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.
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.
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
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
Prince's Street (opposite the Greyfriars tower) business fell away and
it closed in 1901.
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
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;
during the Heritage Open Days in Ipswich have been fascinated by the
intimate rooms gradually revealing their secrets whilst they (the
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.
... ATFIELD & DAUGHTER ... 17'
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.
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
Stephens Church (which is mentioned in the Domesday Book). It is
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.
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
The large, high-status fireplace on the ground floor
with a detail of the carving.
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.'
Above: insect damage to the ancient timbers; below: hand-painted
decorative frieze on the plasterwork.
Roofspace timber structure.
This fresh view of the moulded and painted Sun in the
boasts striking blue eyes. Doug Atfield tells us that the metal sun
emblem above it is a fire insurance sign – a happy coincidence.
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.
‘A Glorious and Genuine Success.
POOLE’S PANORAMA AND CONCERT COMPANY,
received with raptures!
LECTURE HALL, TOWER STREET.,
Beautifully New Seated and Decorated throughout, and
now positively the most comfortable place of amusement
FIRST GRAND FASHIONABLE NIGHT,
On Friday, October 21st, 1881,
New Colossal Panorama
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
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.’
Lessee, MR. CHARLES GILL, many years a Member of the Norwich
Open for Six Nights Only.
AND A LONDON COMPANY.
On Friday Evening, July 25, 1856,
The Performances will be under the Distinguished Patronage &
SIR E.S. GOOCH, BART.,
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 …
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.
Sergeant Standfast … Mr. DELIGHT Firelock … Mr.
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.
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission