February 2008 – Ipswich Walks

We started our February meeting in a sombre mood, very much aware of a glaring absence in our midst – that of Hilary Barker, who passed away recently, leaving us and the whole village both shocked and saddened. We held a minute’s silence, during which our thought turned to Brian and the rest of Hilary’s family, but also to the many good times we have had together.
Our speaker this month was Mrs A Day, an Ipswich town guide, who came to show us slides taken on the walks she conducts, with an emphasis on the dock area. Her tours start some way from the waterfront at St Stevens Church which is now the tourist information centre. Here the Millennium wall hangings have recently been displayed, six panels depicting the history of Ipswich designed by Isobel Clover who teaches needlework at Suffolk College. It is thought that Ipswich began as an Anglo-Saxon settlement although recently some Roman artifacts have been found and there may have been a roman road running from Werstead towards Christchurch Park. In the Buttermarket area there is evidence of a Viking raid: burnt huts including carbonized bread rolls. Ipswich still has twelve mediaeval churches although many are redundant and being used for other purposes. In the Middle Ages there were many wealthy merchants concerned for their souls. The obvious way to avoid the fires of Hell was to build a church.
Mrs Day showed us slides of several churches including the unlucky St Mary Quay which was originally built on marshy ground, suffered from a nasty smell, was renovated by the Victorians only to be condemned as unsanitary, was renovated again but bombed in the Second World War. Since then it has been used by the Boys’ Brigade and is now an exhibition centre for artists. We heard about famous locals such as Cardinal Wolsey and Nelson. The latter had a house in the town but when he brought his mistress, the pregnant Emma Hamilton, to stay he found his wife had barred the doors and removed herself to London. Mrs Day finished by showing various slides of modern developments demonstrating that the waterfront is now mainly devoted to leisure and tourism.
V E Bines


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