John Constable Collection at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, Suffolk

KitchenGarden

Golding Constable's Kitchen Garden (1815) by John Constable


Ipswich, Suffolk, England

From repeated visits to Suffolk with Clive, I had become aware that Christchurch Mansion, located in the centre of Christchurch Park, houses a number of paintings by John Constable and fellow Suffolk artist Thomas Gainsborough.

Ever since our walk in Constable Country, I’d been interested to see the Christchurch Mansion paintings in person. We’d also walked around the grounds with Clive’s father when we were waiting for the start of the Ipswich to Felixstowe car rally, and he recommended the mansion for a taste of Ipswich history.

A Confession

Despite the popularity of grand old European houses, castles, and chateaux, I usually have a low tolerance for trekking through them. I know they’re historically important for many reasons, but I’m always much more eager to visit the gardens and walk around outside than to wander through yet another room full of stuff.

Having said that, I do appreciate those unexpected gems that pop up when you travel, and as it turned out — and as seems to be a pattern with my experiences in Suffolk — I fully enjoyed our visit to Christchurch Mansion.

An Unexpected Pleasure

Mansion1

Chhristchurch Mansion on a quiet afternoon


This particular old house is on the site of a priory founded in the 12th century, with much of the building that still stands today built in 1548-1550. There are many rooms to explore.

While I’m not a fan of ‘period clothing’ or ancient dining room furniture or kitchen implements — Clive said a huge linen press looked like a rack from medieval torture times — I was taken by a small room called the China and Glass Gallery, which had a beautiful collection of Lowestoft porcelain (made in Suffolk). Clive’s cousin’s wife’s favourite room was a children’s playroom with several large, elaborate dolls houses.

The Wolsey Art Gallery

Far and away my favourite part of the mansion was this modern, climate-controlled room, built especially for the artwork it contains.

I fell in love with two small Constable works, both painted in 1815, with views over the Suffolk landscape from his childhood home.

FlowerGarden

Golding Constable's Flower Garden (1815) by John Constable


I also loved that the Wolsey gallery has a quiet seating area, with books about the artists on display. We added one to our list, ‘Suffolk Artists 1750-1930’ by Chloe Bennett, who was a curator for Ipswich Borough Council Museums and Galleries.

It’s All Free

Surprising to me, considering what you find inside, entry to Christchurch Mansion is free.

You can see paintings by Constable, Gainsborough, and many other English artists, wander through a well-preserved historic house (if that’s your thing), admire porcelain, dolls houses, and medieval torture household tools, and before and/or after have a coffee in the courtyard cafe and take a walk outside in a beautiful park.

And if you’re really lucky, a local resident will point out Mabel the tawny owl.

3 Responses

  1. I can see why the Constable paintings were so appealing to you. The Kitchen Garden painting could have been done here while standing on Jubilee rock. The countryside seems very much the same even though it was painted in 1815.

    Interesting post..thanks for the details too.

  2. These museums sound wonderful. I love Constable and as we live near-ish to Dedham and Flatford we’ve been there a few times (especially with visiting Americans). Sounds like there’s some places further into Suffolk we should look at!!

  3. Elizabeth, the view from Jubilee Rock must be fantastic. There’s nothing quite like the English countryside, is there?

    Michelle, yes definitely re Suffolk! Essex is gorgeous too 🙂

    Cheers and thanks.

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