First look inside new Ipswich Building Society branch which opens on Tuesday

PUBLISHED: 16:52 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:10 22 January 2018

The Ipswich Building Society's new home in Princes Street.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Ipswich Building Society's new home in Princes Street. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

These are the first photos of the completed new flagship branch for Ipswich Building Society.

Jo Leah in the new building.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJo Leah in the new building. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Customers will see inside the branch in Princes Street for the first time when the doors are opened tomorrow, Tuesday, January 23, by the mayor of Ipswich.

Ipswich Building Society has had premises in Ipswich town centre since it was formed in 1849, as the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society.

In more recent years, it has been in Upper Brook Street (1915-2009) and also Sailmakers Shopping Centre (formerly Tower Ramparts) from 1990 to the present day.

In late 2016, the Society purchased a property in Princes Street, the former Parr’s Bank, which is a Grade II-listed building dating back to 1901.

Reception in the new building.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNReception in the new building. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Joanna Leah, general manager for retail and distribution, said their new home, renamed Mutual House, was a vote of confidence in the town centre, and the community.

She added: “It is very important for us. It reinforces our commitment to the branch network and providing face-to-face contact for our customers and the wider community.

“It is important to have a high street presence and we are delighted to be the guardians of this wonderful building.

“We are looking forward to welcoming in our customers and the wider community, from Ipswich and beyond.

Manager Tom Jell.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNManager Tom Jell. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Manager Tom Jell will lead a team of 10 re-locating from the branch in Sailmakers.

Ipswich Building Society has 60,000 members and 5,000 mortgagees.

Around the renovated building there are many features and historic artefacts which illustrate the role of the society in helping provide homes in Ipswich, and beyond, for generations of local families.

The society’s intention was to provide a place centred on the needs of members, with accessible, comfortable facilities and flexible space to host popular member events and special occasions.

This building has been a constant home to financial services, initially Parr’s Bank from 1901, then Westminster Bank, and previously the Chelsea Building Society.

The architect for Parr’s Bank was Thomas W Cotman, nephew of the famous watercolourist John Sell Cotman.

The building was originally two separate units, with Parr’s Bank located at the corner of Princes Street and King Street. Next to Parr’s Bank on Princes Street stood Alfred Stearn and Son, an ironmongery.

The former ironmongery part of the building – where the counter service is located – is not protected under the Grade II-listing.

Original features which have been preserved include:

• Weathervane from 1901 repaired.

• High, intricately decorated ceiling discovered in poor condition, subsequently restored and unveiled.

• Safe room refurbished and now useable as a small meeting room, with original feature doors.

• Basement safes left in position, including one which is “by appointment to His Majesty the King” (a canvas print of this is on show in the main branch)

• On the exterior of the building the stonework has been cleaned and repaired, and original guttering restored.

• In addition there is a Parr’s Bank marble plaque on Princes Street which had previously been covered up. This will remain on show as a feature of the historic building.

A new feature on the Princes Street exterior of the building, Mutual House displays a proud timeline of prominent Ipswich buildings with etchings from the St Mary-le-Tower church of 1200 to the more recent University of Suffolk built in 2007.

Inside, features include a large scale 1933 map showing the Society’s developments and reproductions of the original floor plans of the Parr’s Bank and Alfred Stearn and Son buildings.

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