Christchurch Mansion

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Christchurch Mansion from the front

Christchurch Mansion, originally called by its builder "Withipoll House",[1] is a substantial Tudor brick mansion house within Christchurch Park on the edge of the town centre of Ipswich, Suffolk, England. It is now owned by the town and since 1895 has formed one of the two principal venues of the Ipswich Corporation Museums, now part of the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service.

The Grade I listed building mansion houses a collection of pottery and glass, a contemporary art gallery and a collection of paintings by artists including John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. There are rooms preserved as past inhabitants would have known them, complete with original items of fine clothing.[2] The house sits within a 70 acres (28 ha) public park which features many beautiful trees, rolling lawns and ponds.

History of Christchurch Mansion[edit]

The round pond of Christchurch Park with the mansion in the background

Christchurch Park was originally the grounds of the Priory of the Holy Trinity, with an area of many square miles, coming up to the medieval town walls. During Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the monastery was dissolved and the land was purchased by Paul Withypoll, Master Merchant Taylor and Merchant Adventurer, who died in 1547. Upon the manor, known as Christ Church Withipoll,[3] his son and heir Edmund Withypoll built Withipoll House in 1548-50, the ground floor masonry of which remains, although refurbished internally under subsequent owners. A survival from the original is the house's Latin motto, on a stone dated 1549:

"Frugalitatem sic servas, ut dissipationem non incurras."[4]

His granddaughter Elizabeth Withypoll married Leicester Devereux, 6th Viscount Hereford and the mansion passed to the Devereux family, who rebuilt the upper floors after a fire in about 1670, when the main porch was also added.[5] In 1734, Claude Fonnereau purchased the mansion from Price Devereux, 10th Viscount Hereford. A street next to the park is named after the family.

A staircase and the library in August 2013

W.C. Fonnereau in 1848 laid out and developed Fonnereau Road as a superior residential area. In 1894 the mansion was bought by Felix Cobbold from a syndicate of property developments, to save the building from demolition. Cobbold, a wealthy local businessman and philanthropist, then offered to give it to the Ipswich Corporation to establish a Museum and Art Gallery, together with a further £20,000 (equivalent to £2,090,000 in 2016)[6] in Ipswich Stock for the purchase of artworks.[7] His offer was on condition that the Corporation buy the surrounding parkland for the people of Ipswich. It took Cobbold three attempts to get the Corporation to agree to this, but in February 1895 the mansion was transferred to the town and in April 1895 the Corporation purchased the central part of the park. The Corporation acquired the Upper Arboretum (laid out for public use in 1848) in 1928.[8] Felix Cobbold, among other members of the wealthy Cobbold family, have donated a great deal of land to the people of Ipswich, including Ipswich Racecourse.

The Great Hall in August 2013

The restoration of the Mansion for its public opening was the work of the Ipswich architect John Shewell Corder, and its redevelopment as a Museum was undertaken by Frank Woolnough, Curator of the Ipswich Corporation Museum 1893-1920. Woolnough, an active member of the Museums Association and of the Savage Club, also developed its use as a venue for annual meetings of various Societies, and for educational purposes. During this time it was also the home of the archaeological galleries of Miss Nina Layard, over which she had honorary curatorship.[9] Under curator Guy Maynard (1920-1952) the enlargement of the fine and decorative art and furniture collections continued. The Thomas Gainsborough Bicentenary Exhibition of 1927, including also works by George Frost and John Constable, showcased the mansion as the home of a collection of national importance. The structure was further enlarged with the addition of the new Wolsey Art Gallery at the rear, and an entire two-storey wing rescued in 1924 from the demolition of a Tudor merchant's house.[10]

Notable works[edit]


  1. ^ Last will of Edmund Withipoll, written 1.v.1582 (P.C.C. 1582).
  2. ^ Historic England. "Details from image database (275383)". Images of England. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  3. ^ First will of Edmund Withipoll, written 6.iv.1568 (P.C.C. 1606).
  4. ^ "You are observing frugality in order not to fall into waste."
  5. ^ Norwich, 595
  6. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  7. ^ "Felix Thornley Cobbold MP JP". Felix Cobbold Trust. Archived from the original on 19 April 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Christchurch Park - A Chronological History". Ipswich Borough Council. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  9. ^ S.J. Plunkett 1994, 'Nina Layard, Hadleigh Road and Ipswich Museum 1905-1908', Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology XXXVIII, Part 2 (1994), 38, pp. 164–92. (Incomplete scan, first pages missing).
  10. ^ Historic England. "Christchurch Mansion (1000227)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  11. ^ Obscure Secure booklet (Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, 2014) online at, accessed 3 February 2018


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°03′38″N 1°09′30″E / 52.0606°N 1.1582°E / 52.0606; 1.1582