Accepted paper:

A pilgrimage to Ipswich


Richard Irvine (The Open University)

Paper short abstract:

What would it mean to be on pilgrimage to Ipswich in the 21st century? Taking a major medieval pilgrimage destination as my focus, I explore the impact of ideals of progress, reflecting on urban continuity after attempts to change the order of things have succumbed to decay and abandonment.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the making, unmaking, and remaking of urban space in the context of different ideals of progress. The primary historic and ethnographic focus will be the town of Ipswich, England. While Ipswich was the site of substantial civic and commercial redevelopment in the 1960s, by the 1970s much of this redevelopment had been abandoned and demolished. Such urban transformations were only a small part of a much broader plans to make Ipswich a 'new town' - plans that never saw light of day. The town is therefore an interesting case study allowing us to see how attempts to change the order of things succumb to decay and abandonment. Yet it also is an interesting place to ask questions about historic continuity and memory. I will examine the nature of remembrance and forgetting by asking a particular question about the legacy of an earlier programme of progress: In the Middle Ages, Ipswich was a notable East Anglian pilgrimage centre, its Marian shrine second in appeal only to Walsingham. In the context of the disenchantment and rationalisation of Ipswich's urban space in the centuries following the Reformation, what characteristics of Ipswich's sacred identity as a pilgrimage site can be said to remain - beyond a plaque on the wall admist the shops? What would it even mean to be on pilgrimage to Ipswich in the 21st century?

panel P55
Ruined bodies and aging buildings: architecture, oblivion, decay