Cornhill redevelopment breathes new life into Ipswich town centre

Cornhill redevelopment

Cornhill redevelopment - Credit: Archant

Ipswich is ready for Christmas and the festive buzz is building in Suffolk’s county town. At the heart of it all is the new-look Cornhill, which has been transformed

Cornhill redevelopment

Cornhill redevelopment - Credit: Archant

Always the focal point of Ipswich’s town centre, Cornhill has long been used for celebrations, including Ipswich Town’s FA Cup win in 1978 and promotion to the Premier League in 2000. Now, refreshed and revived, the Cornhill is making the town centre something to be proud of.

The redevelopment, part of a huge transformation under way in the town, aims to support Ipswich in becoming a thriving retail and commercial destination. It is the brainchild of the Ipswich Vision Group and has been led by Ipswich Borough Council, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Central.

The old, tired and worn paving has gone and in its place is an exciting new design by internationally renowned architects Hall McKnight, made a reality by local contractors Brooks & Wood. The aim is to make Cornhill a destination in its own right and a real celebration of everything Ipswich is about. It’s a place to linger, to meet friends and to enjoy a number of new activities and events coming to the town centre.

It features thoughtful, modern design, reflecting Ipswich’s status as a key business and tourism hub, but also sensitively retaining its heritage through its reference to key architectural features.

As well as paving there is new seating, colourful ornamental trees, and an impressive water feature with 18 choreographed jets designed to provide a dazzling display. In addition, four striking gateway features will celebrate the figures on top of the Town Hall, as well as the town’s historic gates.

The new Cornhill was approved after consultation with members of the public and local businesses, many of whom were keen to see major improvements to the town centre. Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “It was essential to create something that worked for residents, visitors and businesses.

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“Ipswich is a town that is well and truly on the map and we now have a town centre to be extremely proud of.”

The festive season

Throughout the redevelopment, Ipswich Borough Council, on behalf of the Ipswich Vision partners, conducted a survey to ask residents what events they would like to see on the Cornhill once it was completed.

Over half (54%) wanted a festive craft fair, reflecting those in other parts of Suffolk and in Europe. So, between December 10 and 23, Cornhill will proudly host a Christmas fair run by Eden Crafts, in which shoppers will be offered a superb selection of seasonal wares.

In addition, the town’s popular market, which operates four days a week in Princes Street, will continue to attract shoppers from far and wide.

The future

The survey also showed that two thirds (67%) of respondents will feel prouder of Ipswich once it has a modern and exciting town square, while more than half (55%) said they are feeling more optimistic about the future of Ipswich town centre as a result of the Cornhill redevelopment.

Ipswich Vision members hope that by injecting new life into the heart of Ipswich, the renewal of the Cornhill will make the town centre a place for visitors to eat, shop and enjoy themselves. There are plans to not only encourage new businesses to move in, but also to create space for more special events throughout the year.

The survey revealed that people would most like to see food and drink festivals (68%) and live music (63%), as well as a Christmas fair and live screenings, and a number of events are currently in the pipeline.

More to come

Ipswich has been named as one of the fastest growing urban centres in England by The UK Powerhouse, and has huge potential for growth.

It is home to the highest number of Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations in the region including DanceEast, the New Wolsey Theatre and the Pacitti Company, the organiser behind the Spill Festival.

The UK Powerhouse report also revealed that Ipswich had the second-highest GVA growth rate (a measure of the value of goods and services produced) recorded in the UK in the first three months of this year (2.5%).

It seems the future is bright for Ipswich, and this could be only the start of great things to come.

Further information at

About Cornhill

- The market place was the site of the mediaeval stone pillar-cross, erected around 1510.

- The first recorded building in the area was the Flesh Market, or Shambles, reconstructed in 1378 and 1583.

- The Rotunda, which replaced the Shambles in 1793, lasted until 1810, when the first Corn Exchange was erected. The Corn Exchange building we know today was opened in 1975 by the Duke of Gloucester.

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