Ipswich coat of arms
Above: an illustrated version of the coat of arms as it appears
on the first page of Ipswich
in 1912: King Edward Memorial Sanatorium EADT Souvenir
(available from this website as a PDF download). See
Sanatorium on our Hospitals page.
Above left: the original borough arms, which probably date from
when King John granted Ipswich its Charter, consisted only of the
shield with a rampant lion in gold on a red field and three demi-ships,
also in gold, on a blue field. The arms are as confirmed by William
Hervy, Clarenceux King of Arms in 1561, when he granted the supporters
in silver and the crest surmounted by a demi-lion holding a ship.
Above right: the same arms with additions on a donation plate to
the Ipswich Town Library dated 1746, taken from the book An account of the gifts and legacies that
have been given and bequeathed to chatitable uses in the Town of Ipswich,
1747. These bookplates would have been pasted inside
each donated book.
Above: the coat of arms as it appears on the Buck brothers' Prospect
of Ipswich 1741.
This heraldic emblem crops up in several places in the town.
Architects clearly thought that it was an appropriate addition to some
of the building fascias; either that or the person paying the bill
specified the addition of the coat of arms. If you know
of any other examples in Ipswich, do email us.
Arms: Per pale Gules and Azure
in the first a Lion rampant Gold armed and langued Azure in the second
three demi Boats of the third.
Crest: On a Wreath Or and Gules
a demi Lion Or supporting a Ship Sable.
Supporters: Two Horses of the
Sea commonly called Neptune's Horses maned and fined Gold.
The arms were officially granted on August 29, 1561. The arms are based
on the arms of the Cinque Ports (scroll down to the Tavern Street
entry), the five harbour
towns that were supposed to provide support for the Royal Navy for
several centuries. The common arms of these cities were English lions
with ship-hull tails.
A ship appears on a 13th century rope seal:
13th Century Seal of Ipswich
Several months after the granting of Ipswich’s charter in May
1200, the town’s newly-formed government designed a town seal. The two
rope seals are still kept at Ipswich Town Hall on Cornhill, along with
the Town Mace and Sword (see the following entry: St Mary-Le-Tower).
on it is a Man o’ War vessel with castles fore & aft, it is not so
very different from the small coastal vessels that would have been in
use by the Ipswich merchants of that time. It is possibly an early
representation of the collier ships that would, in future centuries,
become known as ‘Ipswich Catts’. But what is most interesting about the
design, is that many claim that it is the first known example anywhere
in the world of a ship with a movable
opposed to a steering oar commonly in use during that era. (The
reverse of the seal depicts the church of St Mildred on the Cornhill,
which would eventually become the town’s court & Town Hall.)
depiction of the ship hulls on the Ipswich coat of arms varies
according to period and punctilliousness of the designer. The three
hulls sometimes show some sort of rudder. Around the
circumference of the seal are characters. Louis Musgrove tells us that
he thinks the inscription is: SI(GILLUM) COMUNITATIS VILLE
GYPEWICI' or in English: 'The master seal of the town of
of the Sea' or 'Neptune's horses' also vary on the coats of arms shown
here; sometimes they have
realistic horse heads, sometimes they are much more like zoological
sea horses. Their front hooves become webbed claws. One
writer has described the supporters of
the Ipswich arms as wyverns, but a wyvern is described elsewhere as a
"winged two-footed dragon"and we do not see a dragon head, nor wings.
The Mayor's parlour
The Mayor of Ipswich has a fine enamelled chain of office
featuring a version of the town's coat of arms against an anchor and
other maritime motifs; even the actual chain echoes a ship's anchor
chain in design. Such was the importance of international trade by sea
via Ipswich docks to the wealth of the town.
The Town Sword is a Victorian addition to the ceremonial armoury
with brass handle and decorated steel blade. It
commemorates the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria on 20 June 1887 on
the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of her accession in 1837.
The two Town Maces are the gift to Ipswich of Charles II
(reigned from 1660 until 1685), but do not bear the town's insignia.
The motto on the scroll is: 'MUNIA CIVITATIS DECUS CIVIUM' ('The
functions of citizenship are the glory of the citizens'). It also
appears on the coat of arms on the Ipswich Art School (see below).
The Civic Church of the Town is St Mary Le Tower in Tower
Street, the churchyard of which became the earliest meeting-place for
townsmen and Portmen after the granting of the 1200 Charter by King
John. Its interior contains decorative and heraldic elements on the
Town Mace and Sword furnishings which
relate to the Ipswich coat of arms.
An elaborate terra cotta rendition of the Ipswich civic
heraldry. The nose on the left hand sea horse has broken off. This was
a Customs & Excise building at one time.
The Public Sculpture of Norfolk & Suffolk
database (see Links) tells us:
"The panels set between the windows
show the Ipswich coat of arms supported by wyverns and set between
foliage. In the other panels the foliage supports a central vase.
Customs and Excise were only combined in 1909 - which must be the date
of the present building. The coats of arms serve as a reminder that it
was a National Service but that this branch was based in the Port of
Ipswich. Customs and Excise was merged with the Inland Revenue in 2004."
To the right of this coat of arms, at number 38, "The curved pediment
of the doorway is decorated with a striking royal coat of arms with a
fierce lion. The panels set between the windows show the Ipswich coat
of arms supported by wyverns and set between foliage. In the other
panels the foliage supports a central vase. On royal coat of arms:
'DIEU ET MON DROIT [and]
HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE'
A similar (very faded) royal coat of arms can be found on the
side wall of the court in nearby Arcade Street:
'IPSWICH COUNTY COURT'
An employee of a private security firm stopped any further
photographs because "You're not allowed to photograph Government
The Christchurch Park cenotaph
A fine piece of metalwork on the reverse face of the cenotaph in
Christchurch Park shows the Town coat of arms in three dimension,
rising from a chequerboard base.
While unrelated to the town's coat of arms, this strikingly odd
coat of arms can be seen on a modern extension to The Ipswich School in
Ivry Street. In fact it turns out to have rather more
After Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s downfall in 1530, Thomas Cromwell
ensured the survival of the School by securing for it a new endowment
from King Henry VIII and the status of a royal foundation. This was
confirmed by Queen Elizabeth I in the royal charter that she granted to
the School in 1566. For part of the School’s history it was known as
Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ipswich. The school's coat of arms
and motto, 'Semper Eadem' (Latin for 'Always the same'), are those of
Elizabeth I. The upper scroll reads:
(Latin for 'King's School of Ipswich').
The pediment on the cuploa of the Venetian Gothic Town
Hall (1868) bears a variant of the coat of arms – in fact each version
is slightly different, depending on the sculptor and commissioner. Here
the very scaly Neptune's horses support the crest, but the royal lion
above does not sprout from an armoured helmet, but from a small
platform (possibly easier to sculpt). The ship held by this lion is
made of copper, now green with oxidation. The lack of helmet recurrs on
the Mayor's Chain of Office, on Dogs Head Street, the County Library,
the Custom House and elsewhere. Neptune's horses are the features which
seem to have been constantly reinterpreted by designers.
On the Cornhill paving, in front of the Town Hall
entrance is a ground-level metal plaque bearing the Ipswich coat of
arms. When this July 2014 photograph was taken the crest was rudely
covered by a step-ladder foot tied to a market stall; see our Cornhill
page for an uncluttered image. Oddly, Bill Quinton was once again Mayor
of Ipswich at this time. With the repaving of the
Cornhill in 2018, we await to see if this plaque will be replaced.
The above image shows a variant of the Ipswich coat of arms
which seems to feature a sheaf of corn between the 'sea horses' and a
scallop shell at the top. It is to be found high up above King Street and one would need to view it
from the upper window of a nearby building. Below: two views of the
coat of arms above the upper part of Princes
Inside the Corn Exchange is a fine
carved wood example, highlighted in gold:
Perhaps a puzzling one, this. At the side of the central Post
Office building, running down the top of Princes Street, a palladian
triangle carries a carved stone coat of arms which is really only fully
visible from the windows of the gallery which used to be called 'The
Library' in the Town Hall.
Why are the Arms here?
On the second story of the shop on the corner of St Lawrence Street and
Tavern Street, with St Lawrence
Chuch in the background, is set a relief version of the
picked out in bright colours. However, the single lion
rampant has been replaced by three half-lions which exude from the
three ships' prows. In the words of David Allen in a
Suffolk Institute paper: 'The conduit stood on the corner of Tavern
Street and St Lawrence Street, its position commemorated today by a
plaque of the arms of
the Cinque Ports (on which the Town coat of arms is based, see
top of this page) on the wall of no. 44 Tavern Street, which
stands on the site of an earlier property known as the Conduit House.
Its citing as a landmark in 1395 suggests that it was by then a well-
established feature.' Compare with: 'The
conduit stood at the western junction of Tavern Street with St Lawrence
Street, its former presence still indicated by the Town Arms over the
corner premises.' (Muriel Clegg;
for more on the naming of St Lawrence Street see the St Lawrence
Ports coat of arms
See our Water in
Ipswich page for the David Allen citation.
Next-door-but-one from the 'Edme Bakery' lettering at 8-10 Dogs
Head Street, this red brick frontage above the Wahoo shop features a
stepped rise in the centre featuring a rather nice stone Ipswich coat
of arms. The detailing of the cannon ports on all four ship hulls and
the scaley bodies and swirling manes of the 'sea horses' are striking.
at 40 Museum Street (above), we had assumed that this was once a local
government office. Below is a period photograph of this
(or a previous?) building showing not only the Borough coat of arms,
this time painted, at the apex, but also 'EDME
BAKERY' just visible on the eastern face of the next door building.
Eastern Counties Omnibus Company began operating from derelict
land near the old cattle market in the 1930s. Why are the Arms here? The
coat of arms actually relates
to The Ipswich Arms pub which occupied these premises. This
ancient public house is listed as both on Dogs Head Street or at 2
Lower Brook Street. If this photograph and the identification of The
Ipswich Arms at this location is correct then, Dog's Head Street it is.
This Ipswich Arms (as distinct from the pub of the same name in
London Road, now demolished and the site of a Lidl supermarket)
premises from the 1780s to around 1900. Many
of the buses arriving from Felixstowe and
Woodbridge areas would drive through the garage to the right of the
photograph in order to gain entry
to the Old Cattle Market bus station. The building beside the garage
was Eastern Counties booking and information office. The town coat of
arms relating to the former public house name can be seen in
the small brick gable. All of these buildings associated with Eastern
Counties have since been demolished, but the coat of arms was clearly
rescued (or another version made) and resited as we see it today above
the Wahoo shop.
/ Christchurch Park
The main gates to Christchurch Mansion in Soane Street, with
pineapple finial and the old Packhorse Inn
in the background, carry a curly, nicely-painted metal version of the
Ipswich coat of arms.
In 2014 at the rear of the Wolsey Gallery behind the Mansion we
stumbled across two chunky, heavy, cast iron Borough crests. The second
(upside down) example is missing its base and the upper corners of the
background rectangle. They are lying around with one or two
architectural details and column bases (see our Christchurch Mansion page for photographs
of these). If anyone knows where these
two, rather rusty and faded, crests were originally displayed, please contact us.
School, High St
The bearers of the town arms above are definitely zoologically
correct sea-horses without forelimbs.
Here the Neptunes horses have their heads turned towards the
viewer; again, the armour helmet is missing.
Possibly the biggest, most three dimensional (and hardest to
see) Borough coat of arms in the palladian apex of the Wet Dock Custom
House. Note how deep the recess is.
Lots of curling scrollwork surround the crest; again, the armour
hemet is missing, the upper ion and ship emerging from the swirls.
Although not visible above, the crest and supporters sit on a base
resembling dry stone walling which suggests the sea.
The above photographs courtesy Tony
Here the arms of the town are supported by two cherubic figures.
Well, it's seen better days... stained and battered, but
The arms without the supporting sea horses and upper lion
holding a sailing vessel.
Often hidden by algae and creeper, this is a fine piece of relief
brickwork; the arms without the supporting sea horses.
The arms without the supporting sea horses, but with the crest
The scroll beneath reads: 'MUNIA CIVITATIS DECUS CIVIUM' ('The
functions of citizenship are the glory of the citizens'). This also
appears on the Ipswich Art School version in High Street.
Photo courtesy: Mike
The arms (upper left) without the supporting sea horses.
The shield to the right bears the castle emblem of East Suffolk County Council.
Park Road Reservoir
During the partial
demolition and re-landscaping of the
site during 2013, this original entrance was noticed (partially bricked
up for many years). It bears the town coat of arms in a very eroded
condition on a stone block with ball finial
atop it. This presumably dates back to days of the Ipswich Corporation
Water Works as commemorated on one or two hydrant covers in the town's
pavements and in the road name: Waterworks Street.
Only discovered by this website on Heritage Open Day,
2015, is this fine rendition in coloured relief of the coat of arms
above the entrance facing the main porch.
Crown Pools coat of arms
One of the more recent version of the coat of arms to be found
in the town, at the entrance to Crown Pools, Crown Street.
Once worth a large nameplate and three dimensional coat of arms
(even though the door is on Vernon Street), this building, as so often,
is now something else:
'IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL
We do not know what this 'industrial centre' consisted of;
needless to say, it's home to commercial companies these days. A
similar relief version of the Borough coat of arms can be seen on
Crown Pools (shown above).
Three-dimensional, picked out in red, white and blue and now
with added chequerboard base, this crest is small and easy to miss (we
did) at the foot of the 1938 Cliff Lane
almshouse memorial tablet.
Inevitably, the home of Ipswich Borough Council,
Grafton House in Russell Road – since the move from and demolition of
Civic Centre – should be included here, even though the metal coat of
arms resembles a colouring-in plate from a children's book. The screws
fixing it high up on the side wall of Grafton House are beginning to
rust. Civic Drive features street
nameplates with the coat of arms and labelled 'County Borough of
Ipswich' – but all semi-obliterated.
Civic Drive sign
since the Ipswich Charter
Modern steel street signs often
incorporate the Ipswich coat of arms.
This example at the top of Geneva Road has fared better than
many. The coloured emblem has a tendency to fade away over the years,
probably due to the action of the sun. The coat of arms
in the left hand box is the one shown at the top of this web page.
The Tooley brass
Above: a rubbing detail from the brass memorial to Henry Tooley,
his wife and family shows at the top a version of the Borough coat of
The Golf Hotel
on the wall of the bar, possibly early 20th century.
Almost sixty years after its founding, Ipswich Town Football
turned professional and joined the Southern League
in1936. The old striped shirts
were replaced with smart new blue ones with white sleeves, complete
with a club crest, basically the town's coat of arms. (The
modern club crest shows a Suffolk punch horse.)
Buses and trams
Ipswich Transport Museum
features some fine examples of public transport livery of yore and we
show below a restored version of the Ipswich coat of arms on an
& Rapier medal
Ransomes' traction engine transfer
(detail) shows a rather eccentric interpretation of the coat of arms.
Ipswich coin 1794
[UPDATE 13.3.2017: Collector, Michael Sykes, has kindly sent
the above images:
'Hello - I saw your page. I have a 223-year-old token of 1794
with the crest on. It is not on your page. I attach images of both
sides. It has a catalogue (Dalton & Hamer) reference of DH#34 and
has lettering of "PAYABLE AT ROBERT MANNINGS IPSWICH . X X
." on the edge. The motto "KINGS... LORDS...
COMMONS" is below the crest on a ribbon. I am in Bedford
bought the token as I liked it; you can use my images.' For those of us who know little of coins
and their history, it’s perhaps a surprise that in 1794 words were
being inscribed round the edge of a coin. We would guess that most
people first saw this feature on the modern one pound coin. The
lettering around the galleon and ploughman with his team is 'GOD
PRESERVE THE PLOUGH & SAIL'
highlighting these major contributors to economic wealth and power –
those two elements appear as the name of the public house at Snape
Maltings: The Plough & Sail.
the Ipswich farthing, 1670
found at the St
And another Ipswich coin...
[UPDATE 16.3.2018: 'I collected
coins as a young boy and after collecting dust for 35 years I had a
look at them and found this coin. I came across your site whist
trying to investigate its origins. If you know anymore about the coin
that would be great? Kind regards, Michael Durrant.' Many thanks to Michael for these images.
If anyone can shed light on either coin and their history, do email us
on the link below.]
The Ipswich Mint
'Ipswich was an important commercial centre and it is almost certain
that some of the silver coins (series R sceattas) of the early 8th
century were minted in Ipswich. The first silver pennies with the names
of East Anglian kings from Beonna onwards , which bear the names of
moneyers Efe and Tilbert under King Beonna, c.758, and Lul under King
Ethelbert, c.792, are also likely to have been minted in the town.
These moneyers were doubtless men of some status and they might be the
first English residents recorded by name.
For emblem and coat of arms of East Suffolk County Council see our County Hall page.
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission