The Old Bell in Ipswich has an emotional appeal to me, being one of those places that would turn a blind eye to a couple of 15 year-olds enjoying a couple of halves some two score years past. Then it was on the fringe of a working dock, with narrow roads inset with freight tracks and signal levers so that the old Eastern Counties 221 from Tattingstone had to negotiate a line of rail box wagons to pass, the air heavy with the cloying aroma of malt and pigeons fat on puddles of spilled grain. Men who went down to the sea in ships were drinking in the Bell when Thomas Wolsey was a lad, his father's shop a long stones throw up St Peter's Street. It's a rambling, higgeldy-piggledy accretion of bits of building from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century, more or less upright, pierced by more chimneys than one would give reason for, the inside a maze of low-ceilings, passages and tiny parlours except where a brewer past has taken out a wall or two to make the public bar and steel posts intrude.
It's death came with the smoking ban and the Council's 'improvements' outside, which created another two acres of roads, lines and traffic signals between the pub and the town that have only marginally increased vehicle congestion and have actually reduced traffic speeds. It's now just beyond an old run of pubs that used to be separated by no more than a hundred feet and provided a comfortable if time consuming walk into town from Wherstead Road without ever being in a building newer than the eighteenth century.
It's currently up for sale, with a fifth-acre yard, for the price of a London bedsit - £225k. The owners, who seem to have given up, have secured planning consent for a nightclub with bedrooms (?) or a 'sports bar', yet there's room for not only a micro-brewery but a brewing school or additional wine bar in the yard ... is there really no-one who can remake a financially viable pub from the Old Bell, and keep six hundred years of Ipswich history alive?