The town of Eye derives its name from the Old English word for 'island' and it is believed that the first settlement on the site would have been almost entirely surrounded by water and marshland formed by the River Dove to the east and south east, its tributary to the north and by the low land – part of which now forms the Town Moor, to the south and west. Through the years Eye has had a deer park, a Leper hospital, a gaol, a workhouse, a David Fisher Theatre, a coaching inn with posting pstablishment (now White Lion House), a Working Men’s Hall and Reading room, a Guildhall (now a private house next to the church), a Grammar school (now the primary school) and an airfield which was occupied by the 490th USAAF Bomb Group during World War II. Until 2005, Eye also boasted one of the smallest professional theatres in the country, which inhabited the assembly room of the former White Lion Coaching Inn.

White Lion House, Broad Stree
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 1a2022 images
Looming over the small market place is the extensive rendered frontage of White Lion House, which until 1987 was the White Lion Hotel. Now divided into houses and flats, the gateway into its yard has a unique sign.
The pleasingly curving sign over the coach entrance off Broad Street reads:


Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 2Photograph courtesy Andrew Smith
The building is listed grade II and it dates from the 15th century. It was formerly a Family & Commercial hotel & posting house. In 1830 the inn was listed in Market Place and the 'Monarch' coach to London (via Ipswich) called here every evening at 7pm whilst the 'Monarch' coach to Norwich called every morning at 6am. Also the 'Star' to London (from Yarmouth) called every morning at half past ten whilst the returning 'Star' to Yarmouth (via Bungay & Beccles) called every eve at half past five. In February 1986 it was reported that the inn was closed for alterations including expansion plans to create a series of 7 bar areas - but it never reopened. It was subsequently converted to shops and a theatre (since closed). This information from the Suffolk CAMRA site (see Links). Other dwellings were made from the stables and a small group of houses was built on the former garden in a simple but traditional form. Through the archway is the Adam-style Assembly Room built in the courtyard in about 1735. It was the centre of fashionable life in Eye. Balls, concerts and banquets were held here. Between 1988 and 2005 it was used as a theatre, firstly as the Somershey and then from 1991 as the Eye Theatre.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 32018 images
Lambseth Street reaches out north-westerly from the town centre and, close to the bridge over a tributory of the River Dove, is a fine example of the crinkle-crankle wall.This serpentine wall is built to form a strong and durable wall which is only one brick thick, saving materials whilst producing a visually pleasing effect. However, it is very labour- and skill intensive. Behind this wall, is Chandos Lodge, dating from 1811, but more well known as the home of the late Sir Frederick Ashton, once Director of the Royal Ballet. Other examples of crinkle-crankle walls can be seen in Tunstall and Halesworth.

Bedingfield Almshouses, Lambseth Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 4
This triple-gabled building has letting tucked away over the windows. The present almshouses date from 1850, when they replaced buildings which had been endowed by Nicholas Bedingfield in 1636. They exhibit many high Victorian details, such as 'fish scale' tiles, neo-Tudor chimneys, red brick with blue brick diaper work, and stone canopies and window surrounds.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 5
Reading for the left, the upper tablet in its niche reads:
A.D. 1636’
We assume that the (rather important) name of the philanthropist, Nicholas Bedingfield, suffered a 'typo' under the chisel of the inscription carver. There is certainly no space there for the 'i' in 'Bedingfield'. We also assume that this tablet was saved from the original almshouses and reinstated in 1850.
Below this is the lettering in sharp relief on a stone scroll: 'REBUILT'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 6
Above: the central ornate gable bears a niche with a much degraded coat of arms – presumably of the Bedingfield family – with the scrolled words 'ANNO DOMINI' (somewhat damaged) below.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 7
The third gable features another rescued tablet in a niche:

The attribution to the architect is reasonably reliable, but the final line of text is badly split and unreadable. Below ths is the scrolled date 'MDCCCL' (Roman numerals for 1850).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 8 and 9

Town Hall
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 10All
images 2022 (unless shown)
Grade II* listed, the building was commissioned to replace the Corn Exchange in Broad Street, which had previously been used as a civic meeting place; it was largely paid for by the local member of parliament, Sir Edward Kerrison, 2nd Baronet. It was designed by Edward Buckton Lamb in the Italianate style, built in red and brown brick with rhombus-shaped sections of flint decoration and was completed in 1857. A journalist writing for The Builder described the structure as a 'very successful brick building', whereas the architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, described it as 'the horrible town hall of 1857 with the horrible tower'. The building continued to serve as the headquarters of the Borough Council for much of the 20th century, but ceased to be local seat of government when the enlarged Mid Suffolk District Council was formed in 1974. Instead, the building became the meeting place of Eye Town Council.

3 Church Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 12 and 13
Turning off Broad Street into Church Street, one finds a former public house Two versions of the brewer's advertisement are painted on the brickwork and well-preserved: white capitals on a green ground in a white-borderd cartouche. The White Horse traded here from 1840 and 1920. There are Lacons brewery signs around the East Anglia, see our page on Bungay for details about the Great Yarmouth Brewery.

12 Church Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye Co-op
In 2009 the 'Eye Branch' lettering had been splendidly picked out in blue – all whited over by the 2020 photograph (above). Also worth noting are the Art Deco-style capitals supporting the over-sign.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye Co-op 20092009 imagesIpswich Historic Lettering: Eye Co-op 2009

41/43 Church Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 14 and 15
At this end of the street, note the steady curve towards the church, which follows the outer bailey, or earthworks which enclosed the inner bailey and 'motte', the mound on which the castle stood, of Eye Castle..
This chunky style of house name frame can be seen several times in variantions in Church Street. Those on the left sid of this group echo the 'gothic florid' letterform of Denmark Cottages.Those on the right are more workaday capitals.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 16 to 20

Eye Castle
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 19
Here is a view of the motte and castle behind the houses in, logically, Castle Street. In Anglo-Saxon Britain, prior to the Norman Conquest, Eye was one of the numerous holdings of Edric of Laxfield, a wealthy and influential Anglo-Saxon and the third largest land holder in Suffolk. After the Norman Conquest, the importance of the town was firmly established in the region when the Honour of Eye was granted to William Malet, a Norman Lord, and continued to be held by royal or noble families until 1823. Between 1066 and 1071, Malet constructed a castle, to establish his military and administrative headquarters, and started a highly successful market thus initiating the urbanisation of the settlement. Later in 1086-7, Robert Malet, William’s son, founded the Benedictine Priory of St Peter, a cell of the Abbey of Bernay in Normandy. The Abbey (now a private house) occupies the site and there are very few remains of the priory still in existence. Eye began to lose its strategic importance after 1173 when the castle was attacked by Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, during the rebellion against Henry II, and later during the Barons’ War of 1265 after which it never regained its former status. Its prison continued to be used use until the early 17th century despite a gradual demolition of most of the castle buildings during the 14th century. A windmill, built in 1561-2, stood on the motte until the circular mock keep was built in 1844. The ruins of the keep are still in place today, and Castle Street and Church Street trace the elliptical shape of the former outer bailey.

Gospel Centre chapel
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 21   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 24
Because The Vine Church, accessed via Dove Lane off Castle Street, is a former Baptist chapel (1868), we assume that the Gospel Centre is a former Methodist chapel. The lettered name board in a recess at the top of the gable probably covers an original stone tablet saying 'Methodist Chapel 1877'.
The two foundation stones shown below include the builder's name. A.A. Jermyn 'of Lynn' (the early name for Kings Lynn) may have been a Methodist elder who was instrumental in the setting up of the chapel.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 22 and 23


OCT. 24 1877


TH 1877.'
We haven't even mentioned the fine Guildhall and huge church at the end of Church Street...

18 Lowgate Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 25
This ceramic Lacons sign is preserved on 18 Lowgate Street, formerly The Horse Shoes public house. Other ceramaic Lacons signs can be found around Suffolk, for example in Knodishall and Westleton. Started trading in the 18th century and closed in either 1991 or 1992. Eye now has only one public house, The Queen’s Head. In 1850 there were fourteen, and five beer houses. Until the early 20th century there were two breweries, one in Lambseth Street, and one in Wellington Road, plus the maltings found in most Suffolk towns.

Corner of Lowgate Street and Magdalen Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eye 27 and 28
Well, it certainly looks like a bank. That pediment between balustraded decoration, surely once bore the word 'BANK' carved in stone. The ghost sign 'ESTABLISHED' can be made out, but not the date. Today it is the Bank Arts Centre – it seems to think that it's at 18 Castle Street, which is an Eye eccentricity, presumably.

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