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Ipswich mayor refutes Bury St Edmunds’ county town title claim as ‘not in the same league’

PUBLISHED: 14:57 28 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:57 28 February 2017

St Edmundsbury Cathedral viewed from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Morley

St Edmundsbury Cathedral viewed from the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Morley

Archant

Ipswich’s role as the county town of Suffolk is being questioned, with some suggesting Bury St Edmunds is more deserving of the title.

Ipswich Waterfront Ipswich Waterfront

The debate has seen some claim an Ipswich focused county has meant the west of Suffolk is being overlooked, with a return to the East and West Suffolk system of old being mooted.

However, the mayor of Ipswich said while Bury may be a “splendid” market town, it is “simply not in the same league”.

Historically Bury was the county town of West Suffolk between 1889 and 1974, while Ipswich served as the county town of East Suffolk. The two operated as separate county councils.

Wading into the debate on Facebook, St Edmundsbury Mayor Julia Wakelam said: “Obviously Bury should be the county town, but we [west Suffolk] should go further and secede. And obviously St Edmund should be the national saint.”

Ipswich Mayor Roger Fern. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Ipswich Mayor Roger Fern. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

But Ipswich Mayor Roger Fern rejected the argument, adding: “[We] have large and growing municipal and financial service sectors for employment, a university, Ipswich Port, a stunning Waterfront, unparalleled sports facilities, a leading football club with an illustrious history, more parks and open space per head than any major town in the country, and a rich heritage and history but with a vision fit for the 21st century. Furthermore, we are the county town of Suffolk and we are proud of it.”

Nadia Cenci, leader of the Conservative opposition on Ipswich Borough Council, said: “I think Ipswich is the natural county town for Suffolk – but I don’t believe it is helpful to start separating and moving apart. We need to work together.”

The debate was started after driving instructor Adrian Baldry asked his followers on Twitter whether the “vibrant and forward thinking” Bury should be the county town.

Andrew Speed, Bury Town Council chairman, said, like the mayor Ms Wakelam, he wants to see power devolved and Bury restored as West Suffolk’s county town.

Ipswich Cornhill. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Ipswich Cornhill. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He said: “The industry and the wealth has very much moved west from the east and that’s why the county council no longer serves west Suffolk as well as it should.”

A county town is defined as the centre of judicial and local government functions. It is not always the largest town in the county, but usually is.

Why Ipswich?

Elevated view of Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN Elevated view of Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich’s claim to being the county town of Suffolk dates back to the formation of Suffolk County Council in 1974.

There are several reasons for it to hold on to the role, and over the decades since the single Suffolk council was created it could be argued it now has an even stronger claim.

• Bigger – Ipswich has a population of around 140,000 to 42,000 in Bury St Edmunds

• The criminal courts – the only crown and magistrates’ courts are in Ipswich

Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, pictured during a warm day. Picture: PHIL MORLEY Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, pictured during a warm day. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

• Gateway to Suffolk – most people travelling to Suffolk, will come through the Ipswich area, by train or road

• Port town – Ipswich has an operating port, and is well connected to England’s largest port at Felixstowe

• Transport connections – Ipswich is well connected to London and Essex

• University town – the University of Suffolk is based in Ipswich

• Ipswich Town Football Club – the county’s most successful sporting club is in Ipswich

Why Bury?

Bury St Edmunds’ claim to becoming the county town of Suffolk dates back to 1889, when the West Suffolk County Council was created. This lasted until 1974.

Those arguing for Bury have cited several reasons.

• St Edmundsbury Cathedral – Suffolk’s only cathedral

• Jewel in the crown – Bury, with the Abbey Gardens, beats most when it comes to aesthetics – borne out in its successes at In Bloom awards

• The law – Bury played a key role in the Magna Carta, on which our law is founded. Courts for the region were historically held there. Today, Bury hosts employment tribunals and a divorce court for London and south of England

• The Guildhall – the oldest civic building in England. This, along with the cathedral, means key civic events are held in Bury

• Greene King – the UK’s largest pub retailer and brewer is in Bury. Their IPA can be tasted around the world

16 comments

  • Bury St Edmunds by a country mile. The centre of Ipswich is a very unpleasant place to visit. The size of Ipswich is the only reason I can see why it should be Ipswich.

    Report this comment

    england1770

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • I can't help but be amused by the appallingly poor English of nfi's comments when he or she is moaning about other people speaking other languages. It sums up the intellectual level of the average xenophobe.

    Report this comment

    beerlover

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • But is it your first language though ?

    Report this comment

    JamesMcGill

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • Many times I have said ipswich is a 5 star dump in that time it has got even worse, put it out of it,s misery twin it with Jay wick. People who are on the gravy train want things left alone, a bit like the house of rouges in the other parliament chamber London.

    Report this comment

    a west

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • Bury st Edmunds a town were English is still the 1st Language..

    Report this comment

    nfi

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • Many times I have said ipswich is a 5 star dump in that time it has got even worse, put it out of it,s misery twin it with Jay wick. People who are on the gravy train want things left alone, a bit like the house of rouges in the other parliament chamber London.

    Report this comment

    a west

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

  • the problem that Bury St Edmunds is a muh prettier than Ipswich. Ipswich could help its self by doing a lot more with Christchurch park like putting a garden in front of the mansion, cheaper parking; allowing the market to go to Gile corner. Getting rid of the gum on the pavements

    Report this comment

    zaax

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • How about comparing a neglected Ipswich town centre to a bustling Norwich city centre Mr Fern ?

    Report this comment

    chantry

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • if Bury was to become the county town it could have its own drug gangs , stabbings & traffic congestion ....

    Report this comment

    nfi

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • Incidentally, do either of the writers actually understand what the word "refute" means? Because there's nowhere in what's reported where the mayor has "refuted" anything. He's disagreed but he certainly hasn't refuted anything.

    Report this comment

    beerlover

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • Does it even actually **matter** what town is the "county town"? The county council has its headquarters in Ipswich and I can't see that changing (it would cost too much), so the title "county town" is nothing more than that. A *title*. And it's frankly as meaningless and pointless as such concepts as a "patron saint" or a "head of state". None of them matter much to anybody but pompous politicians.

    Report this comment

    beerlover

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • Our council could consult with Trump at the white house to build a wall between East and West Suffolk then we could both have a county town while keeping out the undesirables of each other in the process haha!!!!

    Report this comment

    mr_tall

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • Talk about clutching at straws Bury St Edmunds! All of the reasons they claim to be the county town are in the past, has anyone told them the magna carta was 800 years ago! Capital cities and county towns have changed over the years but its the present not the past that matters and Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk and will be for years to come.

    Report this comment

    mr_tall

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • Not sure it really matters , however we do have a Mr Ipswich ...does bury st edmunds have the same character? ..old Geater COULD show you around the town centre and the beautiful waterfront on his daily walkabout .

    Report this comment

    deeber

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • So the disturbing global rise of nationalism is now reaching county level. Oh god, who actually cares? Get over yourselves and worry about something important, like the impending destruction of (East and West) Suffolk's economy by Brexit.

    Report this comment

    Ed Balls

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

  • To clarify, prior to the 1974 Reorganisation of Local Government, Bury St Edmunds was County Town of West Suffolk Authority, and Ipswich was County Town of East Suffolk Authority. However, in addition, and critically, Ipswich itself was a county-borough, a full unitary authority in its own right with county and district powers. Regrettably, the 1974 reorganisation has been an unmitigated disaster and a drastic loss of prominence for Ipswich. Ipswich’s voice, power and ambition has been completely diminished ever since. We have been “Suffolkated”, our expanding assets carved up by SCC, IBC, SCDC and Babergh, all at odds with each other, and with only a diminished IBC remaining fully accountable to local voters and with a vested interest. There is no comparison between Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. Ipswich is the powerhouse at the centre of two-thirds of Suffolk's economic output and a third of its population. it ain't always pretty, but it is good for Suffolk and should be respected and empowered as such.

    Report this comment

    Mark Ling

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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