Building record IPS 768 - Stable Block, Holywells Park, Ipswich.

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Refurbishment of the stable block revealed two separate underground chambers constructed of red brick, both of which contained boilers for heating water.


Grid reference Centred TM 1763 4337 (26m by 24m)
Map sheet TM14SE


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

2014-2015: As part of the Holywells "Parks For People" restoration project, an Ipswich Borough Council scheme undertaken with funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund, a programme of archaeological monitoring was undertaken. This was primarily focussed on the refurbishment of the Holywells Manor stable block and the remodelling of the park’s Cliff Lane entrance, although the ongoing excavation of an icehouse and some other works were also observed during site visits. Refurbishment of the stable block revealed two separate underground chambers constructed of red brick, both of which contained boilers for heating water. Map regression indicates that these structures were located under former 19th century glasshouses. This would suggest that the purpose of these boilers was for heating within the glasshouses to enable the cultivation of exotic plants. A service trench was excavated between the stable block and an extant glasshouse to the west (the orangery) within which a red brick wall base and a covered well associated of the former mansion house that was demolished in the early 1960s were revealed. Comparison with early Ordnance Survey maps suggest the wall base is possibly a protruding chimney breast against the main rear wall of the house whilst the covered well is located in small enclosed yard, which was presumably related to a service part of the house. Monitoring of the foundations for two new gates piers at the Cliff Lane entrance to the park only exposed a truncated natural deposit and modern service runs. The presence of a 19th century icehouse within the park was confirmed during earlier exploratory works undertaken as part of the ‘Parks For People’ project. It was entirely backfilled and buried but is slowly being exposed by volunteers from the Friends of Holywells Park group. The entrance tunnel has been fully cleared and soil to a depth of c.2m has been removed from the ice chamber, although there is still a considerable amount of material to remove. Graffiti revealed inside was thought to be related to its possible use during the Second World War but this is inconclusive and, on the balance of probabilities, it is probably later, (S1).

The mansion known as Holywells was built in or about 1814 for the Cobbold brewing family and remained in its possession until 1929. The house and park were presented to Ipswich Borough Council in 1935, opening to the public in 1936, but the Council demolished the house in 1962. The surviving stable block lay immediately behind the house and is a grade II-listed structure of gault and red brick with slate roofs arranged around a central courtyard. It was depicted in much the same form as today on the First Edition Ordnance Survey of 1880-81 but had not been built at the time of White’s Map of Ipswich in 1867. A date in the 1870s is fully consistent with the remaining fabric, although its southern range is an addition of the 1880s or ’90s that was shown for the first time on the Ordnance Survey of 1902. An earlier linear range of stables depicted in 1867 appears to have been positioned to the south of the present complex. The imposing five-storey red-brick clock tower at its north-western corner is built in the Queen Anne style, differing dramatically from the rest of the gault-brick facade, and although not present in 1867 may be slightly older.
The stable block is an exceptionally well preserved example of its type that is of national importance and clearly justifies its grade II-listing. High status stables are notoriously rare in anything approaching original condition as most were adapted for motor vehicles during the 20th century and any animal accommodation which survived this process was usually altered to keep pace with changing fashions and standards of hygiene. In this instance, however, the stables were in use for little more than a generation before being acquired and largely abandoned by the Borough Council. As a direct consequence original decor has remained intact, along with many fixtures and fittings including paintwork, plaster lined in imitation of ashlar, wainscot panelling, vertically hinged cast-iron vents made by Musgrave’s of Belfast, gault-brick and cobbled floors, stall divisions with turned finials and pierced iron grills, wooden grain bins and storage benches, fireplaces and sophisticated pressed metal feeding troughs incorporating hay baskets, etc. These features offer important insight into the nature of riding stables at the upper levels of Victorian society level (S2).

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: Sommers M. 2015. Holywells Park, Ipswich, Suffolk.
  • --- Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2014. Historic Building Record: The Stable Block, Holywells Park, Ipswich.

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Record last edited

Nov 23 2022 9:58AM

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