The Ipswich Institute Reading Room and Library is based in the centre of Ipswich. In normal times we offer our members leisure learning courses, in the daytime and evenings, as well as a library of over 8,000 books and audio books, a café and a restaurant. Along with many other organisations we had to close our doors in March but back in July we re-opened the library and Page’s Café in Tavern Street. 

Matilda Betham-Edwards

As an independent library we have been able to offer our members the opportunity to choose their own books and browse the shelves, as well as taking suggestions for new editions to add to the library after so many months of no new books. Page’s Café has also been busy experimenting with new flavour scones such as stilton and walnut, coconut and cherry and  cheese and onion. They are running a limited menu but have sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soup, pastries and cakes as well as an afternoon tea special offer. We have seen our number of visitors slowly increase over the past few weeks and welcomed some new members to the Institute.

Over the coming months, government guidelines allowing, we hope to open our other building, Admiral’s House in Tower Street. This will allow us to re-start leisure learning courses, which we aim to do in 2021, and finally open our new café – The Chart Room – which was due to open back in April. 

We are looking for some suggestions of lesser-known historical women who were either well known in their lifetime, or who made a real impact in their field of expertise, to showcase in the Chart Room Café. Our first choice is Matilda Betham-Edwards, who was born in Suffolk in 1836. She was a novelist, who wrote her first published novel age just 16, a travel writer and a member of the Ipswich Institute! Her contacts and friends included George Eliot, Henry James and Lord Kitchener. Suggestions can be sent to: and you can find out more about becoming a member on our website 

Jo Rooks, General Manager

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