The Sun Inn (Atfield & Daughter)

Ipswich residents will remember a collector's bookshop at 17 St Stephens Lane (a lane running from Old Cattle Market to Buttermarket leading to St Stephen's Church, now the Tourist Information Centre). They may not know that the beautiful half timbered building is one of the historic gems of Ipswich.

 
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn 4
It was only in February 2012 that we passed the courtyard entry to the right of the shop frontage and noticed that it qualifies for our public lettering website: the familiar nameboard which was fixed outside for years is hanging just under the ceiling.
'17 ... ATFIELD & DAUGHTER ... 17'
It seems that any empty shop premises in Ipswich automatically becomes a hairdresser's business (it use to be a mobile telephone emporium and before that a shoe shop). Thank goodness that this building is no exception.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn 1
Sneaking into the entry, we photographed the emblematic sun motif, the relief work picked out in golden yellow, on the courtyard wall and noticed a second metallic sun above it (see inset of the image below).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn 2
The timber-framed No. 17 was once a merchant's house erected in the 16th, possibly even the 15th, century and would have been part of rows of buildings crowding on either side of St Stephen's Lane. No. 17 now faces the blank wall of Buttermarket Shopping Centre. The house was converted to an inn around 1560. Refurbished in 1720, it stood next to a gabled rectory, presumably for the nearby church. When the cattle market was moved to the site of the current country bus station in 1810 it became the Sun Inn. However, in 1795 the 'Ancient and Most Venerable Order of the Druids' held a meeting there, 'at the house of Brother Willam Phillips at the sign of the Sun inn'.  Once the market moved to Prince's Street (opposite the Greyfriars tower) business fell away and it closed in 1901.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn 3
The goldmine of information on the Suffolk CAMRA site (see Links) tells us that it opened as an inn in 1720 (this differs from the much earlier date of 1560 stated above) and closed c.1917; it was previously known as The Rising Sun. It became used extensively by drovers and cattle-dealers after the old cattle market took over a nearby site used previously as a Timber Market. It is currently a listed building: Grade II. The premises were listed in the 1844 White's Directory with carriers operating from the inn to Diss. Sometime in late 1880s the building was much reduced in size when Dog's Head Street was widened and straightened for trams. For many years after closing as an inn the building was used as an antique shop by Mr Silburn and others.

During the 1960s the building was purchased by the Atfield family and became an antiques and specialist bookshop, closing eventually in 1998. The work on the building has become a labour of love for Doug Atfield, his family and their friends over the years; visitors during the Heritage Open Days in Ipswich have been fascinated by the intimate rooms gradually revealing their secrets whilst they (the visitors) were treated to tea and cakes. When we visited some years ago, an old, angled mirror had been mounted outside the ground floor room facing the courtyard to reflect the image of the, as yet, unrestored sun sign above.

Pottery from AD 650  has been discovered and a skeleton found beneath the floor (covered by many layers of sand which over the years had dropped through the floorboard cracks when it was a 'spit and sawdust' pub) which may relate to
burials outside St Stephens Church (which is mentioned in the Domesday Book). It is said that some very interesting items have been found within, such as a hidden cellar (between the ground floor and the basement), a 19th century carbon coated ice box, and various mummified beasts, including a mouse, a bat and a rat.

Interior
During the Heritage Open Weekend inSeptember 2014, although not strictly part of the event, the empty and, by now, fully restored interior could be viewed. This was prior to a new tenant moving into the shop, a fancy dress hire business. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so the following photographs record the rooms and spaces within.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 11   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 12
The large, high-status fireplace on the ground floor with a detail of the carving.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 2
The notice pinned in the gothic arch reads:
'This doorway was discovered during restoration. it was hidden beneath layers of lathe and plaster. We think it led to an outer covered stairway and down into yard. But when the building was converted to "The Sun Inn" the existing "inner" staircase was built, this enabled the yard/passage to be widened allowing easier access to rear of building for horse drawn vehicles where there was stabling for 12 horses, which was lost after Sun Inn was closed and sold on 31st January 1901. Because then the property was divided up.
At the same time as the new staircase was constructed 18 to 24 inches was sliced off the south end of the building removing the timber frame end (which once matched the north end) – the timber frame end was replaced with brickwork walls and chimney stack.'
  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 7
Above: insect damage to the ancient timbers; below: hand-painted decorative frieze on the plasterwork.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 9

Roofspace timber structure.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 10  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 5

This fresh view of the moulded and painted Sun in the yard boasts striking blue eyes. Doug Atfield tells us that the metal sun emblem above it is a fire insurance sign – a happy coincidence.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 15
It is only a few steps from here to St Stephen's Church, now the Tourist Information Centre, which bears traces of a famous Ipswich name: Sir Thomas Rush.

These remarkable posters for performances at The Lecture Hall (1881) in Tower Street and The Theatre Royal, Ipswich (1856) were hung in an upper room. Full transcriptions can be found below. Intriguingly, they are printed on silken material.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 13   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sun Inn interior 14
‘A Glorious and Genuine Success.
POOLE’S PANORAMA AND CONCERT COMPANY,
received with raptures!
———————————————
LECTURE HALL, TOWER STREET.,
IPSWICH,
Beautifully New Seated and Decorated throughout, and
now positively the most comfortable place of amusement
in Ipswich.
———————————————
FIRST GRAND FASHIONABLE NIGHT,
On Friday, October 21st, 1881,
POOLE’S
New Colossal Panorama
Illustrating a
TOUR OF THE WORLD
Will be under the distinguished patronage
and presence of
T.C. COBBOLD, ESQ., C.B., M.P.,
When a Special and Select Programme will be presented
by Poole’s talented
CONCERT COMPANY
ACCOMPANIED BY POOLE’S
First-class Brass and String Band.
————————————————
Now Open every Evening at Eight,
And on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 and 8.
————————————————
Admission: Front Seats, 3s. ; Second ditto, 2s. ; Third ditto, 1s. ; Back ditto, 6d.
Single and Family Tickets at Mr. Haddock’s, Ancient House, where a plan of
Reserved Seats may be seen.
Manager _ MR. C. W. POOLE.’

‘THEATRE ROYAL, IPSWICH.
Lessee, MR. CHARLES GILL, many years a Member of the Norwich Circuit.
Open for Six Nights Only.
WITH MISS
REBECCA ISAACS,
AND A LONDON COMPANY.
—————————————————
On Friday Evening, July 25, 1856,
The Performances will be under the Distinguished Patronage & Presence of
SIR E.S. GOOCH, BART.,
AND
SIR FITZROY KELLY,
MEMBERS FOR THE COUNTY.
—————————————————
On which occasion will be Acted the Favourite Comedy entitled a
ROLAND FOR AN OLIVER
Sir Mark Chase … Mr. LOCKWOOD     Sir Alfred Highflyer … Mr. DELAFIELD
Mr. Selborne … Mr. COOKE    Fixture … Mr. CLARK   Game Keepers &c. &c.
Marian Darlington … … … MISS REBECCA ISAACS
In which Character she will Sing “When Harmony Wakens,” & the favourite song of “Annie Laurie.”
Mrs. Selborne … Miss WEBSTER     Mrs. Fixture … Miss BEAUFORT

—————————————————
A COMIC SONG - - - - BY MR. CLARK.
A FAVOURITE DANCE - - - BY MISS DOWNING.
—————————————————
To conclude with the Laughable Farce of
WHY DON’T SHE MARRY!
Natz Teik … Mr. CLARK     Corporal Max … Mr. DOLPHIN
Sergeant Standfast … Mr. DELIGHT     Firelock … Mr. JAMES
Jobson … Mr. THOMPSON     Sword Knott … Mr. DUNBAR
Lisette Gelerstein … Miss REBECCA ISAACS.
in which character she will sing “Light is my heart,” “Liberty for me,” & “Charming May.”
Louise … Miss DOWNING     Janet … Miss WEBSTER     Pauline … Miss PEARCE

—————————————————
On MONDAY Evening, July 28th, the Performance will be under the
Patronage & Presence of

A. ARCEDECKNE, Esq., High Sheriff of the County.
On which occasion will be Acted TWO NEW PIECES, in which Miss REBECCA ISAACS will perform.
—————————————————
Prices of Admission–Dress Boxes - - 3s.     Lower Boxes - - 2s.     Pit - - 1s.    Gallery - - 6d.
Half-Price to the Dress Boxes 1s. 6d., Lower Boxes 1s.     No Half-Price to the Pit or Gallery.
On the Two Race Nights the Doors will be opened at Half-past Seven and the Performance will begin at Eight.
Tickets and Places for the Boxes may be secured at W. SPALDING’S Library, Westgate Street.

—————————————————
W. SPALDING, PRINTER, WESTGATE STREET, IPSWICH.'

See our Old Cattle Market page for a 1674 map of the area.


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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