R Gwinnell & Sons, The Old Bell, Stoke Street IP2 8BX
Until it closed in 2007, this was the oldest operating licenced premises in Ipswich. It is believed to date from the early 16th century and was first recorded in 1639. A Bell Inn is known to have existed in this area since well before the Civil War (1642–1651). The name may refer to a bell foundry which existed nearby before the inn was constructed.
In the mid-19th Century, as land along Wherstead Road started to be developed and Bell Lane became too narrow for local traffic, a new road, Vernon Street, (initially called Harland St), was built to the east side of the Inn. The Bell used to be much bigger, but the section of the building to the left of the present corner door was demolished to make way for the new road and to provide easier access to Wherstead Road. This accounts for the feeling that the building looks 'sliced off'.
In the 1960s the land to the rear of the inn was comprehensively cleared and redeveloped. Later in the 1970s, the sense of enclosure (buildings crowded along narrow roads) around the inn was all but destroyed as buildings opposite were demolished to make way for Stoke Bridge and its approaches. The sense of former enclosure can only be appreciated on the west side towards The Peoples Hall.
Walking up Bell Lane the jettied upper storey and timbered outer wall towards the rear of the pub are seen. Beneath the overhang is an example of a Tudor, glassless window. The narrow bricks and timbering seem to be 'original'.
Following its closure as a pub, the building lay derelict for 10 years. The property was bought at auction by its present owner who has sympathetically renovated much of the building. Now a Funeral Directors there are reception rooms, chapel of rest and mortuary on the ground floor. Rooms still untouched on the first floor will be renovated at some point in the future.
[Source: Ipswich Historic Lettering]