Ipswich Town Hall & Ipswich Corn Exchange, King Street, IP1 1DH
In October 1865, the demolition of the old Town Hall building was started. On the 18th of April 1866, a large celebration was held to lay the foundation stone for the ‘new’ Town Hall.
On the front of the Town Hall there are three heads representing King Richard I, Cardinal Wolsey, and King John. These characters were incorporated into the decoration on our Town Hall because it was King Richard who first promised the town its first charter but died before it could be granted, and it was King John who finally granted it to the town. And Cardinal Wolsey was one of the most famous people to have been born in Ipswich.
Above these heads are four statues in stone representing Commerce, Agriculture, Law & Order and Justice.
On the top of the building is an open stonework lantern which sits on a small tower which originally had an illuminated four-dial turret striking clock underneath it, which was made by Dent, 61 Strand, London, the same makers of Big Ben. Also housed in this tower is the bell which was cast in 1867 by John Warner & Sons of the Crescent Foundry, London.
Both the Town Hall and Corn Exchange are now listed Grade II.
The building was designed to cater for a number of functions and in order to accommodate these the build was set out with the following rooms:
Council Chamber; Quarter Sessions Court; Library; Committee and retiring rooms; Grand and Petty Juries Rooms; A room for the Magistrates' business.
The basement included: Police Station with seven cells and a parade area; Offices for Council servants; Space for the Corporation fire engine and hose to be kept. The total cost of the building was about £16,000.
The building was opened in January 1868 by the then Mayor, Mr John Patterson Cobbold. The opening took place over three days with much aplomb and included a ball attended by around 400 ticket holders.
In 1969 the Council decided to transfer the Quarter Sessions and Magistrates Courts and the Police Station to a new building on the Civic Centre site. Work on the Town Hall could now go ahead to turn the building into use of the community for meetings, entertainment and exhibitions.
In November 1970, a series of events were staged to show off the new look building and to promote its ability to be used for a wide variety of events. The Town Hall was soon booked out to societies and organisations for their meetings, luncheons, dinners, dances, concerts, exhibitions, and coffee mornings.
Because the Town Hall was so successful in its new role the Council decided in 1972 to convert the Corn Exchange to the same functionality thereby increasing the complex's flexibility.
[Source: The Living Past - A Victorian Heritage by R. L. Cross, published in 1975.]