Our two museums, High Street and Christchurch Mansion, are two of the most important buildings in Ipswich - both very accessible from the town centre. They must be maintained and preserved for our future generations.
High Street Museum as a building is a fantastic example of a Victorian purpose-built museum. To stand across the road and survey the faqade is a revelation of how the designers and architects of the day showed the importance of art and science. There are busts of William Hogarth (art) and Isaac Newton (science) shown in the red brickwork along with fruits and flowers. The designer and architect was Horace Chesterton who in the late 1870s won the competition to build the new museum for not more than £7,000.
The Museum opened to the general public in July 1881 and in the first few days over 1,000 people visited daily. The entrance area gives one a feeling of stepping back in time, especially at the sight of the sweeping staircase. The doors into the main hall open up to the sight of the long loved giraffe and rhinoceros, now joined by the excellent construction of the woolly mammoth - yes, there were actual remains of one found in the Stoke High School area of Ipswich. Upstairs in the typically Victorian gallery we now have The Ipswich Story which tells the story of how Ipswich developed from the Ice Age to the end of World War II.
The latest exhibition is the impressive display of Ipswich at War - to those of us who were living in Ipswich during World War II this will bring back many memories.
Members who have not yet visited the Museum for some time will be agreeably surprised at how well the Victorian atmosphere is presented today - the original colour of the paintwork and the excellent displays in every area, such as the animals, the fantastic bird room, the historical Roman and Anglo-Saxon rooms, plus the artefacts from other countries worldwide. The High Street Museum is well worth a visit from Ipswich residents and all visitors to the town.
Christchurch Mansion has some outstanding assets and I hope to write in detail about the Mansion in the next issue of the Newsletter when some new lighting will have been installed in the Constable Room, greatly enhancing the view of the wonderful pictures.
Ipswich Society representative, Friends of Ipswich Museums