Towns never stand still for long and are forever changing. This is particularly true of Ipswich, a town which has never been shy of trying out new things. The Spiral Car Park, one of the first in the world, the Willis building, a completely new concept in office block construction, the Stoke Hill Railway Tunnel, said to be the first tunnel in the world to be built on a continuous curve, the Orwell Bridge where the centre span was reported at the time of building as the widest concrete span in the world – these are just a few of the notable projects, amongst many other innovations found in this special town.
Our street scene sometimes just has a change of use for an old building such as a shop, sometimes a complete restoration and conversion, sometimes a brand new building. This column will aim to keep readers up to date on recent changes around Ipswich including those who may no longer live in Ipswich, those who rarely visit the town and those who are too busy in their daily lives to notice the rapid changes going on around them.
Here is a selection of the more notable changes in and around Ipswich town centre in the last few months. There will be many more not on this list.
Recent new shops / restaurants etc.:-
Tessuti. Joules. German Doner Kebab. Kiko Milano. Zest. Kare Plus. Cats Protection. Bags 4 U. Yours. Z1 VIP. Creams Gelato. Best Days. The Range (second shop). Smyths Toystore. Go Outdoors. Nandos (second restaurant). Bowmans update (under new management). Central Canteen update (under new management). Home Bargains. Wickes (second store). Freston Boot restored and reopened. The Grazing Sheep reopened under new management. La Tour Cycle Café reopened on the Waterfront. Tavernetta Restaurant. Vietnamese Restaurant. Chutneyz Indian Restaurant. The Forge Kitchen. Century 21 Estate Agents. Yates. Superbowl. Bounce. B&M (4th store). Kings Kitchen.
Coming soon to town centre:-
easy Hotel - Northgate Street.
The conversion of this building into an 89 bedroom budget hotel is expected to be completed in November 2018, according to workers on the site. In recent years the building has been used for a succession of night clubs and, after being left empty for a while, had become run down and an eyesore. This project can only be good for Ipswich.
Pret A Manger - Cornhill.
This new coffee shop/restaurant, popular in other towns, is under construction in the former Grimwade’s outfitters store which closed some years ago and has housed a few temporary shops since. The coffee shop is not expected to open until the Cornhill is completed and will certainly revitalise this corner which had become forlorn and unloved.
Hotel Chocolat - Tavern Street.
This new outlet in the centre of Ipswich is another new name in town. Filling a gap left when Accessorize moved to a larger unit last year. This company, already found in towns close by, is expected to be popular.
Three Wise Monkeys - Lloyds Avenue.
Work has been in progress for some time on this unit with completion expected late this year. This new pub/restaurant in the former Lloyds Tavern is part of the popular Three Wise Monkeys chain based in Colchester.
Spoons World Buffet - St. Matthews Street.
After months of work in progress the hoardings are now down on this site with signs telling us that the new restaurant in the former Iceland unit will be opening in September 2018. It will be interesting to see how this new restaurant, a little way out of town, fares. The St. Matthews Street area is often overlooked, but is a very lively area packed full of independent shops and with very few empty spaces. [See Chris Wiltshire’s article about the area in our July 2017 issue, No. 208.]
Shops which have moved: HMV. Superdrug. Accessorize. Ipswich Building Society. Toni & Guy. Dunelm. Hughes (Martlesham). Ipswich market. Twig.
Building projects: The Winerack. Birketts - Providence House. Pauls Maltings office development. ‘The Hold’ (Suffolk Record Office). Cornhill revamp. Cardinal Park revamp. Bar Fontaine restoration and conversion to flats. Queens House restoration and conversion to flats. Fire and Ice restoration and conversion to flats. Crown House new entrance. Crown Multi-Storey car park. Mutual House restoration. Euro Retail Park refurbishment and update. Wentworth House, Burrell Road conversion to flats. St. Clements Hospital restoration and conversion to quality apartments. Drum & Monkey demolished - new car park. New Wolsey Theatre external revamp and roof repairs. Yates refurbishment of former Robert Ransome.
The Cornhill, town centre, as shown on our front cover.
Work started in January 2018 to completely rebuild and repave the surface on Cornhill starting with the removal of the trees – by far the biggest project in Ipswich town centre this year.
After many years of discussion and rising costs this project at last got under way despite disapproval from many – although there were many others who thought the change must come, whatever the cost, if Ipswich was to keep up with the surrounding towns and cities. Reported to be costing in the region of £4 million the project is, as I write, on course to be completed during October 2018 in readiness for the Christmas shoppers.
The scheme includes much more than repaving, which itself is a huge upgrade on the original paving. There is a pavement "fun fountain", flood lighting set into the paving to light up surrounding buildings, electrical sockets for future functions and events on the site including the Christmas Tree which has its own hole. There will be four or five growing trees (still under discussion – the ground work has been done for five), a flat section leading to a stepped section in the middle, new seating and the controversial monolith which is probably the least liked part of the scheme for many commentators, but something that could also easily be removed in future years without an expensive revamp, as tastes and fashions change.
Ipswich Street Scene is a regular feature on The Ipswich Society Facebook page on the World Wide Web with up-to-the-minute reports on the changes as they happen and links to websites with full information on the projects. You do not need to be a member of Facebook to view our page. Just type ‘Ipswich Society’ into Google and follow the link, or click the link on the Society’s homepage.
Photographs show Tessuti shop in Westgate Street and Paul's maltings in Princes Street.