In the October Newsletter we referred to the rescue of what is probably
Ipswich's first purpose-built museum. But it is worth drawing attention
to it again for a number of reasons, most obviously because it is now in
use (from mid-November as Arlingtons Brasserie).
Built in 1847, it is historically one of the most interesting buildings
in Ipswich. The architect was Christopher Fleury who was also
responsible for Ipswich School and who gave the museum a grand
neo-classical frontage to convey the importance of what was housed
within. That importance is quite clear from the distinguished people who
promoted the museum - Professor J S Henslow (Darwin's inspiring tutor at
Cambridge), the Rev William Kirby the entomologist, George Ransome the
ironfounder and most famously Prince Albert whose visit in 1851 led to
his speaking "of little else but Ipswich Museum for several days
afterwards". Tom Plunkett's article in our Society's book Ipswich from
the First to the Third Millennium is very interesting on these matters
(pp 49-53). He reproduces William Vick's photograph of the main floor
taken in 1876, where you can see that it was a smaller version of the
present museum built soon after in High Street and opened in 1881.
Perhaps one reason for wanting bigger premises was the average
attendance of 400 people at lectures in the 1870s!
The Society is also delighted to see the building re-used because it is
a big problem that important old buildings, which many people rightly
say give a town character and should not be pulled down, are often very
difficult to use for modern purposes. (In fact, I never thought I'd live
to see this building brought back into use.) So the efforts of Ken and
Liz Ambler, whose initiative and imagination have rescued the museum,
are greatly to be commended. Although restauranteurs, they are also
'building preservers' - rather than 'developers', a term which can cover
a multitude of sins! Their first 'preserving' job in Ipswich was
Mortimers on Wherry Quay (now the Bistro on the Quay) which involved a
substantial new build between existing old buildings. Then they
converted the electricity sub-station in Duke Street (now Loch Fyne)
which won our Society's High Commendation in 2002.
Furthermore, Arlingtons not only re-uses the museum but incorporates
what Dr Blatchly tells us is a staircase saved by Fleury from Thomas
Seckford's Great Place, built nearby in the early 1560s. You can now
ascend an Elizabethan staircase, sit in a room frequented by eminent
Victorians, recall people learning to dance here when it was a ballroom
- and eat a good meal!
Cover, issue 174