House, ABC cinema, Ipswich Windows, The Wheatsheaf,
Frederic Corder's store
Ipswich's most famous landmark is The Ancient House
which stands on the corner of Butter Market (the street, rather than
nearby shopping centre) and St Stephens Lane (which leads down to St
Stephen Church, now the Tourist Information Centre and gallery).
earliest reference to the Ancient House can be found in the 15th (some
say the 14th)
century, when it was owned by the knight, Sir Richard of Martlesham. In
the 16th century the house was owned by a string of local merchants,
including George Copping, a draper and fishmonger, who acquired the
property in 1567. It was Copping who commissioned the panelling of the
ground floor room at the front of the house. He also built the 'long
gallery'. The Sparrowe (spellings vary) family became the owners of the
house in 1603 and continued ownership of it
for the next 300 years. It became known as
'Sparrow's House'. Robert Sparowe, a grocer,
added the elaborate
pargeting to the front and side of the house between 1660 and 1670. The
association with trade, provisions and markets is due to the fact that
for hundreds of years the thriving market(s) on Cornhill
into nearby streets and lanes, including, of course, 'the butter
market'. One legend tells of King Charles II hiding from his
enemies in the Attic Room after the Battle of Worcester in 1651
(Charles II's colourful royal arms are part of the pargetting).
The Ancient House is the source of the name 'Ipswich
window'. See our Tavern Street page
for an explanation.
This distinctive Grade 1 listed landmark dominates the
Butter Market area.
Above left: the street nameplate opposite The Ancient House (corner of Dial Lane) with the three beehives fire
insurance company plate (? – see below), one of a pair, above it. Above
Market street nameplate in white characters reversed out against brown
(there are a number of signs in this livery in the town centre) close
to the Giles statue. The name relates to a
time when busy markets in particular produce spread out from the
Cornhill into nearby streets. It was once known as Fish Market around
the Ancient House. Such was the mess and smell, the occupants
complained bitterly and eventually the fish market was resited to Upper
Brook Street. The Ancient House was extended out into its present
building line – presumably to prevent the return of the fishmongers –
and went on to bear its characteristic pargeting.
The Butter Market and environs as shown on a map of 1867
- The above detail from White's
map of Ipswich
1867 exemplifies the way in which thoroughfare names change over
time. King Street turns from its
present-day situation through 45 degrees up to the Cornhill (the latter
part was later an extension of Princes Street).
- Three-quarters of Butter Market here is clearly
labelled 'St Lawrence
short lane, parallel to Dial Lane which today carries the
nameplate 'St Lawrence Street' simply bears the legend 'Lane'; it has
also been known as 'Cook's Row'.
also the naming on the east corner with Tavern Street: 'Suffolk House',
which was the store run by Frederick Fish. The 'Ancient Ho.' is also
- It is interesting to see the 'Market' in its own square,
surrounded by narrow buildings with Market Lane, which existed until
the building of the Buttermaket Centre in 1986, running from Falcon
Street northwards alongside W.S. Cowell the printers into St Lawrence St (Butter Market); the northermost part of
Market Lane still exists as an alleyway which is a fire exit from the
Buttermarket Centre. Incidentally, the provisions market was held here
from 1810 until about 1880, when it moved to the Grand Hall of the Corn
- At the top of the map, Lloyds Avenue does not
exist and the only access to Tower Ramparts from the Cornhill is the
unnamed Mumford's Passage (with the number 43 near its entrance).
also how very narrow 'Dogs Head Lane' is linking 'Square' (later the
Market) with Upper and Lower Brook Streets.
The secret Wild Man, 25-31
Butter Market (former Edinburgh Wool Mill shop)
The property on the corner of Butter Market
and Dial Lane has been occupied for some
years by Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
We wonder how many customers glance up as they exit the shop and walk
beneath the overhang of the jettied first storey. They might get a
fright from the wild bearded man staring down at them with his teeth
bared. Bob Allen refers to this as a 'Wodewose': a wild man of the
woods; a satyr, faun’; Wodewoses are wild creatures. These wild men
appear in old manuscripts and feature on the stem of the font of the Church of St Clement, reflecting the pagan
sources of belief systems.
This is the carved end of a dragon-beam, set at 45
degrees to the walls of the building. The trims of the modern
shop-front have been cut round it.
When jettying, horizontal elements can include: the jetty bressummer
(not present here but visible on a number of Ipswich buildings), the
dragon-beam which runs diagonally from one corner to another, and
supports the corner posts above and often supported by the corner posts
below. Although there is currently no ground floor corner-post here
however, we are told that engravings show one to be in place in the
Above, the position of the carving (arrowed) and just above it the
street nameplate and
the fire insurance company cast medallion. This is one of two identical
plates on Butter Market, the other is to the east on number 33. Below:
a close-up of the latter example . The neighbouring building round the
corner in Dial
Lane is the gem-like Scarborow Opticians
Although we have called these shapes beehives, in
resemble rocket-powered wedding cakes during lift-off. Does anybody
know what these castings represent?
5.6.2023: 'I think I may have some new info for you! A couple of weeks
back, whilst reading stuff on your excellent web site, I came across
the piece about the plaque on the wall in the Buttermarket, opposite
the Ancient House.
It intrigued me because of my insurance background.
I’ve looked at fire
marks before and I’ve never heard of a company with such a logo. I
decided to investigate. I started with the Chartered Insurance
Institute ,who couldn’t help, but put me in touch with a group called
The Fire Mark Circle. They have now come back to me to say that the
plaque is not a Fire Mark. They think it’s probably a property or
boundary marker. They tell me the ‘bee hives are three tuns or
barrels'. Do you know if we had a local family
or business with such a
coat of arms? If it’s not a fire mark then there is a chance the plaque
is older than first thought. Fire marks weren’t used until the 18th
century. Do we know how long the plaque has been there? The Fire Mark
Circle are very kindly still investigating so I’ll let you know if they
come back with anything new. Regards, Neil Thompson.' Thanks to Neil for the ongoing research.]
The Grade II Listing text for this rake of buildings running east from
Dial Lane reads: 'Probably a C17 timber-framed and plastered building
with a return front on Dial Lane part of which retains a jettied upper
storey. Refronted in the C18 and altered in the C20. [presumably the
modern shop-fronts]' One can draw from this that the plastered frontage
today – and therefore the decorative plates – date from some time
during or after the 1700s. The interpretation given to Neil that the
shapes are tuns (barrels) is a bit baffling. The
shows a tun. A further update from The Fire Mark Circle suggests that the shapes might be
wicker creels for transporting fish and that the shapes underneath each
one might be fish. Interestingly, this part of the 'Butter Market' was
once called 'The Fish Market' which only had to move round the corner
into Upper Brook Street when the owner, Mr Sparrow (who was probably
sick of the smell of rotting fish guts), extended the frontage of The
Ancient House and added the famous pargetting between 1660 and 1670.
This is dealt with in the following passage and it appears that the
fish market moved before 1635.
Further contributions welcome.
Muriel Clegg in Streets and
street names in Ipswich (see Reading List):
"The name Butter Market had in the meantime begun to be associated with
the areas which had formerly accomodated the fish market and the
cheesemarket. In 1621 the name appeared for the first time when Joan
Coppin, widow, was in trouble for allowing the street before her house
in the Butter Market to be in decay. In 1635 it was 'the fish market
now used as the butter market (forum
piscum modo usiat. pro foro butier) and in 1695 'The Cheese and
Butter Street'. Possibly 'the street from the Butter Market towards the
Cornhil (1628)' is the Thoroughfare, shown but not named by Ogilby and
Pennington. For some time the name Butter
Market continued to be
associated with the market site, which had never extended to Brook
Street. Thus throughout the eighteenth century the east end of the
street continued to be called 'the street from the Butter Market to
Brook Street' (1776). Ironically, it was probably not until a market
ceased to be held in the street that the name Old Butter market and
eventually Butter market was applied to the entire street."
For a similar commentary on St Lawrence
Street see our St Lawrence Church page;
on Dial Lane see also our Scarborow page.
In the late
seventies, the Ancient House was in an extremely poor state of repair
and close to collapse. At this stage it was purchased and renovated by
Ipswich Borough Council and returned to its former glory using modern
building techniques and materials. The Ancient House boasts highly
detailed exterior plaster work (pargeting) and ornamental wood
carvings, and is currently called home by Lakeland Kitchenware with an
art gallery in the upper part of the building. Due to weak floors this
area cannot be used for retail display, so community groups used to
arts and crafts there – as long as they did not exceed the loading
limit. Leading off the gallery by a tiny, low ceilinged staircase is a
lower room, sometimes called 'The Chapel Room'. This
appears to be the roof part of a grand hall, judging by the beams and
supports, which has been floored over at a later date. It is quite a
mysterious place and a steady stream of visitors used to come to see
throughout the year until the retail company ceased to open the room.
The fine oriel windows which front the Buttermarket are
most noted for the pargeted reliefs showing figures and objects which
relate to the four known continents of the Tudor period (Australasia
had yet to be discovered by westerners). The lettering in the upper
part of each panel is shown enhanced in each image. The naive
depictions are both impressive and amusing to our modern eyes.
Impressive not least in that they have survived so long:
'AFRICA' ... 'ASIA' ...
America is represented
by an Aztec/Inca-style man with a bow and arrow and a dog at his feet,
Africa is represented by a naked man holding a spear and sunshade, Asia
by a woman on a horse with a domed mosque-like building, Europe by a
woman holding a cornucopia, seated on a horse with a castle in the
background. Other panels show the three elements: Earth, Water and Air.
Round the corner on the western gable is a nice depiction of Atlas
carrying the world on his shoulders, also St George in the garb of a
17th century gentleman dealing with a recumbent dragon.
We owe the survival of the Ancient House pargeting and
carved oak beams and posts to the fact that the house was in the
possession of one family for such a long period and that Ipswich
Borough Council purchased it and conducted an extensive renovation. This project was not
without its problems: the foundations had sunk, but the heavy
fireplaces had sunk at a different rate. Over 260 tonnes of concrete
was used in the foundations, and 11 tonnes of steel were used overall.
In addition to
this, woodworm and dry and wet rot had set in, and the deathwatch
beetle was rife. Renovation began in 1984, and no part of the building
was untouched. Foundations were underpinned, the rot & infestations
were eradicated, floors were strengthened, plasterwork pargeting was
windows were releaded and features were exposed.
The Ritz/ABC cinema
courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive
Above: the ABC cinema and, beyond, the Ancient House in 1968 (dated by
the release of the John Wayne film, The
Berets). Fire brigade in attendance for some reason: an ironic
foreshadowing of events in August 1992.
[UPDATE 6.2.2021: 'Hi Borin. A
bit of modern this time. A small
advertising pamphlet from the ABC cinema, 1986. From when Mum used
to work behind the bar. Best wishes, Paul Smith.']
Nearby demolition and the 1992
The other major event which could have threatened The Ancient House was
fire in August 1992. Booksale
remainder shop (now
'The Works'), Alderton's shoe shop and Hughes Electrical (where the
electrical fire started) were all
destroyed, robbing Ipswich of some important timber-framed buildings. However, the intense heat, which melted plastic guttering
across the road, did not spread through the former ABC
cinema to The Ancient House. Yes, it is hard to believe, but a piece of
modernist brutalism adjoined the old building for many years as
contemporary photos from the fifties attest. Perhaps the old ABC
protected the house from destruction by fire (see the update below).
The Rex Cinema in the
was the Waggon & Horses tavern (see our Ipswich
Museum page for the original pub sign); it opened on the 1st
January 1937. It was renamed the ABC in 1962. All the above businesses
rebuilt (although Hughes stayed in their new home in Tower Ramparts
Shopping Centre) and British Home Stores took over the space which runs
right round from Butter Market to the rear of The Ancient House.
In September 1993 Ipswich was twinned with Arras, France and the area
behind the house is now called Arras Square.
[UPDATE 3.4.2023: 'Hi Borin,
Just a small amendment to your Ancient House page. You mention that the
ABC cinema possibly helped save the Ancient House from the ravages of
the 1992 fire. There are two reasons why that couldn't have happened.
Firstly the fire spread east, towards Upper Brook Stret, having started
in the double jettied building occupied by Hughes TV & Audio shop.
The building occupied by Hughes at number 42 was originally part of a
larger merchant's house (16th century) with the building at number 40.
Number 40 is the building that is still there opposite St Lawerence
Street. The ABC Cinema stood between number 40 and the Ancient House.
Secondly and more importantly, the cinema had already been demolished
by the time of the fire and been replaced by the Buttermarket
development, which formerly housed British Home Stores. I have enclosed
some images to help illustrate the positioning of the respective
buildings. In the image taken post demolition of the cinema but
pre-fire, the large chimney of number 40/42 can be seen. This is the
furthest point west that the fire reached. Ben Squirrell.']
Thanks to Ben for the correction. For further images and text on the
extensive changes in this area in the 1980s and 1990s – particularly
difficult to pin down – see John Norman's article in The Ipswich Society Newsletter,
courtesy of The Ipswich Society's Image Archive
The above 1980s photograph is from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive
(see Links). We see the south side of Butter Market looking west before
demolition of the ABC cinema (still open at this time) and The Ancient
House beyond it. The ABC chain were taken over by EMI in the 1980s and
it was decided to close the ABC on 5 April 1986. It was demolished in
1988. So, the eventual great survivors of this rake of buildings are
The Ancient House and no. 40 Butter Market (formerly Harris Carpets),
the rather anonymous refronting of which belies its structure as being
half of a once impressive 16th century merchant's house. The three
buildings closest to the camera were destroyed by the major fire in the
1992. At this time Hughes TV & Audio was in the remarkable
double-jettied building and between it and the white Harris Carpets
shop beyond, the tall chimney stack projects upwards which indicates
that these two buildings were once parts of the merchant's house. The
shoe shop was Aldertons (in blue with its projecting 'Clarks' sign),
later Jones the Bootmaker. The building with the arcade stands
shoulder-to-shoulder with the red terra cotta and brick no. 50 Butter
Market – just visible here with the ground floor screened off,
presumably for shop-fitting.
Numbering of mixed addresses in a shopping stret can be difficult to
unravel, but here's our attempt:-
28 - J.G. Andrews, jeweller on west side of St Stephens Lane;
30-34 - The Ancient House;
36-38 - former ABC cinema;
40 - western half of 16th century merchant’s house (former Harris
Carpets) – survived the fire;
42 - double jettied building (former Hughes electrical) where the 1992
fire started; this was 'recreated' as a double-jettied newbuild, dated
on the facade '1994, on the same site shown on our Symonds page.
44 - British Heart Foundation shop (former Jones the
Bootmaker) – rebuilt;
46-48 - The Works (former Booksale) – rebuilt;
50, 52 & 54 - red brick & terra cotta building which wraps
around the corner into Upper Brook Street (detaild on our Symonds page); still standing in the 21st
Image courtesy of The Ipswich Society's
Above: after the demolition of the ABC Ritz cinema it
was possible to look north from St Stephens churchyard to see through
to the north
side of the Butter Market and the spire of St Mary Le Tower – until the
new British Home Stores was erected on the site vey soon after. The
Ancient House eastern walls are seen here shored up to ensure stability
of the Grade I listed building.
The royal coat of arms
In about 1651 it was said that King Charles I had hidden in what is
now the Ancient House (this story could apply to many buildings in
England) but a 'secret room' created by the building of a 16th century
plastered ceiling just below the hammerbeams of the roof of the
original lofty 15th century hall, that had been sealed off for over 150
was only found in 1801. This is sometimes called the 'chapel room'
accessed by a few narrow steps from the gallery in the top of the
Ancient House. Sadly, this public gallery has been locked up for a
number of years by the present lessees, Lakeland Kitchenware.
Post-Restoration of the Monarchy (some time
after 1660) the front of the building had
the coat of arms of King Charles II set into the plaster.
In the centre of the frontage between the two pairs of oriel windows is
the wonderfully restored crest with mottos. It bears the Royal Arms of
King Charles II, and the words:
'HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE'
This is old French for "shame upon him who thinks evil
of it", and is also the motto of the Order of the Garter. Below on a
blue panel is:
'DIEU ET MON DROIT'
("God and my right"). At the very top, picked out in
gold are the characters:
'C II R'
which stand for "Charles [the second] Rex".
Largely ignored between the main motto and the coat of arms are two
subsidiary supporters: the naked Adam and Eve. For some reason they
appear on several Restoration coats of arms in Ipswich (a hatchment in
the Church of St Stephen, the
carved crest in the Church of St Clement)
and the Church of St Margaret –
as far as we know, they appear nowhere else in the country. Perhaps it
reflects the traditional religious belief in the 'original sin' of The
Garden Of Eden reflected in the sin of regicide in England: the
beheading of Charles I in 1649 and the redemption of the Restoration of
King Charles II in 1660 following the period of Oliver Crowell's
'Commonwealth'. For more discussion on this, see our Church of St Clement page under 'The royal arms of
Charles II: who are these people?'.
The sun fire-plate
Just visible at the bottom of the photograph of the Royal Arms (above)
is a small metal plate bearing an image of the sun.
Four screws have punched through the lead fire plate and
numerals are incised in the lower rectangle. We can make out 25168[?],
presumably the membership number of the insurance company. We assume
that during the major restoration of The Ancient House from 1984 this
detail would have been removed from the stucco to enable detailed
repair and repainting.
In the early days of fire insurance (following the disastrous Fire of
London in 1666) the companies employed their own firemen complete with
liveries and unique badges. To identify that a property was covered by
fire insurance, attached to the building at a height easily seen from
the street but out of reach of thieves, was a sign or emblem called a
fire mark which was issued by the company. Each company had its own
distinctive design which made identification of the property easier for
their fire fighters and the company representatives. At first they were
made of lead with the individual policy number stamped upon them and a
type of logo. Designs included a large sun with
a face for the Sun Fire Office.
Another example of a Sun Fire Office plate.
Sun Alliance was a product of the merger in 1959 of The Sun Fire Office, the oldest
documented insurance company in the world, founded in 1710, with The
Alliance, which was founded in 1824 by Nathan Mayer Rothschild and
Moses Montefiore. Sun Alliance went on to acquire London Assurance in
1965 (becoming Sun Alliance & London) and Phoenix Assurance in
1984. Royal and Sun Alliance was formed following the merger of Sun
Alliance and Royal Insurance in 1996.
Compare with the metal sun plate on the Sun Inn,
in St Stephens Lane and the Sun Alliance building in 35 Princes Street.
above was produced for London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) to
promote rail travel to Ipswich in Suffolk. The poster shows an interior
view of the Ancient House with Restoration figures in full costume. The
painting was by Fred Taylor (1875-1963), who was commisioned in 1930 to
design four ceiling paintings for the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's and
murals for Reed's Lacquer Room. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and
other London galleries and worked for LNER, London Transport and
several shipping companies.
The house has been a draw for photographers and artists for centuries;
the engraving above dates from 1881.
Many Ipswich residents will recall the building as the home of
Hatchards the bookshop. Indeed they were in occupation when the
restoration works were agreed and they moved into temporary premises in
Upper Brook Street (opposite the mouth of
Buttermarket) for many
months. The building ceased to be a private residence in the nineteenth
century. The association with books goes back a long way, The Ancient
House once housed the famous 16th century Town Library (partly based
upon a bequest of books by Portman, William
which is currently held by
The Ipswich School. The Ancient House Press was established in 1845 as
a book-selling and printing business in this historic building. After a
period of time the
book-selling and printing businesses were separated and the latter
moved to larger premises in the town and became the root of the
existing company today. It remained there until 1985 when, due to
expansion, the company moved to its existing site on the Hadleigh Road
Industrial Estate. The Company was started by Mr. Frederick Pawsey, a
figure in printing circles. He sold the business in 1897 to the
Harrison family, who retained ownership until 1971 when the present
owners took over.
Engraving of the Ancient House with ground floor arched windows and
double door entrance to the left (since reshaped) from G.R.
Clarke's history of Ipswich, 1830 (see Reading list).
[UPDATE 8.5.2012: "From The Ipswich Journal, Saturday,
November 3, 1866; Issue 6653.
'THE ANCIENT HOUSE IN THE BUTTER MARKET.
This fine old relic of former times is now being repainted, and an
improvement is made by painting the wood-work corner and other timber
so as to resemble oak. Hitherto the whole front has been painted
drab, and the picking out of these timbers is not only a relief to the
monotony of a drab surface, but it also gives the building more the
appearance of a timbered house.
... we Googled & found your interesting site
& lovely pictures of the place. '
Hope this article is of interest. Kind Regards, Mick & Norma
Just goes to show the vicissitudes
which have beset the Ancient House over the centuries. Thanks to Mick
For a view of The Ancient House from St Stephens Lane c. 1911, when it
was home to printer and bookseller W.E. Harrison, see our Scarborow page.
Harrison's 'Thank You' Pocket
Time Table. Trains, Tides, Mails, and List of Coming Events. (Click
to view the May 1908 publication).
The engraving above is from Frederick Russel and Wat Hargreen's Picturesque Antiquities of Ipswich
(published in Ipswich, 1845). It is perhaps not surprising that this
shows a somewhat idealised version of the market in front of the
Ancient House. The depth of the cornice between the Ipswich Windows and
the dormers obscures the windows below the dormers.
More about the pargetting
This extract from the excellent 1986 Ipswich Borough Council booklet The Ancient House by Hilary A.
Feldman (which someone really ought to update and republish given the
dearth of available material about this famous building) tells us more
about the ornamental pargetting.
“The deserved reputation of the Ancient House rests largely upon the
elaborate pargetting which decorates that part of the house fronting
Butter Market. What often goes unrecognised is that this is actually
the latest addition to the building (apart from very modern extensions)
and behind it lies a series of equally interesting earlier
timber-framed structures. Indeed the historic part of the Ancient House
evolved over almost three centuries and so many have the changes been
that it is difficult to envisage the house as it was lived in at any
given time, although it is possible to make reasonable guesses from
clues that have been left. The house is exceptional in providing an
almost unparalleled record of the building techniques and various
decorative styles in vogue over a three hundred year period as
successive owners demolished, rebuilt and made improvements to suit the
age in which they lived…
The pargetting is almost certainly contemporary with the construction
of [the Butter Market facade] and cannot date to before the restoration
of Charles II, as only after 1660 could the arms of this monarch have
been safely mounted in such a prominent position. It is without doubt
to Robert Sparrowe (d. 1698), the great-grandson of the first Sparrowe
owner of the Ancient House, that we owe the famous pargetting
which makes the Ancient House unique and so distinctive. Without such a
focus of interest there is every reason to suppose that this
outstanding building would have suffered the fate of so many others of
the same date in Ipswich.
“By far the most immediate attraction of the Ancient House is the very
ornate plasterwork or pargetting which covers the upper part of the
facade. It has been described by Pevsner in his Buildings of England series as
‘more ornate and gayer than any other house of its date in England’.
Pargetting is a term which is generally understood to apply to
decorative plaster in the form of ornamental ribs, flirtations,
cartouches or patterns sunk into the surface, although in early
documents it could simply mean the finishing coat of plain plasterwork.
The plastering of walls was at first done out of necessity. In
timber-framed buildings the gap between infill panels and timbers was
ever a draughty problem. Attempts were made to solve it by panelling
and hanging tapestries on the inside and finally by plastering on the
outside. Further necessity for plastering was created in the later
Elizabethan and Jacobean periods by a lower standard of timber framing
caused by a decline in workmanship and a shortage of good timber. It
was therefore more aesthetic to hide the structure of the building. As
with many buildings of this period the front section of the Ancient
House was designed with the intention of plastering. We can tell this
from the relatively poor standard of finish beneath the plaster.
Many other older buildings in the town were also given facelifts in
this way, giving them the appearance of 17th century buildings when
they are in fact earlier. Several examples of this happening can be
seen in Fore Street houses, although the pargetting is generally much
plainer than on the Ancient House. ‘The Neptune’
bears the date 1639 which is the date for the pargetting. The original
building is itself much older but the pargetting disguises its fine
There are several methods of pargetting. One of the plainer methods is
simply to mould rectangular and square panels in relief, as in No.
24/26 Fore Street (once ‘The Wheatsheaf’), or by rough casting around
templates. More imaginative effects could be achieved by the use of
applied cast ornaments, as on the old ‘Sun Inn’
(St Stephens Lane), but the height of achievement of the plasterer’s
art was modelling in high relief with wet plaster, Building up the
decoration with layer upon layer. This is the method that was used in
the Ancient House.
The coat of arms of Charles II in the middle of the first floor facade
provides us with a date for the pargetting. An integral part of the
design, it has been done by the same hand as the figure work. The
pargetting must therefore date to after King Charles’ accession in
1660. Possibly it was done to coincide with his visit to Ipswich in
The rest of the space is covered with an abundance of decoration but
although a number of themes are presented the whole is well balanced
and cohesive and presents a design which is both pleasing and full of
The panels between the windows are framed on either side by pilasters
with festoons draped between them at the top. The panels along the
front of the facade represent three of the elements of the world,
Earth, Water and Air. Each element is characterised by different
attributes. Thus on the east end the festoon is made up of flowers
including a large sunflower and lily trumpets and below is a
double-handled vase of daisies, roses and tulips, representing the
earth’s bounty. Next comes Water with a festoon of swans and birds of
prey above a representation of a pelican (although the feet are more
like those of a bird of prey) feeding her young by drawing blood from
In the panel in the centre of the whole facade, in contrast with the
rest of the pargetting which is stark white, the arms of Charles II,
painted in red, blue and gold leaf, add a dramatic touch of colour.
Keeping to the front of the building, under each of the windows one of
the four continents is depicted (Australia is missing, not having been
discovered at the time), each one suitably labelled. From east to west
we have Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
Europe is a crowned female figure wearing a dress with a wide lace
collar and a necklace of pearls. She sits with an open book, holding a
sceptre and a cornucopia. By her side is an animal head, perhaps a
sheep or a horse, and and in the background is a church with a pointed
Asia is again represented by a female figure but this time sitting
under a palm tree. She holds what looks like a storm lamp and a staff.
At her feet is a horse’s head with a bird perched on top and at her
shoulder a lion’s head. A mosque replaces the church in the background.
For Africa a naked man is sitting on a tree stump under a parasol. in
one hand he holds an arrow and around his feet two serpent-like
creatures writhe, one with teeth and the other with a tongue in the
form of an arrow. In the background four small figures and a rooster on
a block complete the whole.
America, on the western end, is represented by a man in a loin cloth
and wearing a feather headdress. In one hand he holds some arrows and
in the other a pipe. A beast with small curved horns rests at his feet.
As well as these main themes many lesser ones occur , and figurative
work intermingles easily with stylised decoration. The side panels of
the windows are decorated with foliage and garlands in figures of ‘8’
and ’S’ designs, and spirals inhabited with figures and animal heads.
Each panel is individual and differs in treatment from others. Even the
mullions on the windows are decorated with a series of bells and
bunches of fruit. An heraldic lion presides over the top of each arched
light. Further garlands of foliage and fruit hang beneath the soffit of
the first floor linking the supporting posts on the ground floor.
Lifting one’s eyes somewhat higher one sees yet more decoration on the
second floor. Mythological figures parade across the pediments of the
dormer windows. Who these figures are is not at all easy to determine.
The easternmost window shows a central figure with a tumbling figure on
either side and it looks as though he has pulled the rug from under
them. Above the next window to the left is a rather enigmatic,
semi-naked figure trailing a torch. In the third pediment a chubby
figure drags a cornucopia of fruits on his shoulder, similar to the
fruits which occur elsewhere on the frontage and on the ceiling of the
first floor room. The westernmost pediment portrays a cherub-type
shooting a bow and arrow. This may be Cupid.
Down St Stephens Lane, the themes of pargetting are quite different
from those on the front of the building. At first floor level the
northern panel shows a rural scene with shepherds. A shepherdess sits
under a tree holding some fruit in her apron and caressing a lamb. Her
crook lies beside her. She is approached by a shepherd with a crook and
a feathers hat in his hand. The whole scene may have had its
inspiration in Classical bucolic poetry, but it is interesting to note
that the figures are dressed in 17th century costume. Above the scene,
between the two pilasters, is a garland made up of agricultural
implements and domestic utensils. Amongst the items a milk churn, and
anvil, pots, sieves and sidles can be picked out.§
Under the oriel window Atlas, with a long beard and wearing a loin
cloth, takes the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Just to the
right of this is a very fine circular leaded window framed by
four angels. Above it, two herbs hold adjoining cornucopias, and below
it is a finely modelled scallop shell.
At the second floor level on the western gable there is a curious
figure of St George killing the dragon. Below this 17th
century-gentleman image of St George there is a very strange false
window which seems to be a part of the original design. Why a real
window was not put in will remain a mystery. There is no evidence to
suggest there was ever a window here which has been blocked up.”
[§ “… On the west end of the house, facing St. Stephen’s Lane, is
represented an uncouth figure of Atlas with a long beard, kneeling on
one knee, and supporting the globe on his shoulders. At the corner, a
little below this, is a pastoral scene; consisting of a figure under a
tree, surrounded by sheep: another figure, a shepherd, is approaching
him, with his hat in one hand, and a crook, which projects from the
wall, in the other: he is leading a flock of sheep; and is in the
attitude addressing the person who is seated beneath the wide-spreading
beech. It is not, however, easy to determine, from the foliage, whether
the tree is meant for beech, an oak, or an elm: but there is little
doubt but that artist, being seized with a fit of classical enthusiasm,
intended this effort as an illustration of the discourse between
Tityrus and Meliboeus, in the first eclogue of Virgil.
We are induced to believe that the ornaments on this building are
emblematical: and we may infer, from this last composition, that the
wool trade then flourished in Ipswich, and was of great importance; and
the other decorations in front, are intended to imply that it was
carried on with all quarters of the globe.” from The
History & Description
of the Town and Borough of Ipswich including the Villages and Country
Seats in its Vicinity more particularly those situated on the Banks of
the Orwell by G.R.
Clarke, 1830 (see Reading List for an online
The term ‘Ipswich Window' is sometimes used to describe an oriel
window which projects out from the main wall, at an upper floor of a
building, but which does not reach to the ground. Such a window is
often supported by corbels or brackets, or is part of the jettied first
floor. However, we learn from a website associated with James Bettley's
excellent Pevsner, East and West Suffolk volumes that the crucial
feature which distinguishes the ‘Ipswich window' is a specific design
of glazing bars within the window:
‘They are similar to a Venetian window with an addition across the
whole width and two small panes over the semi-circle.' This type first
appeared in London about the middle of the 17th century but soon spread
to provincial towns. The spectacular examples on Sparrowe's House (The
Ancient House in Ipswich) led architectural historians to coin the term
‘Ipswich windows'. The window type was picked up and used extensively
by the Victorian architect Richard Norman Shaw and others.
Looking at examples of ‘Ipswich window' it would appear that they are
not necessarily oriel in character, although they can be found in this
form on The Ancient House in Butter Market and The Wheatsheaf at 24
Fore Street (see below). The Ipswich window takes the central
semi-circular section of the ‘Venetian window' which projects above the
rest, adds a glazing bar horizontally through the centre of the
semi-circle and adds smaller panes either side to form a rectangular
This implies that many of the oriel-type windows to be found around our
town, while being attractive, quirky and of interest, aren't actually
‘Ipswich Windows' at all.
We are grateful to John Field for this list of extant Ipswich Windows
in Ipswich, to which we add an extra suggestion;-
1. The Ancient House,
2. The Wheatsheaf,
3. 6 Dial Lane,
4. 28 Tavern Street (corner of Dial Lane),
5. Croydon's building, 50-52 Tavern
6. The Plough in Dogs Head Street,
7. 16-18 St Margarets Plain,
8. Refurbished Parish Room, Church of St
Michael, Upper Orwell Street (shown below) has new windows which
echo the shaping of the Ipswich Window:
Ipswich Windows can be found in several towns in the county. A fine
example is 66 High Street, Hadleigh
(Listed Grade I), which is also dated in the leaded lights.
24 Fore Street
The Wheatsheaf has a flat Ipswich window
in each of
the three gables, plus one in an oriel form to the left at first floor
level; the remaining two oriels don't have the semi-circular feature,
but presumably once did. The Wheatsheaf Inn has been described as the
plain sibling of The Ancient House in Butter Market.
The Listing (Grade II*) text reads:-
A good C17 timber-framed and plastered building with the front in the
same style as the Ancient House in Butter Market, but much more modest.
2 storeys, attics and cellars. The attic storey has 3 large jettied
gables and is lit by mullioned and transomed windows in the gables,
with lattice leaded lights and a semi-circular arch in the centre
light. The first storey is jettied on the whole front with panelled
pargetting and 3 rounded bay windows projecting above the ground
storey, mullioned and transomed with glazing bars and semi-circular
arch in the centre light on the south end window. The ground storey is
faced in C18 brick, now painted. 3 double-hung sash windows with
glazing bars, in plain reveals have boarded shutters. There is a
6-panel door with a plain rectangular fanlight and a C20 shop window
now part of the adjoining shop. No 25 to 28 (qv). Roof tiled.
Nos 24 to 28 (even) form a group with Nos 31 to 43 (odd).'
Incidentally, a Tolly Ales lettered crate was spotted in the Wheatsheaf
when it was opened for Heritage Open weekend in 2015. It can be seen on
our Tolly Cobbold brewery page.
6 Dial Lane
The edge of St Lawrence Church is
visible to the left. No. 6 Dial Lane is a fine building somewhat marred
by the floodlights which illuminate the church opposite. The oriel
window at a high first floor level features the Ipswich Window design,
inspired by The Ancient House a hundred yards away. It also has a
decorative, cast iron rainwater hopper
which may feature a 'G' or, more probably, a ram's horn.
The Ancient House is a few yards from the Art Nouveau shop 'Scarborow' and St
Lawrence Church, both in Dial Lane.
For more buildings in Butter Market see our Symonds
and Giles pages.
The Grand Hotel, 16 Butter
2016 image courtesy The Ipswich Society
In a street with a number of fine buildings,
it's easy to overlook this former hotel. Indeed, as is the way with
tall buildings in narrow streets, it's easy to stand in front of it and
not notice its fine, lofty facade. Although unlettered, its four
storeys of decorative red brick and terra cotta deserve to be included
on this website.
The Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) tells
us that The Bee Hive Inn closed in 1893 and was demolished. A new pub
of same name opened at Majors Corner in about 1900. The Bee Hive Tap is
listed next door until at least 1871. The Grand Hotel had a resident
orchestra and seems to have run from about 1900 onwards until
eventually being converted into shops. Curiously, the 1909 Ipswich
Rates book has it marked 'late', implying that it closed some time in
the subsequent couple of years. During the 1920s and 30s, especially
when being run by Bill Read, this was a popular venue for many off-duty
airmen from nearby RAF Martlesham. (The Salutation in Carr Street was
another popular venue during that time for these pioneering airman, who
were engaged in a wide variety of aircraft and armaments testing.)
Information from Gordon Kinsey book Martlesham
Heath (pub. 1975). It was then run by a grocery company called
Limmer & Pipe for some time. They also used part of the building as
a restaurant. It isn't clear when it became Limmers bar, but this is
remembered by long-standing local residents who drank there in the
1970s. According to the most up-to-date information available from
Ipswich licensing records, it was open at least as late as 1977.
Below: some of the architectural features.
The building is Listed Grade II:
'Former hotel, with ground floor shop, now offices and recently first
floor restaurant. 1894 by Henry J. Wright for E.W. Hodge. Red brick
with red sandstone dressings. Roof not visible. 4 storeys 2 and 3 bays.
Embattled parapet. Gable end internal stacks with recessed panels to
rectangular shaft, and wide oversailing cap. Pilaster shafts to each
end of facade from first floor upwards; moulded stone bases, square
plan with terracotta lion's head at mid first floor level, above which
are polygonal; central chamfered shaft to 2nd and 3rd storeys. Moulded
bands at storey level and to cornice continue across the shafts. The
bands form frieze at 1st and 2nd storeys, that to upper level has
repeated foliate design in terracotta. Ground floor late C20 shop front
with former hotel doorway to right. First floor in 3 bays, defined by
arch above each window, the central bay being wider and with lion's
head keystone to arch, forming base of central chamfered shaft. Central
oriel windows of 1:2:1 semicircular headed lights, the central section
mullioned and transomed. Stained glass to upper lights, pilasters with
moulded bases and finials between the bays. Embattled parapet, similar
mullion and transomed window to left and right, also with stained glass
and beneath moulded terracotta spandrels. 2nd and 3rd storeys similar
except that the 2nd floor is stone dressed, the 3rd floor using moulded
brick. 2 bays. A pair of 3 light windows beneath shallow
4-centre-arched heads with moulded keystones and stops to label. 3
semicircular headed lights to each, that to centre taller. Iron bracket
at first floor level formerly supported street lighting.'
Ken Nichols writing in The Ipswich
Society Newsletter (October 2012): '... the history of the
Grand Hotel in the Butter Market. I remember when it was Limmer's for
two reasons; firstly the wonderful smell of coffee every time 1 walked
up the Butter Market in the 1950s, a smell of the continent for a
teenager at that time. The second connection is that my wife and I held
our wedding reception up in the first floor room with the stained glass
and bow window overlooking the street.'
1909 Charles Goad map
This fascinating 1909 map detail from Edwardian Ipswich is by Charles
Goad (see Links under 'Old maps'). It reveals
how extensive the Grand Hotel was, given its small street frontage.
Butter Market is at the top with St Stephens Lane at the right.
Stabling for the travellers' horses can be seen to the south of the
site. There appears to be an entry from St
Stephens Lane with a lane dog-legging round to the stables and a
covered carriage yard.
Research into 16 Butter Market
Stevens Directory 1881: James
Goodhew, licensed victualler and wine and spirit merchant, The Bee Hive.
Directory 1890: "Beehive", James Goodhewvictualler and winand
Directory 1894: E.W. Hodge, licensed
victualler and wine and spirit merchant, Bee Hive hotel.
Directory 1894: Grand hotel, Percy Chas Bishop
Kelly's Directory 1928: las
entry for 'Grand hotel'. From 1930: Limmer & Pipe, provision
Note: by 1975: a 'Berni Inn restaurant.
'Corder House', 15-19 Butter
Market / 18-20 Tavern Street
images courtesy Ipswich Society
Above: the two facades of Corder House. Left: the more classical
frontage at 15-17 Butter Market; at this time it housed the Habitat
store with Early Learning Centre just visible at no.19 in the
Right: the Art Deco facade at 18-20 Tavern
Street with the entrance to The Walk in the right foreground. At this date two-thirds of the building were occupied by
John Menzies. Both elevations were nominated
for The Ipswich Society Conservation Awards in 1983.
It would appear that Frederic Corder became owner of both addresses and
joined them together into one major clothng store. The map below shows
the conjunction of three buildings which were knocked into one. Today
they are separate businesses.
In September 1966 there was a disastrous fire in
Corder's; contemporary photographs show at least four fire tenders in
attendance in Butter Market.
Research on 15-19 Butter Market
Directory 1881: Alfred Wrinch, Furnishing and General
Ironmongers, Hot Water and Sanitary Engineer; (no. 19: Singer
Manufacturing Sewing Machine Co., Manager Wm Jarvis).
Steven’s Directory, 1890 (nos.
15-17): Alfred Wrinch, Furnishing and General Ironmonger, Hot Water and
Sanitary Engineer, Telephone & Electric Bell Fitter.
Kelly’s Directory, 1903 (no.
17): F. Corder & Son, draper; (no. 19: Singer Sewing Machine Co.). F. Corder & Son were still at this address by the final
volume of Kelly's in 1975.
Note: a receipt for 24 yards of Rufflette tape (£5.00) dated 16.9.1936
(made out to ‘Messrs Green & Hatfield’, the antique dealers on the
corner of St Margarets Plain and Northgate Street), lists Frederic
Corder & Son Ltd. (Governing Director: Bernard Corder) as Linen
Drapers & Silk mercers. Dressmakers & Costumiers, Ladies’
Outfitters & Milliners, Hosiers, Glovers & Furriers, Furnishers
Men’s shop, 7 Butter Market; 18 & 20 Tavern Street and 13 to 19
Butter Market, Ipswich. Telephone No. 3108. Beneath the Borough crest
is: ‘ESTBe. 1787’.
On wonders if Corder’s started at the early date of
1787 at the 7
Butter Market address. They wre certainly there in 1957 (see the
advertisements above). The business was still operating in the enlarged
and rather grand premises, Corder House, which ran between Butter
Market and Tavern
Street in the final Kelly’s
published in 1975. The ‘ESTBe. 1787’ is puzzling. We know that Frederic
Corder, draper, died on 26 January, 1908. The executors of his will
were Maria Corder, John Shewell Corder and Bernard Corder (presumably
all his offspring) – the last being the ‘Governing Director’ mentioned
on the rufflette receipt. John Shewell Corder, Frederic’s son, was a
successful Ipswich architect and illustrator of notable Ipswich
architecture (see following text.
John Shewell Corder (1856-1922)
John Shewell Corder was an influential architect in Suffolk around the
1870s until his death in 1922.
He was born in 1856 in Westhoe, South Shields, Tyne on Wear the
son of Frederick Corder & Jane, formerly Ransome. It would
appear at least two more siblings were born to Frederick & Jane
whilst in Yorkshire. Then sometime in the early 1860s, the family
relocated to St Margarets Green, Ipswich. Here the family expanded
further before Jane’s untimely death in 1864.
Frederick senior originated from Writtle in Essex, while Jane’s family
came from a Quaker line of Ransome in the northeast. These are two
celebrated Ipswich names of the 20th century. Indeed Frederick Corder
was the founder of the silk mercers and drapers departmental store:
Corders of Tavern Street, Ipswich. As yet I have not identified any
connection between Jane, and Thomas Ransome founder of Ransome &
Rapier of Ipswich, though the fact both families had strong Quaker
connections would suggest this possible.
John was educated at Boothams School for Boys at York. On the death of
his mother, his father married Maria Morris, a sister of architect
Joseph Morris. This marriage proved very influential to John’s career.
In 1872 he became ‘articled’ to Mr Morris in his Reading
Offices. John began his own architectural practice in the
Thoroughfare, Ipswich in premises adjacent to his father’s drapery
stores, before setting up home and offices in Wimbourne House in Tower
John then worked on his own. it is apparent his real love was in the
old buildings of the borough. This is borne out by his meticulous and
tactful restoration of The Christ Church Mansion; and The Guild Hall in
Christ Church Mansion is a red brick Tudor house set in several acres
of parklands, which has been open to the people of Ipswich since Felix
Cobbold, gave it to the borough in 1892. Inside there are many examples
of fine period furnishings and art collections including renowned local
artists as Constable, Gainsborough, John Moore, Thomas Churchyard, and
As a junior member of a wealthy Ipswich family, income was not a
driving motivation for work, something that would explain his ability
to spend countless hours on his favourite commissions. It would appear
his sketchings of the old buildings of the borough were in fact his
first love. It was these he would devote much of his time to perfecting.
Two volumes he was responsible for are entitled ‘The Corner Posts of
Ipswich’ and ‘a Brief History of Christchurch or Withepole House’, both
of which give further evidence of this man’s incredible talent.
There are in excess of 100 commissions credited to John Corder. These
range from the construction of no 65 Anglesea road, Ipswich, ‘a three
storey detached house in French Empire style, with Suffolk white bricks
and slate mansard roof complete with cast iron crestings to roof …’, to
a large private house in Edwardian style at Hacheston lodge for a Mrs
Paterson; Additional classrooms for Grammar School in Burkett road,
Woodbridge, and work at ‘The Black Boy’ public house in Sudbury, in the
form of exposed timbers and plaster work in Tudor style, demonstrate
the range of his works.
Click on 'Search Ipswich Historic Lettering' below and insert 'John
Shewell Corder' into the search box to browse all the other mentions of
him on this website.
From the 1960s, Debenhams plc, of which Corder's were then part,
started to build new strategies and more centralised management
structures. It was taking steps to streamline its operations and
purchasing. In the late 1970s or early 1980s the new Debenham store in
Ipswich was built, incorporating Footman and Pretty and Corder's. The
old shops were no more. For more on William Pretty & Son, once
corseteers in the large factory on Tower Ramparts and the amalgamation
with Footman's, eventaully leading to Debenham & Freebody's store
in Westgate Street and Lloyds Avenue see our Charles Street page. Also our Cornhill 1 page for the Footman Pretty &
Co. store and the morphing into Debenhams.
For some vetigial lettering in Butter Market, see our Vestiges page.
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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