1-5 and 4 College Street

Robert Malster (see Reading list) points out that the thoroughfare composed of today's Salthouse Street, Key Street and College Street (running in front of Wolsey's watergate) would, in Wolsey's time, have been a riverside road, similar to Wherstead Strand between Ipswich and Freston. So we can estimate that the river quays were around three-quarters of the way across today's College Street. Travellers could therefore disembark from a vessel and take the short walk to the watergate into Wolsey's College campus. In fact, there were a number of inlets off the main dock and one of them was at today's Foundry Lane which is almost opposite Wolsey's Gate; this fits with the Anglo-Saxon ford leaving the river here, so a traditional access point to the ford would perhaps have evolved into an inlet. Over the centuries, reclamation of land (and the repeated dumping of ballast by loading trade vessels on the banks) made the dock river progressively narrower until the building of the Wet Dock in the 1830s.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: College Street sign2018 image (scroll down to 4 College Street)
[UPDATE 2022:This street nameplate is no longer in situ.]

1-5 College Street
By 2014, it is high time that we added these poor buildings to this website. We were prompted by this email: "I found your website by accident at the weekend. It is a thing of beauty. Coincidentally - I have been living in "The Wolsey Apartments" since May this year - I noticed something for the first time yesterday. Behind the scaffolding on the derelict building opposite, the one connected to the Wolsey Gate, I can see the following: 'BURTON, SON & SANDERS LTD   ESTD 1824'. I have searched through your site, I haven't found a mention of this... is it worth me taking a photo from my window? Kind regards,  Jon Bryant"

 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 4
One interesting feature of our town is the location, often cheek-by-jowl, of truly historic buildings and those in an abused/neglected state. One example is Curson Lodge which stands across Silent Street from the site of the house (mansion) of Lord Curson which played host to Katherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII himself and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. (In fact the last of those named took to the place so much – and noting its proximity to his planned College – that he decided he'd eject Lord Curson and have it as his own residence once the College was completed; see our pages on Wolsey's College, Curson Lodge and Lady Lane for more.) The house which stands on part of the site of Curson House now and particularly the rear of the property gives no indication of the great historical imprtance of the location. A second example can be found here in College Street. The intense industrial character of the docklands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries contrasts with the important historic buildings in its midst. The three dockland churches: St Peter to the west, St Mary-at-the Quay in the centre and St Clement to the east are the most obvious, with Wolsey's Gate, the Jewish Cemetery and The Salthouse amongst others surviving (just) in the smoke, noise, vibration and grime of foundries, maltings, railways, horses, shipping, coal and grain movements with other cargoes.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 52014 images
Bristling with scaffold poles and patched up with shuttering in 2014, it is almost impossible to see the building at 1-5 College Street beneath. [UPDATE 23.1.2017: We could not find the lettering on this building which, we are told, once commemorated historic flood levels, but Barry Girling, who grew up near the doscks, tells us of "the metal discs that used to be attached to the front of Burton's offices in College Street. They were oval shaped and of course recorded the exceptional tide levels of the past. Somebody obviously more mischievious than me has sadly stolen them." However, there are the following signs to be seen:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices signs
And so to Jon Bryant's photographs:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 22014 images courtesy Jon Bryant
Twenty-first century Ipswich is, like much of Britain, a post-industrial town. The factories and engineering works have gone, the maltings are pubs and training centres, the manure factory is a tower block of flats. So to College Street and the partial modernisation of the Burtons factory site including the brick-faced Wolsey Apartments, next to the red-coloured Cardinal Lofts apartments. These overlook 1 to 5 College Street, the former Burton, Son & Sanders offices. We think that this building could be described as 'in a bit of a state', to put it kindly. Jons' photographs show an unusual aspect which most of us don't see: a three-quarter aerial view.
The close-up below shows that the sign can be glimpsed between the boards and scaffold:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 1
The bird's eye view taken by Jon also shows the decorative woodwork around the dormer window:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 3
Above the ground floor windows:
These screwed-on type of characters usually do not find their way onto this website, but the resonance of the name in Ipswich – not to mention the sad state of the remains of the Burtons factory on St Peter's Wharf – justify their inclusion.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 42007 photograph courtesy Simon Knott
Simon Knott's remarkable photograph in the early morning sun shows the lettering casting shadows against the red brickwork.

The Grade II Listing reads:
"A C18 red brick front, possibly to an earlier building, partly altered in the C19 and C20. 2 storeys and attics. 12 window range overall (8 window range to the main block and 4 window range to an extension on the east end) mainly double-hung sashes with glazing bars, in flush cased frames. 3 of the windows on the 1st storey have shaped brick heads and one is blocked. A raised brick band runs between the storeys. The ground storey has been much altered in tile C19 and C20. The centre part, of 4 window range, has a moulded brick entrance way with pilasters and a dentilled cornice and panels. It has been bricked up with C20 windows inserted. At the west end there is a wood doorcase with panelled reveals, panelled pilasters and a pediment on carved brackets. Roofs slate, with 2 C19 gabled dormers and a wood modillion eaves cornice.
The Church of St Peter, the Gateway to Wolsey's College of St Mary, Nos 1 to 5 (odd) and No 4 form a group."

This site has been vacant since 1993, subjected to vandalism more than once and damaged by fire in early 2002. Temporary weatherproofing was carried out in autumn 2004.

For more on the Burtons of Ipswich, click here.

The rear of the building is, to say the least, unprepossessing in 2014 (and for many years before), but is worth recording here.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 1  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 6a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 6b
[UPDATE 27.9.2016: well into the restoration of the Burton, Son & Sanders offices we noted the stripped down wood detailing on the door-case facing College Street.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 9   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 11
The work appeared to have come to a standstill by the end of 2016.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 102016 images

Burtons, The Wolsey Gate and the Church of St Peter
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2f
The Burton offices at 1-5 College Street are inextricably linked to the much earlier, former watergate of the site of the great College planned by Cardinal Wolsey which lasted barely two years (1528-30) – not least by a modern brick section, the the curved wall which embodies a lettered plaque (shown on our Curson Lodge page) about the red-brick gate . This in turn is joined to the perimeter wall of the Church of St Peter: seized, modified and intended by Wolsey to be used as the chapel of the College.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2c   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2a
The 'smart face' of the wall – with the gateway, a Registered Ancient Monument – fronts College Street and turns by the side gate into the St Peter churchyard with its pitched brick capping.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 7
The stretch of wall, which can be seen best from the raggle-taggle car park behind the Burton offices, running northwards to the rear of the east wall of the church is the other remnant of the College. The photographs, despite the weeds and damaging buddleia growth, show a magnificent pot-pourri of masonry, stone fragments, brick and mortar. One wonders if some of these were fragments taken from the dismantling of Wolsey's College, rather than an actual part of the original structure.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Burton Offices 8
The condition of the face of the Wolsey Gate in September 2014 is as good as it can be, given the wear, tear and erosion of hundreds of years, because it had just been clothed in scaffold and netting during a routine conservation check. It is worth looking at the detail of the brickwork and 'abstract art' which is all that remains of the stone coat of arms of Henry VIII between the two niches (see our Curson Lodge page for an engraving of the gate in better fettle).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2d   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wolsey Gate 2e

4 College Street (The Benet Aldred house)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College Street 20222022 images courtesy The Ipswich Society
[UPDATE 24.11.2022: Let's start with some good news for this fascinating small merchant's house whch was on the 'Buildings at risk' list for over thirty years. As part of the 'gateway site to the Waterfront' scheme, Ipswich Borough Council purchased the building and has carried out an extensive – and expensive – renovation. When work started in earnest, it was found that the frontage was in danger of falling into College Street. It was a major draw to visitors on the September 2022 Heritage Open Days, with a queue stretching round the corner into Bridge Street over the Staurday ad Sunday. The Ipswich Society's Newsletter for October 2022 carried an article and photographs about the project. The above photographs come from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links) and the restoration won an Award of Distinction by the Society, its highest award, at a ceremony on 23 November, 2022.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 52018 image
The rather battered, cast iron 'College St.' street nameplate shown at the top of this page was for many years situated under the jettied overhang to the right of the frontage. It was removed during the renovation project discussed above. Traffic is ubiquitous in this ancient thoroughfare.
A 'lost' house of College Street in the chequered history of this north-west corner of the Wet Dock was not originally included here because it was believed not to bear any lettering. It crops up among Ipswich photographers and enthusiasts, sometimes referred to as an inn, sometimes with queries about its age, given its shuttered and grubby appearance. Now Margaret Hancock, to whom our thanks, has sent an East Anglian Daily Times article by Dr John Blatchly (22.1.2011):-
"Perhaps because until very recently it was dwarfed by large industrial buildings, one Tudor house was overlooked completely, and it cries out to be saved. It stands in College Street immediately south of St Peter’s church, and on the bressumer beam below the north gable there is the date AN[N]O 1590, and in the centre there is B over A, a merchant’s mark giving away the initials of the owner. There were three generations of Benet (or Benedict) Aldred (or Aldryche) in St Peter’s parish between 1564 and 1629, when the third and last of them made his will. The first, involved in a law suit in 1564, was probably the father of the man who built the house. It was his grandson who made a will in 1629, leaving his ‘whole estate to my loveinge wife Ann Aldred during her natural life’. It continues ‘I give and bequeath to my sonne John Aldred that part of the hoy called The Pelycan of Ipswich and ten poundes for a stocke’ [meaning one full cargo to start him in business]. In the 1620s the last Benet Aldred traded in coal from Newcastle and fuller’s earth from Rochester in three hoys delightfully named (and spelt) The Primerose, The Blessinge and The Pelycan.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St period1890s  Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 12014
This early photograph from the 1890s shows a College Street/St Peters Street road junction almost unrecognisable to us in the twenty-first century. However, the house at 4 College Street gives us a clue; we can also see what the long-vanished number 2 College Street looked like: a corner shop front on the ground floor with a jettied first floor similar to number 4. Today, the site is occupied by a curving wall which once held the cast iron Bridge Street nameplate, next to the slip-road to Stoke Bridge now. The wall to the extreme right on the 1890s photograph is that surrounding the Church of St Peter.  One subtle difference between the ancient and the modern images concerns the ground level. On the black-and-white photograph the threshold step into the house can be seen with a rendered 'skirt' rising about 18 inches from the pavement (a slightly deeper feature is at the foot of the adjoining brick wall, nearest to the camera – it seems that this wall still stands today). On the 2014 photograph the ground level is noticeably higher and the doorway noticeably lower. Presumably, this means that a visitor entering by this door, having stooped, would step down into the interior.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 1a2014 images
Below is a sequence of close-ups of the beam working from left to right (some overlap); the date is to the right, slightly enhanced here.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 3
We think that one would really need to use a ladder/scaffolding/inspection lift to inspect the unassuming decorative beam for the 'BA' merchant's mark.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St monogram   Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College Street 1509
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 2
In 2014, there is hope that this valuable and ancient survivor, so close to the historically significant Stoke river crossing, can be restored and used once again.
The Grade II Listing text reads: "A C16-C17 timber-framed and plastered house with a cross wing at the west end. The fenestration is C18. 2 storeys and attics, the upper storey is jettied on the whole front supported on curved brackets. The cross wing is at a slightly higher level than the main block. The gable to the cross wing also projects slightly on a carved bressumer. 3 window range, double-hung sashes, in flush case frames; the windows on the 1st storey have single vertical glazing bars (one is a casement window), those on the ground storey have glazing bars. 2 windows in the crosswing are original. Roof tiled, with one gabled dormer. The Church of St Peter, the gateway to Wolsey's College of St Mary, Nos 1 to 5 (odd) and No 4 form a group."
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 4 College St 44 College Street illustration
Some commentators assume that number 4 College Street was once a public house… it has that sort of look; however there is, we understand, no evidence that the house was ever a pub.

Related pages:
The Question Mark
Christie's warehouse
Bridge Street
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's

Coprolite Street
Cranfield's Flour Mill

Custom House
Trinity House buoy
Edward Fison Ltd
Ground-level dockside furniture on: 'The island', the northern quays and Ransome's Orwell Works
Ipswich Whaling Station?
Isaac Lord

Neptune Inn clock, garden and interior
Isaac Lord 2
The Island
John Good and Sons
Merchant seamen's memorial
The Mill

Nova Scotia House
New Cut East
Quay nameplates
Steam Packet Hotel

Stoke Bridge(s)
Waterfront Regeneration Scheme
Wolsey's Gate
A chance to compare
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps

Davy's illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone, 1839
Outside the Wet Dock
Maritime Ipswich '82 festival
R. & W. Paul maltings
Stoke Bridge Maltings
Trinity House Buoy
Old Bell

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