Landmark building to get revamp

IT is one of the oldest and best known buildings in Ipswich. But for years, it has been boarded up as the council struggled to find the money to return it to its former glory.

By Graham Dines

IT is one of the oldest and best known buildings in Ipswich. But for years, it has been boarded up as the council struggled to find the money to return it to its former glory.

Now, thanks to the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust, 45-47 St Nicholas Street is being restored in a £500,000 project which will see it converted into two shops with first floor flats.

For long erroneously associated with Ipswich's most famous son, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the pink painted Grade II* listed medieval timber framed building will have been well known to Wolsey, who was born at his parents' butcher's shop opposite.

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The building, part of which dates from the late 15th Century, features on the earliest map of Ipswich dated 1610, and was one of a number of merchants' houses which stretched down to the Wet Dock.

It was opposite a since demolished home owned by Lord Curson >, a knight of the Holy Roman Empire, and it served as a lodging house for Curson's visitors.

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Over the centuries, he had a variety of different purposes and was latterly a café and collectors' centre before being boarded up by the borough council early in the last decade. Since then, it has been empty.

Tom Gondris, chairman of Ipswich Building Preservation Trust, said: “People have been unhappy to see it empty for so long. The council did not have the money to fund the restoration itself. The biggest obstacle was the chimney stack, and the borough had been advised that to prevent it from crashing down during building work, the stack would have to be demolished and rebuilt.

“The Trust contacted Brian Morton of Halesworth, a nationally renowned structural engineer specialising in rescue architecture, who devised a system whereby the whole stack will be internally reinforced in such a way that it will not have to be rebuilt.”

The Trust bought the premises from the council at a reduced price. The £500,000 project is being funded from its own resources, grants from English Heritage, the council, and the Government's Architectural Heritage Fund.

It hopes to recoup the cost from the flats and shops which will be built within the familiar exterior.

Of the many notable features within 45-47 St Nicholas Street is a spandrel, a Tudor brace holding up the timber ceiling frame and situated next to a medieval window.

The first floor window, fronting Silent Street, is said by experts to be similar in form to the late 15th Century window from Hadleigh which is to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

“The building is one of the oldest in the borough, says Mr Gondris, who is also chairman of the Suffolk Architectural Heritage Trust which has just finished restoring St Andrew's Church in Mickfield.

“Apart from the town's churches, only Pykenham's Gatehouse and part of Ancient House in Buttermarket are older.

“It s part of the St Peter's Street-St Nicholas Street regeneration area and the restoration of the building will help the council achieve that aim.”

Building work is being undertaken by Carter's of Ipswich, whose contract manager Kevin Rant said completion was expected by the end of July.

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