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Discovering history on your doorstep

21 Jul 2021 4:30PM

Students at the University of Suffolk have been researching a familiar place for coffee-lovers in Ipswich.  

Applaud Coffee at 19 St Peter’s Street is located in one of the most historic parts of the town, fondly known as ‘The Saints’.  

Students from the University’s BA (Hons) History degree were approached by the owners who wanted to unpack the history of the building; its owners and tenants since it was built c1700. The results will be on show in an exhibition, which will open from Saturday 24 July- Friday 3 September. A leaflet featuring some of their findings will also be available for customers. 

Owner of Applaud Coffee, Hannah Huntly, said “My sister, Beth, and I are so grateful to the History department at the University of Suffolk for their interest in researching the history of 19 St Peters Street, the home of Applaud Coffee.  Many of our customers not only like the food and drink we offer but appreciate the ambience of the building.” 

Maria Senior, Kerri Stevenson and Hannah Castle undertook the project as part of the Work Related Learning in History module.  

Maria said “As soon as we heard the brief to research interesting people who may have resided at the property, we were hooked! As a group, we understood a core objective for any historical study was to expose the experiences of people who do not get the chance to author their own; in other words, ‘history from below’ and were excited to see what we could discover. In addition, we felt it was necessary to date the property to place the residents, building and the street in context of the history of Ipswich. Kerri had a particular interest in architectural history and researched the property and Hannah and I focused on the residents.” 

Kerri said “Each of us have our own personal favourite piece of research, for me it was discovering more about some old blue and white delft tiles, depicting mostly windmills and biblical scenes, found in the cellar. Long forgotten, overlooked and in need of a good clean, their purpose was a mystery. The cellar's previous use as a kitchen and the building's close proximity to the Waterfront eventually led to the reason why these beautiful tiles had been placed there and the discovery that they are rare survivors. In Wolsey's day, the Waterfront met St. Peter's Church; College Street and the Waterfront we know now didn't exist! Meaning the river was much closer to the shops on St. Peter's Street and as a consequence the cellars regularly flooded with unclean river water. Tiling the walls was seen as the most hygienic way to prevent or at least curtail contamination, which given it was used as a kitchen, explains why the previous owner tiled the walls. Tiles placed in cellars for this purpose loosened with each flood, fell off and broke. However, despite a considerable number of missing tiles, approximately fifty tiles have survived at 19 St. Peter's Street, which makes them rare survivors, particularly as a tile expert estimated their age as between 1750 and 1800.” 

“Many people will associate St. Peter's Street with its unique boutique shops, its great cafes and restaurants but won't have considered the age of the properties or their unique histories; no two properties look exactly the same nor do they tell the same story. Number 19 was once joined to number 21, there is an old blocked up doorway on the first floor which shows how the previous occupiers gained access. There is Tudor fireplace in the front room next to the counter, Victorian fireplaces and late medieval stud work upstairs - in short, the building has been evolving since the late medieval period. As for the people that lived and worked there, a picture emerged of the families living and working alongside each other, whether that was as a peruke maker (wig maker), a milliner's, a clock maker or as a butcher's. The road is at least 800 years old and people might be surprised to learn it was once considered a highway to the town centre. I would hope that when people visit the exhibition, they will not only take away a greater understanding of the people who lived there and how much history can be packed into a small building but also an appreciation of Ipswich and the highs and lows the town has experienced. Ipswich is the most continuously occupied town in England and number 19 represents at least five centuries of history. Those with a curious mind will not be disappointed!” 

Beth Tchie who, together with Hannah, started the business in 2013 added “I find it fascinating that so many interesting characters and businesses have been located here in the past. It was amazing that during their research the graduates found a clock, made here over 150 years ago, coming up for auction and we were so pleased to have been able to purchase it. This project is an example of local commerce and the University working together, and I think that all who have been involved can be proud of the result.” 

Course Leader for BA (Hons) History at the University, Dr Harvey Osborne, said “The partnership with Applaud is a good example of how our history students engage with the local community and use the research skills that they develop through their degree to bring ‘real world’ public history projects to fruition.” 

Maria added “The group project gave us the opportunity to go beyond the normal lecture and seminar-based teaching to explore creative ways in connecting academic study with the public domain by producing an exhibition. Not only did we develop our practical research skills in the interpretation of primary sources such as deeds, census, newspapers and archaeological reports, but we also gained valuable experience of team-working and project management. Furthermore, making connections outside the University, engaging with local partners, organisations and individuals improved our negotiating and diplomacy skills which is invaluable for future employability.” 

For details on the opening hours of Applaud Coffee please visit https://applaud-coffee.co.uk/ 

For more information about BA (Hons) at the University of Suffolk please visit www.uos.ac.uk/history  

Contact: 


University of Suffolk Press Office
E: press@uos.ac.uk