26 October, 2013

Ipswich - Urbs veteris

I hope it's not the onset of senility: I said to the custodian in the museum that I'd never been to Felixstowe before. But I had a good day none the less in the oldest town in England (it sez 'ere). The first thing that greets you when you come to Ipswich proper from the station is the Willis Faber Building - a black glass walled building housing a firm of solicitors that like impressive buildings - they are also in the former Port Of London Authority building. The first commission of Norman Foster after establishing Foster Associates it was the youngest building to be given grade 1 listing. This certainly makes a statement in what is a meadieval town but the black glass reflects the older buildings and is a pleasant blend of old and new. The museum is also a blend of old and new too with a proper Victorian natural history display, including a woolly mammoth and these bad boys. The whole museum has some interesting artifacts, including a scolds chair and a gallery devoted to Thomas Clarkson an Ipswich man who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. Not all the galleries looked like this. The Co-op department store in Ipswich has alas been closed down. But there is an Age Concern charity shop in there, and I'm glad I went in because they had limited edition prints of the store, done for the 120th anniversary of Ipswich Society in 1988. Five years later the Ipswich Co-operative Society merged with Norwich and twelve years later East Of England Co-op was formed from societies in Essex and East Anglia. Sadly the department store business isn't what it was and these vast co-operative palaces had to close. You can see pictures here. Ipswich is under catered foodwise but has three Wetherspoons! I ended up in the Golden Lion which had nice food. After lunch it was time to call in at the Christchurch mansion and the Wolsley Art Gallery which contained some great art and artefacts displayed to advantage in the historic house. I particularly noted the Great Hall had some half doors which I thought unusual. Ipswich does not neglect its famous sons: Cardinal Wolsley is honoured by a statue in front of his birthplace although the plaque is rather back handed in its compliments. Although not as protestant as Lewes Ipswich is firmly puritan. Aother Ipswicher to be honoured is a rugby playing pilot, Prince Obolenski who has his statue in Cromwell Square. Ipswich worth a return, although might do Lowestoft and Felixstowe...

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