Christchurch Park is the town's most prominent and best known piece of public amenity land. It lies within one of Ipswich's principal Conservation Areas and possesses one of the most complete histories of any of the parks in the town.
The Park's origins stretch back to the 12th century and it contains 14 Listed buildings and structures, notably Christchurch Mansion (Grade I), an early 18th century ice house, an 11th century Augustinian priory enclosure wall, entrance gates and lodges, shelters, fountains and memorials (all Grade II Listed). The Park is of great arboricultural interest with a number of 350 year old "veteran" beech, oak and sweet chestnut trees. The Mansion was gifted to the town by Felix Thornley Cobbold, on the condition that "Ipswich Corporation" purchase the remainder of the estate. The Park was opened to the public in 1895 as Ipswich's first official public park.
The Park is listed on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens as a Grade II park and also provides the setting for Christchurch Mansion (Grade I Listed), one of the finest surviving examples of Elizabethan architecture in England, housing the most important Gainsborough and Constable collections outside London.
In March 2002 the Borough Council submitted an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for assistance in the restoration of the historic fabric of Christchurch Park. The project proposals were originally presented in a "Restoration Plan" for the Park prepared in 1999 by Landscape Design Associates (Peterborough). Last September the HLF Trustees awarded a stage one pass, which means that the proposals can now be fully developed and progressed to stage two. The main elements within the proposals that were part of the original submission had a total cost of £4,288,780. At this stage the Council have been awarded a development grant of £130,500 to produce the design work for all the proposals to the required standard and obtain all statutory consents (planning permission and Listed building consents).
Currently. Landscape Design Associates are assisting the Council and the Project Co-Ordinator in providing the design detail, reviewing and confirming all project costs, exploring the potential for partnership funding, producing a 10 year management and maintenance plan in accordance with the HLF guidance and confirm proposals for involvement of Friends, volunteers and the wider community. The stage two submission must be presented to the Heritage Lottery Fund by November to meet their timetable for consideration by the Trustees for their meeting in March 2004. Approval to start the project will be confirmed at this meeting if they feel all the prerequisites have been satisfied by the Council in its submission.
The present author hopes to provide a more detailed picture of the proposals for the restoration project in the next edition of this Newsletter. In the meantime any reader looking for a more detailed picture should refer to the Borough Council's website or contact Shaun Taylor for further information.
SHAUN TAYLOR, Project Co-Ordinator