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About Blackfriars

Blackfriars offers both visitors and locals alike a pleasant shopping stroll which gently leads you down towards Ipswich's prestigious waterfront.

Located on the east edge of the town centre and covering Fore Street, Eagle Street, Upper Orwell Street and Orwell Place it is wrapped around the ruins of the Dominican Friary (Blackfriars).

It provides ample car parking space including a large multi story car park just off Blackfriars walk which makes it ideal location for shopping, lunchtime eating or a business meeting and if you are visiting after 3pm take advantage of the cut price parking at £1 in the Cox Lane and Tacket Street car parks (seasonal - please check Ipswich Borough Council website for more details).

There is a variety of restaurants, pubs and cafes including a lovely selection of unconventional independent and specialist traders in this steadily growing community. You will be able to find anything from goth and punk to modern designer fashion from items for your BMX to East Asian goods. Alternatively you could treat yourself to a new haircut, massage or even a tattoo.

As you make your way down Fore Street take a moment look up at the assorted styles, designs and antiquity of the houses, office businesses and shops and you will notice the historical bearing of this area. In fact, there are more listed buildings in Fore Street than any other street in town.

One event not to be missed is the Blackfriars 'Food, Fashion and Flowers Market'. It is the perfect place to take friends and family and is held two to three times a year. As you wander through this bustling market you will be able to take in the assortment of stalls lining the street including food, clothing, accessories, flowers and plants as well as some unique gifts and crafts. There is quite often some form of musical, dancing and children's entertainment to enjoy whilst you browse the stalls or relax with a beverage.

You might also like to visit Fore Street Swimming Baths. Built in 1894, this Victorian swimming pool is the second oldest operational pool in the country and is run by Ipswich Borough Council.

Heritage of Blackfriars

King Henry III established the Ipswich Dominican friars, dedicated to St. Mary, in 1263. This was one of five monasteries in the town, and the land was purchased by both the King and Robert Kilwardby, who had been named provincial prior of the Dominicans for England in 1261.

By the 16th century The Bishop of Dover had the monastery dissolved under the orders of King Henry the VIII and the land was sold to William Aubyn, one of the King's Serjeant-at-Arms and a Minister for parliament.

According to the maps of John Speed (1610), John Ogilby (1674) and Joseph Pennington (1778) there continued to be a large structure on the site, described as an almshouse called Christ Hospital. The buildings eventually fell into disuse and was gradually dismantled until only four arches were left standing.

Two sets of excavations have been performed on the site, one in the late 19th century and one in 1970/80s, both of which have left the site properly exposed and preserved including one of only three surviving stone altar structures in Suffolk and gives us an insight into what this large, 46 metre, medieval church looked like.

The Blackfriars site is permanently open to the public. A short way up the road at Orwell place junction with Eagle Street was a flow of water that ran downhill towards the river and was on occasion so deep it needed stepping stones to avoid getting wet, hence Orwell Place was once called Stepples Street.

Business and Shopping at Blackfriars

Blackfriars is packed with a variety interesting and unusual locations for business use, and is an area which has yet to achieve its full potential as an area for business development.

With its plentiful and cheap parking Blackfriars is the ideal place to attract existing and future clients and customers. Business can be discussed over lunch or an evening meal in one of the many eateries of Blackfriars which offer a varied selection of foods to suit all tastes.

There are also a number places nearby to stay, which include a Travelodge and Premier Inn both of which have just recently been built and are both close to Blackfriars and the Waterfront.

You can get a real feel of the history of the town as you amble across Blackfriars ruins and down Fore Street towards the beautiful Waterfront. As you do, take note of three of the many 'Blue Plaques' in the town placed there by the 'Ipswich Society'. To download the Ipswich Society's Blue Plaques leaflet click here.

Blackfriars is an amazing gateway from the ancient town to the ancient Waterfront and a excellent resource for all your business needs as we move forward in the development of the town.

By Kathie Jones, Historic Ipswich (UK)

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