This annual national event started in 1994. The Ipswich Society has
continued to act as coordinator on behalf of the Civic Trust. Peter Odell
got the project off the ground and I took over some four or five years ago.
This year the weather was fine, numbers held up pretty well, except for the
Sunday when Ipswich were playing at home, which must have cost us a number
of visitors - including our Editor, I suspect!
Star of last year's event had been the Atfield family's Sun Inn, a
miraculous restoration of a beautiful medieval building. This year the
Atfields were able to fill in a number of areas which had not been completed
in 2001. Doug Atfield provided visitors with an update of the year's work,
from which I should like to quote:
"Two major hold-ups have delayed fresh progress ... The first in the form of
a ten foot long by eight inch square wall plate in the north wall of the
upstairs long room. Though inspected and thought to be sound, it proved to
be unsound with both rot and worm in its one hidden part. This was a family
'all hands' call, with a lot of weight and awkward manoeuvring involved,
unfortunately forcing us to re-do some previously finished work. The second
hold-up was that I fell off a ladder and broke an ankle, wasting the best
part of seven weeks. The team worked even harder and faster, removing the
irreparable lath and plaster ceiling from the front shop exposing the
timbers once again...
"The final 'big dig' under the long room (middle room ground floor) has just
been completed. This was a dual-purpose dig, first to remove tons of earth
from beneath the rotting floor to allow air circulation under the new floor,
and secondly as an archaeological survey. Every trowel-full of soil was
sifted and the resulting finds are on display. We are indebted to Keith
Wade, Tom Loader and Sue Anderson of the County Archaeological Department
who logged and plotted the finds and identified most of the shards of
pottery which may eventually help to establish the history of the site. Also
during the dig an early red brick foundation twenty inches wide was found,
running northwards from the north wall of the long room.
"In digging down further, we discovered a complete skeleton of a 12th
century male aged 30-34 years, and evidence of at least two other graves.
These were identified as Christian burials, and so we can assume that the
Sun Inn was built on part of the St Stephen's churchyard, which has shrunk
considerably over the years. The skeleton was left in situ and the grave was
re-filled with the minimum of disturbance. This has caused us to reappraise
the age of 'Freda'who we now believe to be contemporary with these latest
discoveries, and not Saxon as first thought. It would now appear that the
Saxon graveyard is confined to the Buttermarket (west) side of St Stephen's
Lane, whilst the eastern side is a separate Christian site.
"Further work during the year has been the re-opening of an early glassless
mullion window (upstairs long room) which has brightened a dull comer ....
In the room next to this, up a step,the lath and plaster ceiling has been
saved by the laborious process of supporting it with about two hundred
screws and large washers..."
Visitors will have been shocked to learn that some ten days before Heritage
Open Days, Sheila's husband (Sheila of Atfield and Daughter days) Derek
Jeffery, had died. This was of course a dreadful loss to Sheila and the
whole family, who, 'like the troupers they are, rallied round and provided a
full visitor service over both Saturday and Sunday. Not many of us would
have managed that.
New to the 2002 programme was Admiral's House in Tower Street. For many
years this has been Diocesan House and when it came on the market a year or
two ago it was acquired by the Ipswich Institute who are converting it to
provide additional space for lecture and meeting rooms as well as for a
restaurant. It is quite amazing how much space has been provided behind the
modest but attractive exterior. [Photo] Admiral's House is named after
Admiral Page who lived in it in the 19th century. Another new entry was the
Ipswich branch of the Suffolk Record Office, offering guided tours of the
site including a fascinating explanation of what went on in the various
We were very glad to be able to include again St Peter's Church where
Society members Roger and Stella Wolfe, with the help of a team of
volunteers including Jill Freestone and other members of the Over Stoke
History Group, have been active for much of 2002 in opening on a regular
basis this important redundant church in the hands of the Ipswich Historic
Churches Trust. St Peter's was of course the chapel of Cardinal Wolsey's
Two of the premises which took part in 2001 dropped out. Ipswich School had
their Open Day for potential parents so felt unable to accommodate members
of the public. The Foyer dropped out for no obvious reason which is a shame
as it is such an interesting project for the town. All the other buildings
reported satisfactory numbers of visitors. If any member can provide access
to other buildings of interest, do please let me know.