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Guest Blog – Philip Wise, Heritage Manager

This blog post is about a major exhibition at Christchurch Mansion featuring Ipswich’s ‘greatest son’ Cardinal Wolsey who played a very important part in the early history of Ipswich School.

‘Pleasure is to mingle with study’ – bringing Cardinal Wolsey to Ipswich

My name is Philip Wise and I am the curator of a major exhibition at Christchurch Mansion – ‘Thomas Wolsey: Ipswich’s greatest son’.

Thomas Wolsey has been a large part of my life for around three years now. In the summer of 2014 I first became aware that the Victoria and Albert Museum were fundraising to purchase the four angel figures which were originally intended for the tomb of Cardinal Wolsey who died in 1530. From this starting point grew the idea of organising a major exhibition about Wolsey in his home town of Ipswich.

As well as the Angels themselves, the exhibition also features two documents associated with Wolsey’s Ipswich school – Cardinal College. [Note: this was the name given to Ipswich School at the time]

Wolsey was a lifelong supporter of education; in his own words ‘Pleasure is to mingle with study’. He had studied at Magdalen College, Oxford and achieved the remarkable feat of gaining his BA degree aged only fifteen. In his later life he initiated a schools’ building programme to provide students for the college he founded in Oxford. Foremost amongst these schools was Ipswich, founded in 1528. Sadly Wolsey’s fall from power a year later, having failed to secure Henry  VIII’s much-needed divorce, meant that his Ipswich school was short-lived; its staff and students were dismissed and most its buildings demolished.

However the school’s foundation charter and statutes, or rules, have survived and provide a fascinating direct link with Wolsey himself. The charter bears his seal and the statutes his signature. This is an exceptionally rare opportunity to see these documents in Ipswich which are, of course, of particular interest to all those associated with today’s Ipswich School.

As far as I know this is the first exhibition anywhere in the country to focus specifically on Thomas Wolsey. It has been a very exciting project and is one of the highlights of my career in museums so far.

The exhibition has proved immensely popular and it has been extended until 22 April 2018.

Philip Wise, Heritage Manager at Colchester and Ipswich Museums

About the Author

Philip Wise, Heritage Manager at Colchester and Ipswich Museums

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