The Spread Eagle

Standing proudly on the corner of Eagle Street and Fore Street...

Street nameplates
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eagle St sign   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle 22014 images
The Spread Eagle public house stands on the corner of Eagle Street (naturally) and Fore Street. The modern 'frosted' sign on this Grade II Listed*** building states that this is the "oldest tavern"; the Suffolk CAMRA site (see Links) dates it to the 16th or 17th century ("The spread eagle was originally a Roman sign and later used by many countries including Austria, Germany, Russia, Spain & France. The sign is also used by many English noble families. Its popularity as an inn sign owes a lot to the fact that it was the device of Catherine of Aragon." See our Lady Lane page for mention of Catherine of Arargon's visit to Ipswich in 1517.) The Old Bell over Stoke Bridge is also reputedly the oldest pub in Ipswich, it is believed to date from the early 16th century and was first recorded in 1639. The Spread Eagle is the last remaining public house of those which once stood on the four corners of this junction. Photograph above right: to the right of the building with the spire in the background is Lower Orwell Street.

***"A C16-C17 timber-framed and plastered building with exposed framing on the upper storey with bracing from vertical member to vertical member, a feature peculiar to East Anglia. The ground storey has been underbuilt in brick. 2 storeys. 2 window range on the Fore Street front and 2 window range on Eagle Street, casements with lattice leaded lights. Roof tiled. The building has been restored and altered."

There is a Topal Tea vestigial sign in Eagle Street.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fore St sign   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle 1
The other face of the Spread Eagle carries a cast iron street nameplate with curved-section frame (unpainted), clamped into place by the usual angled nails. If it wasn't for the superior 'T' on this sign, we would all – given the tendency of humankind to conflate and summarise in our minds – be referring to this street as "FOREST'. "I'll see you at the top of Forest" might be a commonplace phrase between Ipswich inhabitants.
Just opposite this street sign is the site of the Martin & Newby shop complex.

Fore Street, even though a modest length (and disjointed),  plays host to whole range of important historic lettering: Meremayd, Fore Street Baths, Isaac Lord, The Neptune Inn, the 1620 newsagent and more. See the Street name derivations page for the source of the name.
The Ipswich Society exhibition and website 'The Fore Street Facelift 1961' tells much more of the street, its surroundings and its history.

Corner entrance spandrels
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle
These photographs of the spandrels on the corner entrance – now blocked were taken on the Heritage Open Days in 2015. They were at the end of another period refurbishment and paint makeover for the public house. In fact the public house was open for the first time in some time, despite some work being unfinished. The carvings show at above left (Eagle Street side) the better-defined carving of a 'Spread Eagle' with lion-like legs.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle 5a2015 images
The close-up shows more detail. It is thought that this area has largely been left like this. There seems to have been a number of layers of paint scraped off and possible a layer of gesso: the white material which would cover up detail. The brown varnish appears to have been applied recently.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spread Eagle masonic
This masonic double-headed eagle with chunky, splayed legs and right-angled wings may have influenced the carving.
Compare with one of the spandrels on The Old Neptune Inn.


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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission