Lodge, Curson Plain, Wolsey Gate
47 St Nicholas Street
For over a century
(until 1970) the building on the corner of St Nicholas Street and
Silent Street was
a chemist's, the whole building covered in painted rendering. The
striking lettered sign on the gable:
'THE WOLSEY HOUSE PHARMACY'
was surrounded by smaller signs: 'CASH DRUG STORE, DISPENSING CHEMIST,
CASH PRICES, DARK ROOM, DRUG STORE'. This rather American-sounding
vocabulary replaced the earlier:
'THE WOLSEY HOUSE PHARMACY. CHEMIST AND
DRUGGIST, PAINTS OILS AND VARNISHES, F.H.PALMER.' (as featured in our Collage of lost signs; interesting combination
The shop facing St Nicholas Street was in recent
Cardinal Café and a sweet shop. It became known as Wolsey's house, but
was a misleading name. Thomas Wolsey lived as a boy in a similar sort
on the opposite side of the road – roughly on the site of the old
Ipswich Hippodrome, designed in 1905 by famous theatre architect Frank
Matcham and demolished in 1984 – in the 21st century the modern,
suitably named, block Cardinal House. (We found an interesting note
concerning the Hippodrome and the nearby Rose
Hotel.) Another misnomer sometimes employed for Curson Lodge is
"Wolsey's birthplace". It is thought that Wolsey was actually born near
St Mary-at-Elms and a prime candidate
is the Black Horse public house (or
the previous building on the site)
which still stands on the corner of
Black Horse Lane and Elm Street. We have more on Thomas Wolsey and his failed College,
with the Wolsey Gate further down this page.
Curson Lodge today
St Nicholas Street
There are two timber-framed
buildings here, the one with the corner-post and the adjoining building
reaching up Silent Street. This northern building (here painted pale
green) was part of the Ipswich Building Presentation Trust (see Links) restoration project on this site. John
Barbrook, historian of the Crane engineering
family: "The other attachment (nothing to do
with the subject) is from the Museum Street church magazine The Myrtle
for 1934. Amongst the advertising was one placed by my grandfather,
Robert Charles Barbrook, for
his shop which was at nos. 45 and 45a St Nicholas Street – once
separate from, then reunited with Curson
Lodge. He ran the business from around 1930 to 1947. Isn’t life
(and, of course, Ipswich Lettering) interesting?" Thanks to John for this interesting piece
of ephemera. See our EUR page for John's
receipt from the Independent Order of Rechabites.]
Images courtesy John Barbrook
'R. C. BARBROOK
45 & 45a, St. Nicholas Street,
Tobacco and Cigarettes
All leading varieties kept in stock.
LADIES' & GENTLEMEN'S
Cleanliness, Civility & Satisfaction Guaranteed
All Charges Moderate. - Razors Re-set
NO SUNDAY TRADING.'
image courtesy John Barbrook
The above postcard, photographed by Gillson of Ipswich (with its
erroneous caption) shows views up Silent Street and , albeit a bit
blurred, up St Nicholas Street from Curson Lodge. On the reverse of
John's postcard is the handwritten "Dad's shop". It dates from around
1930 (close-up of the shop shown below). Next door, the chemist's shop
features the signs: 'FILMS PRINTED, DEVELOPED & ENLARGED' as well
as 'FOOT COMFORTS'.
R.C. BARBROOK. Tobacco[nist]'
R.C. Barbrook ran two businesses – hairdressing at
number 45 and
tobacconist and confectioner at 45a. The last occupiers of these two
units were Ivan and Val Harvey who ran both the Cardinal Café and the
Wolsey Sweet Shop there for many years up to its closure in 1996.
The right-hand photograph is of the last occupant (and the boarded-up
mural) as it was prior to the time the premises were closed for the
last time in 2007. The timber door to the right of both photographs
above is the one shown below, today bearing two plaques; the larger,
framed plaque is clearly in place in 1930.
When Curson Lodge was an inn, its location just north
of the commercial port area would have attracted a great many visitors
seeking accommodation. Curson House was used as a
hospital for soldiers wounded in the Dutch wars from the 1650s. The
is said to have operated as an inn during most of the 18th
century and also for a period during the early 19th century. From 1838 the corner premises were occupied by
William Silverston, a chemist. The junction then became known as
The corner post sits on a stone foot (presumably where the original
timber foot rotted over the centuries) an bears attractive carvings and
supports. Below: the carver's or merchant's mark which, so far has
it bears comparison with The Packhorse Inn
on St Margaret's Plain/Soane Street. Coincidentally the opposite face,
also carved, bears a blank shield, as does the Old Packhorse.
In February 2013 a car crashed into the corner post, dislodging it. As
reported in the Ipswich Star,
the incident did not do lasting damage to the 540 year-old building,
but did shed some light on its history. "... Star photographer Lucy
Taylor was taking pictures of the damage and spotted a broken old
pharmacy bottle with paper inside. It turned out to be a business card
for the Wolsey Pharmacy, which occupied the store until the early
1970s. There was a pharmacy on the site from the 1830s, but in 1902 it
was bought by George Nelson Edwards who had it refitted. The bottle
contained a card with picture of the pharmacy from the 1890s, a
business card for the new owner, and a document showing who had carried
out the work – the former owner’s name is crossed out and Mr Edwards’
name is added in. After the pharmacy closed the building became an
antiques shop, but it was empty for several years until it was restored
by the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust (see Links)
in a major work which was
completed in 2007."
Much more modern, but still of interest are the shop awnings which pull
out above the shop windows"
on the cast plate, the lettering either side of the
metal loop into which one would inset the pole-hook. The company ‘Deans
Blinds & Awnings’ was established in 1894 and it was started by a
policeman’s son called Tom Dean; it was then taken over by his brother
John. It seems John Dean and subsequent generations of his family were
involved in the ownership of Fulham Football Club as well as
manufacturing blinds and awnings. The firm is still in business making
awnings and trade signs.
A small detail noted on the Silent Street elevation, at about three
feet above the pavement is the carved wood spandrel shown below.
Riddled with woodworm holes, the timber pegs are clearly visible and
the decorated section seems to be a repacement section, cut into the
surrounding original wood.
Some might argue that this lettering isn't really 'on'
But it's certainly historic and worth including for its links to Thomas
Wolsey, surely Ipswich's most famous son, who was born next to St
Mary-At-Elms Church (probably on the site of The Black Horse). The
building on which these
plaques are fixed became quite famous as laying empty, boarded up,
unused and neglected for many years. Thanks to the
Preservation Trust (see Links), it is now
refurbished and in use: two shops and two
first floor flats. For more IBPT projects see
the links on our Blue plaques below the
EARLY-TUDOR BUILDING IS A RARE SURVIVAL OF A MEDIEVAL INN.
THE SURVIVING RANGE ALONG SILENT STREET WAS ALWAYS INTENDED
FOR THIS PURPOSE. THE CORNER PROPERTY OF ST NICHOLAS STREET
MAY HAVE BEEN USED AS A MERCHANT'S HOUSE AND SHOP. THIS WAS
LATER ABSORBED BY THE INN. AN IMPRESSIVE GROUND-FLOOR HALL AND
A SUITE OF LODGING CHAMBERS ON THE FIRST FLOOR WERE ACCESSED
FROM A GALLERY AT THE BACK.
THE BUILDING WAS RESTORED IN 2007 BY
THE IPSWICH BUILDING PRESERVATION TRUST'
The sign below is older
and the legend
thereon almost poetic in its phraseology:
'NEAR THIS 15TH CENTURY HOUSE
ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE WAY
STOOD IN 1472 THE HOME OF
ROBERT AND JOAN WOLSEY,
WHERE THE GREAT CHILD OF HONOUR
CARDINAL, ARCHBISHOP, CHANCELLOR,
PASSED HIS BOYHOOD.
IN HIS POWER AND PRIDE
HE RANKED HIMSELF WITH PRINCES
AND TROD THE WAYS OF GLORY.
IN HIS FALL
HE DIED A HUMBLE MAN
AT LEICESTER ABBEY
ABOUT THE HOUR OF EIGHT
ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 29TH
AND WAS THERE BURIED AT DEAD OF NIGHT.'
His birthplace could well be on
the site of The Black Horse public house (see Street name derivations for Black Horse
Lane for more information). For more about Wolsey
and his 'Cardinal College' see also the update on our Lady Lane page.
Curson Lodge cellars
Although it is not commonly seen by the public, it is worth
recording this lettering on a cross-beam in the vaulted cellars beneath
Curson Lodge. This was photographed during an Ipswich Building
Preservation Trust guided walk led by Margaret Hancock on Heritage Open
Weekend in September 2014.
'No 1 Fn Sprs
We think that this could date back to the days of the building
being run as an inn. Does it mean: 'Number 1 Fine Spirits & ...'?
House, Curson Plain
Curson Lodge should not
be confused with Curson House, built in 1500, which once stood on the
opposite corner. To quote the historian Lilian Redstone:
"Curson House with spacious parlours buillt round a courtyard at the
south-east corner of the present Silent Street and Rose Lane (then
Curson Lane) was the home of a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Robert
styled 'Lord' Curson (c.1460-1534/5), who lived here in state with his
servants, his wife, Dame Margery, and her three gentlewomen, and two
chaplains to serve the chapel within the large garden." It is difficult
to imagine such a thing when one looks at the rather crowded,
semi-industrial Rose Lane today. The house was undoubtedly very grand
with a portico standing far out into the street. The present-day
building on this site has retail units on the ground floor and is
called Curzon[sic] House. For a note about the great house's role as
"King's Hospital" and the probable source of the name Silent Street see
Street name derivations.
For a 1528 map of the area including Curson House and Lodge, see our Wolsey's College page.
Lord Robert Curson played a key role as witness and reporter of the
'miracles' at the shrine of Our Lady of Grace in 1516 (see the update
on our Lady Lane page). He played host to
Katherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey at
Curson House, all attracted by the short-lived fame of the shrine.
Ironically, part of Wolsey's grandiose College scheme was to evict poor
Lord Curson from his house in St Nicholas Street and take it for his
own use. The very house where Curson had entertained the Maid of
Ipswich during the wonders of 1516. Curson's letter to Wolsey in the
summer of 1529 begs for compensatory lands and for three years grace
for him to find another house. [Blathchly, J: Miracles in Lady Lane, see Reading List]
For a rooftop view of Curson
Lodge and Silent Street see our Sailors Rest
This wider area of paving and roadway between
Curson Lodge and the Sailors Rest seems to have been named 'Curson
Plain' around the time of the installation of the Cardinal Wolsey Sculpture in 2011.
However, we haven't found a street nameplate to this effect.
'The Wolsey Gate',
The brick gateway is next to the churchyard of
Although it is all
that remains of the college founded by Cardinal Wolsey in 1528, the
shaping of the brick in the flanking piers and hood molding of the
panel over the doorway indicate in miniature the quality of workmanship
achieved under his patronage.
FORMERLY SERVED THE
SCHOOL FOUNDED BY
WOLSEY IN 1528 AS THE
CARDINAL’S COLLEGE OF SAINT MARY’
In the 16th century the Orwell river dock would have come up to
around the centre of College Street. Thus this is the water gate
of Wolsey's ill-fated college and it is the only part of
the grand scheme to survive. Sadly, it is in very poor condition
compared to photographs as recent as those taken in the 1920s. The
indecipherable now, the stone eaten away by industrial pollution and
Ironically, the much-more-recent plaque commemorating the gateway and
its importance is also disintegrating at an even faster rate. The coat
of arms to the left is that of Wolsey, chosen by him when he was made
Archbishop of York and a cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1514, with a chief
of two Cornish choughs either side of a Tudor rose (showing allegiance
to Henry VIII) and four leopard's heads around a lion passant below.
The 1785 engraving below shows the coat of arms of Henry VIII on the
only stone element of the gate,
although it is almost unrecognisable today due to erosion. In the 1820s
the Wolsey gate was described as: "... entirely of brick, worked into
niches, wreathed pinnacles, and chimneys, flowers, and other
decorations, according to the fashion of the times. At present it seems
nodding to its fall, being much out of the perpendicular." Once the
College had fallen, "Henry VIII was said to have taken offence to the
fact that Wolsey had placed his own arms above that of the king's on
the Gate House, and most of what occupied the six-acre site was 'razed
to the ground'... Although the Gate is said to have been the entrance
to the College, it is not likely that it was the main one so it will
never be known if, in fact, Wolsey had placed his arms above the king's
or whether this was just one of the many charges laid at the Cardinal's
door when he fell from favour." [Twinch, C.: Ipswich street by street, see Reading list] See our Wolsey's College page for
long-demolished Turret House, which could have been the main gatehouse
for visitors from the north.
The 1785 engraving above shows the gate
closer to its original appearance; note the small gate to the left into
the churchyard of St Peter. Although this small gateway and wall
has been modified, the
brickwork wall around this area and passing behind the east of the
church still stands and is a registered historic monument (see our College Street page for photographs).
By the 21st
century the "wreathed pinnacles, and
chimneys" of the water gate are truncated and the stone eaten away.
Further images of the gate can be found on the College Street and Wolsey's College page. There is a small
copy of Wolsey's Gate at 'Annesley Hall' (built c. 1860), Boot Street,
Great Bealings (shown below); it's easy to flash past this on the
narrow but rather too busy
Perhaps not too surprisingly, Christopher Fleury's design for
the new Ipswich School, opened in 1852, incorporated a central
porch (and other window details particularly the pinnacles) echoing the
Wolsey Gate architecture, as for a brief couple of years 'Wolsey's
College' was 'Ipswich
School' (and vice versa).
(See our Blue plaques page for the
Sherrington plaque on the school chapel.)
Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s
Chancellor, established the
Cardinal College of St Mary the Virgin in his home town in 1528
incorporating the medieval Church of St Peter as its chapel. The
College buildings were never fully completed because Wolsey fell from
1530 and died on his way to London where he was due to go on trial.
After the Cardinal's death, Henry VIII seized all Wolsey’s assets,
including Hampton Court Palace and the
Ipswich College, and many of the materials were used by the King to
Whitehall Palace. The College was actually a school which had been
medieval times – Wolsey had wanted it to be a rival to Eton College –
and Ipswich School only survived through the intercession of Thomas
Cromwell (formerly Wolsey's right-hand man) and by returning to its
previous premises. Over the next few
centuries it occupied several different properties before it moved into
its current home in Henley Road as Ipswich School in 1852 (See
Blatchly, J: A famous antient
seed-plot of learning, Reading List). Wolsey’s
Gate was the watergate to the College. When it was
built (in the 1520s) the river came right up to where College Street is
now and the gate opened straight on to the river. It is in its original
position and has been well maintained in recent times, despite a deal
erosion of the stone carvings. If a strip of land were to be purchased,
the gateway might be incorporated in St
Peter's Church churchyard.
We have much more on the story of Wolsey's
College, with further pictures of the Wolsey Gate.
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and contributions by clicking here.
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Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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