As one door closes another one opens. The long, hard haul since the 2007-8
recession finally meant that an Ipswich Society Awards Evening 2015 would
have only a handful of entries. The decision to carry these over to next
year opened the way to a different sort of presentation. Our speakers were
the Society's Vice-Presidents (our President being the Mayor): Bob Allen and
The wealth of images on the screen, many unfamiliar to members of the
audience, took us through various aspects of the town in relation to
conservation, regeneration, and planning. Unafraid to be a little
provocative, the two speakers extemporised a fascinating commentary on the
somewhat chequered history of our town. The Greyfriars, Civic Drive, St
Matthews Street blocks and carriageways - very much a first phase in a
planned major expansion of Ipswich to take resettled populace from London,
which was eventually abandoned - was contrasted with the adjacent Willis
Building, now Listed Grade I. The subsequent removal of the roundabout and
subways here and the introduction of public spaces, seating and planting
brought the story up to date.
Historic buildings were not ignored. The Society's role in saving The
Sailor's Rest in St Peter's Street invoked the story of Peter Underwood and
Don Chipperfield jumping up and down on flooring joists to demonstrate that
the building structure was much more sound than claimed by those who wished
to demolish it. The invaluable role of the Borough Council in saving and
restoring The Ancient House was praised; is it possible to imagine what
would have happened if the then-owners had let its dilapidation result in
the ultimate demolition of that key site in Ipswich? The story of the saving
of The Ancient House is worthy of a talk of its own.
Opportunities missed and taken: pressures from the drive for profit have
been either acceded to or resisted in the interests of the culture of our
town. Chris Wiltshire made the point that Ipswich wears its history very
lightly in comparison to, say, Norwich or Cambridge: in its own way this is
rather admirable. However, it seems sometimes to have led to a lack of
confidence in the town when crucial decisions are made about the nature and
quality of regeneration.
Tony Marsden, Bob Allen and Chris Wiltshire
To finish on a high note, Bob Allen reminded us that Ipswich is the first
Anglo-Saxon town, possessing a unique heritage and place in the story of our
nation. Challenged, amused, entertained and informed, the audience broke up
to enjoy a glass of something and admire the reshaped interior of St Peter's
on the Waterfront with the Charter Wall-hangings now well displayed and lit.
Many thanks to the speakers and to John Norman and Tony Marsden et al for
putting together such an interesting presentation.