Cornhill 1 (Post Office, Town Hall, Manning's, Grimwades, Lloyd's, Footman's/Debenhams)

The Cornhill, at the heart of the old town, is named to commemorate the enormous wealth conferred on the town's merchants by grain trading and exports. In the post-medieval period the sheep was the dominant economic force in East Anglia. The huge 'wool churches' such as that at Lavenham are testament to this dominance. (In Ipswich we have the triumvirate of St Clement, St Mary-At-Quay and St Peter dockland churches to mark the importance of this asset to the town.) However, the lighter soils and sparse rainfall (if it wasn't for the rivers, rural Suffolk could be classified as a desert by one climatic yardstick) are more suited to arable crops than husbandry. Hence 'Cornhill'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill street sign2018 image
Above: the white on dark brown street namplate above a pilaster (and anti-pigeon spikes) close to the Debenhams store, photographed during the upheaval of the repaving of the Cornhill in 2018.

Notable Cornhill datesIpswich Historic Lettering: Shambles etc. images
The buildings we see on and around the Cornhill today look as if they've been there for centuries. However, the story is quite complex, so here are a few key developments and changes:-

Early years. St Mildred’s Church probably dated back to the 7th or 8th century. Around the 14th century the building ceased to be used as a church and became the seat of local government. An upper floor was inserted to be used as a meeting place for the Assembly; various extensions and alterations included a roofed outer staircase fronting onto the Cornhill, which gave access to the upper floor. It also featured an early water supply in the form of a conduit in the front wall. It became known as The Moot Hall or Guidhall. It is possible that the Anglo-Saxon Wuffinga Kings of East Anglia had a royal residence on the Cornhill next to St Mildred's Church.

Tudor period. On the site of today's old Post Office building to the south-east of the Cornhill, The Shambles stood: arcaded below with a gallery, dormer windows and a small turret carrying a weather vane. It is depicted in the watercolour painting of the Cornhill towards the bottom of this page, which shows the Market Cross and The Shambles at centre right. 'Shambles' is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market, but it has come to be applied to the guts, offal, and blood which were thrown into a runnel down the middle of the street or open space where the butchering was carried out, hence our continued use of the word (e.g. 'a complete shambles') to refer to a right old mess.

1794. The Shambles was demolished and the
short-lived (16 years) Rotunda, was erected – a strange-looking round-domed building intended to house butchers. But it was considered impractical and insanitary so was, in turn pulled down.

George Gooding designed the first Corn Exchange which was on the site of the Rotunda. Today this became the site of the Post Office. The trading in cattle on the Cornhill also ceased in 1810, moving to the top of Silent Street (today’s Old Cattle Market), eventually moving to the area between Princes Street, Portman Road and Friars Bridge Road (see the 1902 map of the cattle market on that page).

In the Georgian period (1714 to 1830) the old St Mildred’s Church still served as the Town Hall. It was partly demolished in 1812, when the Corporation decided to replace it, but this attempted demolition proved very difficult, probably due to the thickness and substantial build of the church walls. This act removed much of the physical link to the Anglo-Saxon roots of the Cornhill.  The Market Cross was also dismantled in the same year. The statue of Justice which had stood carrying sword and scales at the top of the Cross was redeployed as the goddess Ceres, carrying a sickle and ears of wheat, on top of the first Corn Exchange (she currently, somewhat weathered, stands at the foot of the main staircase in today’s Town Hall).

1818. The first Corn Exchange had a new Palladian front added to it.

1841-65. A Palladian front was added to the existing Guildhall. This second version of the Town Hall was converted from the remains of St Mildred's Church and was relatively short-lived.

1849. The Corporation added a roof to the first Corn Exchange.

1868. Today’s Town Hall (the third), designed by Pearson Bellamy, was opened including a police station. With its construction, the last remnants of St Mildred’s Church were cleared away after about a thousand years in the centre of the town. The police station was on the lower ground floor (see photographs of the traces of lettering on our Cornhill 2 page), with the cells under the front steps, and the town’s fire appliance was stored in the centre of this floor. It was wheeled out into King Street every morning and the space was used for the parade of officers receiving their daily briefing.

1879. The Corporation purchased the buildings at the King Street corner at the back of the Town Hall for the erection of a second Corn Exchange. The first Corn Exchange made way for a grand new Post Office building, designed by Brightwen Binyon,  which was opened in 1882.

1972-75. After ninety years as home to the provisions market and merchants and farmers, the second Corn Exchange was completely remodelled as an arts and entertainment centre. At the same time the Borough Council, having moved most of their staff to Civic Centre (opened in 1971) on Civic Drive, the adjoining Town Hall was remodelled for community use. The rather problematic linking corridors, twists and turns and levels are testament to the varied designs and histories of the two buildings.

See the section at the bottom of this page: The Cornhill in history for more detail.
Our King Street page shows several map details over time of the  Cornhill area.
All images at right courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive.

The Post Office
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 2022
2022 image courtesy The Ipswich Society
[UPDATE 24.11.2022: Let's start this section with some good news for this lovely building, one of the gems of the Cornhill. As part of the repaving of the Cornhill (1999 to 2020) Ipswich Borough Council has revealed and sympathetically cleaned the old Post Office, netting it against bird damage and, at long last, replacing the finials at the top of the facade. These 'icing on the cake' features were removed during World War II and have been restored to their orginal place about eighty years later. We would love to know the story behind their removal and storage – where have they been and who remembered that they were there? The Botanist restaurant now occupies the building with additional outside seating, giving this building a useful and eye-catching role in the centre of Ipswich. The above photograph comes from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links) and the restoration won an Award of High Commendation at The Ipswich Society Awards on 23 November, 2022.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office long shot2012 image
One of the finest buildings in Ipswich (above) was commissioned by the Post Office and opened in 1881 on the footprint of the demolished 1850 Corn Exchange. This was itself erected on the site of the old Shambles on Cornhill, where once all surrounding streets had been untilised for market trading. Many strange things have happened on Cornhill, from the 16th century burning of religious martyrs to the bating of bulls. Until 1676 it was believed that this sport would tenderise the meat before slaughter in the nearby Shambles; in fact the town authorities would impose a fine on those who failed to have their poor animals baited for at least an hour. Another strange thing happens when a purpose-built structure, complete with its name chiselled into the stonework, changes its role. So, Ipswich is the proud owner of a grand central Post Office with Doric portico, fine statuary and its name chiselled into the lintel. Except that in the 21st century the real post offices are now tucked away in small shops  – and the Fore Street sub-post office survives – and other organisations now occupy this great classical palace. The architect was J. Johnson and the building is Listed Grade II.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 12013 images
The depth and sharpness of the chiselled characters: 'POST OFFICE' are clear from this close-up image.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 1a

Photographed in the Mayor's Parlour (in the Town Hall, home of the Borough Seals, Maces and Sword) the visual of the selected design, shown below, of the projected Post Office building by John Johnson, architect which was published in The Building News, dated 12 September 1897. If this is a precise drawing, it is interesting that the plan drawings shown at upper right and left indicate a tapering of the side walls from rear to front, suggesting that the footprint of our Post Office is an isosceles trapezium. This was presumably done to fit the building into an existing street pattern.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office 1879
Curiously, it was only in 2012 that we discovered very small lettering high above the structure (how was anyone supposed to read it?) at either side of the magnificent Woodington figures and Royal coat of arms:
Seated on a round pediment above the crest the female figures represent Genius to the left, holding a tablet and Science to the right, holding an urn. As you can see in 2013, the frontage could do with a good weed. The figure of Genius is said to be a tribute to Sir Rowland Hill and the introduction of the penny post. Science is a tribute to Professor H. Wheatstone, who in 1840 had patented the Printing Telegraph, the forerunner of the modern teleprinter.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 3
The royal crest reflects the original occupant, Royal Mail and bears the usual lettering on scrolls:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 4
[UPDATE 27.11.2020: by November 2020 the former Post Office building had been sheathed in scaffolding and plastic sheeting for months. As it started to be removed, Tim Leggett captured this fine photograph of a cleaned and restored pediment. Thanks to him.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 20202020 image courtesy Tim Leggett
The sculptures on the Post Office portico are by William Frederick Woodington RA (1806-1893). The plinths of each one bears the 'themed' name (although the third is hardly readable):
Quite why one of these noble ladies is called 'Steam' doesn't bear thinking about. These figure are intended to illustrate the Post Office's use of modern technology to help industry and commerce across the major continents.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office front 5  
Industry sits on a beehive, the emblem of hard work. Electricity's emblem is broken/missing. Steam rests her hand on a small boiler. Commerce holds a wreath and caduceus (made of copper, hence the green oxide), the attribute of Mercury the Roman messenger-god and patron of business. Additional information about the sculptures comes from Cocke, R: 'Public sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk' (see Reading List).
Ipswich Post Officepostcard c.1909
This postcard of the Post Office dates from about 1909. The carefully posed postal force are clearly very proud of their motorised mail van; such vehicles didn't fully replace horse or hand-drawn carts until 1926.
Down the Princes Street elevation of the Post Office building is a palladian triangle with the Ipswich coat of arms at its centre. This is quite difficult to appreciate from the pavement level. More images can be seen on our page on the Ipswich coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office crest 12013 images Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office heads1
This side wall of the Post Office building boast rich decoration on the windows and a fine array of anonymous – but individual – classical heads on the keystones. The Norfolk & Suffolk public sculpture database (see Links): 'At the corner of Princes Street is a bearded keystone based on Roman representations of Neptune, often shown on commercial buildings in the period, followed by female headstones beginning (at corner with Cornhill) with Cybele (Rome) Asia (or Egypt), Africa, America, Europe, although the identifications are open to question'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office heads 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office heads 32016 image  
The quality of the stone decoration beneath and around the windows is also worthy of note.

Inside the Post Office
The old Post Office boasts a floor in the public area featuring a large, colourful mosaic of the Borough of Ipswich coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office floor crestPhotographs courtesy John Norman
Let's hope it's preserved in any new role for the building. Thanks to John Norman for the images.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Post Office floor crest

Post Office Chambers (side entrances on King Street and Thoroughfare)
Some notable architects in Ipswich
The offices to the rear of and above the Post Office played a part in one of the most interesting architectural practices in Ipswich***
Edwin Thomas Johns , 1862 - 1947,  married Janet Prentice. Architect, 4 Northgate Street (in 1885), 8 Lower Brook Street (in 1913)
Articled to James Butterworth (who retired) so transferred to William Eade with whom he completed his articles.
1884 became assistant to Eade.
1887 assistant to Brightwell Binyon.
1889 rejoined Eade to form Eade & Johns.
1912 Eade retires, Johns continues.
1921 joined by his nephew, Martin Johns Slater (who had served his articles with Eade & Johns). Firm becomes Johns and Slater.
1933 Johns retires.
Johns was a master at perspective drawing (learnt from Binyon) and, after retirement, a watercolourist.

William Eade 1841 - 1927; Architect, RIBA 1881. ***Practice: Post Office Chambers, Cornhill, (1879);
initially an art teacher (Ips School of Art), then worked in the Ipswich Borough Surveyor's office.
1864 - 68 Architectural Assistant to J. R .Cattermole. William Eade became a well know Wesleyan lay preacher.
Partnership with J.R, Cattermole (1868 - 77) then on his own until ET Johns (1889)

Martin Slater,  Birkin Haward 1912-2002
Birkin was born in Ipswich in 1912, where he lived and practised for most of his life ... He ran a busy architectural practice, initially with Martin Slater until 1962.
Haward was connected with the heart of the Modern Movement through his early association with Erich Mendelsohn and maintained this connection to the end of his career. Completing his studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture with the Asphitel prize, Haward qualified in 1934 and, in this same year, started working for Mendelsohn—then a refugee in England, who had just won the competition for the Bexhill Pavilion.
In the run-up to, and during the Second World War, he became involved in initiatives that focused on the social cause of architecture and addressed pressing matters of the time, such as proper air-raid shelters and decent housing.
After the end of the war, Haward returned to Ipswich and joined an established architect, Martin Slater, in a firm that, after 1953, became Johns, Slater and Haward. As the public sector dominated architecture during the post-war decades, Haward’s firm beliefs in a social and democratic architecture found a broad field of application. He saw himself as simply bringing decent modern buildings to the people of East Anglia and beyond and was keen to work in sectors where the public would benefit most. He therefore specialised in education at a time when British school design was the liveliest in Europe.

Before the First World War, the County Borough of Ipswich commissioned a number of schools from the architects Eade and Johns, a local practice that in 1921 became Johns and Slater after Edwin Thomas Johns took his nephew, Martin Johns Slater, into partnership. Johns was subsequently appointed Surveyor to the Ipswich Education Committee, and was responsible for the borough’s new schools as well as all alterations and repairs to the existing school stock. After the Second World War, new schools were needed to serve the towns new housing estates, so the practice hired the Ipswich-born architect Birkin Haward (1912-2002), who became a partner in 1949. Haward is recognised as an important architect and antiquarian, who in the 1930s was at the forefront of the Modern Movement in Britain as chief assistant to Erich Mendelsohn. After the firm of Mendelsohn and Chermayeff dissolved in 1937, Haward carried on working in London, including work on air-raid precautions with Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton. In 1941, Haward joined William Holford and Partners, but left in 1942 to become the national organiser of the Association of Architects, Surveyors and Technical Assistants, a new trade union. From April 1943 he served in the Royal Engineers, returning to England in November 1945. At this point Haward could have expected a successful career in London. He was ambitious, his experience and connections set him among the leading young architects of the time, and his second placing in an urban secondary school competition run in 1937 by the News Chronicle newspaper, had brought him attention in that field. But Haward had married an Ipswich art student, Muriel Wright, in 1936, and by the time of his demobilisation in January 1946 they had two sons, with a third on the way. He decided therefore to give up his promising London career in favour of settling with his family in Ipswich.

Johns, Slater & Haward
In the years 1948-1974 the firm of Johns, Slater and Haward designed 44 new primary schools and nine secondary schools, while altering or extending forty more, with most of the new work being handled by Birkin Haward. Haward's first schools were built in the post-war estates on the north side of Ipswich, and included Rushmere Hall School (1947-1949), Whitton House School (1950-1951) and Castle Hill (1949-1953). Following these, Haward built a group of schools on the much larger Chantry Estate to the south and south-west of the town. Here he experimented with timber shell roofs and cladding in his search for simple, appropriate technology at modest cost. The first school to be built from this time of experimentation was Sprites Lane Primary School, which featured a series of timber hyperbolic paraboloid roofs supported on concrete columns and with mild-steel tie rods to restrain the horizontal outward thrust. Designed in 1956, work began on site in June 1958, with the infant school completed in 1959 and the junior school in Spring 1960.
[Information based on entries in the Dictionary of architects of Suffolk buildings 1800-1914 by Birkin Haward, Bob Kindred & Cynthia Brown, published 1991.]
N.B. JSH Ltd (Johns Slater Haward) are still in business as Cartered Engineers for the design of mechanical and electrical systems in buildings, now based in Sorrell Horse Mews off Grimwade Street, Ipswich.

Cornhill Chambers, 9 Thoroughfare
Tucked away in the Thoroughfare is a named building: 'CORNHILL CHAMBERS'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill Chambers 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill Chambers 32018 images
This passage comes from Simon Knott's Suffolk churches website (see Links) relating to the Church of Augustine of Hippo:

'St Augustine, a familiar landmark to drivers in east Ipswich, was the work of diocesan architect Henry Munro Cautley. Cautley was born at Bridge in Kent in 1876, but when he was eight years old his father Richard was appointed minister at Ipswich's new All Saints church in Chavallier Street. Cautley would spend the rest of his life in Ipswich. He is most famous today for his epic literary works on Suffolk and Norfolk churches, but as well as being diocesan architect he was a partner in an Ipswich practice with Leslie Barefoot. His best building on his own is the red brick Ipswich County Library, and their best together is probably The Walk, an Elizabethan-style shopping arcade near to Ipswich's Corn Hill (see our Plaques page under 'Leslie Barefoot G.C. (1887-1958)'.
Cautley was also retained by Lloyds Bank, and designed a number of improbably Classical banks for them in the 1920s, mostly in the east of England. Cautley and Barefoot's practice was based at Cornhill Chambers in the Thoroughfare, and the building survives today with Cautley's lettering above the entrance. The same lettering can be seen on the war memorials he designed, of which about half a dozen can be traced in parish churches in the Ipswich area.
As diocesan architect, Munro Cautley designed three churches for Ipswich. St Augustine was the first, in 1927, bankrolled by Ipswich shop owner Charles Bantoft in memory of his mother. The site was donated to the diocese by Lady de Saumerez of Shrubland Hall. All the work was carried out by firms based in Ipswich, the main contractor being Charles Green & Sons of St John's Road. Like many Ipswich builders, Green was a Methodist, and it is said that his honesty after discovering he had underestimated costs led to the firm making just £20 profit on the two years they spent on the project.' (See our Blue plaques page under Leslie Barefoot G.C. (1887-1958) for more, plus another dated rain hopper – speaking of which...)
Rain hopper
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Thoroughfare rain hopper2023 image
Virtually impossible to spot from the pavement of the east-west part of Thoroughfare, this dated rain hopper bears a floral motif in the casting. The slightly enhanced image at lower right shows the four numerals:
'1-9-3-5', one at each corner. The reason for the poor quality of photograph – and the reason why nobody has spotted this until recently – is that it was taken through a slightly grubby rear window of the former Post Office (q.v.), now refurbished and opened to the public as The Botanist restaurant on Tuesday May 3, 2022. Without this, the obscure piece of numerated ironwork would still languish in obscurity. These redbrick buildings are an extension of the stone-clad Barclays Bank building on Princes Street; it's name 'Bank' is shown on our Cornhill 2 page. They shade into a further Barclays extension in this part of the Thoroughfare with decorative carved woodwork, so evident in The Walk (as shown on our Blue plaques page). It is believed that Barclays no longer use this part of their premises.

Town Hall
If we compare the top of the Post Office with the crest on the nearby 1868 Town Hall, splendid though it is, sadly there is no lettering to be seen and the foundation stone has been lost or obliterated. The Town Hall replaced buildings with a chequered history, including indecision by Borough authorities, partial demolition and long delays, going back to the Church of St Mildred of Anglo-Saxon times which once stood here.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall 12012 image  
Four allegorical figures are set upon the upper balustrade and are comparable with the four figures on the Post Office. From left: Commerce has a cornucopia, Justice carries a sword and is blindfolded (and probably once carried scales), Learning has a scroll and book and Agriculture has a scythe and flowers.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall 52013 images
The roundels below show, from left:  relief heads of King Richard I, Cardinal Wolsey (taken from a Holbein portrait) and King John. Likenesses of Richard and John were taken from engravings. Compare these with the heads in roundels of William Hogarth and Isaac Newton and on the Ipswich Museum frontage. Negotiations for a charter for Ipswich started during the reign of Richard I (1189-1199) and was awarded in the second year of the reign of King John on 25 May 1200. The sculptor used for the Town Hall was Barnabas Barrett, the architects: Bellamy & Hardy. The building was opened in 1868 and is currently Listed Grade II.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall 7
The town's coat of arms is sited centrally on the dome below the clock.
More images can be seen on our page on the Ipswich coat of arms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Town Hall crestPhoto courtesy John Norman
See our page on Public clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the building and its clock.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Davey headstone2021 image
As a sober footnote to our section on our Town Hall, this was spotted in the the Old Cemetery (between Cemetery Road and Belvedere Road). The headstone reads:


[* Eleven years after its completion.]
Note also the white brick on the side wall of the Odeon (shown on our Lloyds Avenue page), which marks the place at which a bricklayer fell to his death.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mannings sign 2023
2023 image
The three-dimensional sign projecting from the front wall of Manning's drops the possessive apostrophe – but it's still worthy of attention. Two horses pull a covered vehicle towards a signpost on a small mound reading "Manning's". A projecting curl of wrought iron supports a hanging bunch of grapes beneath green leaves, suggesting that wine was a major product sold at the publc house. The Venetian Gothic Town Hall is in the background. In the upper right foreground is the bulging terra cotta part of the Grimwade shop which bears the date '1904' – shown further down this page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mannings 20012001 image 
The attractive public house next to the Golden Lion proclaims its name twice – the older block caps set in relief on the upper wall above echo The Halberd Inn and have the possessive inverted comma. MANNING'S is somewhat overshadowed by the Golden Lion Hotel (to the left of this picture), but remains a fine old inn which has been threatened with closure on more than one occasion. The 1926 picture shows Ipswich mounted police on duty outside Mannings during the General Strike.
[Update 5.1.10: Information from CAMRA's Suffolk Real Ale Guide (see Links):
A narrow fronted 16th century town pub known as the Victoria in 1874 (Manning & Co. are listed as publicans in Kelly's Directory of that year), Manning's Victoria Inn in 1952 and 1956 (E.L. Bishopp listed as publican both years). Upstairs the building still contains some fine Jacobean panelling and other historic features, some of which are listed. However, the Grade II listing reads: 'small timber-framed and plastered building probably C17, with a C18 or early C19 front with a parapet and cornice.']
[Update 30.10.10: "My grandfather Bertie Cooper was the proprietor of Mannings from 1908-1914, living upstairs. After World War I in 1918 he returned to run the restaurant but the family had grown and they moved to 5 Lower Brook Street (next door to the Suffolk Victoria Nursing Institute). He left/sold Mannings in 1924 we think as a result of dwindling business due to the Depression." Our thanks to Barrie Weaver for this information.]
And in the Manning's beer garden...
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mannings plaque 17682022 images
Nigel writes (28.7.2022): 'I can't remember seeing this one on the site and, in fact, I only noticed it the other day despite the fact I've been going in there on and off for 30+ years! In the beer garden of Manning's on the Cornhill is this stone block in the wall which says:
39 FOOT DEEP. 1768.'
Thanks to Nigel for letting us know about this. When he first spotted this lettering it was hemmed in by picnic tables. The shallow 18th century inscription and letter/numeral forms make this difficult to read. The 'U' of the word 'Under' has been almost lost at the top left corner; the '9' and '6' numerals are very open and look a bit like zeros. Nevertheless, this sign was clearly importand enough to have money spent on the stone block and the letterer/carver. The surrounding brickwork appears to be much more recent, so this tablet may have been resited.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mannings beer garden
Also seen from the yard behind Manning's, this Dutch-style gable end bearing the capitals: 'H...S' and 'H...H'. Such shapes are used on exterior walls of masonry buildings, for structural reinforcement against lateral bowing.
A wall-mounted letter, number, symbol or disc is an anchor plate, specifically it is a "wrought-iron clamp, of Flemish origin, on the exterior side of a brick building wall that is connected to the opposite wall by a steel tie-rod to prevent the two walls from spreading apart; these clamps were often in the shape of numerals indicating the year of construction, or letters representing the owner's initials, or were simply fanciful designs." [
Dictionary of Architecture and Construction].
Identifying this building is problematic because it's hemmed in by the west side of Cornhill and the rear of the shops on Westgate Street (which appear to be a variety of buildings which have been linked together). Our best guess is a structure behind Holland & Barrett at no. 7 Westgate Street and/or Claire's Acceessories (no. 11).

Grimwade's (former) store
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Manning's is the familiar redbrick palace of drapery, Grimwade's former store, founded as J. H. Grimwade & Son Ltd in 1930. It was only while looking through some 1997 photographs by the late Brian Jepson in 2014, that we realised we had missed the date above the door next to the public house. It is on the base of the two-storey oriel with spirelet on top (another example is on Mutual House on our Princes Street page). Closing in on the foliate decoration (which we have used on the masthead for this very website's Homepage) we see the interlinked '1904' in the centre. There are always new things to find in Ipswich...
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwades 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwades 32014 images  
Above: the scene on a busy market day; even with the clutter attached to the walls and on the pavement, the building has its appeal. We think that this is officially St Mildred's Chambers (named after the ancient church which once stood on the site of the present Town Hall) at 6 to 6a Cornhill, although there is a longer shop frontage onto Westgate Street. Many will remember the large company name lettering which once adorned the Cornhill elevation; around 1950 one could see above it similar lettering advertising (perhaps bizarrely) 'FINA - Petroleum Products Ltd' which suggests that the proprietors never missed a chance of income from sponsorship.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwades 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwades 1b
Grimwade's survived as a clothier and school uniform supplier until the late 1990s when the family owners decided to call it a day;
it never really recovered from the absorption of its rival across Westgate Street Footman Pretty into the Debenhams. There was a much-loved café/restaurant on the top floor. It has been a Clinton's Cards shop and has had temporary tenants. "Like many urban capitalist families in both Ipswich and elsewhere, the Grimwades were non-conformists. The attic rooms of their department store were given over to the offices of the National Protestant League, which consequently had a sign facing onto the Cornhill." [Simon Knott] That must refer to this particular door. The Grimwade name can be found on the Grimwade Memorial Hall, Hope House and, of course, Grimwade Street. The Grimwade family were one of the most prominent families in Ipswich in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and John Henry Grimwade was the most significant member. He was the founder and owner of Grimwade's department store, one of the biggest stores in Ipswich. The Grimwades lived at Richmond House on Handford Road before having Bacton House on Fonnereau Road built.
[UPDATE 7.7.2023: 'This photo was taken outside the old Grimwades on Cornhill. Sandy Phillips.' Thanks to Sandy for this tucked away piece of ground-level lettering on the threshold of the former Grimwade's store. The photograph shows pavement lights (glass prisms set into a metal/concrete matrix to provide borrowed light for a basement or cellar. The metal characters read: 'LUXCRETE LONDON'; the company – or its antecedent – dates back to the 1880s and is still trading in 2023. See our Museum Street page for pavement lights set into a cast coal-hole cover close to no. 38.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwades Luxcrete threshold2023 image courtesy Sandy Phillips

Manning's and Grimwade's facades lead down into Lion Street.

See also our page on Ipswich Museum contents for a photograph of 'Ipswich Bon Marché' at number 3 Cornhill.

Footmans store
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Footmans advert 19051905 advertisement
The above advertising postcard was published in 1905; the engraving is credited to 'Cowell Ipswich'. Cowell's the famous printers weren't far away in Butter Market. Walter Samuel Cowell was a printer and stationer with premises in Buttermarket, Market Lane and Falcon Street; incorporated as 'W.S. Cowell Ltd.' in 1900 to become one of the most successful and respected commercial printers in the country. Also had dealings in wines and spirits, rags (possibly to make rag paper for printing) and, later, furniture. The family printing business dated back to 1818. At this time, they clearly offered engraved illustrations as part of their service to clients. The Edwardian shop facade features cast iron pillasters and arches at the ground floor display window level, two deeply recessed entrances and a central palladian feature above. There is a ballustrade at roof level. One assumes that this frontage was either added to the original timber-framed and plastered buildings or, more probably, the whole was a replacement. It didn't last long – see the 1934 Art Deco frontage below.
12 Show Rooms for Furniture, Carpets, Bedsteads, &c.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill 1934   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cornhill Footmans store  
Above left: the north-west corner of Cornhill in 1830 with the 'American Stores' (later
the Grimwade store site) and a very narrow Westgate Street. This was formerly the Bell Inn (earlier the Blue Bell Inn), so it was known as 'Bell Corner' and was the scene of the laying of the first stone of a new pavement in the year 1793, under an Act of Parliament which had been passed for "paving, lighting, cleansing, and otherwise improving the town of Ipswich". See our Crown & Anchor page for an 1859 photograph of this view. But wait, ... The East Anglian Daily Times in its Souvenir of the Royal Show published in 1934 shows the line drawing,  above left, and caption 'Cornhill 1830'. Surely, the Crown & Anchor facade was built in 1849 – but it features in this drawing? John Medland Clark, architect of Tooley's Almshouses and the Custom House, produced an exuberant and 'pretty Italian front, which is quite modern' for the Crown and Anchor Hotel in Westgate Street, which must have completely transformed the street scene at that time. This is the facade which is glimpsed on the earliest known photograph of the Cornhill taken in 1859. Replaced in 1896, when the present facade by T.W. Cotman was built.
Note: for two more Footman's advertisements from the 1950s and the story of William Pretty & Son corset factory on Tower Ramparts, see our Charles Street page.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Mumford's CourtBefore 1830
Above: Mumford's Court shown in a line and wash drawing in G.R. Clarke's History (see Reading list).
19th century surgeon, Dr William Mumford, owned the property fronting on to the Cornhill on both sides of the passage which led to his house. These premises and the passage disappeared when T.W. Cotman's banking house (today's Lloyd's) was built in 1890.
The northern side of Cornhill before this was a continuous run of shops. Lloyds Avenue was not cut through until 1920 and Mumford's Passage (see the line and wash drawing above), an alleyway beside Old Waterloo House – fore-runner of Footman Pretty and later Debenhams store – was the only access to the rear. The 1934 advertisement: 'Footmans – The Store of East Anglia', with 'Waterloo House' prominently lettered. "Over 80 Departments complete with Restaurant and Restroom where you may meet your friends. ... MUSIC".
Footmans memorabilia
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Footmans store bag
A rare survivor (care of Joyce Salmon, to whom our thanks) is the above paper bag from Footman's, found at the back of a drawer in 2015.
See also our Carrier bags page for more branded bags of yore.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Footmans store boxPhotographs courtesy Sylvia Patsalides
[UPDATE January 2021: '...  as is the way with Ipswich Historic Lettering website [I] was soon into browsing and ended up reading stuff about the Cornhill. There were some examples of Footmans memorabilia and it reminded me of a box I have.  I think it is v interesting: the mixture of serif and non serif fonts on such a small thing. The detail is amazing and has a quite a modern look to it. The box which is quite a dull sludge colour measures 4 inches long, 3 wide and 1 deep. I am not sure what it might have been used for. Collar studs? I am feeling that it would have been for a male item. Anyhow thought that you might like to take a look at it. Two phone lines were obviously considered to be adequate for such a major store! Sylvia Patsalides.' Thanks to Sylvia for sending these images.]
It certainly has the look of a stoutly-made box for small accoutrements, presumably used for storage behind the counter (some will remember the branding used by Martin & Newby and the way in which small items were stored to be sold loose). However, the fact that it's in private hands might suggest that it was branded packaging by the big department store for a customer to carry their purchase home. We think that it might pre-date the paper bag (above) in that the printed lettering looks to be all hand-done – it possibly dates to the 1940s(?). The flourish from the top of the 'F' to encompass the whole is stylish and the sign reads:
Footman Pretty & Co Ltd
Waterloo House. IPSWICH
Phone. 3737  2 lines'
Footmans into Debenhams
[UPDATE 31.3.2022: 'I was doing some internet browsing and was interested to see the images of the Footman’s ephemera. At risk of sounding nerdy (!), when I was at school I had a hobby of collecting paper bags from department stores. I wrote to most of the Debenhams stores in the early 1970s that had been rebranded, therefore losing their original names and acquired lots of the pre-Debenhams name bags, which I’ve still got.
Recently with a bit of time on my hands I’ve been moving them all from the old envelopes into clear plastic sleeves in an attempt to vaguely catalogue them. I wondered if you might like to see some images for your records.
From what I can work out, something called the Drapery Trust was set up in 1925 to promote department stores, and a number of stores joined this organisation, which two years later was taken over by Debenhams. I think (not absolutely sure though) that Footman's became part of this Drapery Trust in 1927, but before the Debenhams take over. Obviously the group expanded during the intervening years, but with the stores retaining their original names, then in the early seventies (probably due to having to cut costs) the whole group was branded with the corporate Debenhams name and only a few stores at the time retained their original names (like Corders of Ipswich).
The Footman's bags were sent to me in July 1973 and they had changed their name in March of that year. I'm sure the designs are at least 1960s, or could even be earlier – you will be a better judge of that than me. Nick Bosworth.' Many thanks to Nick for sending these fine examples of Footmans ephemera, which may not exist anywhere else.]
 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Footmans store bags2022 image
For two more Footman's advertisements from the 1950s and the story of William Pretty & Son corset factory on Tower Ramparts and the link to Footmans, see our Charles Street page.

Lloyds Bank and Lloyds Avenue Arch
Ipswich Historic lettering: Lloyds banking house period
Top: comparison photographs of the major changes on the north side of Cornhill. The row of shops pre-1890 showing the left building chopped off vertically. The signage is typically ebullient:
’S.        …         EVERETT.’
‘…RERS    SHIRT MAKER.   11.   EVERETT.   11.   HOSIER’
Over door: ‘EVERETT’

Bottom: Lloyds Banking House (original design by Thomas W. Cotman, 1890) includes to the west: ‘PELLS & SUGGATE’ still running their business within the Cotman building, later to be swept away by the construction of Lloyds Avenue arch.

The area between the Post Office and Manning's was blockpaved in a reddish colour in 1987/8 and became known as 'Red Square' for a while - perhaps because of the predominantly Labour nature of Ipswich Borough Council (until 2004) and the town returning (with two exceptions in recent history) a Labour MP to parliament. The scandalous neglect of a once flourishing open market over thirty-five years finally resulted in its move from the now-demolished Civic Centre car park to the Cornhill and demand for more space for stalls from potential stallholders. Apparently, before the upper portion of Princes Street (dealt with in the Cornhill 2 page) could be used to accomodate more market stalls, an Act of Parliament had to be passed. This was achieved in 2004. [Update: In 2018 a major refurbishment of the Cornhill was underway. By 2020 the repaving – a hot topic in the town because of a controversial design and costs – was complete, but the open market was by now confined mainly to upper Princes Street and part of Queen Street.]

Facing the old Post Office is the Loyds Avenue arch bearing, on the horizontal lintel, the chiselled capitals:
 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Avenue 1  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Bank2013 image
The original buildings on the north side were replaced in 1890 by the Italianate Venetian-inspired frontage created by Thomas William Cotman, architect of the Crown and Anchor Hotel, further up Westgate Street and several other notable buildings in the town. The commissioners of the 19th century development were two companies: Cobbold & Co., also Bacon, Bacon, Cobbold & Co. The two elements of Cotman's building were, to the right, the premises of Cobbold & Co's Bank (which later merged with Lloyd's TSB) and, to the left, the offices of Bacon, Bacon, Cobbold & Co. This is the part which was adapted (some would say 'butchered') in 1930 to create Lloyds Arch and Lloyds Avenue linking Cornhill with Crown Street. Such a radical cutting-away of the supporting ground floor of a major building clearly posed serious civil engineering problems and periodic surveys and restrengthening seem to have followed the change.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Cobbolds Bank note
Above: an unused 1820 Bacon, Cobbold, Rodwell, Dunningham & Cobbold
£10 note (Ipswich Museums collection)
[UPDATE 16.2.2019: 'Hi Borin, I have recently read the following on your website re Lloyd's Avenue and the arch:
'The commissioners of the 19th century development were two companies: Cobbold & Co., also Bacon, Bacon, Cobbold & Co. The two elements of Cotman's building were, to the right, the premises of Cobbold & Co's Bank (which later merged with Lloyd's TSB) and, to the left, the offices of Bacon, Bacon, Cobbold & Co.'
Would it be possible, please, to tell me where this information came from as this has confused us somewhat? As a relative of the Bacons involved in the Ipswich bank I, along with my husband, have carried out a great deal of research into these people which involved contacting Lloyds Bank archives, and reading numerous books and documents on the subject. This information states that the bank that moved to the premises No 13 Cornhill from No 13 Tavern Street was known as Bacon, Cobbold & Co. Although the bank underwent a number of name changes through the years, due to the various partners, it is stated that it always retained the name Bacon and was never known as simply Cobbold & Co. We are also interested to know what the company apparently known as Bacon, Bacon, Cobbold & Co related to. We are aware that the bank had Edward Bacon and his son George as directors but have never heard of them being involved in another company in the vicinity. I look forward to hearing your comments.
Kind regards, Beverley Bowry.' Thanks to Bev for questioning this; the source of information is the book Cobbold and kin (PDF file of the passage).]

To the right of the main arch, once a busy thoroughfare thick with cabs and traffic until pedestrianisation in 1982, is the doorway to the main banking hall. A fine porch is flanked by Corinthean-style columns, resplendant with three grotesque masks and the clean lettering 'BANK.' (with full stop) incised in a decorative curved cartouche. Compare with the Barclays 'Bank' sign in Princes Street opposite and examples in Beccles, Lowestoft and Felixstowe. The roundels in the spandrels on either side of the doorway feature St George slaying the dragon with the motto: 'HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE' and, on the right, Queen Victoria with the inscription: 'DEI GLORIA'. These roundels, fittingly for a bank, were based on the two sides of the sovereign coin (worth one pound and one shilling).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Bank door 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Bank door 2
Below: one of the grotesque 'green men' which grace the frontage.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Bank door 32014 images
See the update  (30.8.2017) on our Christchurch Mansion & Park page for what happened to the carved column bases which were removed when Lloyds Avenue was cut through this building in 1930. (They're in the Wolsey Garden behind the Mansion.) Below: after the controversial resurfacing of the Cornhill, here's a view of Lloyds banking house across the dancing fountains, also the top of Carr Street, from July 2021.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lloyds Banking house, Cornhill 20212021 image

Commemorative plaques on the Cornhill
(Thanks to Mike O'Donovan for these images)
The first two are in Lloyds Avenue and the third is set into the block paving near the Town Hall entrance.
1.Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill plaque 1 2.Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill plaque 2
Sir Frederick Snow & Partners  Consulting Engineers
Sadlers & Sons (Ipswich) Ltd  General Contractors'

2. 'Ipswich
The Ancient County Town of Suffolk
Dedicated to world peace as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Town
Ipswich joins hundreds of communities throughout the world which have dedicated
themselves to the cause of peace and international friendship as peace blossoms.
"Man seeks peace because his earthly existence desperately needs it. Man
welcomes peace because he feels that in peace alone is his life of acheivement
and fulfillment." -Sri Chinmoy
"There shall come a time when this world will be flooded with peace. Who
is going to bring about this radical change? It will be you - you and your
brothers and sisters. You and your oneness-heart will spread peace
throughout the length and breadth of the world." -Sri Chinmoy
This dedication was signed by Councillor Hamil Clarke MBE, Mayor of Ipswich(1998-99), on 31st of March 1999,
on the ocassion of the visit of the Oneness-Home Peace Run to Ipswich during its global journey,
and inaugurated by Councillor Don Edwards, Mayor of Ipswich (2000-01)'
3.Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill plaque 3
This plaque, set into the paving in front of the Town Hall steps, also bears the Ipswich coat of arms at the upper right. A larger image is shown on that page. During the repaving of the Cornhill in 2018/19 this plaque seems to have disappeared.
The Cornhill in history
John Speed’s map of Ipswich, 1610, is the earliest known plan of the town with any degree of accuracy. It shows, to the north-west of the geographical town centre, an open rectangular area with the thoroughfare we know today as Westgate Street and Tavern Streets. This east-west highway is known to be of Roman origin. The rectangular area features the Market Cross (originally probably a preaching cross) which was paid for by Wolsey’s uncle, Edmund Daundy (1468-1515). The Cross was a feature of the Cornhill for 300 years. Also depicted: a building where today’s ‘Post Office’ stands which must be the original Shambles and, finally, a church – presumably St Mildred – which is thought to have existed in Anglo-Saxon times. The map’s key labels this number 8: ‘Corne hill’.

At the time of the map’s publication Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudors, had been dead for seven years and James I (of England), the first of the Stuarts, was on the throne.
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill 1790pre-1790
Above: a watercolour of the Cornhill before 1790 showing the Shambles building to the right centre and Tavern Street at the left. The prominent Market Cross is topped by ‘Justice’. The building on the extreme right is the Three Tuns Inn which later became the Corn Exchange Tavern. The tower of St Lawrence Church is in the background.

This area is much older than the map, of course. This is the place where corn brought in from the countryside was laid out for sale; thus the Cornhill is intrinsically tied to a market in Ipswich. Markets (as well as fairs) were historically of great cultural, legal and economic significance throughout the land. To some extent, they continue to be so. Medieval towns often grew up around crossroads and river crossings – particularly if a church was nearby – where people brought their wares to sell on a specific day of the week. Taverns, craft workshops and eventually housing were often found at or near the same spot.

Bob Malster tells us: ‘It is possible that in the early Anglo-Saxon times the Wuffinga kings of East Anglia had a royal residence on the Cornhill alongside St Mildred’s Church, which later became the town hall...
St Mildred was the daughter of Merewahl, the 7th century ruler of the area of south Shropshire and Herefordshire. She died about AD 700 and it is likely that the East Anglian king of that time, Adwulf (who was Mildred's grandfather's nephew),  dedicated the Ipswich church to her.' After centuries of corn trading on the hill a Corn Exchange was built, initially in 1812 on the site of today’s ‘Post Office’ and replaced in 1882 by the building we know today, for decades a busy place of trade. Over time it has become an entertainment centre: the Grand Hall, cinemas, bar and – until recently – art gallery which sits south of our Town Hall, fronting King Street.

The long-standing, timber-built Shambles once stood on the south-east corner of the Cornhill. Arched and open to the air at street level, it was home to the butchers’ market. The area in front of the Shambles (around the location of the two trees which grow in front of the ‘Post Office’ today*) was the focus of two activities: bull-baiting and martyr-burning. The former was based on the belief that terrorising cattle with dogs prior to slaughter tenderised the resultant meat. The latter occurred around 1515-1558 during a period of religious and political tumult when London vied with Rome in the publication of new heresies, crimes which could be punishable by burning at the stake.  [*Update: In 2018, the trees in front of the Post Office were felled as part of the Cornhill regeneration/repaving project. The red block paving will be replaced.]

Two thousand or more people were recorded as attending these grisly executions. They usually occurred from 7 to 10 o’clock in the morning with the heretic tied to a sixpenny stake surrounded by brushwood and faggots. Officials sat in the gallery of the Shambles and a clergyman would deliver an appropriate sermon. The condemned man or woman would then have the chance to speak, sometimes at length enough to annoy the gentlemen onlookers. Sir Robert Curson, occupant of Curson House in St Peters Street, was once so overwrought by a burning that he came down from the gallery, cut a branch with his sword from a nearby tree and added it to the flames.

The Cornhill of 1800 must at times have been impossibly congested. Corn trading still took place around the Market Cross, as well as all sorts of livestock (horses, cattle, pigs and sheep) being bought and sold, not to mention local traffic and the hourly stage coach. The timber-framed Shambles of yore had been replaced by the short-lived, odiferous Rotunda, but this and the Market Cross (repaired and changed over time), were swept away in 1812 to be replaced by a Regency Corn Exchange. By about 1880 this in turn gave way to the grand Post Office building. The sculpted figure of Justice from the top of the Market Cross, exchanged her sword and scales for a sickle and sheaf of wheat/horn of plenty to sit atop the interim Corn Exchange. She currently lives, a little weather-beaten, at the foot of the main staircase in the Town Hall.

When major alterations to the Cornhill were discussed in October 2013, the late Dr John Blatchly was a strong advocate for retaining the gentle slope and reinstating the Market Cross. Its removal in 1812 seems to have been unpopular and the noted historian G.R. Clarke (1830) tells us that it was only pulled down ‘with considerable difficulty, as the timber, and every part of it, were in excellent preservation… As a relic of antiquity, we cannot but regret its loss.’ The town lost the focal point of the space, octangonal in plan with an area suitable for seating covered by an attractive ogee-shaped, lead-covered roof, topped by the aforementioned figure of Justice. It was 27 feet in diameter and about fifty feet from the ground to the top of the figure. Apparently parts of the Market Cross are stored at the Ipswich Museum.

The grand Venetian-style Town Hall we see today arrived in 1868; it was designed by Lincoln architect Pearson Bellamy, replacing a Palladian Town Hall which was built on the site of (and including parts of) the Church of St Mildred around 1812. This saw the final removal of any remnants of the church which had stood on the Cornhill for a thousand years. Meanwhile, for a hundred years the new Town Hall was the seat of local government in the town, until the Borough moved its offices to the Civic Centre in the 1960s. Sitting on a raised platform and accessed by impressive stone steps (as does the ‘Post Office’ building), in 2016 the Town Hall is crying out for a new role in our town. Having apparently wandered away from the original idea of a fine suite of galleries for exhibitions and workshops, the ‘Town Galleries’ seem now to be mainly a café and gift shop. Only the Suffolk Craft Society room maintained the original intention, until 2017 when it closed. The large Council Chamber upstairs still serves its original function and provides a good venue for music, poetry and other events.
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill 18401840 (postcards courtesy Nick Wiggin)
The illustration of a rather empty Cornhill in 1840 shows a very different street scene. The early incarnation of the Corn Exchange, with the statue of Ceres above it, is at the immediate left. Then comes the entrance to today's Princes Street. The Palladian frontage of the Guildhall (with the triangular top, shouldn't according to our Cornhill timeline (above) be there, as it wasn't built until after 1841 – perhaps the artist was a little lax in his research (or dating). On the far side of the Cornhill is the Golden Lion Hotel, Mannings and the buildings which pre-dated Grimwade's clothier's store. On the corner with a very narrow Westgate Street is the 'American Stores', formerly the Bell Inn (earlier the Blue Bell Inn). The rather naive perspective makes the Cornhill look much wider than it really is.
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill post-1903   Ipswich Historical Lettering: Cornhill post-1903post-1903
Above: two-hand-tinted photographs of Cornhill from the collection of Nick Wiggin. Electric trams replaced horse-drawn trams in Ipswich in 1903, so these views are after that date. Horse-drawn cabs and carts are still very much in evidence. The photograph on the right may have been taken from the roof of Grimwade's the draper to give the higher view of an equally bustling scene. The pinnacle on the left down Tavern Street is the Picture House theatre and cinema (opened 1910), shown on our Woottons page. The Victorianised tower of the Church of St Lawrence rises up right of centre.

See our Museum Street page for 1778 and 1902 comparative maps of this area.
Our King Street page shows several  map details over time of the  Cornhill area.

See our Cornhill 2 page for more on this area.

Other related pages:
Westgate Street
Tavern Street
King Street/Lion Street/Arcade Street
Princes Street
Giles sculpture

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