Great White Horse Hotel, 43 Tavern Street
Defining a once major junction and the corner of Tavern
Street and Northgate Street, notably
lettered in gold relief capitals:
'GREAT WHITE HORSE HOTEL.'
with its invaluable full
stop this hotel-which-is-no-longer-a-hotel has a notable history. The
Georgian facade hides a timber-framed structure dating back to the at
least 1518, when it was listed as 'the White Hors Inn': one of the many
pilgrims' inns (see Lady Lane).
Interestingly, that most famous documenter and lampooner of pilgrims,
Geoffrey Chaucer, whose ancestor ran a tavern/coffe house on the corner
of Tavern Street and Tower Street (comemorated by a plaque on Tower
Street). The Great White Horse is famous as a coaching inn (it had
stabling for 46 horses), as the lodging place for kings and famous
personages and its place in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers.
The 'period' look of the Tavern Street frontage belies
the fact that is a re-fronting from between 1815 and 1818, presumably
during the widening of the street. It narrowly missed demolition soon
after that when the borough council acquired a block of properties
between Tower Street and Northgate Street. The famous white horse
sculpture above the hotel's front door is flanked by fine lamps which
repeat the building's original function and name in condensed capitals.
An original 18th century white horse was removed and now stands on top
of a column outside the White Horse Inn at
Tattingstone, which is a 17th Century Grade
II listed building.
Tattingstone White Horse Inn
The horse's replacement, as noted by Richard Cocke in Public sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk
(see Reading List) is decidedly heavier with
shorter legs and resembles a Suffolk Punch, a breed which dates back to
1768. The pub was further extended and altered by J.S. Corder
(architect of the Scarborrow tea shop in
Dial Lane) in 1893. Many will remember calling in at the lounge bar,
which presumably was
in the old carriage-yard and going through to the small, glazed snug
bar. The troubled recent history of the hotel is mirrored by The Crown & Anchor in Westgate
Street. It is, in 2012, home to shops and a coffee bar with night club
above, but no hotel.
More defunct signs.
Moving up Northgate Street from the Great White Corner, we find a
side entrance ('Nickleby's Restaurant' above – get the Dickensian
reference) with the signs: 'BARS' to the left and 'RECEPTION' to the
right, still in place. Above a carriage entrance hangs the sign: 'GREAT
WHITE HORSE HOTEL... HOTEL RECEPTION',
replete with much pidgeon dung in the overhead lamp. Finally, through
that entrance is the former hotel reception over the yard with 'GREAT
WHITE HORSE HOTEL' in gold letters (similar to the frontage) running
[UPDATE 2.10.2016: photographs
of the courtyard; also see a page of photographs of the
interior of the old hotel.]
Below: a view of The Great White Horse when Tavern Street was much
narrower. The electric tram visible in the distance suggests that two
trams passing one another outside the hotel would not have left much
room for anything else on this street.
Below: 1934 – 'The most noted hostelry in East Anglia.'
Across the road is one of Ipswich's most famous shops
and, like the Great White Horse, is misleadingly named on the
50-52 Tavern Street was for many years the home of Croydon & Sons,
the jeweller and clockmaker. The period look of the building is also
recent (1931), being the work of architect, John A. Sherman, who was
responsible for the reshaping (some might say despoiling) of The Old
Pack Horse Inn on the corner of Soane Street
during yet another
road-widening scheme. He lived in Northgate Street and his varied work
can be seen all around the St Margarets Green area. Apart from the name
in capitals: 'CROYDON' above the clock which
projects out over the street, there
are two pieces of lettering, suitably framed in 'historic' moulded
frames. The most interesting shows a rather primitively painted Old
Father Time (the painting taken from the original shop front, see
below), winged and with his scythe and hour-glass, pointing down
to a gilded clock and surrounded by the lettering:
CLOCKS & WATCHES
PLATING & GILDING'
The other panel is more recent, replacing an older company history, as
it was the responsibility of Preston & Duckworth who took over the
business in 1994 when Croydon's went into receivership. It does,
however, document the original company history:
Croydons Jewellers Established in Ipswich
Prestons Jewellers Established in Bolton
Appointed Chairman of Prestons
Prestons Acquire Croydons of Ipswich
Bury St Edmunds
Preston & Duckworth Established'
Again, many will recall taking tea and cakes in the
upstairs cafe at Croydon's. Ironically, perhaps, Prestons moved from
this site to the former Lawley's in Butter Market in 2004, only to go
into receivership themselves in the following year. This building was
used by several businesses and by 2015 was being converted to a branch
December 2014 images
Winter 2014 sees the empty Croydon's shop partially
occupied by a mobile telephone company with 1920s interior features
(staircase, stained glass window, moulded plasterwork), which was
eventually occupied by a clothing chain in 2016.
Above: one of the quirky, carved uprights on the Croydon's shopfront
with the reflection of The Great White Horse in the windows. Does
anyone else think that the upper part looks like a moustachio'd lion
with flared nostrils and a hair lip?
The Ipswich window
The term ‘Ipswich Window’ is sometimes used to describe an oriel window
which projects out from the main wall, at an upper floor of a building,
but which does not reach to the ground. Such a window is often
supported by corbels or brackets, or is part of the jettied first
floor. However, we learn from a website associated with James Bettley’s
excellent Pevsner, East and West Suffolk volumes that the crucial
feature which distinguishes the ‘Ipswich window’ is a specific design
of glazing bars within the window:
‘They are similar to a Venetian window with an addition across the
whole width and two small panes over the semi-circle.’ This type first
appeared in London about the middle of the 17th century but soon spread
to provincial towns. The spectacular examples on Sparrowe’s House (The
Ancient House in Ipswich) led architectural historians to coin the term
‘Ipswich windows’. The window type was picked up and used extensively
by the Victorian architect Richard Norman Shaw and others.
Looking at examples of ‘Ipswich window’ it would appear that they are
not necessarily oriel in character, although they can be found in this
form on The Ancient House in Butter
Market and The Wheatsheaf at 24 Fore Street. The Ipswich window takes
the central semi-circular section of the ‘Venetian window’ which
projects above the rest, adds a glazing bar horizontally through the
centre of the semi-circle and adds smaller panes either side to form a
The late 1920s design of the Croydon's frontage embodies flat and oriel
versions of the Ipswich window. Other examples to be found in Ipswich
include a buildings in Dial Lane, Tavern Street and St Margarets Plain and The Plough in Dogs Head Street.
photo courtesy the Ipswich Society
[UPDATE 3.11.2015: above, a
remarkable photograph of Croydon's as it was before the street widening
in the 1920/30s when many of the shop fronts on this side of the
street, including Croydons, were demolished and rebuilt further back.
This had already happened on the other side of the street in the 1800s
when the Georgian front was added to the Great White Horse Hotel which
has much older origins. This rare photo, taken of the shop before the
old frontage was demolished, was discovered in a trunk in the building
earlier in 2015 when Tesco were proposing to use the building. It was
acquired by John Norman, Chair of The Ipswich Society.
The 'Old Father Time' painting is there before 1929 – lit by electric
spot lights by the look of it – presumably was removed and incorporated
in the very new, decorative scheme. Visible lettering on the old shop
Across the board above the shop windows:
‘Established 1865, Watch Makers CROYDON & SONS, Jewellers’
There appears to be a further word beginning with ’S’ to the right. One
wonders what the notice says on the door to the left...]
Above left: the view from the end of Carr Street, Croydon's to the
right. The gabled corner building is by Charles Benjamin Smith, who had
been articled to Bisshopp & Cautley, but who practised in London.
Above right: Croydon's in the right foreground. The
balconied redbrick building on the corner of Upper Brook Street is the
work of S.P. Pick, 1888 (the only work by this architect in Ipswich, as
far as we know). George Thomas Pick (any relation to the architect?),
general draper, occupied the premises at the junction, later John
Collier tailoring and now the inevitable coffee addictive drug outlet.
The turreted EADT building is seen clearly in
the distance. For a 1905 postcard view from Carr Street
looking towards Tavern Street, see our Symonds
60-62 Tavern Street
corner building on Tavern Street and Upper Brook Street.
Here's a photograph of the moulded frontage taken from the
disused first floor restaurant of The Great White Horse Hotel.
The plaster relief shows Sir Walter
Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I along with various helmeted Elizabethan
soldiers (with characteristic curvy helmets), a canopied boat and an
arched castle over a river in the background. Gallant
Raleigh rescued the royal feet from getting wet and muddy in ‘a plashy
place’ by sacrificing his plush velvet cloak to cover the puddle.
Disappointingly, his cloak-laying is first recorded in Thomas Fuller’s
History of the Worthies of England, published some 80 years after the
supposed event. True or not, Raleigh enchanted the Queen and was one of
her firm favourites – that is, until he fell from grace by secretly
marrying one of her maids of honour and he was sent to the Tower of
'Midland Bank', 12 Tavern Street
A little further up Tavern Street is the decorative frontage of the
former Midland Bank building opposite Boots The Chemist and the
Woottons lettering. Taken over and
rebranded by HSBC (Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation), it
bears the wording
high up - banks seem to specialise in this, see Cornhill 2 for the Barclays sign -
The bank was founded by
Clarles Geach as the Birmingham and Midland Bank in Union Street,
Birmingham in August 1836. This suggests that either a mistake was made
in the dating of the building fascade, or it was built for another bank
with a different date of establishment. We think that the former is
more likely, as we have always assumed that it was built specifically
to house Midland Bank, probably in the 1930s after road-widening in
Tavern Street. See the update below.
[UPDATE 24.11.2015: to
add to the mix: "... Capital & Counties Bank (now HSBC) by Henry
John Wright, 1899-1900. Three bays. Stone-faced ground floor with tall
rusticated arches, remodelled by Peter Barefoot Architects, 1985.
Stuccoed upper floors with giant Ionic columns and Gibbsian surrounds
to the windows." Taken from Bettley - Suffolk:
East Pevsner, see Reading list.
Established in 1877, the Capital & Counties Bank,
in 1918, was taken over by Lloyds. However, the Hampshire Banking
Company, a forerunner of the Capital &
Counties Bank was established in Southampton in 1834.
So perhaps that is where the '1834' date comes from.]
See our Warwick Road page for the
frontage of 24 Tavern Street by John Medland Clark.
It is not far from here to Dial Lane, the
Street, Princes Street, Lloyds Avenue and Westgate Street, all of which offer
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission