I was pleased to see that plans had been produced showing a 99-bed Travelodge hotel in Russell Road, Ipswich, next to Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House. There is, I believe, a need for hotel accommodation within the centre of towns such as Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. For, if the visitor is to be able to enjoy the cultural and night life of the town centre, then hotel accommodation a short step away from the entertainment is an absolute necessity.
When growing up in Ipswich, many a night out would start in the Vaults Bar at the Golden Lion Hotel on the Cornhill. And this would be the starting point for an evening visit to the Bluesville Club at either the Manor Ballroom or St Matthews Baths Hall. On the bill would be luminaries such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, or, in 1971, the mighty Led Zeppelin. The Golden Lion itself was extremely well appointed to serve the business traveller.
Also, much sadly missed, is the great White Horse Hotel in Tavern Street, with its associations with the author Charles Dickens. In my twenties, this was the location for memorable ‘black tie’ dinners on a very regular basis. The venue was always the superb ballroom with its wonderful beautiful crystal chandeliers; the location also of a talk by the late Sir Bobby Robson on the management of Ipswich Town.
Over the years, Ipswich town centre also lost the Crown & Anchor in Westgate Street, but has also gained The Novotel in St Peters, the Easy Hotel in Northgate Street, and a Premier Inn and Travelodge, both in the Waterfront area.
Other towns in Suffolk have also suffered the same fate. For example, in Bury St Edmunds, the Angel Hotel is still in business, but others have gone. Everards Hotel, in the town centre was closed. Given its proximity to the Corn Exchange, this was the location to meet before gigs; one which has forever been burned into the memory was that in the early 1970s by Duster Bennett, a multi-instrumentalist and one man blues band. The last ever visit to Everards and, sadly, the only time we saw the talented Duster who died in a road traffic accident a few years later. Lost hotels in Bury St Edmunds have also been replaced by a Premier Inn in the former County Council premises on Honey Hill, and also now a proposal to re-establish a boutique Suffolk Hotel in the Market Place.
Town centre hotels are an important building block for the visitor and entertainment economy. Although they are likely to be less grand than previously, they should be encouraged. With Ipswich in particular, this would also give credence to the vision of the town as a short break destination. From personal experience travelling around the UK, hotel accommodation on the periphery of towns is fine, but often they may be difficult to find on business parks (a particularly difficult experience in 2019 in locating the Premier Inn at Postwick, Norwich come to mind – a replay of another bad experience in Derby a few years earlier), and once you have checked in there is very little incentive to go out and explore. The local night-time economy is the loser.
The location of the proposed Travelodge in Russell Road, would be a short ‘throw in’ from Portman Road football ground. Bearing in mind that it is proposed to construct it in brick with blue, white and grey render, it should perhaps be christened ‘The Blue Hotel’.
The singer Lena Lovich memorably sang a song entitled, not unsurprisingly, Blue Hotel. The chorus contained the line: ‘stay a while at the Blue Hotel’. A suitable way to market the hotel, with football connections perhaps!