Wednesday, 9 April 2014


The Waterfront

We were in Suffolk for a family visit and decided to stay over to have a look at the county town. We started our walk on the redeveloped quayside of the River Orwell, now called the Waterfront. Where we admired the view and the Old Custom House of 1844. The tower off to one side of the street side is a nice touch.

We headed towards the town centre along Fore Street where there are a number of fine 16th century houses. We especially liked this one at number 24.

We doubled back into Foundation St, passed the scanty ruins of the Blackfriars Abbey, and went to to see Tooley's Almhouses.

This is a large a picturesque group designed as a double quadrangle with a small central gatehouse. They were founded nearby in 1550, but rebuilt in 1846.

We retraced our steps and followed Tacket St and St Stephen's Lane to reach the Buttermarket with the impressive tower of St Lawrence church ahead of us. It dates from the 15th century, but the tower was rebuilt in 1882.

On our right was the extraordinary Ancient House (once known according to Pevsner as Sparrowe's House). The outside is covered with pargetting which Pevsner dates to 1670. The house itself is older and goes back to the 15th century. It is now a branch of Lakeland Plastics.

As we headed up Dial St we spotted this extraordinary shopfront on the right. It is now Pickwick coffee shop, but was once an opticians and although in a 16th century building was given this wonderful art nouveau makeover around 1900. On the wall to the left an advertisement of that time which has just been uncovered.

Oak House in Northgate St was a wonderful example of a late 15th or early 16th century timber-framed house. A plaque explains that it has been much restored and in fact contains elements take from other old houses.

Further up the street is the Pykenham Gatehouse of 1471. Pykenham was Archdeacon of Suffolk and this was the entrance to his mansion.

At the end we crossed the road to come to Christchurch Park and the Christchurch Mansion. The site was once occupied by an Augustinian Priory which was sold after the dissolition of eh monasteries. The new owners built the mansion in 1548-50. It is now a museum, with a strong collection of works by Constable and Gainsborough, butwe resisted teh temptation to explore. We also ignored St Margaret's church nearby.

Instead, we headed back into town past St Mary-le-Tower, mostly of 1860-70. The 176ft high spire is impressive.

And followed the Buttermarket to reach the Town Hall. Pevsner is pretty scathing ("quite - i.e. totally - undistinguished"), but we thought it did the job well. The central projecting columns were very effective.

In nearby Elm Street were Mrs Smith's Almshouses of 1760, a very simple construction.

And not far a way was the remarkable Willis building. It was the work of Norman Foster and dates from 1970-75. You can just see a hint of the grassy roof garden. It still looks remarkably modern.

Finally, we walked back to the start along College St where we admired this beautiful pair of houses.

The one on the left carries a plaque explaining that Cardinal Wolsey lived nearby and there is a statue of the great man sitting on his throne on the pavement opposite.

Conditions: a beautiful sunny morning. Great for walking, but it made some photographs very difficult.

Distance: about 2 miles.

Rating: Four stars.

No comments: