RSA Heritage Index: Norwich and Norfolk

Norwich Castle © David Gill

The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).

Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).

Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).

Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.

Quay Place to close

Quay Place, opening 2016 © David Gill

In October 2016 Quay Place opened in Ipswich. It was a partnership between the Churches Conservation Trust and Suffolk Mind, and allowed this fine medieval church to have a new lease of life. The project was presented as a case study in the DCMS Heritage Statement (2017).

It has now been announced that Quay Place is due to close due to the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic (“Coronavirus: Suffolk Mind to close Ipswich’s Quay Place“, BBC News 15 June 2020). The future of the building is unclear.

Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019

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Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019 © David Gill

The Awards Ceremony for Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019 was held at the University of Suffolk on Wednesday 30 October 2019. I was honoured to be one of the judges and we were all impressed by the variety and quality of museums across the county.

The results:

  • Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019: large category. The Red House, Aldeburgh
  • Suffolk Museum of the Year 2019: small category. Bawdsey Radar
    • Highly Commended: Felixstowe Museum
  • Innovation Award. Ipswich Museum
  • Family Friendly Award. Lowestoft Maritime Museum
  • Volunteers of the Year: Natural Science Volunteer Team at Ipswich Museum
    • Highly Commended: Elaine Nason from Laxfield Museum and Paul Durbidge from Lowestoft Museum
  • Schools Session Award. Palace House

Object of the Year was … The Tin of Chocolate Worm Cakes from the Museum of East Anglian Life.

Many congratulations to the winners and all those taking part.

News items

  • Story in the EADT (31 October 2019)

Ipswich: Old Customs House

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The Customs House, Ipswich © David Gill

The Old  Customs House on the Wet Dock in Ipswich was completed in 1845 by J. M. Clark (who had won a competition to build it). It has a Tuscan portico, and a clock tower at the north-west corner. The Customs House was adjacent to the wet dock part of the developments in Ipswich designed by Henry Robinson Palmer (1795-1844) in 1837 and opened in 1842.

Blue Plaques in Suffolk

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Blue Plaques in Suffolk. Source: RSA Heritage Index

The RSA Heritage Index is using the erection of blue plaques as one of the indicators of heritage in a locality (‘Cultures and Memories’). I realise that these numbers could be out of date. The Ipswich Society lists 22 for Ipswich (see Open Plaques), whereas the Bury Society lists 8 for Bury St Edmunds. Other parts of the county also mark individuals, e.g. AldeburghWoodbridge.

Ipswich, Wet Dock

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Ipswich Marina © David Gill

The port of Ipswich can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon period. Traces of the medieval town peep through, notably the medieval churches such as St Clement that lies to the north of present marina. The Isaac Lord building (now a quayside pub) is a former 17th or 18th century brick maltings with kiln.

The Wet Dock, designed by H.R. Palmer, was opened in 1842. A number of warehouses associated with this phase can still be seen. Palmer also designed the dock facilities at Port Talbot and Neath in South Wales, and at Penzance in Cornwall.

The commercial Wet Dock is now largely used as a marina.

See also here.

The Future of Suffolk’s Heritage

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UCS and the Wet Dock, Ipswich Marina © David Gill

The HLF announced today that it had awarded £538,100 to the Stage 1 funding of ‘The Hold’, the working title of the new Heritage Centre that will include the Ipswich branch of the Suffolk Record Office (‘New Suffolk Heritage Centre wins HLF support‘, HLF Press Release, May 23, 2016). The Heritage Centre is a collaborative project between Suffolk County Council and University Campus Suffolk (to be known as the University of Suffolk from 1 August 2016).

The second stage of the project will be for £10.3 million to allow the construction of the new centre on the UCS North Campus (to the north of the Waterfront Building).

The aim of the project is ‘to create a flagship heritage facility to protect and promote the county’s archives, provide state of the art learning facilities, and engage more people in the history of Suffolk through an ambitious programme of community activity’.

The Stage 1 grant has been welcomed by New Anglia LEP (‘Proposed New Heritage Centre Receives Over £0.5million Grant‘).

Cliff Brewery, Ipswich

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Cliff Brewery, Ipswich © David Gill

Today’s Heritage Walk visited the outside of the Cliff Brewery in Ipswich. The brewery, founded by Thomas Cobbold, was established in Ipswich in 1746. The doorway on the north side includes some reused architectural features.

The brewery is currently a building ‘at risk‘, and is in the Victorian Society’s Top Ten Most Endangered Buildings list.

There are hopes that the building, currently owned by Pigeon Investment, will be used for new accommodation, a museum, and retail areas (“Ipswich Tolly Cobbold brewery: New homes plans go on show“, BBC News January 21 2016).