The Ancient House, ABC cinema, Ipswich Windows, The Wheatsheaf, Grand Hotel, Frederic Corder's store

30 Butter Market
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 10
Above: from Ipswich in 1912: King Edward Memorial Sanatorium EADT Souvenir book
For an early 1860s photograph of the Ancient House by John Wiggin, see our Wiggin & Son page.
Ipswich's most famous landmark is The Ancient House which stands on the corner of Butter Market (the street, rather than the nearby shopping centre) and St Stephens Lane (which leads down to St Stephen Church, now the Tourist Information Centre and gallery). The earliest reference to the Ancient House can be found in the 15th (some say the 14th) century, when it was owned by the knight, Sir Richard of Martlesham. In the 16th century the house was owned by a string of local merchants, including George Copping, a draper and fishmonger, who acquired the property in 1567. It was Copping who commissioned the panelling of the ground floor room at the front of the house. He also built the 'long gallery'. The Sparrowe (spellings vary) family became the owners of the house in 1603 and continued ownership of it for the next 300 years. It became known as 'Sparrow's House'. Robert Sparowe, a grocer, added the elaborate pargeting to the front and side of the house between 1660 and 1670. The association with trade, provisions and markets is due to the fact that for hundreds of years the thriving market(s) on Cornhill spilled out into nearby streets and lanes, including, of course, 'the butter market'. One legend tells of King Charles II hiding from his enemies in the Attic Room after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 (Charles II's colourful royal arms are part of the pargetting).
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The Ancient House is the source of the name  'Ipswich window'. See our Tavern Street page for an explanation.

This distinctive Grade 1 listed landmark dominates the Butter Market area.
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Above left: the street nameplate opposite The Ancient House (corner of Dial Lane) with the three beehives fire insurance company plate (? – see below), one of a pair, above it. Above right: the Butter Market street nameplate in white characters reversed out against brown (there are a number of signs in this livery in the town centre) close to the Giles statue. The name relates to a time when busy markets in particular produce spread out from the Cornhill into nearby streets. It was once known as Fish Market around the Ancient House. Such was the mess and smell, the occupants complained bitterly and eventually the fish market was resited to Upper Brook Street. The Ancient House was extended out into its present building line – presumably to prevent the return of the fishmongers – and went on to bear its characteristic pargeting.

The Butter Market and environs as shown on a map of 1867

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market map 18671867 map

The secret Wild Man, 25-31 Butter Market (former Edinburgh Wool Mill shop)
The property on the
corner of Butter Market and Dial Lane has been occupied for some years by Edinburgh Woollen Mill. We wonder how many customers glance up as they exit the shop and walk beneath the overhang of the jettied first storey. They might get a fright from the wild bearded man staring down at them with his teeth bared. Bob Allen refers to this as a 'Wodewose': a wild man of the woods; a satyr, faun’; Wodewoses are wild creatures. These wild men appear in old manuscripts and feature on the stem of the font of the Church of St Clement, reflecting the pagan sources of belief systems.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market Wild Man 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market Wild Man 22019 images
This is the carved end of a dragon-beam, set at 45 degrees to the walls of the building. The trims of the modern shop-front have been cut round it.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market Wild Man 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market Wild Man 4
When jettying, horizontal elements can include: the jetty bressummer (not present here but visible on a number of Ipswich buildings), the dragon-beam which runs diagonally from one corner to another, and supports the corner posts above and often supported by the corner posts below. Although there is currently no ground floor corner-post here however, we are told that engravings show one to be in place in the past.

The fire-plates
Above, the position of the carving (arrowed) and just above it the street nameplate and the fire insurance company cast medallion. This is one of two identical plates on Butter Market, the other is to the east on number 33. Below: a close-up of the latter example . The neighbouring building round the corner in Dial Lane is the gem-like Scarborow Opticians shop.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market sign 3

Although we have called these shapes beehives, in close-up they resemble rocket-powered wedding cakes during lift-off. Does anybody know what these castings represent?
[UPDATE 5.6.2023: 'I think I may have some new info for you! A couple of weeks back, whilst reading stuff on your excellent web site, I came across the piece about the plaque on the wall in the Buttermarket, opposite the Ancient House.Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market sign 4
It intrigued me because of my insurance background. I’ve looked at fire marks before and I’ve never heard of a company with such a logo. I decided to investigate. I started with the Chartered Insurance Institute ,who couldn’t help, but put me in touch with a group called The Fire Mark Circle. They have now come back to me to say that the plaque is not a Fire Mark. They think it’s probably a property or boundary marker. They tell me the ‘bee hives are three tuns or barrels'. Do you know if we had a local family or business with such a coat of arms? If it’s not a fire mark then there is a chance the plaque is older than first thought. Fire marks weren’t used until the 18th century. Do we know how long the plaque has been there? The Fire Mark Circle are very kindly still investigating so I’ll let you know if they come back with anything new. Regards, Neil Thompson.' Thanks to Neil for the ongoing research.]
The Grade II Listing text for this rake of buildings running east from Dial Lane reads: 'Probably a C17 timber-framed and plastered building with a return front on Dial Lane part of which retains a jettied upper storey. Refronted in the C18 and altered in the C20. [presumably the modern shop-fronts]' One can draw from this that the plastered frontage we see today – and therefore the decorative plates – date from some time during or after the 1700s. The interpretation given to Neil that the shapes are tuns (barrels) is a bit baffling.
The illustration here shows a tun. A further update from The Fire Mark Circle suggests that the shapes might be wicker creels for transporting fish and that the shapes underneath each one might be fish. Interestingly, this part of the 'Butter Market' was once called 'The Fish Market' which only had to move round the corner into Upper Brook Street when the owner, Mr Sparrow (who was probably sick of the smell of rotting fish guts), extended the frontage of The Ancient House and added the famous pargetting between 1660 and 1670. This is dealt with in the following passage and it appears that the fish market moved before 1635.
Further contributions welcome.

Butter Market
Muriel Clegg in Streets and street names in Ipswich (see Reading List): "The name Butter Market had in the meantime begun to be associated with the areas which had formerly accomodated the fish market and the cheesemarket. In 1621 the name appeared for the first time when Joan Coppin, widow, was in trouble for allowing the street before her house in the Butter Market to be in decay. In 1635 it was 'the fish market now used as the butter market (forum piscum modo usiat. pro foro butier) and in 1695 'The Cheese and Butter Street'. Possibly 'the street from the Butter Market towards the Cornhil (1628)' is the Thoroughfare, shown but not named by Ogilby and Pennington. For some time the name Butter Market continued to be associated with the market site, which had never extended to Brook Street. Thus throughout the eighteenth century the east end of the street continued to be called 'the street from the Butter Market to Brook Street' (1776). Ironically, it was probably not until a market ceased to be held in the street that the name Old Butter market and eventually Butter market was applied to the entire street."
For a similar commentary on St Lawrence Street see our St Lawrence Church page; on Dial Lane see also our Scarborow page.

In the late seventies, the Ancient House was in an extremely poor state of repair and close to collapse. At this stage it was purchased and renovated by Ipswich Borough Council and returned to its former glory using modern building techniques and materials. The Ancient House boasts highly detailed exterior plaster work (pargeting) and ornamental wood carvings, and is currently called home by Lakeland Kitchenware with an art gallery in the upper part of the building. Due to weak floors this area cannot be used for retail display, so community groups used to display arts and crafts there – as long as they did not exceed the loading limit. Leading off the gallery by a tiny, low ceilinged staircase is a lower room, sometimes called 'The Chapel Room'. This appears to be the roof part of a grand hall, judging by the beams and supports, which has been floored over at a later date. It is quite a mysterious place and a steady stream of visitors used to come to see the room throughout the year until the retail company ceased to open the room.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 1 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 2
The fine oriel windows which front the Buttermarket are most noted for the pargeted reliefs showing figures and objects which relate to the four known continents of the Tudor period (Australasia had yet to be discovered by westerners). The lettering in the upper part of each panel is shown enhanced in each image. The naive depictions are both impressive and amusing to our modern eyes. Impressive not least in that they have survived so long:
'AMERICA'   ...   'AFRICA'   ...   'ASIA'   ...   'EUROPE'
America is represented by an Aztec/Inca-style man with a bow and arrow and a dog at his feet, Africa is represented by a naked man holding a spear and sunshade, Asia by a woman on a horse with a domed mosque-like building, Europe by a woman holding a cornucopia, seated on a horse with a castle in the background. Other panels show the three elements: Earth, Water and Air. Round the corner on the western gable is a nice depiction of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, also St George in the garb of a 17th century gentleman dealing with a recumbent dragon.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 3a Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 4
We owe the survival of the Ancient House pargeting and carved oak beams and posts to the fact that the house was in the possession of one family for such a long period and that Ipswich Borough Council purchased it and conducted an extensive renovation. This project was not without its problems: the foundations had sunk, but the heavy fireplaces had sunk at a different rate. Over 260 tonnes of concrete was used in the foundations, and 11 tonnes of steel were used overall. In addition to this, woodworm and dry and wet rot had set in, and the deathwatch beetle was rife. Renovation began in 1984, and no part of the building was untouched. Foundations were underpinned, the rot & infestations were eradicated, floors were strengthened, plasterwork pargeting was restored, windows were releaded and features were exposed.

The Ritz/ABC cinema
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 1968Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive
Above: the ABC cinema and, beyond, the Ancient House in 1968 (dated by the release of the John Wayne film, The Green Berets). Fire brigade in attendance for some reason: an ironic foreshadowing of events in August 1992.
[UPDATE 6.2.2021: 'Hi Borin. A bit of modern this time. A small advertising pamphlet from the ABC cinema, 1986. From when Mum used to work behind the bar.
Best wishes, Paul Smith.']
Ipswich Historic Lettering: ABC cinema leaflet cover

Nearby demolition and the 1992 fire
The other major event which could have threatened The Ancient House was a disastrous fire in August 1992.
Booksale remainder shop (now 'The Works'), Alderton's shoe shop and Hughes Electrical (where the electrical fire started) were all destroyed, robbing Ipswich of some important timber-framed buildings. However, the intense heat, which melted plastic guttering across the road, did not spread through the former ABC cinema to The Ancient House. Yes, it is hard to believe, but a piece of modernist brutalism adjoined the old building for many years as contemporary photos from the fifties attest. Perhaps the old ABC protected the house from destruction by fire (see the update below). The Rex Cinema in the 1920s was the Waggon & Horses tavern (see our Ipswich Museum page for the original pub sign); it opened on the 1st January 1937. It was renamed the ABC in 1962. All the above businesses were rebuilt (although Hughes stayed in their new home in Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre) and British Home Stores took over the space which runs right round from Butter Market to the rear of The Ancient House. In September 1993 Ipswich was twinned with Arras, France and the area behind the house is now called Arras Square.
[UPDATE 3.4.2023: 'Hi Borin, Just a small amendment to your Ancient House page. You mention that the ABC cinema possibly helped save the Ancient House from the ravages of the 1992 fire. There are two reasons why that couldn't have happened. Firstly the fire spread east, towards Upper Brook Stret, having started in the double jettied building occupied by Hughes TV & Audio shop. The building occupied by Hughes at number 42 was originally part of a larger merchant's house (16th century) with the building at number 40. Number 40 is the building that is still there opposite St Lawerence Street. The ABC Cinema stood between number 40 and the Ancient House. Secondly and more importantly, the cinema had already been demolished by the time of the fire and been replaced by the Buttermarket development, which formerly housed British Home Stores. I have enclosed some images to help illustrate the positioning of the respective buildings. In the image taken post demolition of the cinema but pre-fire, the large chimney of number 40/42 can be seen. This is the furthest point west that the fire reached. Ben Squirrell.']
Thanks to Ben for the correction. For further images and text on the extensive changes in this area in the 1980s and 1990s – particularly difficult to pin down – see John Norman's article in The Ipswich Society Newsletter, July 2020.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market 1980sImage courtesy of The Ipswich Society's Image Archive
The above 1980s photograph is from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links). We see the south side of Butter Market looking west before demolition of the ABC cinema (still open at this time) and The Ancient House beyond it. The ABC chain were taken over by EMI in the 1980s and it was decided to close the ABC on 5 April 1986. It was demolished in 1988. So, the eventual great survivors of this rake of buildings are The Ancient House and no. 40 Butter Market (formerly Harris Carpets), the rather anonymous refronting of which belies its structure as being half of a once impressive 16th century merchant's house. The three buildings closest to the camera were destroyed by the major fire in the 1992. At this time Hughes TV & Audio was in the remarkable double-jettied building and between it and the white Harris Carpets shop beyond, the tall chimney stack projects upwards which indicates that these two buildings were once parts of the merchant's house. The shoe shop was Aldertons (in blue with its projecting 'Clarks' sign), later Jones the Bootmaker. The building with the arcade stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the red terra cotta and brick no. 50 Butter Market – just visible here with the ground floor screened off, presumably for shop-fitting.

Numbering of mixed addresses in a shopping stret can be difficult to unravel, but here's our attempt:-
28 - J.G. Andrews, jeweller on west side of St Stephens Lane;
30-34 - The Ancient House;
36-38 - former ABC cinema;
40 - western half of 16th century merchant’s house (former Harris Carpets) – survived the fire;
42 - double jettied building (former Hughes electrical) where the 1992 fire started; this was 'recreated' as a double-jettied newbuild, dated on the facade '1994, on the same site shown on our
Symonds page.
44 - British Heart Foundation shop (former Jones the Bootmaker) – rebuilt;
46-48 - The Works (former Booksale) – rebuilt;
50, 52 & 54 - red brick & terra cotta building which wraps around the corner into Upper Brook Street (detaild on our Symonds page); still standing in the 21st century.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market 1980sImage courtesy of The Ipswich Society's Image Archive
Above: after the demolition of the ABC Ritz cinema it was possible to look north from St Stephens churchyard to see through to the north side of the Butter Market and the spire of St Mary Le Tower – until the new British Home Stores was erected on the site vey soon after. The Ancient House eastern walls are seen here shored up to ensure stability of the Grade I listed building.

The royal coat of arms
In about 1651 it was said that King Charles I had hidden in what is now the Ancient House (this story could apply to many buildings in England) but a 'secret room' created by the building of a 16th century plastered ceiling just below the hammerbeams of the roof of the original lofty 15th century hall, that had been sealed off for over 150 years was only found in 1801. This is sometimes called the 'chapel room' accessed by a few narrow steps from the gallery in the top of the Ancient House. Sadly, this public gallery has been locked up for a number of years by the present lessees, Lakeland Kitchenware. Post-Restoration of the Monarchy (some time after 1660) the front of the building had the coat of arms of King Charles II set into the plaster.
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In the centre of the frontage between the two pairs of oriel windows is the wonderfully restored crest with mottos. It bears the Royal Arms of King Charles II, and the words:
This is old French for "shame upon him who thinks evil of it", and is also the motto of the Order of the Garter. Below on a blue panel is:
("God and my right"). At the very top, picked out in gold are the characters:
'C   II   R'
which stand for "Charles [the second] Rex".
Largely ignored between the main motto and the coat of arms are two subsidiary supporters: the naked Adam and Eve. For some reason they appear on several Restoration coats of arms in Ipswich (a hatchment in the Church of St Stephen, the carved crest in the Church of St Clement) and the Church of St Margaret – as far as we know, they appear nowhere else in the country. Perhaps it reflects the traditional religious belief in the 'original sin' of The Garden Of Eden reflected in the sin of regicide in England: the beheading of Charles I in 1649 and the redemption of the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 following the period of Oliver Crowell's 'Commonwealth'. For more discussion on this, see our Church of St Clement page under
'The royal arms of Charles II: who are these people?'.

The sun fire-plate
Just visible at the bottom of the photograph of the Royal Arms (above) is a small metal plate bearing an image of the sun.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 5a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 5b2019 image
Four screws have punched through the lead fire plate and numerals are incised in the lower rectangle. We can make out 25168[?], presumably the membership number of the insurance company. We assume that during the major restoration of The Ancient House from 1984 this detail would have been removed from the stucco to enable detailed repair and repainting.
In the early days of fire insurance (following the disastrous Fire of London in 1666) the companies employed their own firemen complete with liveries and unique badges. To identify that a property was covered by fire insurance, attached to the building at a height easily seen from the street but out of reach of thieves, was a sign or emblem called a fire mark which was issued by the company. Each company had its own distinctive design which made identification of the property easier for their fire fighters and the company representatives. At first they were made of lead with the individual policy number stamped upon them and a type of logo. Designs included
a large sun with a face for the Sun Fire Office.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 5cAnother example of a Sun Fire Office plate.
Sun Alliance was a product of the merger in 1959 of The Sun Fire Office, the oldest documented insurance company in the world, founded in 1710, with The Alliance, which was founded in 1824 by Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Moses Montefiore. Sun Alliance went on to acquire London Assurance in 1965 (becoming Sun Alliance & London) and Phoenix Assurance in 1984. Royal and Sun Alliance was formed following the merger of Sun Alliance and Royal Insurance in 1996.
Compare with the metal sun plate on the Sun Inn, in St Stephens Lane and the Sun Alliance building in 35 Princes Street.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 71930   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 81881
The poster above was produced for London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) to promote rail travel to Ipswich in Suffolk. The poster shows an interior view of the Ancient House with Restoration figures in full costume. The painting was by Fred Taylor (1875-1963), who was commisioned in 1930 to design four ceiling paintings for the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's and murals for Reed's Lacquer Room. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and other London galleries and worked for LNER, London Transport and several shipping companies.
The house has been a draw for photographers and artists for centuries; the engraving above dates from 1881.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House advertisement 1934   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House advertisement 19361936 advertisement 

Many Ipswich residents will recall the building as the home of Hatchards the bookshop. Indeed they were in occupation when the restoration works were agreed and they moved into temporary premises in Upper Brook Street (opposite the mouth of Buttermarket) for many months. The building ceased to be a private residence in the nineteenth century. The association with books goes back a long way, The Ancient House once housed the famous 16th century Town Library (partly based upon a bequest of books by Portman, William Smart), which is currently held by The Ipswich School. The Ancient House Press was established in 1845 as a book-selling and printing business in this historic building. After a period of time the book-selling and printing businesses were separated and the latter moved to larger premises in the town and became the root of the existing company today. It remained there until 1985 when, due to expansion, the company moved to its existing site on the Hadleigh Road Industrial Estate. The Company was started by Mr. Frederick Pawsey, a well-known local figure in printing circles. He sold the business in 1897 to the Harrison family, who retained ownership until 1971 when the present owners took over.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House Clarke
Engraving of the Ancient House with ground floor arched windows and double door entrance to the left (since reshaped) from G.R. Clarke's  history of Ipswich,
1830 (see Reading list).

[UPDATE 8.5.2012: "From The Ipswich Journal, Saturday, November 3, 1866; Issue 6653.
This fine old relic of former times is now being repainted, and an improvement is made by painting the wood-work corner and other timber so as to resemble oak.  Hitherto the whole front has been painted drab, and the picking out of these timbers is not only a relief to the monotony of a drab surface, but it also gives the building more the appearance of a timbered house.
... we Googled & found your interesting site & lovely pictures of the place. '
Hope this article is of interest. Kind Regards, Mick & Norma Coomber, Buckinghamshire."
Just goes to show the vicissitudes which have beset the Ancient House over the centuries. Thanks to Mick & Norma.]
For a view of The Ancient House from St Stephens Lane c. 1911, when it was home to printer and bookseller W.E. Harrison, see our Scarborow page.
Harrison's 'Thank You'  Pocket Time Table. Trains, Tides, Mails, and List of Coming Events. (Click to view the May 1908 publication).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 18451845
The engraving above is from Frederick Russel and Wat Hargreen's Picturesque Antiquities of Ipswich (published in Ipswich, 1845). It is perhaps not surprising that this shows a somewhat idealised version of the market in front of the Ancient House. The depth of the cornice between the Ipswich Windows and the dormers obscures the windows below the dormers.

More about the pargetting
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House book cover
This extract from the excellent 1986 Ipswich Borough Council booklet The Ancient House by Hilary A. Feldman (which someone really ought to update and republish given the dearth of available material about this famous building) tells us more about the ornamental pargetting.

“The deserved reputation of the Ancient House rests largely upon the elaborate pargetting which decorates that part of the house fronting Butter Market. What often goes unrecognised is that this is actually the latest addition to the building (apart from very modern extensions) and behind it lies a series of equally interesting earlier timber-framed structures. Indeed the historic part of the Ancient House evolved over almost three centuries and so many have the changes been that it is difficult to envisage the house as it was lived in at any given time, although it is possible to make reasonable guesses from clues that have been left. The house is exceptional in providing an almost unparalleled record of the building techniques and various decorative styles in vogue over a three hundred year period as successive owners demolished, rebuilt and made improvements to suit the age in which they lived…

The pargetting is almost certainly contemporary with the construction of [the Butter Market facade] and cannot date to before the restoration of Charles II, as only after 1660 could the arms of this monarch have been safely mounted in such a prominent position. It is without doubt to Robert Sparrowe (d. 1698), the great-grandson of the first Sparrowe owner of the Ancient House, that we owe the famous pargetting  which makes the Ancient House unique and so distinctive. Without such a focus of interest there is every reason to suppose that this outstanding building would have suffered the fate of so many others of the same date in Ipswich.

“By far the most immediate attraction of the Ancient House is the very ornate plasterwork or pargetting which covers the upper part of the facade. It has been described by Pevsner in his Buildings of England series as ‘more ornate and gayer than any other house of its date in England’.

Pargetting is a term which is generally understood to apply to decorative plaster in the form of ornamental ribs, flirtations, cartouches or patterns sunk into the surface, although in early documents it could simply mean the finishing coat of plain plasterwork.

The plastering of walls was at first done out of necessity. In timber-framed buildings the gap between infill panels and timbers was ever a draughty problem. Attempts were made to solve it by panelling and hanging tapestries on the inside and finally by plastering on the outside. Further necessity for plastering was created in the later Elizabethan and Jacobean periods by a lower standard of timber framing caused by a decline in workmanship and a shortage of good timber. It was therefore more aesthetic to hide the structure of the building. As with many buildings of this period the front section of the Ancient House was designed with the intention of plastering. We can tell this from the relatively poor standard of finish beneath the plaster.  Many other older buildings in the town were also given facelifts in this way, giving them the appearance of 17th century buildings when they are in fact earlier. Several examples of this happening can be seen in Fore Street houses, although the pargetting is generally much plainer than on the Ancient House. ‘The Neptune’ bears the date 1639 which is the date for the pargetting. The original building is itself much older but the pargetting disguises its fine timber framing.

There are several methods of pargetting. One of the plainer methods is simply to mould rectangular and square panels in relief, as in No. 24/26 Fore Street (once ‘The Wheatsheaf’), or by rough casting around templates. More imaginative effects could be achieved by the use of applied cast ornaments, as on the old ‘Sun Inn’ (St Stephens Lane), but the height of achievement of the plasterer’s art was modelling in high relief with wet plaster, Building up the decoration with layer upon layer. This is the method that was used in the Ancient House.

The coat of arms of Charles II in the middle of the first floor facade provides us with a date for the pargetting. An integral part of the design, it has been done by the same hand as the figure work. The pargetting must therefore date to after King Charles’ accession in 1660. Possibly it was done to coincide with his visit to Ipswich in 1668.
The rest of the space is covered with an abundance of decoration but although a number of themes are presented the whole is well balanced and cohesive and presents a design which is both pleasing and full of vitality.

The panels between the windows are framed on either side by pilasters with festoons draped between them at the top. The panels along the front of the facade represent three of the elements of the world, Earth, Water and Air. Each element is characterised by different attributes. Thus on the east end the festoon is made up of flowers including a large sunflower and lily trumpets  and below is a double-handled vase of daisies, roses and tulips, representing the earth’s bounty. Next comes Water with a festoon of swans and birds of prey above a representation of a pelican (although the feet are more like those of a bird of prey) feeding her young by drawing blood from her breast.

In the panel in the centre of the whole facade, in contrast with the rest of the pargetting which is stark white, the arms of Charles II, painted in red, blue and gold leaf, add a dramatic touch of colour.

Keeping to the front of the building, under each of the windows one of the four continents is depicted (Australia is missing, not having been discovered at the time), each one suitably labelled. From east to west we have Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

Europe is a crowned female figure wearing a dress with a wide lace collar and a necklace of pearls. She sits with an open book, holding a sceptre and a cornucopia. By her side is an animal head, perhaps a sheep or a horse, and and in the background is a church with a pointed spire.

Asia is again represented by a female figure but this time sitting under a palm tree. She holds what looks like a storm lamp and a staff. At her feet is a horse’s head with a bird perched on top and at her shoulder a lion’s head. A mosque replaces the church in the background.

For Africa a naked man is sitting on a tree stump under a parasol. in one hand he holds an arrow and around his feet two serpent-like creatures writhe, one with teeth and the other with a tongue in the form of an arrow. In the background four small figures and a rooster on a block complete the whole.

America, on the western end, is represented by a man in a loin cloth and wearing a feather headdress. In one hand he holds some arrows and in the other a pipe. A beast with small curved horns rests at his feet.

As well as these main themes many lesser ones occur , and figurative work intermingles easily with stylised decoration. The side panels of the windows are decorated with foliage and garlands in figures of ‘8’ and ’S’ designs, and spirals inhabited with figures and animal heads. Each panel is individual and differs in treatment from others. Even the mullions on the windows are decorated with a series of bells and bunches of fruit. An heraldic lion presides over the top of each arched light. Further garlands of foliage and fruit hang beneath the soffit of the first floor linking the supporting posts on the ground floor.

Lifting one’s eyes somewhat higher one sees yet more decoration on the second floor. Mythological figures parade across the pediments of the dormer windows. Who these figures are is not at all easy to determine. The easternmost window shows a central figure with a tumbling figure on either side and it looks as though he has pulled the rug from under them. Above the next window to the left is a rather enigmatic, semi-naked figure trailing a torch. In the third pediment a chubby figure drags a cornucopia of fruits on his shoulder, similar to the fruits which occur elsewhere on the frontage and on the ceiling of the first floor room. The westernmost pediment portrays a cherub-type shooting a bow and arrow. This may be Cupid.

Down St Stephens Lane, the themes of pargetting are quite different from those on the front of the building. At first floor level the northern panel shows a rural scene with shepherds. A shepherdess sits under a tree holding some fruit in her apron and caressing a lamb. Her crook lies beside her. She is approached by a shepherd with a crook and a feathers hat in his hand. The whole scene may have had its inspiration in Classical bucolic poetry, but it is interesting to note that the figures are dressed in 17th century costume. Above the scene, between the two pilasters, is a garland made up of agricultural implements and domestic utensils. Amongst the items a milk churn, and anvil, pots, sieves  and sidles can be picked out.

Under the oriel window Atlas, with a long beard and wearing a loin cloth, takes the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Just to the right of this is a very fine circular leaded window framed  by four angels. Above it, two herbs hold adjoining cornucopias, and below it is a finely modelled scallop shell.

At the second floor level on the western gable there is a curious figure of St George killing the dragon. Below this 17th century-gentleman image of St George there is a very strange false window which seems to be a part of the original design. Why a real window was not put in will remain a mystery. There is no evidence to suggest there was ever a window here which has been blocked up.”
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ancient House 9
[ “… On the west end of the house, facing St. Stephen’s Lane, is represented an uncouth figure of Atlas with a long beard, kneeling on one knee, and supporting the globe on his shoulders. At the corner, a little below this, is a pastoral scene; consisting of a figure under a tree, surrounded by sheep: another figure, a shepherd, is approaching him, with his hat in one hand, and a crook, which projects from the wall, in the other: he is leading a flock of sheep; and is in the attitude addressing the person who is seated beneath the wide-spreading beech. It is not, however, easy to determine, from the foliage, whether the tree is meant for beech, an oak, or an elm: but there is little doubt but that artist, being seized with a fit of classical enthusiasm, intended this effort as an illustration of the discourse between Tityrus and Meliboeus, in the first eclogue of Virgil.
We are induced to believe that the ornaments on this building are emblematical: and we may infer, from this last composition, that the wool trade then flourished in Ipswich, and was of great importance; and the other decorations in front, are intended to imply that it was carried on with all quarters of the globe.” from
The History & Description of the Town and Borough of Ipswich including the Villages and Country Seats in its Vicinity more particularly those situated on the Banks of the Orwell by G.R. Clarke, 1830 (see Reading List for an online version)]

Interior of the Ancient House, September 2023
A gallery of photographs of the interior taken on Heritage Open Days in September 2023.

Ipswich Windows
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ipswich window
The term ‘Ipswich Window' is sometimes used to describe an oriel window which projects out from the main wall, at an upper floor of a building, but which does not reach to the ground. Such a window is often supported by corbels or brackets, or is part of the jettied first floor. However, we learn from a website associated with James Bettley's excellent Pevsner, East and West Suffolk volumes that the crucial feature which distinguishes the ‘Ipswich window' is a specific design of glazing bars within the window:
‘They are similar to a Venetian window with an addition across the whole width and two small panes over the semi-circle.' This type first appeared in London about the middle of the 17th century but soon spread to provincial towns. The spectacular examples on Sparrowe's House (The Ancient House in Ipswich) led architectural historians to coin the term ‘Ipswich windows'. The window type was picked up and used extensively by the Victorian architect Richard Norman Shaw and others.
Looking at examples of ‘Ipswich window' it would appear that they are not necessarily oriel in character, although they can be found in this form on The Ancient House in Butter Market and The Wheatsheaf at 24 Fore Street (see below). The Ipswich window takes the central semi-circular section of the ‘Venetian window' which projects above the rest, adds a glazing bar horizontally through the centre of the semi-circle and adds smaller panes either side to form a rectangular window.
This implies that many of the oriel-type windows to be found around our town, while being attractive, quirky and of interest, aren't actually ‘Ipswich Windows' at all.
We are grateful to John Field for this list of extant Ipswich Windows in Ipswich, to which we add an extra suggestion;-
1. The Ancient House,
2. The Wheatsheaf,
3. 6 Dial Lane,
4. 28 Tavern Street (corner of Dial Lane),
5. Croydon's building, 50-52 Tavern Street,
6. The Plough in Dogs Head Street,
7. 16-18 St Margarets Plain,
8. Refurbished Parish Room, Church of St Michael, Upper Orwell Street (shown below) has new windows which echo the shaping of the Ipswich Window:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Michael Parish Room
Ipswich Windows can be found in several towns in the county. A fine example is 66 High Street, Hadleigh (Listed Grade I), which is also dated in the leaded lights.

The Wheatsheaf, 24 Fore Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wheatsheaf2014 image
The Wheatsheaf has a flat Ipswich window in each of the three gables, plus one in an oriel form to the left at first floor level; the remaining two oriels don't have the semi-circular feature, but presumably once did. The Wheatsheaf Inn has been described as the plain sibling of The Ancient House in Butter Market.
The Listing (Grade II*) text reads:-
A good C17 timber-framed and plastered building with the front in the same style as the Ancient House in Butter Market, but much more modest. 2 storeys, attics and cellars. The attic storey has 3 large jettied gables and is lit by mullioned and transomed windows in the gables, with lattice leaded lights and a semi-circular arch in the centre light. The first storey is jettied on the whole front with panelled pargetting and 3 rounded bay windows projecting above the ground storey, mullioned and transomed with glazing bars and semi-circular arch in the centre light on the south end window. The ground storey is faced in C18 brick, now painted. 3 double-hung sash windows with glazing bars, in plain reveals have boarded shutters. There is a 6-panel door with a plain rectangular fanlight and a C20 shop window now part of the adjoining shop. No 25 to 28 (qv). Roof tiled.
Nos 24 to 28 (even) form a group with Nos 31 to 43 (odd).'
Incidentally, a Tolly Ales lettered crate was spotted in the Wheatsheaf when it was opened for Heritage Open weekend in 2015. It can be seen on our Tolly Cobbold brewery page.

6 Dial Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 6 Dial Lane 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: 6 Dial Lane 22019 images
The edge of St Lawrence Church is visible to the left. No. 6 Dial Lane is a fine building somewhat marred by the floodlights which illuminate the church opposite. The oriel window at a high first floor level features the Ipswich Window design, inspired by The Ancient House a hundred yards away. It also has a decorative, cast iron rainwater hopper which may feature a 'G' or, more probably, a ram's horn.

The Ancient House is a few yards from the Art Nouveau shop 'Scarborow' and St Lawrence Church, both in Dial Lane.
For more buildings in Butter Market see our Symonds and Giles pages.

The Grand Hotel, 16 Butter Market
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grand Hotel 2016
2016 image courtesy The Ipswich Society
In a street with a number of fine buildings, it's easy to overlook this former hotel. Indeed, as is the way with tall buildings in narrow streets, it's easy to stand in front of it and not notice its fine, lofty facade. Although unlettered, its four storeys of decorative red brick and terra cotta deserve to be included on this website.

The Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) tells us that The Bee Hive Inn closed in 1893 and was demolished. A new pub of same name opened at Majors Corner in about 1900. The Bee Hive Tap is listed next door until at least 1871. The Grand Hotel had a resident orchestra and seems to have run from about 1900 onwards until eventually being converted into shops. Curiously, the 1909 Ipswich Rates book has it marked 'late', implying that it closed some time in the subsequent couple of years. During the 1920s and 30s, especially when being run by Bill Read, this was a popular venue for many off-duty airmen from nearby RAF Martlesham. (The Salutation in Carr Street was another popular venue during that time for these pioneering airman, who were engaged in a wide variety of aircraft and armaments testing.) Information from Gordon Kinsey book Martlesham Heath (pub. 1975). It was then run by a grocery company called Limmer & Pipe for some time. They also used part of the building as a restaurant. It isn't clear when it became Limmers bar, but this is remembered by long-standing local residents who drank there in the 1970s. According to the most up-to-date information available from Ipswich licensing records, it was open at least as late as 1977.
Below: some of the architectural features.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grand Hotel details

The building is Listed Grade II:
'Former hotel, with ground floor shop, now offices and recently first floor restaurant. 1894 by Henry J. Wright for E.W. Hodge. Red brick with red sandstone dressings. Roof not visible. 4 storeys 2 and 3 bays. Embattled parapet. Gable end internal stacks with recessed panels to rectangular shaft, and wide oversailing cap. Pilaster shafts to each end of facade from first floor upwards; moulded stone bases, square plan with terracotta lion's head at mid first floor level, above which are polygonal; central chamfered shaft to 2nd and 3rd storeys. Moulded bands at storey level and to cornice continue across the shafts. The bands form frieze at 1st and 2nd storeys, that to upper level has repeated foliate design in terracotta. Ground floor late C20 shop front with former hotel doorway to right. First floor in 3 bays, defined by arch above each window, the central bay being wider and with lion's head keystone to arch, forming base of central chamfered shaft. Central oriel windows of 1:2:1 semicircular headed lights, the central section mullioned and transomed. Stained glass to upper lights, pilasters with moulded bases and finials between the bays. Embattled parapet, similar mullion and transomed window to left and right, also with stained glass and beneath moulded terracotta spandrels. 2nd and 3rd storeys similar except that the 2nd floor is stone dressed, the 3rd floor using moulded brick. 2 bays. A pair of 3 light windows beneath shallow 4-centre-arched heads with moulded keystones and stops to label. 3 semicircular headed lights to each, that to centre taller. Iron bracket at first floor level formerly supported street lighting.'

Ken Nichols writing in The Ipswich Society Newsletter (October 2012): '... the history of the Grand Hotel in the Butter Market. I remember when it was Limmer's for two reasons; firstly the wonderful smell of coffee every time 1 walked up the Butter Market in the 1950s, a smell of the continent for a teenager at that time. The second connection is that my wife and I held our wedding reception up in the first floor room with the stained glass and bow window overlooking the street.'

1909 Charles Goad map
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grand Hotel 1909 map1909 map
This fascinating 1909 map detail from Edwardian Ipswich is by Charles Goad (see Links under 'Old maps'). It reveals how extensive the Grand Hotel was, given its small street frontage. Butter Market is at the top with St Stephens Lane at the right. Stabling for the travellers' horses can be seen to the south of the site. There appears to be an entry from
St Stephens Lane with a lane dog-legging round to the stables and a covered carriage yard.

Research into 16 Butter Market
Stevens Directory 1881: James Goodhew, licensed victualler and wine and spirit merchant, The Bee Hive.
Stevens Directory 1890: "Beehive", James Goodhewvictualler and winand spirit merchant.
Stevens Directory 1894: E.W. Hodge, licensed victualler and wine and spirit merchant, Bee Hive hotel.
Kelly's Directory 1894: Grand hotel, Percy Chas Bishop
Kelly's Directory 1928: las entry for 'Grand hotel'. From 1930: Limmer & Pipe, provision merchant.
Note: by 1975: a 'Berni Inn restaurant.

'Corder House', 15-19 Butter Market / 18-20 Tavern Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corder House 19821982/3 images courtesy Ipswich Society
Above: the two facades of Corder House. Left: the more classical frontage at 15-17 Butter Market; at this time it housed the Habitat store with Early Learning Centre just visible at no.19 in the foreground.

Right: the Art Deco facade at 18-20 Tavern Street with the entrance to The Walk in the right foreground. At this date two-thirds of the building were occupied by John Menzies. Both elevations were nominated for The Ipswich Society Conservation Awards in 1983.
It would appear that Frederic Corder became owner of both addresses and joined them together into one major clothng store. The map below shows the conjunction of three buildings which were knocked into one. Today they are separate businesses.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Corder House map
In September 1966 there was a disastrous fire in Corder's; contemporary photographs show at least four fire tenders in attendance in Butter Market.

Research on
15-19 Butter Market
Stevens Directory 1881: Alfred Wrinch, Furnishing and General Ironmongers, Hot Water and Sanitary Engineer; (no. 19: Singer Manufacturing Sewing Machine Co., Manager Wm Jarvis).
Steven’s Directory, 1890 (nos. 15-17): Alfred Wrinch, Furnishing and General Ironmonger, Hot Water and Sanitary Engineer, Telephone & Electric Bell Fitter.
Kelly’s Directory, 1903 (no. 17): F. Corder & Son, draper; (no. 19: Singer Sewing Machine Co.).
F. Corder & Son were still at this address by the final volume of Kelly's in 1975.
Note: a receipt for 24 yards of Rufflette tape (5.00) dated 16.9.1936 (made out to ‘Messrs Green & Hatfield’, the antique dealers on the corner of St Margarets Plain and Northgate Street), lists Frederic Corder & Son Ltd. (Governing Director: Bernard Corder) as Linen Drapers & Silk mercers. Dressmakers & Costumiers, Ladies’ Outfitters & Milliners, Hosiers, Glovers & Furriers, Furnishers & Upholsterers.
Men’s shop, 7 Butter Market; 18 & 20 Tavern Street and 13 to 19 Butter Market, Ipswich. Telephone No. 3108. Beneath the Borough crest is: ‘ESTBe. 1787’.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: F. Corder advertisements 1957
On wonders if Corder’s started at the early date of 1787 at the 7 Butter Market address. They wre certainly there in 1957 (see the advertisements above). The business was still operating in the enlarged and rather grand premises, Corder House, which ran between Butter Market and Tavern Street in the final Kelly’s published in 1975. The ‘ESTBe. 1787’ is puzzling. We know that Frederic Corder, draper, died on 26 January, 1908. The executors of his will were Maria Corder, John Shewell Corder and Bernard Corder (presumably all his offspring) – the last being the ‘Governing Director’ mentioned on the rufflette receipt. John Shewell Corder, Frederic’s son, was a successful Ipswich architect and illustrator of notable Ipswich architecture (see following text.

John Shewell Corder (1856-1922)
John Shewell Corder was an influential architect in Suffolk around the 1870s until his death in 1922. 
He was born in 1856 in Westhoe, South Shields, Tyne on Wear the son of Frederick Corder & Jane, formerly Ransome. It would appear at least two more siblings were born to Frederick & Jane whilst in Yorkshire. Then sometime in the early 1860s, the family relocated to St Margarets Green, Ipswich. Here the family expanded further before Jane’s untimely death in 1864.

Frederick senior originated from Writtle in Essex, while Jane’s family came from a Quaker line of Ransome in the northeast. These are two celebrated Ipswich names of the 20th century. Indeed Frederick Corder was the founder of the silk mercers and drapers departmental store: Corders of Tavern Street, Ipswich. As yet I have not identified any connection between Jane, and Thomas Ransome founder of Ransome & Rapier of Ipswich, though the fact both families had strong Quaker connections would suggest this possible.
John was educated at Boothams School for Boys at York. On the death of his mother, his father married Maria Morris, a sister of architect Joseph Morris. This marriage proved very influential to John’s career. In 1872 he became ‘articled’ to Mr Morris in his Reading Offices. John began his own architectural practice in the Thoroughfare, Ipswich in premises adjacent to his father’s drapery stores, before setting up home and offices in Wimbourne House in Tower Street.
John then worked on his own. it is apparent his real love was in the old buildings of the borough. This is borne out by his meticulous and tactful restoration of The Christ Church Mansion; and The Guild Hall in Lavenham.

Christ Church Mansion is a red brick Tudor house set in several acres of parklands, which has been open to the people of Ipswich since Felix Cobbold, gave it to the borough in 1892. Inside there are many examples of fine period furnishings and art collections including renowned local artists as Constable, Gainsborough, John Moore, Thomas Churchyard, and Alfred Munnings.

As a junior member of a wealthy Ipswich family, income was not a driving motivation for work, something that would explain his ability to spend countless hours on his favourite commissions. It would appear his sketchings of the old buildings of the borough were in fact his first love. It was these he would devote much of his time to perfecting.

Two volumes he was responsible for are entitled ‘The Corner Posts of Ipswich’ and ‘a Brief History of Christchurch or Withepole House’, both of which give further evidence of this man’s incredible talent.
There are in excess of 100 commissions credited to John Corder. These range from the construction of no 65 Anglesea road, Ipswich, ‘a three storey detached house in French Empire style, with Suffolk white bricks and slate mansard roof complete with cast iron crestings to roof …’, to a large private house in Edwardian style at Hacheston lodge for a Mrs Paterson; Additional classrooms for Grammar School in Burkett road, Woodbridge, and work at ‘The Black Boy’ public house in Sudbury, in the form of exposed timbers and plaster work in Tudor style, demonstrate the range of his works.

Click on 'Search Ipswich Historic Lettering' below and insert 'John Shewell Corder' into the search box to browse all the other mentions of him on this website.

From the 1960s, Debenhams plc, of which Corder's were then part, started to build new strategies and more centralised management structures. It was taking steps to streamline its operations and purchasing. In the late 1970s or early 1980s the new Debenham store in Ipswich was built, incorporating Footman and Pretty and Corder's. The old shops were no more. For more on William Pretty & Son, once corseteers in the large factory on Tower Ramparts and the amalgamation with Footman's, eventaully leading to Debenham & Freebody's store in Westgate Street and Lloyds Avenue see our Charles Street page. Also our Cornhill 1 page for the Footman Pretty & Co. store and the morphing into Debenhams.

For some vetigial lettering in Butter Market, see our
Vestiges page.

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