Soane Street / Thingstead (St Margaret's Green)

Soane Street was likely to have been an extension of the Old Bar Gate (nearby North Gate of the enclosed, Anglo-Saxon town) and formed the entry to the Priory of the Holy Trinity (where Christchurch Mansion now stands) and St Margaret's Church.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margarets Plain signSign on 9 St Margarets Plain, 2014 image
Old Packhorse Inn
Starting from the St Margaret's Plain end of this short road, we find the Old Pack Horse Inn, thought to date from the mid-16th century. A period photograph (below, probably from a postcard) reveals the surgery performed on this building in the service of the widening of St Margaret's Street. In 1936 two-thirds of the building was demolished and the two gables to the right (plus another) reconstructed, turned through ninety degrees. The architect of this transformation, John Sherman of Northgate Street, also designed the frontage of the Croydon's building in Tavern Street – also following road-widening. A practice that would have caused a mighty row today was probably a justifiable, not to mention costly, attempt to preserve a version of an ancient building.

  
The pre-1933 view shows the corner shop to have been a newsagent and tobacconist. Looking again at the period photograph, one can't help wondering whether the part of the building which was left untouched and stands to the present day was the original 15th to 16th century inn and the part with the two gables, distinctly different in architectural features, was added at a later date. If this is true, then perhaps the reshaping of the building in 1936 is doubly justified.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse Inn period   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse 52013 image
These colour photographs were taken in March 2013 when Soane Street was in turmoil with pavements and road surface being dug up. The triangular piece of ground from the Packhorse to the present-day Bethesda would have been a regular pathway for the Priory Canons, on their way from the Holy Trinity Priory (also known as 'Christchurch') crossing to enter the town via the North Gate.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse 1
The name of the old inn reflects the period when peddlars roamed the countryside carrying their merchandise strapped either side of their packsaddle. This would include luxury items such as ribbons, looking glasses, costume jewellery and chapbooks (cheap books containing ballads and moral tales). These itinerant peddlars, as Carol Twinch points out in Ipswich street by street (see Reading List), also made the Old Pack Horse a hotbed of gossip and intrigue with their travellers' tales. The large number of horses at this and other inns around The Thingstead (see lower down here and on our Blue Plaques page) led to the naming of the road Stablers Lane. Before the dissolution of the monasteries at the hand of Henry VIII and Ipswich boy, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey pilgrims and Priory visitors also used the inn, perhaps as an overflow lodgings from the Priory. Another historic inn was The Saracen's Head at the far end of the present Soane Street (photograph below).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse 22013 images
The Old Pack Horse Inn corner post at the meeting of Soane Street and St Margaret's Plain is still intact. The small, anonymous-looking shield (above left) can be spotted from St Margaret's Plain. However, around the corner is a more interesting shield (above right). This is a Tau cross, or St Anthony's cross, with a sun and two moons for the Holy Trinity. A remarkable survivor given the building's history and the relatively vulnerable material and position on the public highway. The Tau Cross, named after the Greek letter it resembels (a sort of curved capital 'T'), is most commonly used in reference to the Franciscan Order and Saint Francis of Assisi, who adopted it as his personal coat of arms after hearing Pope Innocent III talk about the Tau symbol. It is now used as a symbol of the Franciscan Order. See the Freemason's Hall (below) for more on the Tau.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse Tau CrossIllustrations courtesy Ken Nichols
Town Guide, Ken Nichols, has been advocating inclusion on this website of the Soane Street symbols for some time and we tended to disregard them. However, they provide intriguing details from history. "... two drawings of the Holy Trinity symbol. The coloured one, I believe, is in the colours that would have been in the stained glass of the windows of the Priory. These symbols also appear in other church windows that were under this priory's influence. I believe some were out of Ipswich." Ken continues: "As a Town Guide one of the walks I do is 'The Writing is on the Walls' based on the many numbers, letters etc on walls in the town centre - People always love to be surprised by something they have walked past for perhaps 50 years and have never seen." Thanks to him for the images.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse 4
The faded plaque which was installed by Rotary International reads:
'Packhorse Inn
Former Packhorse Inn, C15-C16 said to have
been an overflow guesthouse for Christchurch'

A few doors down the road at number 4 is an old water hydrant sign of blue and white enamelled metal. It is positioned at the top left corner of the shop window. There is a similar hydrant sign collected and displayed on the wall of Orianda Terrace in Foxhall Road on our Rosehill house names page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Soane St 1

Christchurch Park gates
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mansion gates
Soane Street is also notable for its entrances to Christchurch Park (there is a smaller gate to the left of the photograph, next to a lodge house). The characteristic 'diaper' brickwork which can be found on Christchurch Mansion itself is reflected on the boundary wall. The brick pillars on these entrances are topped with wonderful stone pineapples. This communal symbol of friendship and hospitality also became a favorite motif of architects and they can also be found on the park gateposts in Bolton Lane. The gate bears a painted metal version of the Ipswich coat of arms.

Another few metres and we find the Freemason's Hall
It is claimed in several sources that in the 19th century this street was named for Sir John Soane (1753-1837) the noted architect and collector. His remarkable home, Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn, London is open to the public and is crammed full of his eclectic gatherings of architectural details and features. Soane's career took off after patronage from friends in Ipswich and at Nos. 4-8 Soane Street is the Freemason's Hall, now on the Borough's list of Ipswich Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Soane, a convinced Freemason, has been said to have had a hand in designing the Ipswich Freemason's Hall. However, Dr James Bettley, author of the Suffolk Pevsner volumes (see Reading list), who has contributed information to this website on the Carr Street Co-operative store, Scarborow's shop and Museum Street) tells us:
"I have established that the Masonic Hall in Soane Street was designed by Henry Luff, an Ipswich builder (and freemason) and opened in 1879 (Ipswich Journal, 22 April 1879).  The addition to the right is by G. H. B. Gould, 1911.  I don’t think you could really claim a Soane connection.  The masons moved to Soane Street from St Stephen’s Lane, the old hall now the Conservative Club (by Edward Ingress Bell, 1865 – and I agree, those ceramic nameplates are wonderful)."
Our thanks to him for the clarification.
[UPDATE 18.8.2015: 'I recently looked at the entry for The Freemason's Hall in Soane St. You suggest the Street is named after Sir John Soane (1753-1837), however I noticed that it is already called by that name on Ogilby's Map of Ipswich dated 1674, repeated on Pennington's map of 1778. Unfortunately Muriel Clegg, 'Streets & Street Names In Ipswich' [see Reading list], has nothing to say on the subject. Evelyn Hewing. Many thanks to Evelyn for the additional proof.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Masonic Hall 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Masonic Hall 32013 images
From the text of the Listing (see British Listed Buildings On the Links page):
'A late C19 red brick, building (circa 1879) with rusticated brick quoins. 2 storeys. At the east end the front breaks forward with 3 window range surmounted by a modillion pediment with insignia in the tympanum. The windows are dobuble-hung sashes with glazing bars, in shallow reveals. A raised brick band extends across the front between the storeys. A central 6-panel semi-circular headed double door has a stone Tuscan doorcase with plain columns, frieze and pediment. At the west end there is a semi-basement room with a large hall above. The hall is lit by a large 3-light mullioned and transomed headed window with a central pediment. The window is framed by brick Ionic attached clolumns, a stone frieze and modillion cornice surmounted by a parapet. The ground storey has a segmental headed window with a keystone.'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Soane St 3
Now here is a strange thing. Freemasonry is know for its many symbols, rituals and 'secret' language. One contributor (see above) to this website has been suggesting inclusion of the symols on the hall for years. Borin Van Loon, creator of the site dismissed the suggestion twice after looking at the building as "not being lettering", having read Walton Hannah's book Darkness visible years ago which blew the gaff on all that 'secrecy' myth of the Masons (and roughed out a comic strip where his character Bof stumbles into a masonic ritual in a herbally refreshed state). It now becomes clear, thanks to a contribution by Alan Brignull, that the (apparent) 'TH' hybrid is in fact another use of the 'Tau' seen on the Old Pack Horse Inn corner post (discussed above):-
'The emblem of the Royal Arch Degree is called the Triple Tau, and is a figure consisting of three tau crosses. The Tau Cross, or Cross of St. Anthony, is a cross in the form of a Greek T. The Triple Tau is a figure formed by three of these crosses meeting in a point, and therefore resembling a letter T resting on the traverse bar of an H. This emblem, placed in the center of a Triangle, the triangle is sacred to freemasons because the letter A captilised can fit perfectly around it, the letter A comes from a ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for a bull. Both circle and triangle are both emblems of Deities (Alpha and omega from the bible, omega is the all seeing eye) - constitutes the jewel of the Royal Arch as practiced in England, where it is so highly esteemed as to be called the "emblem of all emblems," and "the grand emblem of Royal Arch Masonry."'
To which one can only respond: "eh?"

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Soane St 4
Double-cross above the front door. We are told that "the Cross Lorraine and the Patriarchal Cross are frequently confused." The symbol above the Soane Street entrance seems to be a combination of:-
1. Cross Lorraine, The Lorraine Cross consists of one vertical and two evenly spaced horizontal bars, the lower longer than the upper; generally the lower bar is as close to the bottom of the vertical as the upper bar is to the top. Made use of by the Free French during the Second World War. Also used in the masonic Knight's Templar 18;
and 2. Patriarchal Cross (Archiepiscopal Cross) Used by Roman Catholic archbishops, the upper bar represents the inscription, abbreviated INRI, that Pilate had placed above Jesus' head. It is also the symbol of the 33 Inspector General Honorary.
The former is the most likely.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Soane St 5
It even has an apse... albeit not particularly distinguished from the outside.

The Saracen's Head/Clarence House
At the Bolton Lane end of Soane Street and rounding the corner into St Margaret's Green is the ancient inn, The Saracen's Head. Thanks to the Ipswich Society for the photograph below which shows the inn (later a garage, Comet electrical store, then the Saracens House Business Centre) to the right.
Incidentally, Edward White's map of Ipswich of 1867 clearly labels what we now call St Margaret's Green as 'THE PLAIN'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens HeadPhotograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
We are delighted with this 1970s image as it reveals another piece of lost trade lettering on the chimneystack of the nearby building:
'ACH
LTD'
The name appears to have been repeated on a sign attached to the railing around the main chimney. The 2013 image below shows that this painted lettering has been cleaned off.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 22013 images
The 1970s photograph below, also from The Ipswich Society's collection (see Links), shows that the other side of this building was lettered. Extrapolating, we read:
'BUILDERS
PLUMBERS
DECORATORS
FITTERS'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 3Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
Outside the old Saracen's Head inn is an informative plaque about St Margaret's Green which we include on our page of Plaques, plus a more information about Thingstead.

A name plaque like whipped cream
This three storey house has 'shoulder' wings, the left of which was once the Globe Bookshop, from a time long before Waterstones when independent bookshops could survive in business (Orwell Books at the top of Fore Street and later Amberstone in Upper Orwell Street spring to mind) alongside Hatchards in The Ancient House.
The building bears an unusual, well-lettered, scrolled name plaque to the far left of the front door:
'CLARENCE
HOUSE'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House 2
The art deco structure next door in the earlier photograph was a KwikFit centre, then became a car wash, then was demolished in 2011 and by 2013 the site has been fenced off and is run as a car wash. Other scrolled house names can be found at Percy Cottages and York Terrace.

Clarence House is Listed Grade II (see British Listed Buildings On the Links page): "An early-mid C19 brick house, now painted. 3 storeys and basement. 3 window range, some double-hung sashes without glazing bars. The 2nd storey windows are casements and the centre windows are French casements opening on to ornamental iron balconies on the 1st and 2nd storeys. The doorway has reeded pilasters and a heavy rusticated canopy on brackets in the shape of human heads. The basement area is protected by iron spearhead railings. There are 2 storeyed wings on the north and south ends each of one window range, one now part of a garage and the other a builders premises entered through a heavy Ionic porch. Roof slate, hipped, with a central square tower topped by ornamental iron railings."

'Thingstead' (a meeting place) includes the triangle of St Margaret's Green, St Margaret's Plain and St Margaret's Street. Having covered two of those streets and the linking Soane Street on this page, it is worth mentioning that St Margaret's Street has lettering examples on the former Phillips & Piper factory and on the former Ewers Grey-Green Coaches depot to be found on our E Brand & Sons page.


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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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