Mansion cafe sees great results

FOR years it sat unused as a dilapidated courtyard unsafe for the public. But today the revamped garden at the back of Christchurch Mansion is the secret behind a massive change in fortunes for a café with a difference.

FOR years it sat unused as a dilapidated courtyard unsafe for the public.

But today the revamped garden at the back of Christchurch Mansion is the secret behind a massive change in fortunes for a café with a difference.

Just a few months after the courtyard was opened to the public, the mansion's café, Fonnereau's, has seen a huge upsurge in visitor numbers.

Staff have been overwhelmed by a 500 per cent increase in business and they put the upturn purely down to the opening of the refurbished courtyard at the rear of the historic building.

In the first three months of the courtyard being opened, Fonnereau's has taken £10,000 more than during the whole of 2004 - and all the money is to be ploughed back into the upkeep of the mansion.

Judy Terry, the Ipswich borough councillor with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: "We're absolutely delighted.

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"The courtyard was obviously space waiting desperately to be paved over. It wasn't being used well and the café was bursting at the seams."

The courtyard area opened just after Easter and has been taking an increasing number of park users and town centre shoppers ever since.

Peter Anderson, the council's catering officer, said: "It created 40 more seats.

"We've been busy right from the word go. We're picking up quite a considerable amount of trade from people in town shopping who are stopping in.

"We hope it's going to continue through the winter time."

Previously called The Mansion Café, Fonnereau's was the first phase of a two-year refurbishment programme at the mansion.

The café was given its new name in recognition of the last family to call the mansion home. The Fonnereau family owned it from 1735 to 1898 when it was sold and later handed to the borough council.

Profits from the café will be put back in to the mansion's upkeep and could lead to further improvements in the future.

Mrs Terry said: "The money will be ploughed back in to restoring the mansion and opening some of the rooms."

N What would you like to see done at Christchurch Mansion? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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