‘Hidden History’ – Ipswich Dickens sign covered by plaque

Ipswich tour guides have expressed concern over a real estate agent sign placed on Charles Dickens’ plaque on the Great White Horse Hotel.

The historic building on the corner of Tavern Street and Northgate Street is featured in Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers.

It closed as a hotel in 2008 and its ground floor was converted to retail units, but Starbucks moved in 2018 and Cotswold closed in 2019.

Roche Chartered Surveyors is now marketing the building, but its “All inquiries” sign has been placed on the Ipswich Society’s blue plaque.

This makes it difficult to see the wording, which reads: “Charles Dickens, 1812-1870. The novelist stayed here as well as his ‘Mr. Pickwick’.”

Mike Garland, president of the Ipswich Tour Guides Association, pictured here outside the Grand Cheval Blanc on a Dickens Walk in 2012
– Credit: Archant

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The Ipswich Tour Guides Association tweeted: “Hidden history? We pointed out the stupid placement of this sign, hiding a piece of important Ipswich history, earlier this year, but to no avail.”

President Mike Garland said: “I think it’s amazing that they chose this place to put the sign.

“We just thought, when you’ve got the whole length of the building, why put it there?” “

Mr Garland said town guides regularly take groups past the hotel, which is one of Ipswich’s most historic buildings.

He has personally led a number of Dickens Walks and plans to lecture on Dickens in the New Year, following the Guides moving to their new home at The Hold on the Waterfront.

An Ipswich tour guide outside the Great White Horse Hotel

An Ipswich tour guide outside the Great White Horse Hotel
– Credit: Ipswich Tour Guides Association

Another guide, David Stainer, said: “Some people have complained about me and said it’s such a shame. I run guided walks and take great pride in the history of the city.

Ipswich Borough Councilor Carole Jones said: “They could have put the sign anywhere on the building, so why did they put it there?”

She said she contacted Roche about the plaque a few weeks ago, to ask if the panel could be moved.

The agent told her he was contacting the landlord about the board’s move, but she hadn’t heard from him again.

Ms Jones said she offered the board to give the agent all possible support to re-let the building.

John Norman, president of the Ipswich Society, recently expressed fears for the future of the building, as well as that of the city’s other heritage buildings.

Undated file photo of author Charles Dickens

Author Charles Dickens stayed at the Great White Horse Hotel in Ipswich
– Credit: PA / PA Wire

He said: “The Ipswich Society welcomes the indication that the owner of the Great White Horse is actively trying to sell.

“In consultation with the conservation officer who is trying to attach blue plaques to a prominent place in the building, unfortunately the seller’s agents have chosen the same space.

“We hope that the building can be sold quickly and that the sign will be removed, but what is even more important is that the building is sold and that the new owner has an idea for a new use, so the building can again stand proud on the main street.

“On a minor point, we hope the new use includes the upper floors.”

Roche has been approached for comment.

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