Curson Lodge, Wolsey Gate
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Pharmacy
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 of trades...)

The shop facing St Nicholas Street was in recent times Cardinal Café and a sweet shop. It became known as Wolsey's house, but it was a misleading name. Thomas Wolsey lived as a boy in a similar sort of house 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hippodrome   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cardinal House

Curson Lodge today
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 42013 images
45-45a 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.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barbrook hairdresser
Images courtesy John Barbrook
'R. C. BARBROOK
Temperance Bar,
45 & 45a, St. Nicholas Street,
IPSWICH.
High-class Confectionery,
Tobacco and Cigarettes
All leading varieties kept in stock.
LADIES' & GENTLEMEN'S
HAIRDRESSING SALOONS
Cleanliness, Civility & Satisfaction Guaranteed
All Charges Moderate.   -   Razors Re-set
NO SUNDAY TRADING.'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barbrook hairdresser1930 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'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barbrook hairdresser   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barbrook hairdresser
'Confectioner     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 Lodge 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 'Silverston's Corner'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 22013 images
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 defied decoding; 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 5   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 6
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"
'J. DEAN
MAKER
PUTNEY'

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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 7   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 8
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge 9

Plaques
Some might argue that this lettering isn't really 'on' this building. 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 Ipswich Building 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 'Beecholme' entry.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge plaques
'CURSON LODGE

THIS 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
THOMAS WOLSEY.

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 1530
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge cellar 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curson Lodge cellar 22014 images
'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 & ...'?

Curson House
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 yeoman and 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]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Silent St sign
For a rooftop view of Curson Lodge and Silent Street see our Sailors Rest page.

'The Wolsey Gate', College Street
The brick gateway is next to St Peter's Churchyard. 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate plaque
‘THIS GATEWAY
FORMERLY SERVED THE
SCHOOL FOUNDED BY
WOLSEY IN 1528 AS THE
CARDINAL’S COLLEGE OF SAINT MARY’
The water gate of Wolsey's ill-fated college 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 crest is indecipherable now, the stone eaten away by industrial pollution and weather. 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate engraving1785
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).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2a2014 imagesIpswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2b
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2

 
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 road.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Annesley gate2014 image
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).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School 22014 images
(See our Blue plaques page for the Sherrington plaque on the school chapel.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School 3a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich School 4
Cardinal 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 favour in 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 build Whitehall Palace. The College was actually a school which had been founded in 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 of 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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