The Ipswich coat of arms

Ipswich Historic Lettering: 1912 banner
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 also Ipswich Sanatorium on our Hospitals page.
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coat of arms
Official blazon
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.
Origin/meaning
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:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crest 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). Depicted 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 rudder, as 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.) The 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 Ipswich'.

The 'Horses 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.

St Mary Le Tower
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary Le Tower crest small

40 Museum Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crest Museum Street
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'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Museum Street crest 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Museum Street crest 22013 images
A similar (very faded) royal coat of arms can be found on the side wall of the court in nearby Arcade Street:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Arcade Street Court crest 'IPSWICH COUNTY COURT'
An employee of a private security firm stopped any further photographs because "You're not allowed to photograph Government buildings".

The Christchurch Park cenotaph
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cenotaph crest
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.

Ipswich School
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 regal origins.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School crest2014 image
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:
'SCHOLA REGIA GIPPESVICENSIS'
(Latin for 'King's School of Ipswich').

Town Hall
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall crestPhotograph courtesy JohnNorman
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill paving crest2014 image

Corn Exchange
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corn Exchange crest 1  
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 Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corn Exchange crest 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corn Exchange crest 4
Inside the Corn Exchange is a fine carved wood example, highlighted in gold:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corn Exchange 5a

Central Post Office
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall crest 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office crest 42013 images
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'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office crest 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office crest 3  

Tavern Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tavern Street crest 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tavern Street crest 22013 images
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 town's arms, 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 Chuch page).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tavern Street crest 3Cinque Ports coat of arms
See our Water in Ipswich page for the David Allen citation.

Dogs Head Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dogs Head Street crest2013 images
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. As 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dogs Head Street crest period   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dogs Head Street crest 3
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) operated as licensed 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.

Soane Street / Christchurch Park
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Park gate crest
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Christchurch crest 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Christchurch crest 22014 images
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. If anyone knows where these two, rather rusty and faded, crests were originally displayed, please contact us.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Christchurch crest 3

Ipswich Art School, High St
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich Art School crest
The bearers of the town arms above are definitely zoologically correct sea-horses without forelimbs.

Ipswich County Library
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public library 3

Custom House
Possibly the biggest, most three dimensional (and hardest to see) Borough coat of arms in the palladian apex of the Wet Dock Custom House.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Custom House crest

Anglesea Road Hospital
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Anglesea Heightscrest
Here the arms of the town are supported by two cherubic figures.

Argyle Street School
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Argyle St School crest 2
Well, it's seen better days... stained and battered, but recognisable.

Gatacre Road School
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Rd School crest
The arms without the supporting sea horses and upper lion holding a sailing vessel.

Springfield School
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springfield School crest
Often hidden by algae and creeper, this is a fine piece of relief brickwork; the arms
without the supporting sea horses.

Ranelagh Road School
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ranelagh Rd School crest
The arms without the supporting sea horses, but with the crest above.

Bourne Bridge
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bourne bridge crestPhoto courtesy: Mike O'Donovan
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
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Park reservoir crest
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.

Tooley Almshouses
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley 15   Ipswich Histroic Lettering: Tooley 11

Crown Pools
coat of arms
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown Pools crest
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.

Vernon Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gower Street crest2014 images
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
GOWER STREET
INDUSTRIAL CENTRE'

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).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gower St crest 3

Cliff Lane Almshouses
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cliff Lane crest
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.

Grafton House
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grafton House crest 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grafton House crest 2
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.

Willis obelisk
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Willis obelisk crest800 years since the Ipswich Charter

Modern steel street signs often incorporate the Ipswich coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Geneva Road crest 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Geneva Road crest 2
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
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tooley brass crest
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 arms.

The Golf Hotel
Ipswich Historic Lettering: The Golf Hotel 5aSeen on the wall of the bar, possibly early 20th century.

ITFC
Almost sixty years after its founding, Ipswich Town Football Club 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.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: ITFC crest 1933

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 electric tram body.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tram crest

Ransomes & Rapier medal
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ransomes medal
Ransomes' traction engine transfer (detail) shows a rather eccentric interpretation of the coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ransomes transfer crest

Ipswich coin 1794
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 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 but 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.
See also the Ipswich farthing, 1670 found at the
St Mary-At-The-Quay archaeological dig.]




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