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
This is an interesting street nameplate for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's very large with a lot of white background surrounding the black characters; secondly, it repeats the unnecessary full stop after the abbreviation for 'SAINT'; thirdly, what's that wimpy 'G' all about? – surely the cross-bar should be higher up in the belly of the 'G'?. As usual (but not universally) the possessive apostrophe is omitted from 'MARGARETS' – see the nameplate for nearby St Margaret's Green (shown below).

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. The 2013 photograph below shows the Bolton Lane/St Margarets Green signs at the far end of Soane Street to the left of the Packhorse Inn; to the right down St Margarets Street is the Ewers Grey-Green garage, the Phillips & Piper works ( see our E. Brand & Sons page) and the Manor House on St Margarets Green (scroll down for images).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse Inn period   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse 52013 image
Below: 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 raguly*, or St Anthony's cross, with a sun (here depicted as a star at the top) and two moons below (shown as crescents on their sides 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. (*Having an edge with oblique notches like a row of sawn-off branches: 'a cross raguly'.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Packhorse Tau CrossIllustrations courtesy Ken Nicholls
Town Guide, Ken Nicholls, 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. 8-10 Soane Street is the Freemason's Hall, now on the Borough's Local 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 symbols 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.
Inside the Soane Street Lodge we discovered a painted three-dimensional version of the Ipswich Borough coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Masonic Lodge 12018 images
At the apse end of the building's interior, but on the ground floor beneath the main hall, the coat of arms is mounted in a panelled recess (with masonic relief emblems above). Rather jolly Neptune's horses support the crest.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Masonic Lodge 2
Close to the main entrance:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Masonic Lodge 3
On the shield:
No. 959. IPSWICH.
MAY 1. 1865.
JANUARY 22. 1866.’
In the small rectagle below:
On the white marble tablet:
BETWEEN 1974 AND 1977.’
The first Masonic Lodge was actually in St Stephens Church Lane, now the Conservative Club; the apse at the east end of that building confirms its original purpose.

The Thingstead
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.
'Thingstead'  is an Anglo-Saxon term for a meeting place. Robert Malster: 'It is generally assumed that this was the meeting place for the half-hundred of Ipswich, but it may be significant that the Thingstead is outside the town rampart, [here running down Tower Ramparts and between Old Foundry Road (inside) and St Margarets Street (outside)] and that, when Ipswich obtained its Charter in 1200, the townsfolk made the churchyard of St Mary-le-Tower their meeting place. Possibly the Thingstead was the meeting place for the five and a half hundreds of the Wicklaw, which was under the jurisdiction of Ely Abbey and was otherwise known as the Liberty of St Etheldreda'. See our Reading list for Malster, R. Wharncliffe companion to Ipswich.

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

The Saracen's Head
/Clarence House
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House and Saracens Head 2019Clarence House and Saracens Head, 2019 image
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:
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:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 3Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 5Saracens Head, 2019 image
Below – from John Bulow-Osborne: 'From an old Cobbold publication, in 1923, The Saracen's Head'. John also sent an image of The Bull Inn on Key Street from the same source.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Saracens Head 4Image courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
The 1923 photograph of The Saracen's Head shows the timber-framed building with a shop (there are posters and signs in the window) on the corner with Soane Street. The shop disappeared during conversion into offices. The lettering on the upper board sign includes a possessive apostrophe in "Saracen's" and a full stop after "Inn" and drop shadow throughout. The familar 'Cobbold's Ales & Spirits' sign painted on the render above the door echoes similar signs which once adorned The Globe and the Rose Hotel. The 'Smithers & Sons' lorry parked outside the inn  reminds us that this was, for many decades, a destination for carriers and carters arriving from country locations. They also gravitated to The Running Buck Inn on St Margarets Plain for the stabling of horses; blacksmiths and farriers set up on opposite side of the road next to another inn called the Dog & Partridge. The Saracen's Head was closed in 1960 and auctioned for sale shortly afterwards. It was bought by 10,000 and used for a car and mororbike shop. It then became a branch of Comet electrical equipment store and eventually the Saracen's Head Business Centre. The building is listed Grade II and the text reads: 'A C16-17 timber-framed and plastered building with cross wings at the north and south ends. It is now faced in roughcast plaster. 2 storeys. 4 window range C20 double-hung sashes without glazing bars. The ground storey has a C20 shop. Roofs tiled. Although it is now very much altered it still retains its C16-C17 form and contributes to the character of the square.'
Incidentally, the word 'Saracen' has a long, shifting history but beginning no later than the early fifth century, Christian writers began to equate Saracens with Arabs. By the 12th century, 'Saracen' had become synonymous with 'Muslim' in Medieval Latin literature.

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:
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."
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House 20192019 image
[UPDATE 23.1.2018: Thanks to the Ipswich Society Image Archive (see Links) for this photograph of Clarence House c.1910. The building was occupied by A.C. Harding, Plumber and Decorator. The signs read: 'Established 1884, Telephone 860... White lead oil & colour, varnish etc. Paints mixed to any shade, ready for use. Glass cut to order... Graining, painting, glazing and paperhanging. A good variety of wall papers & decorations in stock.']
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House 19101910 image courtesy the Ipswich Society
One assumes that the mineral finish on the porches to the building is an exercise in paint effects provided by the company. By the sixties the company had expanded the services on offer to include 'shopfitters':
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House bookmarkImage courtesy John Bulow Osborne
John Bulow Osborne adds this delightful piece of ephemera.
'I attach a bookmark from a 1964/5 Kelly's Directory. It's another small piece in the wonderful jigsaw that is your website. Another – possibly apocryphal – story I was told, was that Clarence House was originally the home of a shipping fleet owner, who used the observation platform on the roof to see if his vessels were safely home. Well, it's a nice story anyway!'
Oddly enough, we have heard the same story about the signoral towers on Victorian Italianate houses in Fonnereau and Westerfield Roads and elsewhere. They're probably wishful thinking, too.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clarence House 1906pre-1906 image courtesy the Ipswich Society
Above: the building at the speculative date of 'pre-1906'. However, given that Clarence House here bears the same lettering on the double-doors to the left  'A.C. Harding: Plumber & Decorator' as in the 1910 photograph, the presence of further signs suggests that this may be post-1910. We see, above the double-doors, a board sign with wiggly classical columns at each side:
On the top of the side wall visible from St Margarets Street is the business lettering painted on the bare brick:
A flattened scroll sign is attached to the wall to the right of the ground floor window (which also has a sign below carrying the business name). These scrolls include the words: 'HOT WATER FITTER[?]' and 'SANITARY WARES'. The semi-circular window above the far right entrance is partially obscured by a sloping sign reading:
BUILDER [etc.]'

18 St Margarets Green
The removal of the shop signs on this shop frontage reveals the previous sign:
'18 St Margarets Green    tel:52580    Countrystyle    Traditional Old Pine Country Furniture'
It appears that the vertical spacer which was once sited to the right of 'Countrystyle' was moved to the left to cover up some of the address, presumably to accomodate a differently-spaced sign. Many people will recall the proprietor working on stripping pieces of furniture in the recessed section to the right of the shop door.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Countrystyle Furniture 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Countrystyle Furniture 22019 images

The Manor House
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Manor House 22019 images
This is probably the most important building on The Thingstead, being Listed Grade II. The Listing text reads:
'10 and 12 St Margarets Green.
A large C17 timber-framed and plastered house, possibly of C16 origin, with C18 features. Formerly the Old Manor House and then St Margaret's House. Margaret Catchpole, the adventuress (1773-1841 D N B) lived here as servant to the Cobbold family at the end of the C18. There are 2 large jettied gables on front with a gabled dormer between them and the upper storey is jettied on the whole front. 2 storeys, attics and cellars. 7 window range, double-hung sashes with glazing bars (except 2 windows on the 1st storey at the south end), in flush cased frames. The attics are lit by windows in the gables. The ground storey has a C20 brick porch in C16 style. Roofs tiled. Nos 10 and 12 form a group with Nos 26 to 30 (even), Nos 21 and 23, Church of St Margaret and Nos 2 to 6 (even) Bolton Lane.'
We woud suggest that the numbering should be The Manor House (6 and 10) and the red brick building north of it (no. 12). This is an area with many Listed buildings.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Manor House 4
One small feature of the Manor House is the street nameplate featuring a possessive apostrophe between the 'T' and 'S'. The only other examples we are aware of are at "St Edmund's Road" and at "Arthur's Terrace". Punctuation isn't often a feature of street nameplates, apart from unnecessary full stops after abbreviations comprised of the initial and final letter of a word: Doctor to 'Dr', Road to 'Rd', Street to 'St', for example. See our Bolton Lane page for the boundary between St Margarets Green and Bolton Lane.
Arthur's Terrace
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Arthur's Terrace 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Arthur's Terrace 22019 images
Above: the Arthur's Terrace street nameplate with Woodbridge Road and the entrance to St Helen's School in the background.

See our Bethesda page for a 1778 map showing Soane Street and the surrounding area.

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