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Ipswich: New use on the way for Suffolk County Hall – where Mrs Simpson was divorced

PUBLISHED: 10:27 19 August 2014

A photomontage of the proposed wedding hall.

A photomontage of the proposed wedding hall.

For a decade it has been unused and neglected – but a new use could be on the cards for part of Suffolk’s former County Hall.

The old council chamber in Ipswich could be converted into a register office – replacing the present one on the junction of Rope Walk and Grimwade Street.

However the county council, which is responsible for register offices across Suffolk, is waiting to see how much the scheme would cost before committing itself fully to the proposal.

The application is being made by the current owners of the site, MD Developments, and it is the first positive news about one of the most important buildings in the town for many years.

The proposed use has been widely welcomed – the state of the Grade II listed building has been causing 
major concern over recent years.

Last year we published photographs taken inside the council chamber showing a tree growing through one of the windows, and a general state of decay.

The new application only covers the former council chamber and the offices underneath it at the north west corner of the building – it does not cover the rest of the St Helen Court building of the former County Hall, including the former courtroom where Wallis Simpson obtained her divorce before marrying the Duke of Windsor.

However the former council chamber was considered the most difficult part of the building to find a new use – and there are hopes that the restoration of this section of the building, including its clock tower, will encourage others to take on the rest of the building.

The application for the change of use and restoration of the building is due to be discussed by the borough council’s planning and development committee later in the year.

It is not expected to attract any opposition – and the restoration work is not expected to be too major. The building was substantially restored in the early 1980s.

The council chamber – which will become the celebration room for weddings – is on the first floor with offices underneath on the ground floor.

It will be approached by stairs or a lift from what was the main entrance to St Helen’s Court from St Helen’s Street.

As well as the celebration room the first floor will also have two offices for the public to register births and deaths and a waiting room for wedding parties. The ground floor will have offices for register office staff.

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