Ipswich’s former County Hall

A town’s shame


Ipswich, former County Hall.

Ipswich, former County Hall. Photo by Barbie Lindsay

Built in 1836-37 by W McIntosh Brooks, Ipswich’s Grade II County Hall was once the area’s gaol and law court. Following extensions for council offices in 1906 by JS Corner and Henry Miller, it then became the headquarters of East Suffolk County Council.

A building initially designed to instil awe, then inspire with civic pride, it once boasted fine wood panelling and stained glass windows. It now inspires only pity and anger.

For years, following its sale to a private owner, it has been the haunt of vandals, thieves, drug-users and squatters. Copper and lead have been stripped, letting water flood in; much of the panelling has been vandalised. The glass on the clock tower has been kicked out leaving the clock mechanism to rust in the rain.

What went wrong?

‘This is a case of a sloppily worded agreement that left the owner free to neglect a historic building,’ said Chris Costelloe, the Society’s Director. ‘County Hall was sold to a private owner. In return for permission to build flats on adjacent land, the council was supposed to get the owner to develop and protect the historic building. This didn’t happen. Security measures have clearly been inadequate.’

Chris adds, ‘We see this situation too often; it’s especially reprehensible when it occurs to a fine civic building in one of our major cities.’

Here is a case for far-reaching, draconian, and most of all, urgent action by Ipswich Council. Residents, taxpayers and elected representatives should demand that such action is taken now. The council should serve an urgent works notice to ensure the building is made secure and emergency repairs are done.

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