King Street / Lion Street / Arcade Street

Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street 22001 images

At the Princes Street end of the very short stub of King Street running behind the Exchange Chambers, we find the lettered corners of the building above. The details below show the enhanced lettering a little better:
in bluish drop-shadow caps painted over in creamwash also appears at the Arcade Street end (shown on the left image, above). Also on the Princes Street corner, darker plain caps spelling out 'KING ST' on the block below are obscured by years of dirt. In between, there is:
26 FT'
indicating the position of a water hydrant. Part of the modern metal street sign can be seen at far left. Below this, against the grubby stonework, is:

Upper part of 2001 enhancement (below) – Princes Street end:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street 3Lower example is Arcade St end (includes full stop)
We're almost certain that this unique surviving example of painted street name lettering was quite clear and sharp until summer, 2003. At this time some swine had painted over the lettering at each end of King Street with cream masonry paint; the letters are still just visible. Typical. See the 1910 photograph of this corner below. [UPDATE May 2015: However, we just found the painted lettering 'Lion Street' (without drop-shadow) on the stonework of the Town Hall; scroll down to see it.]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street (period) 1
Here is a photograph of the junction of what we now call King Street and Princes Street (the rear of the Town Hall visible to the upper right) just prior to demolition of the pub - note the barriers round the site.  The corner pub, The Sickle (which has the name 'Noble' above the windows and door on the Princes Street side and was probably formerly called The Wheatsheaf) will soon give way to the new Corn Exchange (opened in 1882, see our Cornhill 2 page). It is possible that both pub names came from the figure of Ceres on top of the first Corn Exchange nearby which carried a sickle and ears of wheat. Interesting to see that the three-storey right-angle corner has been built as a curve right up to the roof and is lettered to advertise the Sickle's wines and spirits and other attractions.
Next door is the 'KING'S HEAD COMMERCIAL INN' labelled in a strip above the first floor windows.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street map 17761778 map
The name 'King Street' has wandered around the sides of Cornhill in a bewildering fashion over the centuries. The present King Street was Little King Street on Joseph Pennington's 1778 map (detail above). The name originated from the King's Head Inn (opened in 1531 and demolished 1880/1 to make way for the Corn Exchange), seen in the above view, which was possibly on or near the site of a building called the Kings Hall where Edward I (reigned 1272 to 1307) feasted at the time of the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to the Count of Holland in 1297. So the King's Head, which appears to occupy the whole footprint of the future Corn Exchange on the 1778 map, could well have been named after the ancient 13th century hall.

A passageway on the line of the Thoroughfare ran westwards between the rear of the Moot Hall (or Town Hall) and the King's Head, which is shown on the map as a continuous building with two central courtyards. This was one of the town's most ancient inns: one of only twenty-four to appear on a town assessment of 1689. It was a notorious venue for cock-fighting in the 18th century. These premises were listed in the 1844 White's Directory, with carriers operating from the inn to Bergholt. By 1865 it was called the Old Kings Head. Note that the Market Cross (removed in 1812) is clearly shown at the upper centre of the 'Corn Hill' in 1778. The old Shambles, at this period showing signs of decay, was directly south of the Market Cross, replaced by the Rotunda, the first Corn Exchange and eventually by the Post Office building. Immediately east of the Palladian-fronted Moot Hall on the Cornhill were two buildings: an old pub originally the Three Tuns Inn but more recently named The Corn Exchange Tavern, and Richard Cole’s shop.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street map 18671867 map
Edward White's map of Ipswich, 1867 shows the same area with some notable changes. The block of "The King's Head" of 1778 is now fragmented into thre separated blocks and we know that the Sickle stood on the lower right corner, so the King's Head would appear to have occupied only the upper right building – directly behind the Town Hall: an indication of a business in decline. The building east of the Town Hall shown here (the legend is 'Cx') is the first Corn Exchange awaiting demolition around 1880. The grand Post Office building we see today was opened in 1882 on the footprint of the demolished 1810 Corn Exchange. On the map we sees a post office (marked 'PO') at the end of Butter Market, facing the top of Queen Street. Street names have changed by 1867 and King Street now goes eastwards from the Arcade (and end of Elm Street) and turns north up to the Cornhill. Butter Market, as shown on the 1778 map, is here labelled St Lawrence Street.

[UPDATE 2008/2009: the Corn Exchange was clad in a work of art. This took the form of a sunny cornfield against a blue sky printed on plastic sheeting covering the scaffolding. Sadly, this meant yet another coat of masonry paint, finally killing off some of the King Street lettering.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street (period) 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: King Street (period) 3Close-up, 1910 at  right
Above: the junction of Princes Street with King Street to the left. The painted, drop-shadow capitals are clearly shown above the cornice in a view of the Corn Exchange's corner c.1910. For another example of a street name painted on the Town Hall stone see 'Lion Street' below.

Lion Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 22015 images
The west end of King Street today is the confluence of three streets: Elm, Arcade and Lion. The photograph of the arch above shows all three street nameplates, plus the Ipswich Society blue plaque for Jean Ingelow.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 4
While many Ipswichians might think of the lane beside the Town Hall which comes out in King Street as "Golden Lion Passage", it is actually:
and this tiny, bendy alley is signed four times.
In 2015 we finally noticed the black capitals, complete with square full stop, spelling out the street name painted at the base of the square pilaster of the Town Hall (arrowed in the above photograph).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 5   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 6
Lion Street is named at each end by the modern street nameplates bearing serif'd capitals on a dark brown background. Left: the wall of the Golden Lion Hotel, now a noodle restaurant. Right: the corner with King Street; this nameplate has the addition of a full stop.

[UPDATE 22.6.2016: 'The sign "Lion Street" on the rounded corner with King Street in the right-hand picture – arched doorway and window with iron bars – it used to be the most wonderful Victorian-style public loo! As a child in the 1950s I would ask to go in there at every visit to town because it was so pretty – lovely tiles, shiny brasswork, I would spend far too long in there, I loved it!  My father was not so happy with it as he had to wait for me outside for long stretches. I have often wondered what happened to it. I have long imagined it to still be there behind the scenes, awaiting rediscovery, though probably not, knowing the Council. Yes, [there was] an underground Gents loo: the railings along Lion Street, on the back of the old Corn Exchange, look over and down, all still there! There was often a very bad-tempered loo-attendant in the Ladies, she would watch me with deep suspicion!
I am a Collings from Norfolk & Suffolk. In King Street, the old Sickle Inn was kept by my Great Grandfather's cousin, Nathaniel Sterry in the 1860s; he died there in 1869. My Great Grandfather, George Sterry, kept The Blooming Fuchsia, The Sorrell Horse, and beer-houses in Alan Road. My Granny, Grace Collings, née Sterry, kept The Three Tuns in Commercial Road, and the Kings Head in East Bergholt. I was especially interested in your pages on Alan Road and Rosehill Road as that is where these folk purchased houses. My father, Alan Collings, was born at 119 Rosehill Road, one of his grandparents’ houses; it's probably how he got his name! My Collings Great Grandparents purchased one of the small holdings on Foxhall Road: 2 Lincoln Villas; they ran a market garden, it is gone now sadly. They were the parents to P. Collings, grocers at Whitton and Castle Hill shops. So, your website has been very interesting to me. Your website is EXCELLENT! Thank you. Lin Jensen.' Many thanks to Lin for this memory – does anyone else recall the Victorian public toilets on this corner of the Corn Exchange?]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 10   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 112016 images
Above left: the corner entrance which used to be the Ladies public convenience (taken from under 'The Arcade'); above right: those railings around the basement space of the Corn Exchange  in Lion Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 12   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 14
An interesting swing-winch in cast iron is still situated behind the railings, presumably
once used to load supplies for the Corn Exchange from the lane and down into the area below. Right: the locked gate which would have enabled access to the underground Gentlemen's public convenience – it's quite a long way down those narrow steps. Below: let's not forget to look up at this elevation of the building. Away from the stone-faced frontage on King Street is a rather simple, attractive combination of white and pink brick details with romanesque arches and circular/half-circular windows. This is seldom noticed by passers-by in the narrow Lion Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 13

Arcade Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 7    Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lion St 8
Above: on the other side of the Arcade (which is more correctly an extended arch, or a short tunnel). At the west end of Arcade Street is a pressed metal nameplate attached to a curving Suffolk white brick wall, which is in need of some repair. This particular building has the distinction of playing host in the story of the struggle for women's suffrage. It used to be the office of the Ipswich branch of the Women's Freedom League. It was here that the suffragette and tax resister, Constance Andrews, was feted following her release from Ipswich Gaol in St Helens Street after refusing to pay her dog licence.

Street evolution
When Joseph Pennington made his map of Ipswich in the 1770s, the area between Westgate Street and Elm Street was entirely taken up with gardens, but in the 1840s plans were made for a new street linking Westgate and Elm streets. An opening for the new thoroughfare was made through part of what had been Seckford House. Thomas Seckford (1515-1587) built his mansion at this site, sometimes known as 'the Great Place' or 'the Great House', such was its prestige. See our Lost Ipswich signs page for the 'Before Willis' section: more on the streets in this area and an engraving of the impressive Seckford House. The new street ran south as far as the new Ipswich Museum, designed by Christopher Fleury opened in 1847. Today this is Arlington's Restaurant. The street hugged the Museum, taking a sharp left turn and heading eastwards. However, it did not connect with the Lion/King/Elm Street junction until 1850 with the cutting of the 'Arcade' through one of the houses (lived in between 1834-1844 by novelist Jean Ingelow – see our Blue plaques page). In 1856 Thursby's Lane (up to then linking Friars Street northwards to Elm Street) was extended to a junction with Museum Street. The east-west part of Museum Street was then renamed Arcade Street and the whole north-south street from Westgate Street to Princes Street – including the kink at the Arcade Street junction which we see today – was renamed Museum Street. The tiny stub of Thursby's Lane between Princes Street and Friars Street stayed until the building of the Willis building in 1975, when roads were reshaped or lost. [Information from R. Malster: Wharncliffe companion, see Reading list.]

Our Cornhill page features notable dates in its history and a more detailed survey of the changes over time, including King Street.

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