Cirencester

Cirencester is the largest town in the Cotswolds and it is known to have been an important early Roman place, along with St Albans and Colchester. The 'cester' suffix indicates the Roman origins; the original name of the town is Corinium. One of the most striking buildings in Cirencester is its medieval parish church. An old town is often a good source of old lettering on buildings; Cirencester doesn't disappoint.

The Church of St John the Baptist, Market Place
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 21   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 222020 images
The Church of St John the Baptist – visitors often mistake it for a cathedral – dominates the Market Place; the oldest part dates to 1115. The great south porch which adjoins Market Place was built around 1500. Its warm stone facades are clean and well cared for, featuring some interesting carvings.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 23-24
The tower is fifteenth century and remarkable for the large buttresses which shore it up at its junction with the nave. The photograph below is close to the top of Gosditch Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 30

26 Market Place
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 17
The large, Italianate Corn Hall is testament to the economic importance of cereal-growing in Cirencester's history (see, as a comparison, the Ipswich Corn Exchange). Constructed from 1862, it marked a turning point in the town’s history. For centuries Cirencester’s fame and fortune had been based upon the wool trade.  Much of the fabulous medieval architecture that makes Cirencester such a beautiful town today was built upon the wealth generated by wool. That all changed with the industrial revolution and the rise in popularity of cotton. Cloth manufacture became centred upon Lancashire and the Pennine mill towns, and Cirencester’s prosperity declined. Facing the challenge, the area’s farmers turned to a broader mix of arable alongside their traditional livestock. The new Corn Hall was opened in 1863. In addition to the main hall, it included a Reading Room and Library, School of Art, business offices, and rooms for the Hall keeper.
Below: the vousoir (decorative keystone) heads overlook five tympana featuring music, navigation, a phoenix, the harvest and the arts.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 18-20

1 Dyer Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 15
'BINGHAM LIBRARY'
The hanging sign in the centre reads: 'BINGHAM HOUSE AND GALLERY'.
The Grade II Listing text includes: 'centre bay has moulded string over ground floor, frieze with relief lettering BINGHAM LIBRARY, moulded cornice with heavy brattishing over'. (Brattishing, or brandishing, is a decorative cresting which is found at the top of a cornice or screen.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 16a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 16b
Today the Bingham Library Trust, named for its benefactor Daniel George Bingham (1830-1913), has gathered a large collection of art and photographs of Cirencester. In 1905, to designs by V.A. Lawson, Bingham built, equipped and endowed the Bingham Public Library. The date on the gable above the door is '1904'.

74 Dyer Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 51   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 52
The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard building was Listed Grade II in 2018. The office closed in 2017.
Built in 1904 and designed by Vincent Alexander Lawson, President of the Incorporated Institute of Architects and Surveyors, (architect of Bingham Library, above) the office brought together the newspaper’s printing and publishing arms for the first time. Established Malmesbury in 1837 the paper moved to Cirencester in 1840. The new offices were designed in the Arts & Crafts domestic revival style, to fit a constrained, narrow site on Dyer Street between existing buildings. The rear of the offices led into a yard facing the rear of the printing sheds which occupied much of the site. The offices and the printing sheds remained in use through the 20th century. In the 1980s, the print sheds were partly demolished and remodelled into offices and domestic units. The signwriter has used a smart, condensed, serif'd capital letterform and heightened it with a pinkish drop shadow (just visible in the close-up below).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 53
Standard Printing and Printing Works, Lewis Lane
Walking down Dyer Street to the juction and turning sharp right into Lewis Lane brings one to the rear of the building, now vonverted to accommodation. 
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 55   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 54
'STANDARD PRINTING
and PUBLISHING WORKS'
Here the sans serif capitals have a definite drop-shadow in sepia brown; the tilting, beflourished 'and' is a joy.

The Old Glassworks, Lewis Lane (corner with Carpenters Lane)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 61
'CABINET MAKER'
It looks as if this lettering (white caps with red drop-shadow on chocolate background) has been repainted during conversion to accommodation. C.W. Neal, glass merchants, moved out of the former cabinet maker's premises in 2018.

Waterworks, Lewis Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 56
'CIRENCESTER URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL WATER WORKS.'
The former water works building is located on the corner of Lewis Lane and Watermoor Road. The site is quite extensive. A water supply for the town was provided in 1882. The plant dates from around 1898. Now mainly residential.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 572018 image
The cast iron, round-ended street nameplate on the corner of the building has certainly seen its own share of water over the years. The opposite junction is the beginning of Cricklade Street.

Lewis Lane street nameplate, junction with Lewis Lane / junction with Cricklade Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 58   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 59
An enamelled metal street nameplate across Lewis Lane from the Watermoor Road sign. White capitals and border on a royal blue background; metal right-angle staples clamp the sign to the wall. The fluted corner stonework of 141 Cricklade Street bears the crowned shield:
‘B
REBUILT
1889’
We assume that the 'B' stands for Bathurst (see The Bathust Estate below); it can also be seen on 10 Black Jack Street. This decorative masonry feature is to avoid turning carts damaging the corner of the building. Street furniture crowds this narrow junction.

54 Querns Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 60
Following the line of Lewis Lane across the crossroads into Querns Lane (a quern is a circular grinding stone, suggesting a mill here), one comes across the former Hope Inn.
‘HOPE
INN
UNRIVALLED
ALES & STOUT’

is a partial sign on the rear of the Sydney Free Saddlery. The lettering is partially obscured by a rainwater pipe and the upper section appears to have been painted over; in 2013 a projecting sign hung from the two brackets still visible covered most of the inn sign. Above the visible lettering one assumes that the definite article appeared and above that the name of a brewery.
‘Another example of lost trade was the Hope Inn, at the corner of Querns Lane and Sheep Street, which has for many years now been home to a saddlery business. Architecturally plain, its 19th century vintage is clearly apparent, as a simple ‘beer house’ without much sophistication. The clue lies in its 1861 designation ‘near the wharf’ – that is of the Thames & Severn Canal basin across the way in Querns Road. Once the canal business and the coal businesses also based there had
declined, the inn lost its particular reason for existence, in this case lingering on until March 1975.’ – Cirencester Archaeological & Historical Society website: [http://www.cirenhistory.org.uk/nl50cirenpubs.htm]


117-119 CrickladeStreet
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 49
The address is picked out in full on a limestone fascia in relief capitals and numerals with some geometrical decoration at each end. This is a modern modification to an old stone building. There has been some archaeogical interest in two undated drystone walls behind the frontage. This building has been converted into flats.

6 Cricklade Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 50
'CIRENCESTER ... BREWERY ... MALTINGS.'
is deeply incised, in sans serif caps, into the three stone slabs.
The maltings was operated by Cripps & Co until 1887 when it was registered as above. The Brewery owned 92 tied houses by 1920. The company was acquired by Simonds Ltd of Reading in June 1937 when brewing ceased. In 1983, the Cirencester Cellar Brewery was opened in the former cellars. This became the Cirencester Brewing Co. in 1986 but ceased in 1987. In 1988 the Cotswold Brewing Co. attempted to restart brewing again but this ceased in 1989. Most of the buildings still exist, including the maltings, now converted to multiple residential housing.

6 Castle Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 62
R. J. Holmes, Opticians, bears a rather good eyeglasses sign.


19-21 Castle Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 29   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 29a
W.H. Smith & Son have been in the bookseller/newslagent trade since 1846. The Castle Street branch features something resembling an old hanging pub sign showing a newsboy with the company name around his hatband selling newspapers from a shallow basket. The old enamelled metal sign (above right) shows one of a number of variations on the newsboy theme in the company's advertising; the original design was Edwardian (1902-1918). This one is fairly close, but we would guess that the hanging sign illustration is a recent reworking.

10 Black Jack Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 25
The 'B ... 1909' raised characters show that some Cotswold stone buildings are relatively recent. Sadly, the second '9' is severely weathered. The 'B' presumably stands for Bathurst (see below).

14 Black Jack Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Jesse Smith butcher 12018 images
This butcher's premises features one of the best mosaic doorsteps (compare with the modern Seasalt step, see below) with multicoloured ceramic tesserae:
'SMITH & CO'
is seen prominently in attractive serif'd capitals – brown-red at the top, black below, with gold-brown 3-D depth. The Art Nouveau influence is particularly seen in the swirling plant and flower forms around the company name.
7 Cricklade Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 142020 image
The modern mosaic shop entrance step is quite encouraging to see – reclaiming a lost art.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Jesse Smith butcher 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Jesse Smith butcher 42018 images
Above: the pig's head in ceramic tiles with bottle-green frame shows the poor animal smiling, presumably prior to its slaughter. Over the shop door is an attractive panel and shaped head to the doorway:
'&
J Co S'
picked out in gold – a somewhat odd monogram in a shield.
'PICKLED
TONGUES'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Jesse Smith butcher   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Jesse Smith butcher 11
'PORK BUTCHERS'
is featured on the stall riser (the bit between the pavement and the shop window cill).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 9   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 10
The doorway features an obscure glazed panel bearing the lettering in fairground-style gold:
'SMITH
6'
Confusingly, the door bears the number '14'.
The passageway has a wrought iron arch with:
'HOME MADE
SAUSAGES'
above.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 12
'JESSE SMITH & CO. ... FAMILY BUTCHERS ... ESTABLISHED 1808'
‘Stable Yard Shopping and Dining’ is located through the cart entrance to the right of the shop.

24 Black Jack Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 26
2020 images
A glimpse into the past down the passageway between shops.

Street name derivation
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 132020 images
Opposite the side entrance to the church, alongside the Crown Inn, is one of Cirencester's oldest streets, Black Jack Street. It apparently takes its name from the statue of St John the Baptist which once stood below the church facing down this street. The statue ('
Black Jack') having become blackened with local metal forging activities, the street became named after the statue.

The Bathurst Estate
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 27   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 28c
Black Jack Street leads into Park Street, which passes the Corinium Museum to reach the 'front door' of the large Cirencester Park (the parkland entrance is in Cecily Hill), based on the Bathurst Estate (on behalf of the 9th Earl and Countess Bathurst).
Cirencester Park is also the name of the mansion close to Park Street. The house if Listed Grade II* and the gardens Grade I. The house has the tallest yew hedge in Britain. The semi-circular hedge, which is 40 feet high, 33 feet wide and 150 yards long, is believed to have been planted in about 1710. The tonne of clippings produced by its annual trimming are sold to pharmaceutical companies who use extracts as a key ingredient of a chemotherapy drug. Wandering into the old stable/carriage yard, now the Estate Office, the date '1878' is displayed on the cast iron rain-hoppers and the stone diamond in the gable.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 28a
The doorway is crowned with a decorative 'B' for the earldom name: Bathurst. This is seen again in the dated buildings at 10 Black Jack Street and 141 Cricklade Street included on this page. One can assume that the buildings were erected on the Bathurst estate.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 28b

3 Gosditch Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 31   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 31a
Harry Hares Bar & Grill (with and without bin) owned by St Austell Brewery. It is Listed Grade II and has a very decorative, gothic arched gound floor frontage.

13-15 Gosditch Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 32
The former Capital & Counties Bank bears named shields, in gothic lettering: ‘Cheltenham, Stroud, Redditch, Stow-on-the-Wold’) and is Listed Grade II.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 33   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 34
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 34a
'AD 1873'
appears on a flowing scroll on the crow-stepped gable just below the roof level.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 35
A somewhat surrealist touch appears on a small shield above the main entrance: four dismembered hands tie up a sheaf of wheat. This feature is largely obscured by a bracket which once carried a sign. The scroll below reads:
'VIS UNITA FORTIOR'
(Latin for 'United strength is stronger', which might seem a little tautologous).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 36   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 37
The Listing text adds: '... moulded eaves cornice with carved heads, to far left and right acting as gargoyles discharging into square-section cast-iron down pipes with decorative hopper heads'. The text includes the statement that this building is 'now showroom, workshops and offices'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 38
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 48
Gosditch Street runs from the church, into Dollar Street and continues into Gloucester Street. As yet we have not found a definite derivation for the name,

5 Dollar Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 39   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 40
Above: an interesting Grade II Listed building on Dollar Street, with figures (around two-thirds height) in niches on the first floor. The one on the right holds a lyre; that on the left must have held something once, preumably an instrument. Parts of the building date from the 16th century, the facade is 19th century. The junction to the left of the shop is the narrow Coxwell Street. The first house past the depth of the shop is no. 2 Coxwell Street and it features an inscription in stone above the doorway:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 40a
'REE ... 1676'
The first 'E' is raised, so that it could read 'ERE ... 1676'. We believe that this building is not listed and we have not seen a reference to this old lettering and date.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 42
Above: a signifier of the way in which our town centres are changing is the 'proper shop' front on Dollar Street: 'A.J.Whiddett' is in a cursive script with underline flourish, all set at an angle above the door. On either side are 'BAKER' and 'CONFECTIONER'. The shop closed in July 2019 after 58 years of business, having closed its Cricklade Street branch a couple of years earlier

3 & 5 Gloucester Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 45   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 44
A few yards past the end of Dollar Street is an unusual school building built in c.1714. The Grade II*
Listing text includes: 'Eaves cornice returned in stone; false flank wall above cornice with carved bracket over eaves to right side and frieze and moulded stone cornice has keyed oculus with plastic sign in place of former painted inscription...' which reads:
'The
Blue School 1714
and the
Yellow School 1722
were established in
Powell's School House
and amalgamated as
Powell'
School
in 1876.'
These charity schools were eventually named after the original benefactor, Thomas Powell. A group of Cirencester residents instituted a charity school in 1714 to teach and clothe 40 boys and 20 girls, while younger children were to be taught in dame schools. The school became known as the Blue School, from the colour of the boys’ uniforms. The Yellow School for Girls was established so that twenty girls were also to be clothed and taught to read, say their prayers and catechism and to spin. The Yellow School was a separate institution from the Blue. Powell's School continues today.

Street name derivation
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 47   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 46
The 'Dollar St.' street nameplate – with its unnecessary full stop, pedantys – is in cast metal – probably aluminium. The information plate explains the derivation. Further down Dollar Street we finds a most pleasing pair of blue enamelled metal street nameplates.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 43

Spitalgate Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cirencester 43a
This street name is apparently unique in the country. It is the site of the 'Hospital Of St John', Listed Grade I. This gothic-arched, surviving portion of the arcade of the hall of The Hospital of St John, founded by Henry II in 1133. The existing building can be dated to the late 12th century with later alterations and much restored in the 20th century.
The actual Spital Gate gatehouse is all that is left of Cirencester Abbey. It dates from the late 12th century. The attached cottage is thought to have been added in the 17th century. An Augustinian Abbey was founded here in 1131. It was built on site of an Anglo-Saxon minster founded in the reign of King Egbert (802-39). The abbey was dissolved in 1539 as part of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The location is on Grove Lane (the A147). From Middle English spitel,  from Medieval Latin hospitāle (a charitable house to receive and care for sick people, later distinguished from a hospital as being especially for those of a low class or meagre financial means).



Return places outside Ipswich
Home
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
Search Ipswich Historic Lettering
2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission