The Crown & Anchor and other lettering in Westgate Street


The Crown & Anchor Hotel at 10-14 Westgate Street stands as a palatial monument to what once was in the town centre. Until refurbishment and modernisation of the interior and rear buildings in the nineties the Crown & Anchor Hotel had struggled to regain its position as a top hotel in the town centre. The stables and out-houses stretch right back to Tower Ramparts where All Fired Up now have premises; the side bar, The Crown & Anchor Tap, used to open onto Providence Street and many will recall it being busy and noisy with lunchtime business drinkers on a weekday. The key to its demise is probably that modern visitors want to drive to their hotel and park for free. A nineteenth century hotel in the town centre based on horse and coach traffic just couldn't provide this, so it was converted into shops.

Once again (see also the Old Post Office) we have a decorative facade emblazoned with its name, function and date, yet it's a branch of W.H. Smith. A banner at the top right above a window (see close-up towards the bottom of this page) gives the date of
'1897'. However, this characteristically spired and decorative frontage features on an 1859 deguerrotype by W. Vick taken from Cornhill (see also that page for an 1830 illustration of the same scene). It appears from behind the American Stores (a building demolished in the 1870s to make way for Grimwades clothier's shop, later Clinton's Cards) when Westgate Street was much narrower. Moving to the left of this old view, we would find the site of Mannings public house. Next door to the hotel is the Palladian fascade of Waterloo House, later Footman's store which morphed into the present-day Debenham's. One can only wonder what might have been if this building hadn't been torn down.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown & Anchor 1  1859 view
Very little around the Crown & Anchor remains: the austere red brick frontage which becomes the new Debenhams store to the right of the colour image (above) has replaced the original Footman Pretty building. However, the architectural lettering abounds on the old hotel frontage.
'THE ... CROWN & ANCHOR ... HOTEL'
in 'gothic' lettering lies on the furled stone banner high up: the condition of the stone-carved characters is poor, so we include an enhancement below.  This banner sits above a regal looking shield, crown and lions couchant in the centre, flanked by roundels featuring the crown and anchor motifs. The name of the hotel is repeated without the definite article in pierced plain capitals with latticework surround on the portico above the central door.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown & Anchor 2  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown & Anchor 3a2012 images
The close-ups below show the rather weathered dated scroll, which can be seen above the top right window of the building, and the pierced name over the frront door. Originally designed in 1849 by John Medland Clark, who also designed the Custom House in 1845 and the replacement Tooley's  Almshouses in Foundation Street in 1848, the building underwent several changes.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown & Anchor 4
The reason for the difference in dates mentioned above is that the decorative design of the hotel front is by Fred Russell, an architectural artist whose work was much in demand locally.  It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1897 – hence the rather unusual, off-centre placing of the date. It incorporated in its Venetian-Gothic style two older inns,  The Chequers (at one time known as The Rampant Horse: a name that reappears on our Needham Market page) and the 16th Century Griffin. The Griffin was renowned for its role as one of the town's earliest theatres; in the early 1700s the Duke of Grafton's players performed there regularly. (Source: Twinch, C. see Reading List) A group of actors who went on to become Giffard's Troup with whom David Garrick made his stage debut in 1741 at a theatre in Tacket Street called the Playhouse. This building itself underwent changes and ended up a the town's Salvation Army Citadel, but still had traces of the earlier theatre interior including the boxes. Projecting into the present-day line of Tacket Street, the Citadel along with the Outdoor Centre, and a gentleman's outfitters indicated the ealier narrower street when a line of shops obscured the view of Christ Church. All were eventually demolished and the road and pavement pushed back to be level with that outside the Avis Cook audio shop as shown on our Price shop page.

A disastrous fire swept through the hotel in 1885 and a partial rebuild was necessary. Local architect William Eade was selected for the rebuild and he employed builder Alfred Coe (as featured on tiny brick-sized plaque in Carr Street). Ipswich was booming, engineering was at its peak and transport by both steamer and steam train made distribution of goods straightforward. The hotel enjoyed a resurgence and after the
Tollemache brothers had purchased the Steam Brewery in 1888 they set about buying licenced premises including, as their premier hotel, the Crown & Anchor. After ten years the brothers felt that the hotel needed refurbishment to improve trade.

 The man responsible for this Victorian gothic stonework re-fronting of The Crown & Anchor Hotel was one of the foremost 19th century Ipswich architects, Thomas W. Cotman, nephew of the famous watercolourist, John Sell Cotman. His use of stone – not a characteristic local building material in Ipswich – for business premises is unusual and can be seen in other fine town buildings: the nearby Lloyds Chambers on Cornhill, the Chelsea Building Society offices at the corner of King Street and Princes Street, as well as Harvest House in Felixstowe, schools, commercial premises and houses in the area. (This last paragraph based on an 'Evening Star' interview with Ipswich Borough Conservation Officer, Bob Kindred, relating to the recent renovation of the interior and exterior of the Chelsea Building Society's Normandy Gothic building, 14/1/04.) The plainer west end of the building remained as hotel rooms above a retail shop on the corner of Providence Street.
The Market Bar, or Tap Room ('The Tap') of the Crown & Anchor was accessed via a discrete entrance in Providence Street with a degree of physical separation from the hotel. The Tap was usually packed at lunchtimes, particularly on market days. The name Market Bar may have dated from the period when the cattle market was held on the nearby Cornhill. See the photograph below for the former entrance to the Market Bar.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown & Anchor TapPhotograph courtesy John Norman
Tolly Cobbold (as the owners became) sold the hotel to Trust House Forte who continued to operate it until 1987. They then applied for planning permission to demolish the hotel and construct a shopping centre with a bridge over Providence Street into the Marks & Spencer store and across Tower Ramparts into the car park which is on the site of the William Pretty corset factory (which itself once boasted a lettered covered bridge into the rear of the Footman Pretty store, now Debenhams – see our Lost trade signs collage. Planning permission was granted, but the scheme was never built: a lucky escape. In 1989 a simpler 'change of use' application resulted in the conversion of the hotel into retail premises. In 1994 W.H. Smith crossed Westgate Street and relocated in the Crown & Anchor. One of the requirements of the planners was that a highly decorated room from the old hotel be retained and its unusual decorative tiles be available to the public. This room is upstairs at the rear of the shop, to the right of the back stairs. [Additonal information supplied by John Norman.]

As so often with hostelries and hotels, the Suffolk CAMRA website is invaluable in providing additional information:
'The current building stands on the site of earlier pub(s) known to date back at least to the 16th century. A report in the Suffolk Chronicle on 13 March, 1813 states that: "Crown and Anchor Tavern, Hotel and Coffee House, Ipswich. Announcement that the landlord, George CRISP will shortly open his new Billiards Room."
Listed in 1823 as a commercial inn, and 1855 as a posting house, and in 1874 as the "Crown & Anchor Family & Commercial Hotel & posting house". A report in the Ipswich Journal on 20 Sept. in 1861 states that: "The Crown & Anchor, Ipswich, to be let. Basement ; Excellent Wine & Beer Cellars; Ground Floor : Entrance Hall, Lobby & Open Staircase, Commercial - Room, Bar & Bar Parlour, Pantries, Kitchens, Large Market-Room; Above are 3 sitting-rooms, 17 bed-rooms & 2 large Attics; Spacious Yard & Stabling, containing 26 stalls & 2 loose boxes, open & lock-up Coach-Houses & Harness Rooms; a Billiard Room & Tap." In 1912 it was listed as a commercial hotel & motor garage. The early 20th century fine stone façade hides a much older building.'
(Note: the '1897' dated stone scroll on the facade seems to contradict this last point.)
See also the Pubs & Off-licences page and the Tolly Cobbold House & Brewery pages.

11 Westgate Street
Just across from the former hotel is a deco-style shop frontage with an intriguing date at the top: '19 EH 22'. We know that owners of newly built or modernised property, or the architect, sometimes put their initials at the top of dated buildings (see other examples in Freehold Road and in Hadleigh). So who is 'EH'?
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 1922EH

16-26 Westgate Street
Since we are looking at art deco buildings with relief lettering up high, we must include the Marks & Spencer store several doors up Westgate Street from The Crown & Anchor:
'M & S'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: M&S 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: M&S 1 2013 images

See also Lost Ipswich trade signs for Thomas Seckford's 'Great Place' in Westgate Street, destroyed during the cutting-through of Museum Street in the 1840s.

59-61 Westgate Street
Further up the street, close to the site of the original West Gate and gaol, demolished in 1781, is the former Bretts furniture shop. By 2015 Brett's have moved out to their new store on Bramford Road and the shop is shared with other businesses by Baldwins, itself having its roots in the town centre Co-op stores in Carr Street. Tim Leggett noticed that, while all the shop signs on Westgate Street have been changed, 'BRETTS' hang on here, on the side of a jettied upper storey to catch the eye of strollers up the narrow north end of Black Horse Lane (Black Horse Walk). It's a little like the 'Barnes of Ipswich Ltd' lettering which persists at the rear of their former shop in Upper Orwell Street. Suprisingly, perhaps, the Bretts sign which projects out into Westgate Street from the shop-front has also been left in place by the owner in 2015.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bretts 2  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bretts 12015 photos courtesy Tim Leggett
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bretts 32016 images
Black Horse Walk in 2016.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bretts 4




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