diamond geezer

 Saturday, March 16, 2019

I've planned a day out every Thursday this month, with each trip further than the last. Last week Bracknell, this week...

Gadabout: IPSWICH

Ipswich is Suffolk's county town, of Anglo-Saxon origin, and once a major North Sea port. Some say it's the oldest English town the Romans didn't have a hand in. Its heart contains a mix of historic buildings and less impressive infill, plus a modern waterfront quarter rising on the former docks. There are better places in East Anglia for a day trip, and a weekend mini-break in Ipswich would be unwise. That said there are several treats to see, most of which I entirely failed to visit when I lived here for a couple of years, so more fool me.
[10 photos]

Ipswich Museum



Most town museums have either updated for a modern audience or closed. Ipswich museum, I'm pleased to say, has done neither and is all the better for it. Stepping beneath its terracotta portal brings you into a long dark atrium filled with Victorian exhibits overlooked by a separate walkway round the upper perimeter. The museum started out as a repository for a natural history collection, so its core offering is a lot of stuffed animals in glass cases. The giraffe at the back enjoys a particularly large glass case which particularly taxed the local glaziers. If only the rhino had been in a glass case nobody would have stolen its horn in 2011. The woolly mammoth needs no shield.

A separate rear galley contains a nationally significant collection of stuffed birds, courtesy of Fergus Menteith Oglivie 'of Sizewell and Scotland'. A separate classic exhibit represents "a portion of the Bass Rock", complete with dozens of squawking seabirds and fake guano. The museum goes out of its way to explain that such practices are very much disapproved of these days, but this enormous set of tableaux would have been proper educational in its day. Rest assured it's not all dead animals. Further galleries cover history, geology and ethnography, including a detailed walkthrough of world cultures that reminded me of a trip to the former Commonwealth Institute.



Stashed on the back staircase is a sledge Captain Oates tried out before heading to the South Pole, but chose to leave behind. In a side gallery are treasures from the era of King Raedwald, son of Tytila, son of Wuffa. At the foot of an Egyptian statue is a sign thanking you for not touching the goddess Sekhmet. I also learned that the interglacial period before ours is known as the Ipswichian thanks to deposits uncovered at the sewage works at Bobbitshole. But I learned nothing of Ipswich in the 21st century, because the history display round the balcony ends with the 1990s and none of the individual exhibits appear to have been touched since then either. Ipswich Museum thus works brilliantly as a museum showcasing how museums used to be, and long may it stay that way.

Ipswich Art Gallery

The Ipswich Art Gallery was formerly the Ipswich Art School, so feels more converted institution than ideal hanging space. Everything other than the central atrium is tucked upstairs around the balcony or inside a handful of awkwardly shaped rooms, currently displaying a fine collection of 100 works by women artists, with Maggi Hambling the most well known. Free to enter, and just a little odd.

Christchurch Mansion



Ipswich's other big museum is a substantial Tudor mansion in a fabulous park almost in the centre of town. Christchurch Mansion was gifted to the people in 1895, and is an absolute warren of nooks and heritage crannies. Some of the interiors are original, others were shoehorned in from elsewhere, and you never quite know which era'll be round the next corner. In amongst these are a significant number of paintings by local lad John Constable, plus a separate 1920s art gallery which is currently hosting (in a big local scoop) The Kiss by Rodin. It's one of three larger-than-life copies created by the French sculptor, this a commission for a Sussex collector who specifically requested that the male genitals be realistic, and which is now under the guardianship of the Tate. See this marble icon for free, plus additional disparate sculptures throughout the building, until 28th April.

Ipswich town centre



Much of Ipswich town centre retains a historical street pattern and heritage buildings, and much does not. In my photos above I've focused on the better bits. Timbered buildings are scattered in impressive numbers - still very much part of the commercial fabric - and the pargeting on the Ancient House (now a Lakeland) is second to none. For characterful shopping a narrow arcade wends down from Tavern Street, while for characterless shopping there's the fortress-like chain-bland Buttermarket and the sheds of Cardinal Park. The council recently spent a few million revamping Cornhill, to no obvious effect, although maybe it looks better with the grid of fountains switched on. Better to hunt down the statue of Giles's Grandma, stood outside the offices where the Daily Express cartoonist penned his glowering harridan.

Willis Building



Lovers of modern architecture should make a pilgrimage to Ipswich's Princes Street roundabout to admire one of Norman Foster's earliest commissions. The Willis Building looks 21st century, such is its influence, but was actually constructed in the early 1970s for an obscure insurance company. The office block is grand-piano-shaped, and pioneeringly open plan, and was very rapidly Grade I listed. The exterior is a curtain of smoked glass, there's not a right angle in sight, and oh how the changing light reflects off it throughout the day. Don't expect to get inside without being an employee, or pop up to the roof garden with your sandwiches, but have this 9 minute documentary by Zaha Hadid as compensation.

Ipswich Waterfront

Once upon a time urban docksides were for trade, but these days they're prime residential territory. Ipswich council leapt on the bandwagon earlier than most, sequentially replacing both sides of their waterfront with smart flats and adding a marina to attract yachting folk. It was only just kicking off when I lived here, so I was amazed by the transformation (if not entirely won over). The skyline includes Suffolk's tallest building, a tower block whose construction faltered during the 2008 recession and whose interior still isn't finished. Some wharves remain empty, others are only just being transformed... but walk far enough and it all looks closer to being complete.



At promenade level a sequence of eating and drinking opportunities has opened up, because what people want beside water these days are craft beer, boutique hotels and bistros. The vibe along Neptune Quay is impressively trendy, a quality which the architects have ensured by the simple premise of placing the town's university at the far end. Students have their own coffee bar and restaurant with slightly cheaper prices to avoid having to intermingle with the nightlife. The Waterfront's worked well for the town, which now has a quarter worthy of attracting young professionals, but I don't think I'd have wanted to move in.

River Orwell/River Gipping

What I had planned to do on my visit was head down the estuary to walk across the Orwell Bridge. The ultimate town bypass, this stilted concrete creation opened in 1982 and is now so integral to Ipswich that if it ever closes the entire town seizes up. It doesn't close very often, but Storm Gareth closed it for eight hours the day before my visit which kept the local paper in screaming headlines. With gusts of 50mph promised throughout Thursday I wisely decided against an elevated hike beside windblown lorries forty metres above the choppy Orwell, and am saving this treat for a later date. Instead I headed in the opposite direction, upstream of Stoke Bridge, beyond which point the river is known instead as the Gipping.



The River Gipping slices between the railway station and the football ground as a deep-cut channel with a walkway alongside. Don't be easily tempted. It's signposted as an appealing stroll or easy cycle, but this perception will not survive the three miles to the next village. The first stretch includes a modern footbridge, a Sainsbury's car park, the backside of an industrial estate and the reedy edge of a housing estate. As urban riverside goes, it's fairly standard. But things change at the first railway bridge, the descending concrete steps so narrow you'd never get a bike down, beyond which is a minor riverside path that feels almost rural. It's really not, though. Lurking at the top of the slope is a hu-uge brownfield site once occupied by a sugar beet factory, now reduced to rubble, while a chain of pylons plant metal footprints along the valley. The path eventually opens out into squidgy orchard, then ducks below a dual carriageway and skirts a water pumping station. I walked well over a mile without any external footpath connection, which was somewhat unnerving, before eventually emerging onto Sproughton Millennium Green. I do not especially recommend.

Sproughton



Sproughton is a classic Suffolk village, except not quite. Down by the river are a post-medieval watermill (private), a Millennium Green (aforementioned) and a yew-circled church (locked). Climbing the main street are an actual tithe barn (restored), the village lock-up (empty) and a tin-shed community centre (buzzing). At the top of the slope are the village pub (carvery-enabled), a vintage barn (antiques-ridden) and a bus stop (irregularly-served). The village sign is one of the last carved by Harry Carter of Swaffham. Twenty years ago you couldn't buy milk here and the top treat was an exhibition of teatowels. Today the community shop in the tithe barn sells Mediterranean Sundried Tomato Nut Roast and the top attraction in the church hall is a Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge Evening. Residents are currently up in arms at plans to replace a central field with 114 homes, even those living on a similarly-sized estate built across former fields. It's also a bloody awkward walk back to Ipswich, because connectivity isn't really a rural Suffolk thing, which is just one of the reasons I left.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain
#coronavirus

read the archive
Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv