gear.

They are at opposite ends of Stoke Bridge, and the restorations will be a clear indication that this part of the town is getting a massive boost.

Number 4 College Street is an historic merchant’s house dating from 1590. It was home to three generations of the Benet Aldred (or Benedict Aldryche) family who made their fortune running ships between Ipswich and Newcastle.

Its restoration is set to be a major element of the redevelopment of the St Peter’s Warehouse site.

And on the other side of the bridge the Old Bell pub, which is thought to date from the 14th or 15th century, is being converted into offices for a funeral director.

An exact use for the College Street house has not been stipulated in the design competition, but its restoration has to be an integral part of the development.

One possible use is as a visitor centre and cafe at the gateway to the Waterfront – telling the story of the area that is the oldest part of Ipswich.

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Work to restore the Old Bell has already started and an application for change of use is being submitted to Ipswich council.

Colchester-based funeral directors R. Gwinnell and Sons are hoping to open there – but no one from the company was available to talk about the proposals.

Ipswich historian Dr John Blatchly was delighted to hear that the two buildings could be brought back into use.

He said: “The Benet Aldred house is in a very important building for the town and it has been sadly neglected for many years.

“It would be very good indeed for it to have a new use – something like a visitor centre telling the Waterfront’s story would be very good.”

The Old Bell pub closed several years ago – and while its condition is not thought to be anywhere near as bad as that of Number 4 College Street, it does need some attention before it is brought back into use.

Scaffolding has now gone up to prepare it for its new use.

Dr Blatchly said: “I’m pleased to hear it is coming back into use. It sounds like an appropriate use for such an old building.”

The Old Bell has claimed to be the oldest pub in Ipswich. However it is a claim that is difficult to verify. Dr Blatchly said there are several timber-framed pubs near the town centre and while they would all be very old, it is difficult to know which is the oldest.

What is known, however, is that the pub was built near the town’s bell foundry which dated back to the 1200s – and was probably used by workers after a hot day working with metal.