Black Horse Lane

Black Horse Lane is described as an intramural lane in that it is within the ancient defences, its northern end entering Westgate Street inside the Old Bar Gate, otherwise the West Gate (see also Lady Lane). In the 18th century it was known as Gaol Lane, relating to the gaol built into the West Gate and a later gaol erected around the site of the New Wolsey Theatre. The narrow alleyway, today called Black Horse Walk, drops southwards and widens into Black Horse Lane to end at a wide junction with Elm Street to the west (and what would once have been Mount Street to the east). Having noted that Black Horse Lane (and its continuation, Curriers Lane) was on the inside of the medieval ramparts, a similar trajectory was once found in Lady Lane which dropped down to The Mount and continued as Tanners Lane, both lying on the outside of the rampart. Some of the rows of cottages and courts at the lower end of Lady Lane were raised two or three feet above the lane on the strip of land between it and Black Horse Lane; this was the remains of the medieval earthen rampart. Looking at maps of Ipswich up to the present day, you can trace these double streets either side of the line of the rampart most noticeably from Major's Corner westwards (Old Foundry Road and Tower Ramparts on the inside, St Margarets Street/Crown Street on the outside). The demolitions and dual carriageway of Civic Drive and construction of the Civic Centre in the 1960s obliteratd most of Lady Lane and all of Tanners Lane.

Detailed maps from 1902 of this area can be found on our Civic Drive page.

Wolsey's birthplace?
So The Black Horse is within the line of the original rampart of the town. Not only that, but some scholars claim that The Black Horse building could stand on the site of the birthplace of Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530). An alternative birthplace is given as the Black Bell pub at 34 Museum Street and later in Elm Street.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Black Horse 5Photo courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive
Above: The Black Horse public house, 23 Blackhorse Lane, Ipswich in October 1984. Front/side view, with name lettering on the gable.
The Black Horse is Listed Grade II: "A C16 timber-framed and plastered building with a cross wing at the north end and a wing extending east at the rear. It was altered in tile C18 and later. The first storey was jettied originally but was later built out in brick, probably in the C16, now painted." The Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) tells us that it was originally a merchant's house, it did not become a public house until after 1689; a Tudor doorway survives within the remaining building with Jacobean workmanship. This suggests that there was an earlier building here which could date back to the time of Wolsey's family.

The Black Horse, or its predecessor merchant's house, would have had spacious grounds, surrounded by open fields and meadowland and with an uninterrupted view of the River Gipping from its raised location. Difficult to believe today. Carol Twinch in Ipswich Street by street (see Reading list) reminds us that there is also a connection with Margaret Catchpole because her brother Charles enlisted in the 33rd Regiment of Foot here.

St Mary-at-Elms Cottage
Ipswich Historic lettering: Black Horse 12015 images
This photograph from the yard of The Black Horse shows the relationship with the 15th century cottage behind St Mary-at-Elms Church (see that page for the Listing text), in fact it is conjoined with one of the pub's out-buildings.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Black Horse 2   Ipswich Historic lettering: Black Horse 3
The view of the rear from the car park/beer garden area shows the crossway (which sits at right-angles to Black Horse Lane) and the sections which have been added over time to extend the pub to an 'L'-shape.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Black Horse 4  

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