Street / Thingstead (St
Soane Street was likely to have been an extension of the Old Bar
Gate (nearby North
Gate of the enclosed, Anglo-Saxon town) and formed the entry to the
Priory of the Holy Trinity (where Christchurch
Mansion now stands) and St
on 9 St Margarets Plain, 2014 image
Old Packhorse Inn
Starting from the St Margaret's Plain end of
this short road, we find the Old Pack Horse Inn, thought to date from
the mid-16th century. A period photograph
(below, probably from a postcard) reveals the surgery performed on this
building in the service of the widening of St Margaret's Street. In
1936 two-thirds of the building was demolished and the two gables to
the right (plus another) reconstructed, turned through ninety degrees.
The architect of this transformation, John Sherman of Northgate Street,
also designed the
frontage of the Croydon's building in
Tavern Street – also following road-widening. A practice that would
caused a mighty row today was probably a justifiable, not to mention
costly, attempt to
preserve a version of an ancient building.
The pre-1933 view shows the
corner shop to have been a newsagent and tobacconist. Looking
again at the period photograph, one can't help wondering whether the
part of the building which was left untouched and stands to the present
day was the original 15th to 16th century inn and the part with the two
gables, distinctly different in architectural features, was added at a
later date. If this is true, then perhaps the reshaping of the building
in 1936 is doubly justified.
These colour photographs were taken in March 2013 when Soane
Street was in turmoil with pavements and road surface being dug up. The
triangular piece of ground from the Packhorse to the present-day Bethesda would have been a regular pathway
for the Priory Canons, on their way from the Holy
Trinity Priory (also known as 'Christchurch') crossing to enter the
town via the North Gate.
name of the old inn reflects the period when peddlars roamed the
countryside carrying their merchandise strapped either side of their
packsaddle. This would include luxury items such as ribbons, looking
glasses, costume jewellery and chapbooks (cheap books containing
ballads and moral tales). These itinerant peddlars, as Carol Twinch
points out in Ipswich street by
street (see Reading List),
also made the Old Pack Horse a hotbed of gossip and intrigue with their
travellers' tales. The large number of horses at this and other inns
around The Thingstead (see lower down here and on our Blue Plaques page) led to
the naming of the road Stablers Lane.
Before the dissolution of the monasteries at the hand of Henry VIII and
Ipswich boy, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
pilgrims and Priory visitors also
used the inn, perhaps as an overflow lodgings from the Priory. Another
historic inn was The Saracen's Head at the far end of the present Soane
Street (photograph below).
The Old Pack Horse Inn corner post at the meeting of Soane
Street and St Margaret's Plain is still intact. The
small, anonymous-looking shield (above left) can be spotted from St
Plain. However, around the corner is a more interesting
shield (above right). This is a Tau cross, or St Anthony's cross, with
a sun and two moons for the Holy Trinity. A remarkable survivor given
the building's history and the relatively vulnerable material and
position on the public highway. The Tau Cross, named after the Greek
letter it resembels (a sort of curved capital 'T'), is most commonly
used in reference to the
Franciscan Order and Saint Francis of Assisi, who adopted it as his
personal coat of arms after hearing Pope Innocent III talk about the
Tau symbol. It is now used as a symbol of the Franciscan Order.
See the Freemason's Hall (below) for more on the Tau.
courtesy Ken Nicholls
Town Guide, Ken Nicholls, has been advocating inclusion on this
website of the Soane Street symbols for some time and we tended to
disregard them. However, they provide intriguing details from history.
"... two drawings of the Holy Trinity symbol. The coloured one, I
believe, is in the colours that would have been in the stained glass of
the windows of the Priory. These symbols also appear in other church
windows that were under this priory's influence. I believe some were
out of Ipswich." Ken continues: "As a Town Guide one of the walks I do
is 'The Writing is on the Walls' based on the many numbers, letters etc
on walls in the town centre - People always love to be surprised by
something they have walked past for perhaps 50 years and have never
seen." Thanks to him for the images.
The faded plaque which was installed by Rotary International
Former Packhorse Inn, C15-C16
said to have
been an overflow guesthouse for Christchurch'
A few doors down the road at
number 4 is an old water hydrant sign of blue and white enamelled
It is positioned at the top left corner of the shop window. There is a
similar hydrant sign collected and displayed on the wall of Orianda
Terrace in Foxhall Road on our Rosehill
house names page
Christchurch Park gates
Soane Street is also notable for its entrances to Christchurch
Park (there is a smaller gate to the left of the photograph, next to a
lodge house). The characteristic 'diaper' brickwork which can be found
on Christchurch Mansion itself is
reflected on the boundary wall. The brick pillars on these entrances
are topped with wonderful stone pineapples. This
communal symbol of friendship and hospitality also became a favorite
motif of architects and they can also be found on the park gateposts in
Bolton Lane. The gate
bears a painted metal version of the Ipswich
coat of arms.
Another few metres and we find the
It is claimed in several sources that in the 19th century this
street was named for Sir John Soane
the noted architect and collector. His remarkable home, Sir John
Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn, London is open to the public and is
crammed full of his eclectic gatherings of architectural details and
features. Soane's career took off after patronage from friends in
Ipswich and at Nos. 4-8 Soane Street is the Freemason's Hall, now on
the Borough's list of Ipswich Buildings of Special Architectural or
Historic Interest. Soane, a convinced Freemason, has been said to have
had a hand in
designing the Ipswich Freemason's Hall. However, Dr
James Bettley, author of the Suffolk Pevsner
volumes (see Reading list), who has
contributed information to this website on the Carr
store, Scarborow's shop and Museum Street) tells us:
"I have established that the Masonic Hall in Soane Street was designed
by Henry Luff, an Ipswich builder (and freemason) and opened in 1879
(Ipswich Journal, 22 April 1879). The addition to the right is by
G. H. B. Gould, 1911. I don’t think you could really claim a
Soane connection. The masons moved to Soane Street from St Stephen’s Lane, the old hall now
the Conservative Club (by Edward Ingress Bell, 1865 – and I agree,
those ceramic nameplates are wonderful)." Our thanks to
him for the clarification.
[UPDATE 18.8.2015: 'I
recently looked at the entry for The Freemason's Hall in Soane St. You
suggest the Street is named after Sir John Soane (1753-1837), however I
noticed that it is already called by that name on Ogilby's Map of
Ipswich dated 1674, repeated on Pennington's map of 1778. Unfortunately
Muriel Clegg, 'Streets & Street
Names In Ipswich' [see Reading list],
has nothing to say on the subject. Evelyn Hewing. Many thanks to Evelyn for the additional
From the text of the Listing (see British Listed Buildings On
the Links page):
'A late C19 red brick, building (circa 1879) with rusticated brick
quoins. 2 storeys. At the east end the front breaks forward with 3
window range surmounted by a modillion pediment with insignia in the
tympanum. The windows are dobuble-hung sashes with glazing bars, in
shallow reveals. A raised brick band extends across the front between
the storeys. A central 6-panel semi-circular headed double door has a
stone Tuscan doorcase with plain columns, frieze and pediment. At the
west end there is a semi-basement room with a large hall above. The
hall is lit by a large 3-light mullioned and transomed headed window
with a central pediment. The window is framed by brick Ionic attached
clolumns, a stone frieze and modillion cornice surmounted by a parapet.
The ground storey has a segmental headed window with a keystone.'
Now here is a strange thing. Freemasonry is know for its many
symbols, rituals and 'secret' language. One contributor (see above) to
has been suggesting inclusion of the symols on the hall for years.
Borin Van Loon, creator of the site dismissed the suggestion twice
after looking at the building as "not being lettering", having
read Walton Hannah's book Darkness
years ago which blew the gaff on all that 'secrecy' myth of the
Masons (and roughed out a comic strip where his character Bof stumbles into a masonic ritual
in a herbally refreshed state). It now becomes clear, thanks to a
contribution by Alan
Brignull, that the (apparent) 'TH' hybrid is in fact another use of the
'Tau' seen on the Old Pack Horse Inn corner post (discussed above):-
'The emblem of the Royal Arch Degree
is called the Triple Tau, and is a figure consisting of three tau
crosses. The Tau Cross, or Cross of St. Anthony, is a cross in the form
of a Greek T. The Triple Tau is a figure formed by three of these
crosses meeting in a point, and therefore resembling a letter T resting
on the traverse bar of an H. This emblem, placed in the center of a
Triangle, the triangle is sacred to freemasons because the letter A
captilised can fit perfectly around it, the letter A comes from a
ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for a bull. Both circle and triangle are
both emblems of Deities (Alpha and omega from the bible, omega is the
all seeing eye) - constitutes the jewel of the Royal Arch as practiced
in England, where it is so highly esteemed as to be called the "emblem
of all emblems," and "the grand emblem of Royal Arch Masonry."'
To which one can only respond: "eh?"
Double-cross above the front door. We are told that "the Cross
Lorraine and the Patriarchal Cross are frequently confused." The symbol
above the Soane Street entrance seems to be a combination of:-
Lorraine, The Lorraine Cross consists of one vertical and two
evenly spaced horizontal bars, the lower longer than the upper;
generally the lower bar is as close to the bottom of the vertical as
the upper bar is to the top. Made use of by the Free French during the
Second World War. Also used in the masonic Knight's Templar 18°;
and 2. Patriarchal Cross (Archiepiscopal
Cross) Used by Roman Catholic archbishops, the upper bar represents the
inscription, abbreviated INRI, that Pilate had placed above Jesus'
head. It is also the symbol of the 33° Inspector General Honorary.
The former is the most likely.
It even has an apse... albeit not particularly distinguished
from the outside.
Inside the Soane Street Lodge we discovered a painted
three-dimensional version of the Ipswich Borough
coat of arms.
At the apse end of the building's interior, but on the ground floor
beneath the main hall, the coat of arms is mounted in a panelled
recess (with masonic relief emblems above). Rather jolly Neptune's
horses support the crest.
Close to the main entrance:
The first Masonic Lodge was actually in St Stephens Church Lane, now the
Conservative Club; the apse at the east end of that building confirms
its original purpose.
On the shield:
‘THE MASONIC HALL
WAS ERECTED BY MEMBERS OF THE
LODGE PRINCE OF WALES
No. 959. IPSWICH.
FOUNDATION STONE LAID
MAY 1. 1865.
BUILDING FINISHED AND CONSECRATED
JANUARY 22. 1866.’
In the small rectagle below:
‘DEDICATION TABLET OF 1ST MASONIC HALL, ST STEPHENS LANE.’
On the white marble tablet:
‘IPSWICH FREEMASONS ERECTED
THIS HALL IN 1879
AND RESTORED AND EXTENDED IT
BETWEEN 1974 AND 1977.’
Outside the old Saracen's Head inn is an
about St Margaret's
Green which we include on our page of Plaques,
plus a more information about Thingstead.
an Anglo-Saxon term for a meeting
place. Robert Malster: 'It is generally assumed that this was the
meeting place for the half-hundred of Ipswich, but it may be
significant that the Thingstead is outside the town rampart, [here
running down Tower Ramparts and between Old Foundry Lane (inside) and
St Margarets Street (outside)] and that, when Ipswich obtained its
Charter in 1200, the townsfolk made the churchyard of St Mary-le-Tower
their meeting place. Possibly the Thingstead was the meeting place for
the five and a half hundreds of the Wicklaw, which was under the
jurisdiction of Ely Abbey and was otherwise known as the Liberty of St
Etheldreda'. See our Reading list for
Malster, R. Wharncliffe companion to
The Thingstead includes the triangle of St
Margaret's Green, St Margarets Plain and St Margarets Street. Having
covered two of those streets and the linking Soane Street on this page,
it is worth mentioning that St Margarets Street features lettering
on the former Phillips & Piper factory and on the former Ewers
Grey-Green Coaches depot, both to be found on our E Brand & Sons page.
The Saracen's Head/Clarence House
At the Bolton Lane end of Soane Street and rounding the corner into St
Margaret's Green is the ancient inn, The Saracen's Head. Thanks to the
Ipswich Society for the photograph below which shows the inn (later
a garage, Comet electrical store, then the Saracens House Business
Centre) to the
right. Incidentally, Edward White's map of Ipswich of
1867 clearly labels what we now call St
Margaret's Green as 'THE PLAIN'.
Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
We are delighted with this 1970s
it reveals another piece of lost trade lettering on the chimneystack of
the nearby building:
The name appears to have been repeated on a sign attached to the
railing around the main chimney. The 2013 image below
shows that this painted lettering has been cleaned off.
The 1970s photograph below, also from The Ipswich Society's
collection (see Links), shows that the other
side of this building was lettered. Extrapolating, we read:
Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
The Saracen's Head
Below – from John Bulow-Osborne: 'From an old
publication, in 1923, The Saracen's Head'.
John also sent an image of The Bull Inn on
from the same source.
Image courtesy John
The 1923 photograph of The Saracen's Head shows the
timber-framed building with a shop (there are posters and signs in the
window) on the corner with Soane Street. The shop disappeared during
conversion into offices. The lettering on the upper board sign includes
a possessive apostrophe in "Saracen's" and a full stop after "Inn" and
drop shadow throughout. The familar 'Cobbold's Ales & Spirits'
sign painted on the render above the door echoes similar signs
which once adorned The Globe and the Rose Hotel. The 'Smithers & Sons' lorry
parked outside the inn reminds us that this was, for many
decades, a destination for carriers and carters arriving from country
locations. They also gravitated to The Running Buck Inn on St Margarets
Plain for the stabling of horses; blacksmiths and farriers set up on
opposite side of the road next to another inn called the Dog &
Partridge. The Saracen's Head was closed in 1960 and auctioned for sale
shortly afterwards. It was bought by £10,000 and used for a car and
mororbike shop. It then became a branch of Comet electrical equipment
store and eventually the Saracen's Head Business Centre. The
building is listed Grade II and the text reads: 'A C16-17 timber-framed
and plastered building with cross wings at the north and south ends. It
is now faced in roughcast plaster. 2 storeys. 4 window range C20
double-hung sashes without glazing bars. The ground storey has a C20
shop. Roofs tiled. Although it is now very much altered it still
retains its C16-C17 form and contributes to the character of the square.'
Incidentally, the word 'Saracen' has a long, shifting history
but beginning no later than the early fifth century, Christian writers
began to equate Saracens with Arabs. By the 12th century, 'Saracen' had
become synonymous with 'Muslim' in Medieval Latin literature.
A name plaque like whipped cream
This three storey house has
'shoulder' wings, the left of which was once the Globe Bookshop, from a
time long before Waterstones when independent bookshops could survive
in business (Orwell Books at the top of Fore Street and later
Amberstone in Upper Orwell Street spring to mind) alongside Hatchards
in The Ancient House. The
building bears an unusual, well-lettered, scrolled name plaque to the
far left of the front door:
The art deco structure next door in the earlier photograph was a
KwikFit centre, then became a car wash, then was demolished in 2011 and
by 2013 the site has been fenced off and is run as a car wash. Other
scrolled house names can be found at Percy
Cottages and York Terrace.
Clarence House is Listed Grade II (see British
Listed Buildings On
the Links page): "An early-mid
C19 brick house, now painted. 3 storeys and basement. 3 window range,
some double-hung sashes without glazing bars. The 2nd storey windows
are casements and the centre windows are French casements opening on to
ornamental iron balconies on the 1st and 2nd storeys. The doorway has
reeded pilasters and a heavy rusticated canopy on brackets in the shape
of human heads. The basement area is protected by iron spearhead
railings. There are 2 storeyed wings on the north and south ends each
of one window range, one now part of a garage and the other a builders
premises entered through a heavy Ionic porch. Roof slate, hipped, with
a central square tower topped by ornamental iron railings."
Thanks to the Ipswich Society Image Archive (see Links)
for this photograph of Clarence House c.1910. The building was occupied
by A.C. Harding, Plumber and Decorator. The signs read: 'Established
1884, Telephone 860... White lead oil & colour, varnish etc. Paints
mixed to any shade, ready for use. Glass cut to order... Graining,
painting, glazing and paperhanging. A good variety of wall papers &
decorations in stock.']
image courtesy the Ipswich
One assumes that the mineral finish on the porches to the
building is an exercise in paint effects provided by the company. By
the sixties the company had expanded the services on offer to include
courtesy John Bulow Osborne
John Bulow Osborne adds this delightful piece of ephemera.
'I attach a bookmark from a 1964/5 Kelly's Directory. It's another
small piece in the wonderful jigsaw that is your website. Another –
possibly apocryphal – story I was told, was that Clarence House was
originally the home of a shipping fleet owner, who used the observation
platform on the roof to see if his vessels were safely home. Well, it's
a nice story anyway!'
image courtesy the Ipswich
Above: the building at the speculative date of 'pre-1906'.
However, given that Clarence House here bears the same lettering on the
double-doors to the left 'A.C. Harding: Plumber & Decorator'
as in the 1910 photograph, the presence of further signs suggests that
this may be post-1910. We see, above the double-doors,
a board sign with wiggly classical columns at each side:
'PAINTER & GLAZIER
OIL COLOUR. LEAD & GLASS
On the top of the side wall
visible from St Margarets Street is the business lettering painted on
the bare brick:
A flattened scroll sign is
attached to the wall to the right of the ground floor window (which
also has a sign below carrying the business name). These scrolls
include the words: 'HOT WATER FITTER[?]' and 'SANITARY WARES'. The
semi-circular window above the far right entrance is partially obscured
by a sloping sign reading:
See our Bethesda page for a 1778 map
showing Soane Street and the surrounding area.
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission