9 of Suffolk’s most famous blue plaques and where to find them
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Over the centuries, Suffolk has been connected to a whole host of famous faces. From authors and painters, to historians and scientists, a number of figures have left their mark on the county – and following their deaths, have since been commemorated with a blue plaque.
Here’s just some of the plaques that have been unveiled across Suffolk over the years.
Charles Dickens, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich
Installed by the Bury St Edmunds’ Society, one of Britain’s most prolific authors was immortalised in the form of a blue plaque back in 2012. The Victorian-era novelist first stayed at The Angel Hotel in 1835, which is also where his protagonist Samuel Pickwick stayed in his 1836 book, The Pickwick Papers. The plaque was unveiled to coincide with his bicentenary and was the first of seven plaques within in the town.
Similarly, The Ipswich Society dedicated a plaque to the wordsmith two years prior. Installed on The Great White Horse Hotel in Tavern Street, Dickens also stayed here when writing The Pickwick Papers, as did his eponymous character.
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Thomas Gainsborough, Ipswich
Unsurprisingly, one of Suffolk’s most famous artists has a blue plaque located in the county town. Born in Sudbury in 1727, Thomas Gainsborough actually spent a handful of years in Ipswich, living there between 1752 and 1759. The house the painter had rented, 34 Foundation Street, has sadly since been demolished - but a blue plaque has been mounted to number 32.
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Gainsborough’s connections to Ipswich can still be seen to this day, as one of the most impressive collections of his works outside of London can be found inside Christchurch Mansion.
John Peel, Great Finborough
One of Britain’s most beloved radio DJs, John Peel was bestowed his own plaque in the Suffolk village of Great Finborough back in 2017. The disc jockey, who passed away in 2004, was one of 47 figures across the country to receive one to commemorate BBC Music Day. Unveiled by his wife Shelia Ravenscroft, it was placed at Pettiward Hall where John worked closely with youth groups. At the unveiling ceremony, Shelia said: “It is truly incredible that people still remember and talk about John, no one forgets him and this a nice way to honour him permanently.”
Down the road in Stowmarket, there is also a creative arts centre that bears his name.
Jean Ingelow, Ipswich
The second writer to make it onto this list, poet and author Jean Ingelow moved to Ipswich aged 14, where she lived on Elm Street for a decade. It was here where she first began writing - later becoming ones of the best-selling authors of the Victorian era. Revered by the likes of John Ruskin and Alfred Tennyson, Jean, who passed away in 1897, has since been immortalised with a blue plaque on Arcade Street, which has been there since 2001.
Wallis Simpson, Felixstowe
One of the seaside town’s most famous residents, albeit it for a short time, socialite and former Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson stayed in Felixstowe for six weeks in 1936 while awaiting her divorce to be finalised so she could marry Edward VIII.
The five-bedroom house she stayed in has unfortunately since been demolished – but the Felixstowe Society commemorated her links with the town by putting up a plaque on Undercliff Road East in 2012, designed and creator by local artist Pat Todd.
Richard Dykes Alexander, Ipswich
Banker, photographer and Quaker, Richard Dykes Alexander was honoured with a blue plaque in Ipswich in April 2010. A supporter of the abolition of slavery, he was also a proponent of the Temperance Movement in Suffolk in the 19th century, and funded the town’s Temperance Hall. His plaque can be found on Alexander House, on St Matthews Street.
Benjamin Britten, Aldeburgh and Lowestoft
The second person on this list to have more than one plaque across Suffolk, composer Benjamin Britten can be found immortalised in Aldeburgh as well as Lowestoft. A prominent figure in 20th-century British music, he founded the annual Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts in 1948 alongside fellow musicians Peter Pears and Eric Crozier. A blue plaque can be found on Crag House in the town, where he lived between 1947 and 1957.
In 2013 Lowestoft, a second blue plaque was unveiled to celebrate his centenary, and can be found at 21 Kirkley Cliff Road, where he was born and raised.
Nina Layard, Ipswich
Head over to Unicorn House on Ipswich’s Foundation Street and there you will find a blue plaque dedicated to Nina Layard. Archaeologist and writer, she was credited with carrying out the first excavations of the Ipswich Blackfriars in 1898. Many of her published works have been regarded as highly significant within the field, and she later went on to become a founding member and first female president of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Her plaque was unveiled in 2016 by members of the Ipswich Women’s Festival Group – but was replaced a year later following an inaccuracy on the original roundel.
Dorothy Hodgkin, Beccles
In 2015, the Royal Society of Biology awarded British Nobel Prize winner Dorothy Hodgkin with the posthumous honour, which is on display at her former school in Beccles. In 1921, she enrolled at the Sir John Leman Grammar School in the town – and was one of only two girls allowed to study chemistry there. Decades later, she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work, in which she used X-rays to determine the structure of a number of molecules and biochemical substances.
Where is your favourite blue plaque in Suffolk? Or who do you think deserves a blue plaque? Get in touch with email@example.com to share your thoughts.