Walking tours are offered by the tourist information office on each Tuesday and Thursday during summertime. They start at 2:15 pm and take about an hour and a half. Each week, the focus is on a different theme, so that you can go to different Ipswich walks without getting any information twice. The theme of my walk was “merchants and manufacturers” and so we went to places where wealthy people of the past had an inpact on Ipswich’s architecture. Lois Terry was our guide on this day and she has the talent given to almost all tour guides on the island: The ability to turn a normal city into something educative and entertaining while adding a little bit of humour here and an odd, but interesting fact there. The group was very small (7 people only) and I was the only one who was not from Suffolk. Contact the tourist information office about the theme of the day’s walk. For some information about some of the merchants and their stories, check out my general tips.
Christchurch Park, the large area north of Christchurch mansion, is the city's main park. Located within walking distance form the city center, it is a very convenient place to relax on a sunny day. On a day which just pretends to be sunny and suddenly changes while you were sleeping on the lawn, it is less convenient, of course... Anyway, Christchurch Park has all a city park has to offer: Fountains, duck pond, the one or other odd monument here and there. Just like a normal park - a place to relax, totally free of charge.
By the way, the park has an unusual variety of bird species. Therefore, restriction to dogs are kept more strictly than on similar places anywhere else. and with some luck, you may spot one of the little birdies in the trees.
Giles was a famous British cartoonist and maybe Ipswich's most famous son. Although he was not born in Ipswich, he spent most of his time there and was - of course - also a supporter of the local football team. But unlike Sir Alfred Ramsey, the statue dedicated to him does not show the artist. It is a bronze figure of Giles' cartoon character "Grandma", who was maybe the most popular of them. Giles was still alive when the figure was unveiled in the 1990s, but was already bound to a wheelchair. He also first objected against such a monument, but later allowed it to be placed under the condition that no tax money should be wasted on it. Giles died in 1995 at the age of 78.
Ipswich’s former port has lost its significance during the centuries. Although Ipswich was a welathey trading town in the late medeival age as well as in the Tudor era, its significance as a port town vanished when overseas trade began to flourish in London, Bristol and other places in England. A couple of machinery factories settled down in Ipswich during the industrial revolution, but by then it was clear that the port was to become a victim of sand. The port authority building of 1842 was built at a time when Ipswich’s maritime trade days were long gone and the port was only used for local transport. Today, the port has become a marina. But around the old harbour, you’ll still see some interesting spots. For example, Wherry Lane (A wherry is a kind of cart), an alley with old storage houses as well as a building complex (usually called "Isaac Lord complex" after the man who bought it in 1900) which is now used as a restaurant.
Once, five monasteries (two convents and three friaries) stood in Ipswich and none of them survives today. In fact, only the ruins of the Blackfriars Monastery give an idea of how a medieval monastery looked like while the others have completely disappeared. In 1263, the friary was founded and remained there for over 250 years. Like everywhere else, Henry VIII also ordered to dissolve the monasteries in Ipswich and give their property to the state. After the closing in 1537, the monastery buildings were left standing - unlike their church of St. Peter and Paul whose ground was used to build a college. But in the 17th century they fell into disuse and some of them were quickly pulled down. After some decades, only the four arches remained visible, giving upcoming generations a hint that there was once a religious building on this site. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the rest of the monastery was uncovered again and preserved. This measures also uncovered one of only three surviving stone altar structures in Suffolk. Sometimes it just needs a city redevelopment project to preserve the past – even if it’s a 1980s one which includes a car parking lot.
Although St. Matthews is still a running church, services to not take place regularly here and the church is not open to normal visitors (by appointment only). That's a pity as it houses a medieval font (seven sacrament fonts of which only around forty remain in the UK, most of them in Suffolk and Norfolk) which is among Suffolk's best-known church treasures. The 15th century church has maintained its medieval style and during the restoration and extension work of the 19th century, the style wasn't changed either.
St. Matthews Church is a little isloated from the city center due to road construction works of the 1960s. Although this looks scary enough when you look at it, another constrcution is even scarier: The church school is built on the former graveyard...
Although Ipswich’s reputation was quite low in the twentieth century, there is one field where this Suffolk town gained considerable respect at this time. Ipswich Town was one of the leading clubs in English Football in the 70s and early 80s. This was preceded by Ipswich’s sole Football League Champions Title in 1962. The manager of the victorious team was Sir Alf Ramsey, who was Ipswich’s coach from 1955 to 1963. Later on, he went on to lead England’s Three Lions to its sole World Championship in 1966. Another famous Ipswich manager is Sir Bobby Robson who won the UEFA cup, one of the highest european club titles, as Ipswich’s manager in 1978. He also later became manager of the english national football team. So, it is no wonder that football still plays a great role in Ipswich’s culture. Look around the stadium and see the statues of Sir Alf and Sir Bobby. And if you plan well ahead, why not visit a home game of Ipswich Town?
Although Ipswich has 13 medieval churches still standing, St. Margaret’s is seen as the finest by far. Unlike the other twelve, it has kept most of its medieveal style. The masterpiece is the double hammerbeam roof which is known well beyond the town borders.
St. Margaret’s was built as the church of the Augustinian monastery in the late 13th century and quickly grew into the most popolous parish of Ipswich. It maintained this status even after the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VII.’s reign when the augustinian monastery was destroyed. Although church attendance has declined in the 20th century, it is still in function as a parish church.
Half-timbered houses are not uncommon in Ipswich’s town center. Only few of them are from medeival ages, most of them were built in a medieval style in the latter centuries. The Thoroughfare, a small alley in the town center, is the place so see many of such buildings and to get a medieval feeling for a couple of minutes. As you may assume, this is also an area with many pubs :)
St. Peter’s is among the churches made redundant in Ipswich. Since the early 1970s, the church fell into decay and it took 25 years until the first efforts for restoration began. The church is in care of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, which tried to make different use concepts for this church during the past few years. However, none of them was successful. It was planned that a company should have moved in, but this was not realised. In the 1990s, a model railway club used this place as a clubroom. The church is from the 14th century, but stands on the site where the first church was built in Ipswich in Saxon times. A notable item in this church is the black marble square norman font. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see it. The church is only open twice a week for visitors…
Anyway, it is said that St. Peter's, located at the place from which Ipswich began to grow and Ipswich being among the oldest towns in England, was the longest continually occupied urban parish.
Many medieval churches are preserved in Ipswich, although not all see church services regularly. St. Mary at the Quay is one of the more famous, but also one of the churches made redundant. It is kept by the Churches Conservation Trust and is ocassionally opened for visitors on arrangement. There were two things which made the church famous. First, the fact that the people living in the Tooley Alsmhouses had to pray at St. Mary’s for the soul of Mr. Tooley. But it is most famous for the pun in it. It’s St. Mary at the Quay and was really close to the quay in Tudor times - when the harbour was wider than it is today. But it has a key as weather vane and is located at Key Street. So, sometimes it is incorrectly called St. Mary at the keys. The church is from the 16th century, although its roof is said to be from 1450, making it older than the rest of the church. Henry Tooley’s grave is also located in this church.
The Almshouses were built as the las wish of Ipswich merchant Henry Tooley. However, it took 10 years from 1551, the year Tooley died, to the day when the first people moved into the new houses. The main cause were huge disputes among the powerful people in Ipswich about the layout and location of these buildings. As Tooley’s wish was to give wounded soldiers or other people who earned their merity for England a preference. This led to the place being full of widows who outlived their husbands in most cases.
The original houses were demolished in 1846 and replaced by the present buildings. Although they somewhat look like the original Tudor buildings, they still contain too many bricks to be genuine Tudor. Today, the houses are still in use. However, these are not the original houses anymore. During daytime, you can enter the inner court and enjoy the view on the houses from a beautiful garden. Just be aware that this is still a living area of elderly people, so be quiet and do not disturb anybody.
Please check out my general tips about Henry Tooley and William Smart for more information on the houses and on their backgrounds.
Considered to be the main attraction of Ipswich, this Tudor mansion houses a collection of english paintings. Many of them are from a time when english painters had not an equal reputation to italian or dutch and were not considered for “important” works. However, opinion changed during the centuries and so, works from John Constable, for example, found also its way to Christchurch Mansion. Many of them are portraits, unfortunately I did not know many of the portrayed personalities. I even felt somewhat relieved when I saw Philip II of Spain – and that as a student of dutch philology... The rooms were furnished with items from the past centuries, giving the mansion back Each room is furnished in a different way, giving a small impression from a different time. Christchurch Mansion started its life when the Augustinian monastery was dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII. It was home to several wealthy families before being given to the City of Ipswich in 1892. Since 1896, it is a museum.
Ipswich Museum is situated in the heart of the town, and is open :-
Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 5pm. (Last admission 4.30 pm)
Admission is FREE
There is full disabled access and facilities.
~The nearest parking is Crown Car Park. ~
If you love football or even if you don't, go to the footy club here on matchday or on a club tour. Ipswich, although in the championship, has a wealth of history and trophies. The championship's a great league though, with not quite the same amount of star names as the premiership but a high quality of football. You can explore the 3 floor shop, the world of punch, selling virtually anything that an Ipswich logo can fit on. On a matchday you can get a few beers, put on a bet and watch the other matches and match build up on the screens inside the stadium. The newly developed stadium has a capacity of 30,300 and has had various music concerts held there as well as full and under 21 England international matches. It had the best pitch in the premiership in the seasons 2001-2002, as voted by the premier league panel and FA. If you like noisy atmosphere sit on the north stand, family lower cobbold stand or britannia lower, quieter more relaxed sit ont the greene king stand. For matchday info. go to the website below.