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Days Gone By: Legacy in the Cobbold family in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 16:30 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:48 13 December 2018

The Cornhill, Ipswich, in the early years of the twentieth century. The Bacon and Cobbold Bank was in the building on the left, now occupied by Lloyds Bank.

The Cornhill, Ipswich, in the early years of the twentieth century. The Bacon and Cobbold Bank was in the building on the left, now occupied by Lloyds Bank.

Dave Kindred

For more than 260 years generations of the Cobbold family had a great influence in Ipswich, writes David Kindred.

A dray from Cobbold's brewery at Cliff Quay in Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, in around 1960.A dray from Cobbold's brewery at Cliff Quay in Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, in around 1960.

In 1723 Thomas Cobbold built a brewery at Harwich. He decided to move the operation to Ipswich and a brewery was built on the bank of the River Orwell in 1746 - to take advantage of the supply of pure spring water from land the family owned at Holy Wells.

There were four Cobbolds as members of Parliament for Ipswich, a High Steward of Ipswich and four Mayors.

Beside the brewery trade the family had a large interest in banking. Their bank, Bacon, Cobbold and Co on the Cornhill, is now a Lloyds bank.

Harold Hindle of Heatherhayes, Ipswich, sent his wonderful photograph taken at the Cobbold Brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, in February 1935.Harold Hindle of Heatherhayes, Ipswich, sent his wonderful photograph taken at the Cobbold Brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, in February 1935.

The family’s gifts to the town included, at the Anglesea Road Hospital, funds for a First World War Memorial Wing, a children’s wing in memory of John Patteson Cobbold built in 1877, balconies for the children’s wing, a tennis court for nurses.

Also, the Racecourse recreation ground (Murray Road), the land for Fore Street Baths, Gippeswyk Park and Christchurch Mansion, a legacy of £20,000 (a vast sum over a century ago) for the purchase of art. There were many other large donations to projects in the town. Their connections with Ipswich Town Football Club go back to the club’s origins.

Today it is sad to see the state of their former brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, which was completed in 1896. This once fine Victorian brewery and older building on the site now look very neglected.

The deserted brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich. It was completed by Cobbolds in 1896 and extended in 1904. The building in the foreground was Cliff House, once home to the head brewer, but used in recent years as the Brewery Tap public house, which closed in March 2017. Picture: DAVID KINDRED


The deserted brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich. It was completed by Cobbolds in 1896 and extended in 1904. The building in the foreground was Cliff House, once home to the head brewer, but used in recent years as the Brewery Tap public house, which closed in March 2017. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

Taking a look at Felix Thornley Cobbold (1841-1909) we discover he was a very wealthy man.

The Cobbold Family History Trust website says “He became a wealthy man, but in common with his forbears he was also very generous and being unmarried he did not have to consider the next generation.

Inter alia he donated to Ipswich land for St. Clement’s Baths; a clock and carillon for St. Clement’s Church and 45 acres of Gippeswyk Park plus cash for fencing. Although coming from a staunchly Conservative family (his father and two brothers had been Conservative Members) he showed his radical leanings by being elected Liberal MP for Stowmarket in 1885 and Ipswich in 1906. He had already been Mayor of Ipswich 1897.

Felix Thornley Cobbold (1841-1909)Felix Thornley Cobbold (1841-1909)

In addition to his businesses he was a farmer with land in Felixstowe, Hadleigh and Sproughton. He lived a while at Holywells, but re-built and hugely extended Felixstowe Cottage with the help of local architect Thomas Cotman.

In 1895 Christchurch Mansion came on the market with a proposal for demolition and replacement with housing. Felix offered to buy the mansion and give it to Ipswich if the Borough could find the relatively modest £15,000 being asked for the park. The deal was done and he was given the honour of the Mayoral appointment for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year.

Felix, still an active man, died of kidney failure in London in 1909. His will provided £20,000 for the purchase and maintenance of Works of Art for Christchurch Mansion which he had requested should become the borough’s art gallery.

The Cliff Quay Brewery around 1960.The Cliff Quay Brewery around 1960.

All his agricultural land was left to the county in trust and he financed the reconstruction of a court at King’s, Cambridge. These gifts survive to this day and Christchurch is a fine memorial to a generous man. He was a member of the Ipswich Fine art Club in 1909”.

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The picture below shows the Fonnereau estate which is known today as Christchurch Mansion. The Fonnereau estate was put up for sale in 1892.

The Fonnereau estate photographer Harry Walters took this picture around 1895.The Fonnereau estate photographer Harry Walters took this picture around 1895.

A property syndicate bought the site in 1894 and sold some of the land for development. Felix Cobbold, a member of the syndicate, presented Christchurch Mansion to the town as a gift on the understanding that Ipswich Corporation purchased the remainder of the park.

The park opened to the public in April 1895.

The Cobbold brothers, John (left) and Patrick both served as chairman of Ipswich Town Football Club.

The Cobbold brothers, John (left) and Patrick. Picture: OWEN HINESThe Cobbold brothers, John (left) and Patrick. Picture: OWEN HINES

This picture was taken in 1978 as the brothers proudly hold the FA Cup won that year by the team.

The first president of the club was their great-great-uncle Thomas Cobbold, who was MP for Ipswich from 1875 to 1883.

This picture shows the copper room at Cliff Brewery in 1978. On the right is the copper from the original Harwich Brewery, which was used for priming when this photograph was taken.

The copper room at Cliff Brewery. Picture: PAUL NIXONThe copper room at Cliff Brewery. Picture: PAUL NIXON

The sign on the copper says “ Sugar dissolving vessel. The original boiling copper from the Harwich brewery of 1723.”

Most of the copper from the brewery has been stolen in recent years.

The Cobbold Brewery as it was around 1930.The Cobbold Brewery as it was around 1930.

The picture above is an outside shot of the Cobbold Brewery in 1930. Cliff House is on the left.

When the Cobbold and Tollemache breweries combined in 1957 the Tollemache brewery, between Cox Lane and Upper Brook Street, closed and all brewing moved to Cliff Quay.

As you can see Cliff Cottage is slowly disappering into the undergrowth.

Cliff Cottage. Picture: DAVID KINDREDCliff Cottage. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

It was once the home of the second brewer at the Cliff Quay Brewery.

In the early 1970s it was converted to a reception centre with a bar on the ground floor and a board/dining room on the upper floor.

The door surround at Cliff House has figures from the Coffee House in Tavern Street, Ipswich, which was demolished in 1818.

The door surround at Cliff House. Picture: DAVID KINDREDThe door surround at Cliff House. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

The Coffee House stood at the corner of Tavern Street and Tower Street and was a popular meeting place.

The brewery today.The brewery today.

Smashed windows and graffiti at Cliff Brewery. The inside is reported to be wrecked by vandals. Picture: DAVID KINDREDSmashed windows and graffiti at Cliff Brewery. The inside is reported to be wrecked by vandals. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

Beer kegs and a broken tables now litter the outside of the fenced off Cliff House, Ipswich, which operated as the Brewery Tap until March last year. Picture: DAVID KINDRED
Beer kegs and a broken tables now litter the outside of the fenced off Cliff House, Ipswich, which operated as the Brewery Tap until March last year. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

Smashed windows at the Cliff Quay Brewery, Ipswich. Picture: DAVID KINDREDSmashed windows at the Cliff Quay Brewery, Ipswich. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

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