The Spread Eagle, the Eagle Street Ogre

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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eagle St sign 2a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Eagle St sign 22019 images    
Opposite the Spread Eagle is an unusual Ipswich Borough Council street nameplate featuring the colour coat of arms in a raised half circle above the street name. Looking at the shadow in the painted brickwork, this clearly replaced a larger, older sign. See our Felixstowe Road page for the Levington Road street nameplate of a similar configuaration.
See our Parliament Road page for the street nameplate round the corner in Upper Orwell Street. 
There is an oval water hydrant medallion to the left beneath the window-sill as a bonus (see Street furniture for an explanation).

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.

11a/11 Eagle Street and its Ogre
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 11 Eagle Street comparison
Above: 11a/11 Eagle Street comparison photographs (13 Eagle Street is at the far right). The early 20th century image is courtesy of Richard McCrae who, with his wife Ellie, now runs the EDRM architectural practice from 11a. The shop-front has changed somewhat at the left; the butcher's premises are characterised by the grotesque moulding at the upper right, just under the awning overhang. The modern view shows that there have been changes to the facade with a timber door and doorcase being reopened beneath the grotesque and the house front changed to a shop. The two windows at the upper right (first floor level) are largely unchanged. The bullocks in the left hand image were probably assembled as a promotional photograph for the butcher's. However,
Richard tells us that animals would have been walked into Bond Street, through a side gate and down to an abbatoir (which must have been quite small) behind the shop for despatch.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 11 Eagle Street ogreImage courtesy The Ipswich Society
The undated photograph of the Eagle Street Ogre on its keystone-shaped base is from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links). The striking features are that the butcher's shop awning overhang is still present; also that, directly below the moulding, you can see a bricked-up doorway. The doorway of no. 11 has since been opened up. There is a blue plaque commemorating local historian John Glyde just next door at no. 9; that shop will be remembered by many as the Samaritans bookshop.

Interestingly, there is a grotesque head high up on a former butcher's shop facade at 39 Norwich Road. Both faces emphasise distorted teeth – is there perhaps a tradition of placing these features on butcher's shops? Perhaps it's merely a coincidence confined to Ipswich. Some further research into the trades operating from no. 11a Eagle Street will be of interest. The Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk resource (see Links): 'A fearsome man, his red lipped mouth wide open to reveal fang-like teeth, is set above the doorway of no. 11. It is difficult to understand its function, a bit startling for a dentist, and if it was intended to scare passers-by – why? Eagle street is a short narrow street running east-west between Orwell and Bond streets. The house is timber framed, but the present exterior probably dates from the 19th century.'
Nos 9 and 11 are Listed Grade II but there is no mention of the Ogre...
'EAGLE STREET 1. 5379 Nos 9 and 11 TM 1644 SE 4/411 II GV The description shall be amended to read: A timber-framed and plastered building, C17 in 2 builds with C19 external features. 3 storeys. 4 window range, double-hung sashes with single vertical glazing bars in the upper sashes. The ground storey has a small C19 shop front at No 9 and modern casements to No 11. Raised bands extend across the front between the storeys. The ground storey is faced in brick (painted). Roofs slate, hipped, with a modillion eaves cornice. No 11 has ground floor plastered ceiling of lozenges within rectangle. 1st floor chamber with ogee moulded plaster cornices, and lambs tongue stops to chamfered axial beam. The list was previously amended in respect of this entry on 15 December 1977.
2. A timber-framed and plastered building with C19 external features. 3 storeys. 4 window range, double-hung sashes with single vertical glazing bars in the upper sashes. The ground storey has a small C19 shop front at No 9 and modern casements to No 11. Raised bands extend across the front between the storeys. The ground storey is faced in brick (painted). Roofs slate, hipped, with a modillion eaves cornice.'


Home
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
Search Ipswich Historic Lettering
2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission