Tooley's and Smart's Almshouses, Foundation Street, Richard Felaw's House

For comparative maps of Foundation Street (1778, 1867 and c.1881) see our Courts and yards page.

The street is named after the 'Foundation' or almshouses – originally built in 1552 – and Christ's Hospital (established in 1572 in the old monastic buildings, namely the Frater, of the Dominican Friars; the Hospital was, in fact, an amalgamation of foundations, including the first buildings of what went on to become Ipswich Grammar School – see 'Richard Felaw' at bottom of this page). Prior to that, it was known as St Edmund Pountney Lane after the chapel of that name which once stood on Rosemary Lane, between Foundation Street and Lower Brook Street (more detail and photographs can bee seen on that page). Foundation Street was earlier home to the Dominican Friars (Blackfriars), the ruins of whose church are still visible next to The Unicorn Brewery:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blackfriars2017 image
Moving southwards, we pass Blackfriars Court, a modern sheltered housing complex (visible on the far left in the above photograph). Across the entry which used to be called Tooley Street (see the 1902 map below), is the corner of Tooley's & Smart's Almshouses.
'The original Tooley's and Smart's Almshouses were rebuilt in 1846, designed by architect John Medland Clark: a big group of redbrick buildings with some fanciful timberwork, notably the outer staircases in the gable-ends of the projecting wings. Even more fanciful, with exposed timbers and brick nogging, the gatehouse [shown below] of 1861, no doubt by R.M. Phipson, Clark's pupil and successor to his practice.' Information from Bettley, J. - Suffolk: East Pevsner (see Reading list).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 18
J.M. Clark – architect of The Custom House, The Casino and Christ's Hospital School (now demolished) – used a 'plain Elizabethan style' in his plans drawn up in 1844 for the Tooley and Smart Almshouses; there have been alterations and additions in the since.  

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley Almshouses 18841884
The above 1884 view of the same corner was taken by noted local photographer, William Vick. It comes from the Ipswich Society Image Archive (see Links). In the 1860s William Vick an ex-teacher, now a photographer, had his studio in London Road just where it meets Clarkson Street (Barrack Corner) and was offering to take landscapes, residences and groups as well as portraits. TooleyStreet (today bearing the street nameplate 'Blackfriars Court') is to the left and Foundation Street to the right, sloping towards the docks; the horse manure indicates the car-free era. Note the strip of granite setts linking the pavements which gives the pedestrian mud and muck-free footwear when crossing the dirt road (highlighted by Muriel Clegg in The way we went, see Reading list).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 172017
The differences between the 1884 and 2017 photographs are interesting. The elaborate metalwork lamp on the square section pillar has been replaced by a ball finial on a hexagonal section brick pillar. The iron railings, used extensively here have been removed, probably during World War II in a 'scrap for munitions' drive – the cemented-over seatings of the railings can still be seen on the stone wall copings. The roof ridge decorations have been removed. Most strikingly, the gable-ends have been remodelled so that only the central timber 'balcony' sections remain; also some of the tiled canopies and doors on the Tooley Street elevation have been removed.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 20   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 19  

The dated rain-hoppers
[UPDATE March 2017: Talking of the 'Tooley Street' elevation, we found a rain-hopper (and not the only one) with an earlier date than others recorded heretofore. '1852' indicates that the outer parts of the almhouses were probably built nine years earlier than the central gatehouse and courtyard (shown below).]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 23   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 242017 images  

The gatehouse
Below: the gatehouse and inner courtyard (across the road is a blue plaque celebrating Thomas Gainsborough).
The cast '1861' characters in the rain-hopper (above the white van in the photograph below left) resembles the carved date on number 6 St Helens Street. Other dated rain-hoppers can be seen on our Dated rainhoppers page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 9

The gardens
[UPDATE September 2015: On Heritage Open Day weekend we were able to walk into the sheltered garden within the almshouses. These photographs record that visit and show that the internal rainhoppers also carry the date '1861'. We also note another rather fine coloured, relief rendition of the Ipswich Borough coat of arms. The informative plaques within the porch tell their own story.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 10  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 132015 images
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 12  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 14
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 15   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 11
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 16
YEAR 1922,
John Shewell Corder was an interesting architect of his day, working on many buildings in Ipswich and beyond. A favourite is the art nouveau ‘Scarborow’ shop in Dial Lane (now Pickwick’s Tea Shop). He was responsible for the 'Tolly Follies', large town public houses for Tollemache brewery modelled on the architecture of Helmingham Hall (home of the Tollemache family). He was also a talented illustrator and recorded many buildings and corner-posts before they were demolished – and some of which still stand.

The inscriptions
Beautifully maintained lettering plaques in gold, red and black paint on the relief moulding celebrate these ancient endowments to the town by two (or more) of its wealthiest sixteenth century merchant philanthropists – although the actual buildings are more recent replacements.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 12003 images
Reading from the upper (town end) of Foundation Street:-
'Henry Tooley portman
of Ipswich by his will
dated Nov. 15 1550
left several estates for the
purpose of erecting Alms
houses and for the main
finance of poor persons

'In powerfull Silence lett great Toolie rest
Whose charitable Deeds bespeak him blest
A.D. 1551'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 3
'The Almshouses
were founded in the year
1550 and rebuilt in
the year 1846 on
and near the site of the
original edifice'

and imperceptibly on to Smart's Almhouses:
'William Smart portman
of Ipswich by his will
dated January 9 1598
left several estates for the
purpose of maintaining
sundry poor persons and
funding them in clothes, coals &c'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 5   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 62004 images
'Let gentle Smart sleep on in pious trust
Behold his Charity, respect his dust'

And much more recently - and in slightly more municipal lettering high on the last gable:-

Alderman of the Borough of
Ipswich and Justice of the
Peace for the County of Suf-
folk by a Munificent Gift of
much needed at the time greatly
increased the Usefulness of
these Almshouses

– 26th June 1902'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooleys almshouses 7
And finally (with an individual use of full-stops) a roll-call of well-known Ipswich and Suffolk names on a plaque near the main entrance:-


H. Aldrich. Esq.
H. Bond. Esq.
Benjn. Beame. Esq.
C. Colchester. Esq.
Rev. J.C. Ebden M.A.
J. Footman. Esq.
W.C. Fonnereau. Esq.
C.C. Hammond. Esq.
J. Head. Esq.
Peter B. Long. Esq.
Rev. J.C. Nottidge. Esq.
S. Ray. Esq.
W. Rodwell. Esq.
M. Turner. Esq.
W. Turner. Esq.
S.A. Nottcutt. Clerk.'

The metalwork pennants
It was only in 2014 that we noticed small decorative 'vanes' (similar to weather vanes, but it doesn't look as if they move) above chimney-like, stonework masts (our term).
1.Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 1   2.Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 22014 images
1. From the north end of the Foundation Street frontage we see a monogram which appears to be upside down (see the date, later); it could be 'TC' for Tooley Court. The close-up to the upper right shows a proposed solution.
2. The next one down the street looks like a freemasonry symbol (see the Tau cross in the circle on the Freemason's Hall), but turning that one upside down also produces a convincing 'HT' monogramme for Henry Tooley.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 4
Moving down past the main entrance to Tooley Court are the next pair of vanes.
3. This date is definitely upside down (a fact which gave us the idea to flip the first two) and clearly reads '1851' in the upper right close-up.
4. The final monogramme appeared at first to be the right way up: intertwining 'M' and 'S' suggesting the foundation's connection with St Mary-at-Quay at the bottom of the road – indeed a similar sort of monogram in wrought iron can be seen above that church's gates. However, mature reflection leads us to believe that this, too, is upside down. Surely it commemorates the second merchant benefactor of the Tooley's and Smart's Almshouses: William Smart (the monogram being 'WS').
3.Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 5   4.Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 6
The final photograph in the sequence shows vane number 4 (upper left) and the almshouses at the corner with Smart Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley roof 7
See our rain-hoppers page for dated weather vanes in the town.

Maritime Ipswich plaque
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 26   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 25
Tucked away south of the main entrance to the courtyard, this plaque can be found; it is sometimes obscured by foliage.
See our plaques page for the full set of ten Ipswich Society Maritime Ipswich 1982 plaques.

The Tooley brass
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley brass
Above: the brass memorial to Henry Tooley (?-1551), his wife Alice and their children features a version of the Borough coat of arms at top, centre. The memorial was once at St Mary-At-Quay Church, but is now part of the Ipswich Museum collections. None of their children, two daughters and one son, appear to have survived adolescence. Tooley's wife, Alice née Purpet (see the Street name derivation of Purplett Street) who survived him, was a remarkable woman in her own right.

'Great Tooley of Ipswich' by  John Webb. Boydell Press, first published 1970 (Suffolk Records Society). ISBN-13: 9780900716102
When Henry Tooley drew up his will shortly before his death in 1551 he ensured the survival of two monuments to his career as a merchant in Ipswich: the almshouses which still stand in the town, and an account book which the Corporation originally acquired to administer his bequest and now hold in their archives. From this rare and valuable record, augmented by a few family and business letters and a thorough search of local and national archives the author has written a brief but impressive biography. A major consideration throughout this biography has been to place the subject in the social and economic framework of his time. This aim is followed most effectively, not only in the chapters on overseas and internal trade but also in the account of his participation in town government. Great Tooley is thus more than a simple biography; it presents, with meticulous scholarship, an illuminating picture of wider problems and developments in the early Tudor period.

See also our More almhouses page. Further almshouse lettering can be found in Colchester.

Richard Felaw's House
As a footnote, glance across Foundation Street at the multi-storey car park and imagine yourself there in the early 1960s looking at the houses (pictured below) parts of which survived from the 15th century. They belonged to the noted merchant, Portman, Ipswich Bailiff and MP, Richard Felaw (see Street name derivations and Felaw Street). He bequeathed the houses to the nascent Ipswich Grammar School,
endowing it with lands at Whitton so that children of needy parents could attend without paying fees. These new premises made it possible for the school (now The Ipswich School) to take boarders, which it has continued to do to this day. One of the first pupils to benefit from Felaw’s endowment was Thomas Wolsey, later Cardinal Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England. In 1528, when at the height of his power, he created the Cardinal’s College of Mary in Ipswich, incorporating the School in the foundation. He envisaged an institution of the same splendour as Eton or Winchester, but the college was only half built when he fell from power in 1530. The endowments were forfeited to the King and only one of the gateways of the college now survives, next to St Peter’s Church in the dock area.

1960s photographs
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House c.1963
Photographs courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive (see Links).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House 1960sEarly 1960s; comparison photo below.
Above: Richard Felaw’s House in Foundation Street shortly before demolition c.1963. The second photograph shows the
the southern part of the buildings seen from School Street. The redbrick building at the left stands on the east side of Foundation Street. All buildings here have gone. The stacked wooden beer crates at the right were in the yard of the Unicorn Brewery and just behind the photographer to the right would have stood the school which gave the street its name: Christ's Hospital School. The school moved to Wherstead Road in 1841. The significance of the School Street photograph is that the remnants of the church of Blackfriars Priory, which were first discovered by archaeologist Nina Frances Layard in 1898, were fully uncovered here beside the south walls of the Unicorn Brewery and the footway Blackfriars Walk created so that the public can engage with the historic site: the only in situ monastic remains in Ipswich – which, of course, had a number of monasteries. The presence of the legend 'F.W.' – presumably 'Foot Way' – on the map (below) indicates that part, at least, of this pathway existed in 1902, emerging beside Martin & Newby's premises in Fore Street.

Comparison photographs (2016)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House 2016b<1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House 2016a<2
Above: sequence of 2016 photographs of the Foundation Street frontage of the NCP car park.   1. Rosemary Lane, now a narrow pathway, at far left; the driveway down to the car park entrance barriers, following the line of the proposed Ring-Road dual carriageway in the 1960s.   2. Moving northwards, the view from behind two entrance piers to Blackfriars Court, one with a missing ball finial. Below:   3. The view roughly equivalent to the c. 1963 photograph from School Street (above).   4. The exit from the car park with Wingfield Street curving round it to the right.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House 2016c<3  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House 2016d<4

1902 map
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House map 19021902 map
We see "Richard Felaw's House" (coloured blue here) fronting Foundation Street running south from the corner with Little Wingfield Street. Today's street layout is very different:-
1. The NCP multi-storey car park covers the footprint of the houses and more. Richard Felaw's House – the late Dr John Blatchly points out that only part of the building dated back to the 15th century – was tragically demolished in the early 1960s to make way for the planned dual carriageway Ring-Road which would have ploughed through many historic buildings to carry traffic from today's Cromwell Square (once a dual carriageway taking traffic from Civic Drive) round to Bond Street and Crown Street, and on to St Matthews Street – part of which is still a dual carriageway. The Ring-Road was mercifully never completed. It was not until the 1980s that the car park block was built.
2. Little Wingfield Street has disappeared but the east-west section is renamed Wingfield Street and extends to the north-south Wingfield Street as shown on the 1902 map. The NCP car park covers and distorts the southern part of this street so that it is little more than a footpath, as is the eastern part of Rosemary Lane which has been narrowed to a footpath and routed round the footprint of the car park.
3. School Street, as described above, and Tooley Street with the close-packed housing between them have all disappeared to be replaced by a sheltered housing complex, Blackfriars Court which extends eastwards to Lower Orwell Street. The thoroughfare, Blackfriars Court, is on the site of Tooley Street as shown on the map. Today the almshouses are bounded by Foundation Street, Smart Street, Shire Hall Yard and
Blackfriars Court.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House demolition<Kindred Spirit photo Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House modern
Above left: this remarkable photograph comes from David Kindred's Kindred Spirit collection. We see the rear of the Richard Felaw House, looking eastwards from Little Wingfield Street in 1963,
just before full demolition. In the background is the Unicorn Brewery. The comparison with the modern version of the same view shows the exact relative position of these buildings.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House demolition Wiggin 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House demolition Wiggin 2
[UPDATE 11.4.2019: These three photographs from the collection of Nick Wiggin were taken a little later in the demolition of Richard Felaw's house than the one above. On Foundation Street a parked 1960s box-van is in the foreground (also visible in the second photograph) and the facade looks reasonably normal. The second photograph from further north on Foundation Street shows the view down towards the docks with the large silos in evidence; rubble is in the right foreground with evidence of burning of timbers.
The third photograph (below) shows the Unicorn Hotel in the left background; the Unicorn tower brewery rises above the roofline behind the foliage. The outhouses have been demolished.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Felaw's House demolition Wiggin 3Photographs courtesy Nick Wiggin
Dr John Blatchly points out in his book A Famous Antient Seed-plot of Learning (see Reading list) that investigations prior to the demolition of the house of Richard Felaw (c.1420-1483) revealed that only a small portion of the building dated back to the 15th century. It is hardly surprising that such an old building should be altered structurally and internally many times over such a long period. However, the symbolic significance of the house in the story of Ipswich School and of Thomas Wolsey in
particular means, one hopes, that the decision on the fate of the house would probably be different in the 21st century.

See also our page on Wolsey's College.

The Half-Moon Inn (Henry Tooley's house?)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Half-Moon corner post1845
The engraving above is from Frederick Russel and Wat Hargreen's Picturesque Antiquities of Ipswich (published in Ipswich, 1845).
Half Moon corner, Foundation Street/Lower Brook Street. Although the building holding this fine post has been destroyed, the post itself was saved and was eventually to be displayed at Christchurch Mansion. The carvings depicting the old fable of the ‘fox and the geese’ were originally designed as a satire on monastic orders. The Half Moon has also been listed at 'Lower Foundation Street' and Lower Brook Street. The illustration above indicates a timber-framed and plastered building with a jettied first storey.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Half-Moon map
This was one of Ipswich's most ancient inns; one of only 24 listed in a town assessment of 1689. It was demolished in 1960, a casualty of so much widespread demolition in Ipswich which also swept away Holywells Mansion (see following). This was possibly once the family residence of Henry Tooley, a Portman of Ipswich and benefactor of the Tooley Almshouses who died in 1551. Wood panelling and mantelpieces from the inn were later removed to Holywells mansion, built by the Cobbold family. The corner post is preserved in Ipswich Museums' store and went on display as part of the Wolsey's Angels exhibition in Christchurch Mansion in 2017-18. The inn can also be seen under '1902 map' (above) of Foundation Street: at the very bottom-left marked 'P.H.'.

For comparative maps of Foundation Street (1778, 1867 and c.1881) see our Courts and yards page.

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