Ipswich: New heritage centre could come to the Waterfront to show off Anglo-Saxon links

Could the new heritage centre be built at the Waterfront?

Could the new heritage centre be built at the Waterfront? - Credit: Archant

Another attempt is to be made to create a heritage centre at the town’s Waterfront.

More than a decade after ambitious proposals for the Gipeswic Centre were rejected by the government’s Millennium Commission, the county archive could move to the area.

And it could be included in a specially-built heritage centre, telling the story of Ipswich’s importance as the oldest English town, outlining the history and heritage of Suffolk, and explaining the importance of the county to England as a whole.

The county council is set to make a decision about the future of its archives later in the year.

There had been a proposal to develop a new archive centre at the Museum of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket – but that was rejected last year.

Now the county is looking at an alternative site for the archive – and has narrowed the choice down to one of two.

It is looking at establishing the archive either in Ipswich – linked to UCS – or at Bury St Edmunds linked to West Suffolk College on the western side of the town.

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The county cabinet member with responsibility for planning – which includes heritage – is Guy McGregor.

He said he would like to see the centre in Ipswich, exploiting the town’s under-played role at the heart of England’s history.

“This should be in the county town which people sometimes forget is absolutely central to the history of this country.

“It is the oldest English town, and Suffolk was the home of many of the great advances for this country, particularly in agriculture.

“Many of the improvements that Norfolk has claimed credit for have actually come from Suffolk – it is time that we started shouting about that and Ipswich and the Waterfront is the best site for that.

“Ipswich should stop worrying about city status and proclaim its role as the oldest English town, the town that all others are based on!”

However proposals to set up a heritage centre on the waterfront might be challenged by the borough council.

It is preparing a Heritage Lottery bid to develop the High Street museum – and is expected to try to make a bid to include the archive into part of that bid.

Borough councillor with responsibility for culture and leisure Bryony Rudkin said any change would also raise a question mark over the current county archive offices at Gatacre Road in Ipswich, in a building that is shared with Eastern Angles’ John Mills Theatre.

She said: “There is still a great deal to consider with this, but clearly we would want to see the archives based here in Ipswich, the county town.”

There are currently county record offices at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft. The county wants to store the archives in a central location, but with electronic access online.

If a new archive store is established, the future of much of the Gatacre Road building – which was originally a school – is likely to be reconsidered.

The county’s cabinet is expected to consider the future of the county archive at its meeting in September, after which the final location is expected to be settled.

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