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Heritage Open Days attract 20,000 to Ipswich’s historic hot spots

PUBLISHED: 16:37 17 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:37 17 September 2018

One of the main attractions was the restored Old Bell Inn Picture: ARCHANT

One of the main attractions was the restored Old Bell Inn Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Thousands of people eager to learn about Suffolk’s historic county town flocked to Ipswich to visit some of its most treasured buildings.

Visitors were also able to view an old lodging house on Silent Street Picture: JOHN NORMANVisitors were also able to view an old lodging house on Silent Street Picture: JOHN NORMAN

More than 30 unique buildings in Ipswich took part in the national Heritage Open Days 2018, held on September 8-9 and 15-16.

John Norman, chairman of the Ipswich Society, estimated that roughly 20,000 people visited the heritage landmarks – many of which do not ordinarily open their doors to the public.

With visitors from all over the UK, including York, Cambridge, London and Norwich, Mr Norman said the open days were a “big boost” for Ipswich.

He confirmed that there were over 30 buildings open, estimating that a huge 20,000 people were thought to have visited heritage hot spots in the county town.

“They were walking round the town on Saturday morning – thousands of people walking round carrying one of our brochures,” he said. “The Willis Building had 1,100 [people] on Saturday morning alone.

“I think the whole event is very, very important for the people of Ipswich. It does remind them that we are an ancient town.

“The fact that there were 32 or 33 [buildings] open is brilliant.”

At the recently-restored Old Bell Inn on Stoke Street, which is now a funeral directors, an unprecedented number of visitors began queuing in the street.

“[The owner] said he had never, ever known people queuing outside a funeral director’s office,” Mr Norman said. “He had about 500 people on Saturday.”

Another highlight was the old lodging house on 3-5 Silent Street.

Mr Norman said that it was: “A quite unassuming building that has got a tremendous history”.

In fact, visitors would have walked in the footsteps of royalty – with the likes of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII known to have had connections in the area.

“It is a great, beautiful town,” he said. “People from across the east side of the country come to see us.

“This is a real boost for Ipswich. It is a real eye opener.”

The weekend was very successful despite coinciding with the Great East Run – leading to complications involving some road closures.

While Mr Norman said he didn’t mind sharing the weekend with the sporting event, he was disappointed that some venues were unable to open due to limited pedestrian access in some parts of the town.

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