Remembering the history of Golden Lion as Wetherspoon calls time on iconic Ipswich pub

1951. The small car park on the Cornhill was used by visitors to the Town Hall and shoppers. This T

1951. The small car park on the Cornhill was used by visitors to the Town Hall and shoppers. This Town Hall building opened in 1868. All of the Cornhill buildings featured, including the Golden Lion Hotel, Mannings and what was Grimwades shop, look much the same now.

Ipswich has hailed the 500 year history of the Golden Lion after its closure was announced on Sunday.

The closure sign at the Golden Lion

The closure sign at the Golden Lion - Credit: Archant

JD Wetherpoon, which has owned the Grade II-Listed Golden Lion on the Cornhill since 1998, announced it was putting the historic ale house up for sale in February, before closing its doors for the final time on Sunday evening.

A post published on the pub’s Facebook page earlier on Sunday, said: “So guys and girls, ladies and gents, it is very sadly our last night tonight.

“We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for being such great customers and for all your kind words and support.”

The ale house became an established part of the town centre night culture, especially popular with Ipswich Town fans before and after games.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon was unable to confirm the reason for the closure, citing the judgement only as a “commercial decision,” although it comes as part of a swathe of cuts in which 34 of the chain’s pubs across the country are being sold, in a measure believed to have been set up to tackle a second consecutive year of falling profits.


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“We can understand that customers will be surprised and disappointed by Wetherspoon’s decision, although we did tell people well in advance,” Mr Gershon said.

“They have re-evaluated their pubs and decided it was no longer one to keep open.”

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The pub is understood to have employed around 40 people, all of whom have been kept on at the chain’s two other Ipswich establishments – The Cricketers and The Robert Ransome – or in the surrounding area.

The chain is yet to announce when the space may be sold, and no details have been announced on whether it is likely to be used as a pub or retail space.

The celebrated pub has a rich 500 year history, with English Heritage estimating that the current building was constructed in the 1700s.

But prior to that an existing pub and hotel known as the White Lion occupied the site, with earliest available records revealing it dates back to at least the early 1570s.

John Norman from the Ipswich Society said: “It’s always been a town centre pub and always generated a busy clientele when there was a traditional corn market.

“There were things like bull baiting there and it’s very certain this sort of thing came with drinking.”

The current building has undergone a series of renovations since being built, including the wattle and daub walls being replaced with brick, as well as extensions upwards and behind.

When the Golden Lion still operated as a hotel, the establishment included the space which is now occupied by the Mizu noodle bar, although it is not known when it stopped running as a hotel and focused solely on being a public house.

The pub featured a back bar known as the Lion Hotel Vaults, or the Vaults for short from the early 1860s – a name that stuck for 100 years until the early 1960s, as well as hosting occasional live music events in a function room at the rear.

Wetherspoon acquired the site in 1998, and made a host of improvements, including a complete separation of the Vaults in 2000. Renovators also found the mummified remains of a cat under the floorboards of a room at the top – believed to have been 200 years old and used to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck in the future.

After putting the pub up for sale in February, the Golden Lion finally closed its doors on April 3.

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