Reporter: Anne Grimshaw
Belle Vue House has a history – but will it have a future?
The Quay Theatre opened 2016’s series of local history talks on Sunday evening 24 January with my new slide-talk about the history of Belle Vue House which has been in the news during the last year or two. Owned by Babergh District Council who wish to sell it, it has an uncertain future which could result in demolition. However, my talk was about the house itself: when it was built, who was the architect, who lived in it, what has been its role in the town.
My biggest scoop was finding an advert in the Ipswich Journal of in 1872 showing the architect which no one had known before: the partnership of Henry Spalding and Samuel Knight, both Fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architects, London. (Incidentally, Henry Spalding had won a competition in designing “dwellings for the labouring classes” in Manchester where my grandmother had begun her married life!) Examples of the work of Spalding and Knight showed they were certainly not provincial nobodies in the architectural world.
Belle Vue House is not easily visible from Newton Road, indeed, you have to look for it although its back overlooks Belle Vue Park. I had photographed the architectural details, the porch, the stonework, the corbels, the painted glass windows and their designs: a pelican pecking blood from her breast to feed her young; decorative fish, birds, flowers and animals, and on one window the initials HCC of the owner Henry Crabb Canham, and on another panel those of his wife, Ellen Elizabeth, EEC. It was built for the Canhams who lived there for 40 years.
Then came Belle Vue’s time as a Red Cross Hospital in the First World War when soldiers and nurses were its occupants. With the war over, Belle Vue House was sold and had one or two short-term owners before being sold to Sudbury Town Council in 1936.
In 1964 it was the location of Pubic Inquiry regarding the possible demolition of the Corn Exchange (now library). Ironically, Belle Vue House finds itself in the same situation. The Corn Exchange survived – can Belle Vue House?