Wolsey's college in Ipswich
A major strand in the history of the town concerns its most famous
(some might say notorious) son, Thomas Wolsey (c.1475-1530). There are
a few features
within today's Ipswich to remind us of the man who was to rise to
become the second most powerful man in the kingdom of the mercurial
The plaque on Curson
Lodge in St Nicholas Street reminds us of his origins. Wolsey's
Gate, albeit worn away by pollution, weather and time, still stands in
College Street, close to the docks. This watergate to the college is
the only physical remnant of Wolsey's great scheme to establish a
school linked to his own Cardinal College in Oxford; a school to rival
Eton or Winchester. However, there are one or two clues in the street
names of Ipswich.
The map detail above from Pennington's map of
Ipswich 1778 clearly labels a house at lower centre-left: 'Turret'.
The north-south street, which today we know as Turret Lane, is here
labelled St Stephens Lane and was one of the ancient ways from the dock
to the heart of the town.
Turret Lane is named
after the Turret
House (demolished in 1843) – a later name for what must have been the
Dean's House to the north of the college site and which formed the main
entrance to it. The plan illustrated here shows the house at the top,
with turrets echoing those which are decribed as adorning the college
buildings. The positioning of this house and its gardens is indicated
on the sketch map of the whole college site as it was in 1528.
Notes on the map of Wolsey's College
1. The red outline indicates
the probable extent of Wolsey's College with
the area later known as 'Mr Sparrow's Garden' (with Turret House at the
top) to the north of the site. More recent street names are indicated
2. Lord Curson's House at the
upper left of the site is shown in more detail below. Wolsey intended
to requisition this property as his own retirement home, adjoining
his much-vaunted College. Curson could hardly refuse but, having
asked for three years grace, he kept his head down and was saved by the
fall of Wolsey, the College was lost and so he retained his home.
Above: a traced copy of the Tudor plan of Curson House (with extra
captions in larger font from those on the original) taken from Sir
Robert, Lord Curson, soldier, courtier and spy, and his Ipswich mansion by John Blatchly and Bill Haward,
Ipswich Institute of Archaeology and History research paper.
Street was home
to an early incarnation of Ipswich Grammar School ('The Ipswich
School'). Merchant and
politician, Richard Felaw, left his
house in the street (then called St Edmund Pountney Lane) as a home
the school, endowing it with the income from lands at Whitton so that
children of needy parents
could attend without paying fees. One of the earliest beneficiaries was
a young Thomas Wolsey, later Cardinal Archbishop of York and Lord
Chancellor of England. See also our Lower
Brook Street page for more about Rosemary Lane and St Edmund de
4. Wolsey's likeness is
'celebrated' on a plaque on the side entrance to
the Wolsey Gallery (and Wolsey Garden) behind Christchurch Mansion.
5. Lady Lane is the remainder of the site of
Gracechurch, the shrine of Ipswich (as documented by Lord Curson
himself). Wolsey intended to capitalise on
the fame and success of the shrine by linking it to his College.
6. Cardinal Street, New Cardinal
Wolsey Street near Greyfriars are obvious nods to the man, as are
Wolsey Court, Wolsey Gardens and Cardinal's Court.
A bust of Wolsey sits upstairs in the Town Hall and we have recently
heard about another likeness by Robert Mellamphy in plaster-of-paris
which resided for around twenty years in St Peter on the Waterfront and
was moved to the vestry of St
Clement Church and may, we had hoped, be made into a 'proper' bronze.
However, an opening of St Clement in May 2014 reveals that it has quite
a high level of dampness in the air and we hear from Dr John Blatchly
that the maquette in
chicken wire and plaster had begun to collapse. Apparently Robert
Mellamphy's family have returned it to his studio, but it is perhaps
unlikely that it will be cast. We wonder if anyone ever photographed
likenesses are joined by the somewhat controversial, 21st century Wolsey
statue in St Peter's Street, outside the site of Curson House.
There is a public house called, since September 2011, The Thomas Wolsey
Peters Street (see below).
Cardinal Wolsey by Sampson
Strong at Christ Church (1610); the painting is kept at
Palace & Gardens, Wells, Somerset.
Although it would be difficult to find a better example of abuses in
the Church than the Cardinal himself, Wolsey appeared to make some
steps towards reform. In 1524 and 1527 he used his powers as papal
legate to dissolve thirty decayed monasteries where corruption had run
rife, including abbeys in Ipswich and Oxford. However, he then used the
income to found a grammar school in Ipswich (The King's School,
Ipswich, later Ipswich School) and Cardinal College in Oxford. The
college in Oxford was renamed King's College after Wolsey's fall.
Today, it is known as Christ Church. Wolsey died five years before
Henry's dissolution of the monasteries en masse began.
A chronology of Wolsey's college
(based on Dr John Blatchly’s excellent book A famous antient seed-plot of learning,
see Reading list)
6 May. Papal bull for the
establishment of the Ipswich College sent from Rome to Wolsey by Bishop
Worcester, auditor of your Apostolic Chamber there.
November. Thomas Cromwell,
friend and follower of Wolsey,
visits Ipswich about the building of the college.
March. The Duke of Norfolk
writes to tell Wolsey that he has visited the site and ordered a plan
of St Peter and St Paul Priory. He can advise the Cardinal how to ‘save
large monie in buildyng there’, presumably by using some of the priory
buildings, particularly by modifying the Church of St Peter as the
14 May. Pope Clement VII
issues a bull authorising the suppression of five small priories
including Felixstowe and Blythburgh (the latter the subject of a Time
Team programme on Channel 4, which can be viewed on the web).
26 May. King Henry VIII
ratifies a bull for the suppression of the Augustinian priory of St
Peter and St Paul in Ipswich
31 May. The king ratifies the
bull for the transfer from Wolsey’s Oxford College of five priories
including Snape and Dodnash.
15 June. The foundation stone
of the college is laid by John Holte, titular bishop of Lydda and a
suffragan of London. In the 18th century the stone was found built into
wall in Friars Road (which ran between Friars Street and Wolsey Street:
it no longer exists) and was presented to Christ Church, Oxford by the
Rev. Richard Canning, where it is kept in the chapter
College foundation stone Facsimile in St Peter's
'AN . CHRISTI . M
The translation is: 'This year of our Lord 1528 and the 20th
the Reign of King Henry VIII of England and the 15th of June [this
stone] laid by John [Holt], Bishop of Lydda'.
DXXVIII . ET
REGNI . HENRICI
OCTAVI . REGIS
ANGLIĘ XX . MENSIS
VERO . IUNII . XV
p . IOHEM . EPN . LIDEM'
21 June. Building work is
begun by thirty-seven freemasons working under local master masons,
John Barbour and Richard Lee, using Caen stone. Mr Daundy, Wolsey’s
cousin, has imported a 121 tons and promises 1,000 more before the
26 June. The king grants the
rectory of St Matthew’s, Ipswich to the college, a living held at the
time by Wolsey’s natural son, Thomas Winter.
29 June. The King's letters
patent for the foundation of the college are issued. It could be built
in St Matthew’s parish (‘where the said Cardinal was born’) or
30 June. Cromwell to Thomas
Arundel: he must delay erection of the college at Ipswich until 21
July as the offices of Chancery will not expire till then.
3 July. Wolsey commissions six
eminent clerics including Stephen Gardiner, later Bishop of Winchester,
to prepare statutes for the college.
28 July. Wolsey executes his
foundation deed, based on the king’s letters patent, converting St
Peter and St Paul Priory to ‘Saint Mary, Cardynall College of Ipswich’.
William Capon STP, master of Jesus College, Cambridge is appointed dean
of the college, presiding over twelve priest fellows, eight clerks,
eight children (choristers), a grammar-school master and usher, fifty
grammar scholars and ’12 poure men to pray dayly to God for the good
astate of our Graces King & the said Cardinall, ther friends souls
and all christen soulls’. Later Thomas Cromwell makes draft lists of
stipends (the dean and master both have £13 6 shillings and eightpence)
and adds a second usher, who is ‘keeper of the scholehouse’.
7 August. Wolsey, from his
mansion Hampton Court, instructs Dean Capon to assemble the
parishioners of St Peter's and offer them the choice of St Nicholas or
St Mary-At-The-Quay for their future
worship. In her will, Dame
Elizabeth Gelget leaves money for the purchase of a roof from Capon
should the churchwardens of St Mary-At-The-Quay choose to cover the
chancel there with it. The congregation there, about to be swelled by
about half the parishioners of St Peter’s, would need a church in good
order. St Mary-At-The-Quay chancel roof shows every sign of being
roughly reassembled probably from St Peter’s.
Wolsey wanted his chapel to resemble those of Eton and King’s: squarer
than the traditional long cruciform shape and better for grand
ceremonial. The Tournai marble font basin, lacking is large central
pillar and four slender ones at the corners, is given an incongruous
Tudor base. The west doorway of St Peter's was embellished with heads,
shields and fleurons (flower shaped ornaments) in the jambs and two
large vaulted canopied niches to north and south, probably for statues
of St Peter and St Paul. This is Tudor rather than medieval work.
10 August. Dean Capon
publishes the acquisition of many smaller properties given by Wolsey
with the king's approval. The deed is dated from ‘the chapel of our
said college’, that is, the refurbished St Peter’s.
20 August. The king inspects
and confirms a papal bull dated 12 June exempting the college from all
ecclesiastical jurisdiction but that of the pope, that two archbishops
being guardians of its liberties.
1 September. The college in
session under William Goldwin, master. Wolsey sends his Rudimenta
Grammatices, ‘dedicated not only to Ipswich School, most happily
founded by the most reverend Lord Thomas, Cardinal of York, back to all
other schools in England’.
8 September. Feast of the
nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Capon writes at length describing
to Wolsey – who could not be present – the first annual
celebration of the foundation. After solemn mass the planned procession
to Gracechurch in Lady Lane is interrupted by rain, but a lavish feast
is enjoyed nevertheless.
Wednesday after Christmas. The
Great Court grants the colour college the interest in all the property,
in Ipswich and at Whitton, with which Richard Felaw endowed the grammar
school. Against ‘Concessio’ [granted] in the margin is written ‘Vacat'
[void], showing that the corporation managed to reverse the grant after
the fall of the college.
10 January. William Goldwin
writes to Wolsey reporting progress and, presumably by the same
messenger, the bailiffs reply to Wolsey’s request that they grant the
college the former endowments of the grammar school.
12 April. Capon writes to
Cromwell: they have begun to set the freestone; there are troubles with
the choir. But the school is so well attended that it must be enlarged;
schoolmaster and usher take great pains.
30 April. Sir Robert Curson
(Lord Curson) agrees to Wolsey’s request that he, Curson, give his own
house on St Peters Street, adjoining the college, as his ‘provost’s
residence’ in the manner of the provosts of Eton and Winchester. Robert
Curson cannily asks for three year’s grace to move out thus avoiding
the need ever to do so, due the imminent fall of both Wolsey and his
college at Ipswich.
July. Thomas Cromwell’s agent
Brabazon reports that the college is going on prosperously ‘and much of
it above ground, which is very curious work’. Working day and night,
more has been done in the last three weeks then for some time before.
July to September. Gifts,
investments, books and other furnishings for the chapel arrived from
many sources including Wolsey’s York Place in London [see below].
8 August. Bailiffs and portman
write to thank Wolsey for setting up the college to the honour and use
of the town.
8 September. It is not known
whether the second Lady Day procession was held.
13 November. Royal
commissioners visit to make an inventory of all valuables and building
materials. They estimate that the college had £10,000 worth of Wolsey’s
‘treasure’ and take away with them the best plate and vestments.
1 December. Wolsey is
9 July and 20 July. Dean Capon
writes twice to Wolsey, in his first expressing pessimism about the
future, the second telling him that the king was resolved to dissolve
the college by Michaelmas.
19 September. Commissioners
sitting at Woodbridge rule that all the college lands are forfeit to
4 October. Capon tells Wolsey
that the Duke of Norfolk has ordered the dissolution of the college,
retaining only the dean, sub-dean, schoolmaster, usher and six grammar
children pending the king’s pleasure. The king orders the demolition of
the college and the materials to be shipped to Galye Quay in London
where they are to be used to enlarge what was formerly Wolsey’s York
Place to become the royal palace of Whitehall. Only Wolsey’s Gate, the
waterside entrance to the Ipswich college next to the (St Peter)
chapel, remains today.
From the Cornhill and the Buttermarket visitors passed under an
impressive tower and walked through a long formal garden. The Turret
House [see the top of this page], as it was latterly called, was pulled
down in 1843. It was
probably a remnant of the Dean's house, well situated, at some remove
from the boys, for entertaining guests.
29 November. Wolsey dies at
Leicester Abbey on his way to London.
Wolsey’s remains were interred somewhere within the abbey’s church,
possibly in the Lady Chapel, where they are thought to remain; however
the exact location of his burial is unknown. A more recent memorial
slab can be found in Abbey Park, Leicester, all that remains of the
Augustinian Abbey of St Mary de Pratis which was 'dissolved' in 1538.
The slab bears Wolsey's coat of arms.
Ipswich college property bringing in an income of £2,234 a year
assigned to the Oxford college (now to be known as King's College of
Christ Church), St George’s Windsor, the king and various other
persons. Thomas Alvard (stepson of Sir
Thomas Rush), agent of Thomas Cromwell, is given the college
site. Most importantly, the ‘college or school’ of Ipswich is assigned
£60 a year – in another document only £43 – to cover the stipends of
master and usher and to be paid out of the profits of crown lands in
the county, but Felaw’s bequests not mentioned as probably already
recovered by the corporation. Thomas Cromwell is still credited with
ensuring that the school was not forgotten in the dissolution of the
See also our Christ's Hospital
School page for more on the story of The Grammar School, today
York Place / White Hall
By the 13th century, the Palace of Westminster had become the
centre of government in England, and had been the main London residence
of the king since 1049. The surrounding area became a very popular and
expensive location. The archbishop of York, Walter de Grey, bought a
property in the area as his London residence soon after 1240, calling
it York Place.
Edward I of England stayed at the property on several occasions while
work was carried out at Westminster, and enlarged the building to
accommodate his entourage. York Place was rebuilt during the
15th century and expanded so much by Cardinal Wolsey that it was
rivalled by only Lambeth Palace as the greatest house in London – the
king's London palaces included. Consequently, when King Henry VIII
removed the Wolsey from power in 1530, he acquired York Place to
replace Westminster as his main London residence. He inspected its
treasures in the company of Anne Boleyn. The phrase Whitehall or White
Hall is first recorded in 1532; it had its origins in the white stone
used for the buildings.
The Palace of Whitehall (or Palace of White Hall) was the main
residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when
all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire.
Before the fire it had grown to be the largest palace in Europe, with
over 1,500 rooms, overtaking the Vatican and Versailles. The
palace gives its name, Whitehall, to the road on which many of the
current administrative buildings of the United Kingdom government
are situated, and hence to the central government itself.
The Thomas Wolsey public house,
9 St Peters St
Now that we have this web page in place we, at last, have a place to
show Tudor mouldings from an interior ceiling in the Thomas Wolsey
public house in St Peters Street, once a fine merchant's house and yard.
It stands next door
to the Rose Hotel with its vestigial 'Cobbolds'
This building is Listed Grade II and
dates from the 17th century. It was converted
into a large single ground floor bar with upstairs rooms and a narrow
staircase leading to the Tudor parlour. It was renamed The Thomas
Wolsey in September 2011. There is a seated drinking
area in the courtyard and beneath the carriage entrance, which has one
of the public rooms above.
The Thomas Wolsey was previously called Rapps in early 1980s,
The Black Adder in the early 1990s when ex-footballer Alan Brazil
owned the pub for several years. A friend of this website, Linda Wilde,
made the excellent snakish engraved glass sheets which hung in the
front windows of the Black Adder – we wonder where they ended up?
Before it was called The Thomas Wolsey it was called 'bar IV'.
Flying pigs are a favoured motif, emblem of the Bacon family who
once lived here. Also Tudor roses,
grotesque horned men (perhaps green men, as seen on the Tolly Cobbold brewery?) and other animals.
The room also has a fine fireplace with carved wood overmantle.
The Listing text is shown below (British Listed buildings, see Links):-
"A C17 timber-framed and plastered house, similar in design to Nos 3
and 5, with 3 jettied gables on paired brackets. Altered in the C19.
The gables have C19 cut and shaped ornamental bargeboards and sham
exposed timber-framing. 3 window range, early C19 bay windows on the
1st storey, double-hung sashes with vertical glazing bars. The attics
are lit by windows in the gables. The ground storey has C19 shop
windows and a carriage way to a small courtyard at the rear. A
continuous fascia with an unusual modillion cornice unites the ground
storey. At the rear 2 wings extend to the east. On the north side there
is a 2 storey wing with a range of casement windows with lattice leaded
lights and a single storey extension at the east end. On the south side
there is a jettied upper storey with exposed joists and a range of
casement windows similar to those on the south side. The ground storey
has brick nogging and a boarded door with a Tudor arched head. The
window above the carriage entrance is an oriel bay with leaded lattice
lights and a moulded sill. The wings at the rear have been restored.
Nos 5 to 13 (odd), No 13A, Nos 15 to 33 (odd), No 33A and Nos 35 to 39
(odd) form a group."
Wolsey... who he?
Thomas Wolsey (c.1475-1530) was a priest from relatively humble
was blessed with academic brilliance and rapacious ambition. His
birthplace could well be on the site of The Black Horse public house
(see Street name derivations for Black
Horse Lane for more information). It’s a
matter of opinion which of these was more responsible for his rise to
become first minister of Henry VIII, and chief political confidant, but
he had got to the top, he had a lot to offer. He was perhaps the finest
ministerial mind England had ever had until at least the 19th century.
He collected ecclesiastical titles and properties like stamps. He went
from being a royal chaplain to Bishop of Lincoln, then Archbishop of
York, finally Lord Chancellor of England. He also became Cardinal
Wolsey, Papal Legate whose authority in some respects therefore went
beyond that of King Henry VIII himself. Wolsey began building Hampton
Court Palace in 1514, and carried on making improvements throughout the
1520s. Descriptions record rich tapestry-lined apartments, and how you
had to traverse eight rooms before finding his audience chamber. He was
accused, after his death, of imagining himself the equal of sovereigns,
and his fall from power was seen as a natural consequence of arrogance
overarching ambition. Yet Wolsey was also a diligent statesman, who
worked hard to translate Henry VIII’s own dreams and ambitions into
effective domestic and foreign policy. When he failed to do so, most
notably when Henry’s plans to divorce Katherine of Aragon were thwarted
by Katherine herself and the Pope, his fall from favour was swift and
final. Thomas Wolsey died on his way to a possible final and fatal
meeting with royal wrath, at Leicester Abbey in 1530.
Over the fourteen years of his chancellorship, Cardinal Wolsey had more
power than any other Crown servant in English history. As long as he
was in the king’s favour, Wolsey had a large amount of freedom within
the domestic sphere, and had his hand in nearly every aspect of its
ruling. For much of the time, Henry VIII had complete confidence in
him and, as Henry's interests inclined more towards foreign policy, he
was willing to give Wolsey a free hand in reforming the management of
domestic affairs, for which Wolsey had grand plans in the fields of taxation,
justice and church reforms.
See the Historical
Portraits Picture Archive for an excellent short biography of the
Thomas Wolsey. Also the statue of Wolsey
on Curson Plain.
See also our Old Cattle Market
page for Wolsey's friend and contemporary at Court, Sir Thomas Rush,
his mansion in Upper Brook Street and his memorial chapel in St Stephen
For more on the ancient charity schools of Ipswich, see our Christ's Hospital School page.
timeline for two thousand years of the town's history;
Ipswich invasions timeline to
see all the raiders and invaders who attacked Ipswich throughout its
Christchurch/Holy Trinity Priory
page for a
note about the Ipswich claim to be the earliest continuously settled
Queens timelines (which includes architectural styles).
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