Porticos (Bethesda, Library, Regent)

Bethesda Church, St Margaret's Street
Architectural features fronting public buildings often provide spaces for integral lettering. The most conventional is the Bethesda Baptist Church: a chisel-style sans serif capital letterform ideally suited to the temple-like, columned portico, the pediment supported by four polished granite columns. The building dates from 1913 and was funded by Mr Arthur Page, a Bristol lawyer, as a memorial to his mother who died in 1911 at the age of eighty-two and the architect was F.G. Faunch. Bethesda was originally the name of a pool in Jerusalem, on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley, and is also known as the Sheep Pool. It is associated with healing. The building stands opposite the Egerton and Halberd signs and Northgate Street.

Ipswich Historic lettering: Bethesda2013 imagesIpswich Historic Lettering: Bethesda 3
Behind the pillars are two foudation stones:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bethesda foundation stone 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bethesda foundation stone 22014 images
'THIS STONE WAS LAID TO THE GLORY OF GOD
BY
CHARLES PAGE

ELDEST SURVIVING SONE OF THE LATE
MRS. SUZANNAH PAGE
ON 3RD JULY 1912.
-
"MINE HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED AN HOUSE OF PRAYER
FORALL PEOPLE"
ISAIAH C.56 V.7.
FREDK. G. FAUNCH
ARCHITECT'

'THIS STONE WAS LAID TO THE GLORY OF GOD
BY
A.E GARRARD
(CHURCH SECRETARY)
ON BEHALF OF THE DIACONATE
E. CHILVERS, E. LAST, J. MOTUM, B. OLIVER, H. REYNOLDS, J. SAYER, C. WOODS
-
"THIS IS THE LORD'S DOING: IT IS MARVELLOUS
IN OUR EYES."
PSALM 113 V.23
GEO. KENNEY,
BUILDER."

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bethesda 20162016 image
Above: the Betehsda Church in the background, across St Margarets Plain,  with the 'Halberd Inn' lettering in the foreground on Northgate Street; see our Egertons page for more on this.

Ipswich County Library, 1 Northgate Street
A more intriguing letterface appears above the Northgate Street entrance to the County Library. This wonderfully eclectic Victorian frontage with its arches and stained glass boasts an imposing entrance. Beneath the false balcony is a circular moulded crest (see also Ipswich Board School in Argyle Street - the close-up below surely shows sea horses rampant supporting the town shield?) and below that the serif'd letterface in capitals which seems to blend medieval and art noveau influences. Given Chaucer's presence in the stained glass and the traditions upon which William Morris's Arts & Crafts Movement were based, that's about right.

Henry Munro Cautley was the architect responsible for the rather fine frontage.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Library 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Library 62013 images  
Truly the entrance to a cathedral of knowledge, learning and reading, the gently curving lettering above the door says it all. The refurbishment of this fascia accompanied a major extension of the library buildings in the mid-nineties. The curved and decorative ceilings and fine stained glass (principally in the Lecture Hall and Reference Library's Northgate Room) have been preserved. 
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Library   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Library 3
For other buildings with the Ipswich coat of arms click here.
The photographs below show details of the stonework around the entrance. It wasn't until we noticed the '1924' image on a library web page run by Jonathan Clift, that we though that we ought to pay a little more attention.  The dated motif is surrounded by stonemason's paraphernalia (mallet, dividers, chisel, set square) with bookish carvings opposite and the pages and quill pen surrounded by scrollwork above.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Library 1924
The Public Sculpture of Norfolk & Suffolk website (see Links) tells us:
"The main panel is set between the turrets framing the northern gabled entrance to the Library and above the doorway. Ipswich's coat of arms is held by two wyverns. The arch above the doorway is filled with decoration. In the centre are books with a bookmark showing a crown. Other niches include an owl (famed for its wisdom) a squirrel eating a nut (storing information) and on the left a snake with an apple (the temptation of knowledge); to the right they continue with two water-rats and rabbit nibbling. The theme is continued in the carving of the door frame with another set of books in the centre flanked by a fish, frog, parrot, monkey and architect's set square with cartouche dated on 1924 on one side and a bird and fish on the other. The brick buttresses are decorated with bronze roundels with lion heads. The Library, built at the modest cost of 32,000, aimed at a Collegiate effect with its Gothic windows, oak bookcases and plaster ornaments. The detailed decoration ranges from references to books and knowledge to display of the wild life and the exotic which could be researched there."

This finely detailed building has grapevine rainwater hoppers:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Library 4
Much more on the story of the public library service in Ipswich and the building of this Carnegie Library can be found on our Rosehill case study page.

Directly opposite the Public Library stands Archdeacon Pykenham's Gatehouse which is illustrated on our plaques page.

'Lectures' (false) entrance to Ipswich Library, Old Foundry Road
Meanwhile, hiding round the corner in Old Foundry Road (opposite Ewers Grey-Green Coaches) are the 'Reading' and 'Lectures' entrances to the Library's Reading Rooms and Lecture Hall with attractive typefaces used on the lintels of these (now) false doorways - the entrance since refurbishment is just visible to the left of the photograph below. So, why has one got screwed-on characters and the other carved characters (repleat with full stop: always an oddity in old signs)? Old Foundry Road runs from Northgate Street to Carr Street and was once called St Margaret's Ditches as it formed part of the old town's defensive ramparts. Robert Ransome acquired premises in this street for his foundry, which operated here until the move to the Orwell Works completed in 1849. The Old Foundry gave a new name to the street. Until the 1930s there were still houses here built on the top of the earthen rampart and approached by steps from the road. See our Blue plaques page for detail relating to Robert Ransome.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Reading & Lectures2012 image
The crisp, elegant serif'd capitals are particular satisfying here with the depth of the relief carving particularly noticeable on the full stop unnecessarily, but rather joyfully, appended to the name.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Lectures 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Reading & Lectures22014 images

The Regent Theatre, St Helens Street
Hiding in the shadows of the roof overhang on the front of the largest live venue in East Anglia, we find 'THE REGENT' in St Helens Street. Partially restored in the eighties (and more fully later), it's certainly a cleaner fascade now, the lettering more readable. For many years this was called The Gaumont Cinema (plus a small dancehall), live music and drama being slotted between the film shows. All those years with hardly anyone noticing the lettering of the original name, reverted to since restoration, high above the entrance.
  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Regent 22012 images
The detail in the lower part of this image shows:
'THE REGENT'
picked out by the setting sun in March 2004. The clean clear capitals have a typically Art Deco feel, but shouldn't that 'G' have more of a middle bar? It reads more like 'Recent'. The tapering, clockwise design of the 'G' is intriguing.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Regent 20042004 image
It looks as if one vertical support, to the left of the first 'T', and the marks left by three others were still in place in 2004 – they would have supported a covering board for different lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gaumont/Regent
Above: a picture from the 1950s or 1960s when a 'GAUMONT' sign covered the lettering. There seems to have been a lamp to illuminate the Gaumont sign attached to the 'keystone' of the central window; a metal plate is still visible here in the 2014 photograph.
The Regent is an important Art Deco building, designed in 1929 by classic theatre architect William Edward Trent for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres
as a 'cine-variety hall' and was among the first UK theatres to play films with sound. So, a large venue designed as a cinema, with the capacity to stage theatrical performances. It was extremely luxurious, with a restaurant, 14 boxes, a resident Wurlitzer organ and organist and an 18-piece orchestra. A huge Regent Cinema, built by the same company, was opened in 1921 in Brighton which was demolished in 1974.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Odeon/Regent1980s photograph courtesy Ipswich Society
Above: the Regent with 'ODEON' lettering on the upper panel and on each side of the entrance canopy in thefamiliar font; The photograph is from the Ipswich Society Image Archive (see Links). During World War II the theatre was used to stage concerts and civic events, as well as ballet and opera. In the 1950s the name changed to the Gaumont and it hosted many top acts including Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Beatles. Gene Pitney, the Hollies, the Small Faces, Roy Orbison, the Walker Brothers and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the 1970s and 1980s it hosted many punk and new wave acts including Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Boomtown Rats. The building then took on the name Odeon in its last years as a cinema. Following its closure, Ipswich Borough Council took the theatre on following controversy over its future, reopening it as The Regent Theatre on 21 September 1991. It was Listed Grade II in 2000. In 2009 The Regent Theatre celebrated its 80th birthday with a gala concert featuring Lesley Garrett and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. At the time of this photograph, the  billboard advertises Phase One of 'East Anglia's Premier Entertainment Venue' with a Five Screen Cinema. The faux-deco Odeon cinema complex was built near the tip of Majors Corner but struggled to attract patrons and was put out of business by the competition from the Virgin multiplex in Cardinal Park (off Commercial Road – now Grafton Way). In 2018 it appears that it might become a venue for the Hope Church.

Theatre naming
Odeon is the name for several ancient Greek and Roman buildings built for music: singing exercises, musical shows or poetry competitions. The word comes from the Ancient Greek Ōideion, literally ‘singing place’, or ‘building for musical competitions’; from the verb aeidō, ‘I sing’.

The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation was a company founded in 1898 as the British subsidiary of the French Gaumont Film Company; it produced and distributed films and operated a cinema chain in Britain.

Regent is a role in the British monarchy, notably of the Prince Regent, later George IV, giving rise to many terms such as ‘Regency era’ and ‘Regency architecture’. Although neither apply to the Ipswich building, it is likely that the name ‘Regent’ was chosen to give the ring of quality to the theatre – similar to the use of ‘Regal Cinema’ in other examples.

1778 map of the area
Ipswich Historic Lettering: North Gate map 17781778 map
This detail from Pennington's map of Ipswich 1778 shows, at the top of Northgate Street, the legend 'Gate' indicating the site of the original Bar-gate into the medieval town. Here is a run-down of the old and modern names of streets:-
St Margarets Street was called Rotten Row,
Crown Street was called Clay Lane,
Tower Ramparts and Old Foundry Road were called 'Margarets Ditches',
Tower Street was called Tower Lane in 1778,
Fonnereau Road was called Dairy Lane,
Dial Lane was 'Cook Row' and St Lawrence Street was 'Fruit Market'.
Great Colman Street did not exist, but the land ownership off Northgate Street is indicated as 'P. Colman Esq' (see Street name derivations).

For more lettering examples in St Helens Street try
County Hall, IBHH.W. Turner, Tramway Place and Hales Chemist.
See our Named buildings page for more specific examples. See also our Dated buildings page for a chronological list of dated buildings and structures on this website; our Roundwood Road page has specific examples of named/dated buildings.




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