13 Museum Street
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The Buildings' History


The museum was founded in 1846 and opened in January 1847 in Museum Street, Ipswich then newly laid-out, with the specific remit to educate the working classes in natural history. From 1847 to 1853 it was run by a committee on behalf of subscribers, with open evenings for the public. The first President was the entomologist, an original Fellow of the Linnean Society.

The primary initiative for this philanthropic venture came from George Ransome, FLS, a member of the Quaker Ransome family of Ipswich. The Sims & Jefferies” Ransome engineering industry helped to build the town’s industrial prosperity in the early 19th century. All political complexions became involved in the common aim of social improvement through the Museum, and over sixty leading scientists lent their support as Honorary Members or Vice-Presidents.

The building was designed by Christopher Fleury who also designed Ipswich School in Henley Road.

darwin and henslow

Darwin and Henslow

During these first years the museum gained national repute under its second President (1850-61), Revd Professor John Stevens Henslow, who had been Charles Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge University. In 1851 the British Association for the Advancement of Science met at Ipswich, and the Museum was inspected and greatly admired by HRH Prince Albert, who became its official Patron.

The natural history displays, including many specimens still on show, were set up in the years preceding the publication of Darwin’s book The Origin of Species, to show the relation of the various parts of the natural kingdom as it was then understood, and as it was about to be transformed. Many of the honorary members who actually attended museum functions at Ipswich were people at the centre of that revolution, including William Jackson Hooker, William Yarrell, William Buckland and John Gould.

dance hall days

Ipswich School of Dancing

At the Arlington Ballroom hundreds of young people learnt to ballroom dance – this was a ‘must’ for all young people as this was how thousands of couples met their husband or wife to be, until fashions changed in the mid 1960s. As well as lessons there were many dancing competitions and the school won many trophies in national ballroom dancing events.

Ipswich School of Dancing teacher Rosemary Watson said “Olga Wilmot took over The Arlington Ballroom in Museum Street around 1948. It was then a popular venue with American Servicemen and the locals. Olga operated from there until the business moved to Bond Street in 1991.


Our History


When Liz and Ken Ambler first looked at the former museum it was derelict and in need of some serious TLC. The building was second on the town’s ‘at risk’ register. They spent two years on the project, completely renovating the building and transforming it into a stylish restaurant and café. The owners were transfixed by it’s history and chose to weave the building’s complex past into the interior decoration. They admit the process was ‘a real labour of love’.