Ipswich Barracks

70-72 St Matthews St
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barrack Corner 20162016 imagesIpswich Historic Lettering: Barrack Corner 2016
Above: The Half Moon & Star former public house on Barrack Corner. The building is said in the Listing text to date from the 18th century, with 19th century alterations. It may however be older, or have replaced an older building; 'The Half Moon & Stars' was listed in a church rate-book early in the 17th century and it is reported that brewing took place here 'up to the reign of James I' (1603-1625). It closed in 1985 and eventually, in 1999, became one of the largest projects of refurbishment for accomodation by the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust (see Links). For more IBPT projects see the links on our Blue plaques below the 'Beecholme' entry.

Barrack Lane
The street nameplate to the left in the above photograph is significant:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barrack Lane sign2014 image
Walking north from Barrack Corner (the junction where St Matthews Street and Norwich Road meet), one can still see the brick gateposts topped with ball finials of the Ipswich Barracks. In modern times Barrack Lane continues on to become Geneva Road with Cecil Road off to the right.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks 5   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks 22013 images
For over 150 years when the town had a barracks Ipswich was full of soldiery, just as in medieval times when there were five Catholic establishments, it would have seen many monks and pilgrims. It is hard to imagine the effects of large numbers of such inhabitants on all aspects the town's life at various times.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks 1Slightly enhanced image
Looking the the tablet on the left Barrack Lane post (above) and comparing it with that on the right post (two views below, partially obscured by the modern anti-climb spikes), we think that the inscription is:
No 2
Clearly a word has been deliberately cut out of the tablet between the two curved brackets. Could it be 'IPSWICH'? 'W...D' stands for 'War Department' with its customary arrow between the letters. '10 inches in front' presumably indicates the precise line of the boundary from the face of the tablet. The left tablet appears to have been plastered with mortar in the past to infill or cover the lettering. Several other inscribed stones showing broad arrow government marks indicating the barracks boundary survive. See our Boundary markers gallery for more information.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks 3
During the late eighteenth century, fears of an invasion of Britain by the French, coupled with the convenient situation of the town’s port for embarkation to the continent, resulted in large numbers of troops being billeted in Ipswich.

The Ipswich Cavalry Barracks where built in 1796 and housed 1,500 men. Located on 9 acres of land in St Matthews Parish, they were bordered by St Matthew’s Street to the south, Anglesea Road to the north and Berners Street to the east and Orford Street to the west (one assumes that the nearby Gymnasium Street, behind Coe's store, is named after the troops' gym). The brick buildings of the barracks stood on three sides of the parade ground. An officers mess stood along one side flanked either end by barracks for the troops. Ipswich was well used to having soldiers stationed within its limits but this was the first time that permanent accomodations had been constructed for them. The first regiment to move in were the Queen’s Regiment of Dragoon Guards. Later the cavalry made way for artillery with units of both the Royal Field Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery stationed here well into the 20th century. St Matthew’s Church became the garrison place of worship, with troops parading through the streets to the church each Sunday morning.

The site was sold to Ipswich Corporation in 1929 which demolished the barracks a year later to make way for council homes on what are now Cecil and Geneva Roads. All that remains of the site today are the entrance gate posts shown above, while a few sections of its boundary walls can be found in surrounding gardens, some apparently with tethering rings for horses set into them.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Barracks postcardOld postcard of the view from the parade ground
Fear of invasion during the second half of the eighteenth century, saw the establishment of temporary barracks for up to eight thousand men near to Round Wood on either side of Rushmere Lane with maneouvres on Rushmere Heath. Two thousand men were employed to build the wooded huts. This must have had a huge effect on the town’s population of around eleven thousand. The public houses would have done a roaring trade to the off duty men who would have had little chance to leave town. The camp was used as a military hospital for men returning from the Napoleonic Wars. A report from 1809 had 600 reaching the hospital where “every patient had a separate bed with comfortable bed clothing, and the attendance was entirely adequate”.
Bettley/Pevsner (see Reading List) points out that: "Berners Street ... is comparable to High Street, but grander: Berners Street was for the officers of the nearby barracks, High Street for the non-commissioned officers."

Other barracks
Around the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), there were two other less permanent barracks in the town.  One was Stoke Bridge Maltings, situated by the river, which were converted for the purpose. The buildings later reverted to maltings. There is no visible evidence today of the second site: a wooden hutted camp known as St Helen’s Barracks that was situated at the top of Albion Hill,  just north of Woodbridge Road in the vicinity of Brunswick Road (which still has a kink in the carriageway to indicate the extension of the road after the demise of the barracks),  Belvedere Road (formerly Parade Terrace) & Parade Road, which still exists. This too closed about 1815.
Nearby Hutland and Khartoum Road reflect the former military nature of the area. See Street name derivations.

See also our page on the East Suffolk Militia Depot not far from here in Ivry Street. Also Rushmere Baptist Chapel for a historical footnote about troops on Rushmere Common.
Click for more about Boundary markers, including those of the Artillery Barracks.

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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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