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Remembering Ipswich firm Frederick Tibbenham - wartime prop makers

17:21 05 January 2016

Four bladed propellers leaving Tibbenhams, Turret Lane, Ipswich works during the First World War

Four bladed propellers leaving Tibbenhams, Turret Lane, Ipswich works during the First World War

Dave Kindred

A set of photographs, taken during the First World War, hung in the reception area of Ipswich company Frederick Tibbenham Limited when they were based in Farthing Road, Ipswich.

Turret Lane, Ipswich as it looks now from the same viewpoint as the picture above.Turret Lane, Ipswich as it looks now from the same viewpoint as the picture above.

When the company closed in 1981, employee Malcolm Atkins, who now lives in Bramford, rescued the photographs from the scrapheap.

The company was founded in Ipswich in 1904 and they specialised in making high grade furniture and joinery, period reproductions, including oak panelling and ecclesiastical woodwork.

Some of the photographs showed the company’s staff making wooden propellers for the war effort at their Turret Lane, Ipswich, works where they were originally based. They did similar work during the Second World War. The company moved from Turret Lane in the early 1960s, the site was cleared, and the East Anglian Daily Times Company moved their offices and printing works onto the site, opening in 1966, which extended through to Lower Brook Street. In this week’s Days Gone By I have featured some of the photographs Malcolm rescued.

TibbenhamÕs staff making propellers at the Turret Lane works. This building was retained by the newspaper and was used as offices and workshops for press maintenance staff. The steel supports are still there.TibbenhamÕs staff making propellers at the Turret Lane works. This building was retained by the newspaper and was used as offices and workshops for press maintenance staff. The steel supports are still there.

Your memories

A Needham Market reader has recalled his formative years growing up in Ipswich. Among his memories are those of Sabbatella’s fish and chip shop in Orford Street, Ipswich. A letter and photographs have also come from Mr Sabbatella’s granddaughter in America, after the shop was recently mentioned in Days Gone By.

Bob Kessler, 80, said: “The excellent Days Gone By articles are remarkable. The memories they conjure up for those of us who have spent all our lives in Suffolk and have seen the changes for ourselves stretch our memories to the limit sometimes.

“We moved from Woodbridge to Ipswich during the Second World War. My mother used to attend Anglesea Road Hospital, Ipswich, twice a week and travelling by bus was very difficult and dangerous, with hit and run German raids at any time in those perilous days. I remember coming in from Woodbridge and the bus had to stop at Portal Avenue, Martlesham and be boarded by an armed sentry for its trip across Martlesham Airfield. Occasionally we had to stop and let the fighter squadrons scramble, a thrilling sight for a six-year-old not realising the risks to the young men fighting for our freedom.

A female worker planing a propeller at TibbenhamÕs.A female worker planing a propeller at TibbenhamÕs.

“Life was difficult for my mother, with a husband absent and two young sons to look after, but we settled into our new home in Alpe Street off Norwich Road and at the tender age of six I started at Bramford Road School, my elder brother at Tower Ramparts.

“My recollections of Bramford Road School are many and various; being greeted by a firm, but kindly lady, Mrs Wasp, who informed my mother that I would probably not be at the school long as it was scheduled for demolition. As you know, it is still there over 70 years on!

“The best thing was the daily line up for orange juice and and a large spoonful of malt extract. It was like a sticky caramel toffee, some kids hated it, but I am sure it has helped with my relative good health through the years.

“With strict rationing food had to be monitored carefully and meals supplemented in the various seasons with all the fruit and wild berries from the hedgerows; blackberries, mushrooms, chestnuts etc. As the years passed we made a bit of money collecting everything from acorns (for pig food), rose hips and of course every sort of usable scrap.

TibbenhamÕs staff were contracted to make other parts for aircraft including wings. The location of  these photographs is not marked on the prints, which were framed in the reception area of the company. They were sub-contacted to Ransomes Sims and Jefferies who made aircraft at the ÒWhite CityÓ works in Fore Hamlet, Ipswich, which is possibly where the photographs were taken. Were these buildings there when you worked for Ransomes Sims and Jefferies ?TibbenhamÕs staff were contracted to make other parts for aircraft including wings. The location of these photographs is not marked on the prints, which were framed in the reception area of the company. They were sub-contacted to Ransomes Sims and Jefferies who made aircraft at the ÒWhite CityÓ works in Fore Hamlet, Ipswich, which is possibly where the photographs were taken. Were these buildings there when you worked for Ransomes Sims and Jefferies ?

“There was a collection point at what was Kenning’s Garage at the corner of St Margaret’s Green and St Margaret’s Street.

Opposite Broomhill Pool in Sherrington Road was a wild area known to us as “The Undergrowth”. The old Ipswich Rifle Range was there, derelict and surrounded by a wilderness of trees, bushes and swampy ground, parts of which had been used as a rubbish tip for several years before the war.

“This area was used as an adventure playground, making bows and arrows with canes purchased from Sneezum’s hardware store on Norwich Road, with lethal arrows made from round pieces of downing tipped with old dart points! Robin Hood was back! We made dens, climbed trees, dammed steams to make paddling places and generally amused ourselves. A bottle of pop and a couple of sugar sandwiches equipped us for a hard day’s adventure.

“From the dump we made a bit of pocket money collecting old wine bottles. When washed they were taken to Cowell’s wine shop in the Buttermarket, where we got a penny each for them. We used to collect treacle tins. This sounds strange I know, but there was a business in Handford Road, run by Mr Oldring, who paid a penny for a 1lb tin and two pennies for a 2lb tin in good condition (with lid). He used to mix various colours of paint from War Department surplus supplies for decorators. It was not possible in those days to get decorating material of any kind. He was one of the few suppliers in the area. He would advise customers to purchase sufficient for the job in hand as he could not guarantee the exact same colour if he had to mix more.

Tibbenhams staff were contracted to make other parts for aircraft including wings. The location of  these photographs is not marked on the prints, which were framed in the reception area of the company.Tibbenhams staff were contracted to make other parts for aircraft including wings. The location of these photographs is not marked on the prints, which were framed in the reception area of the company.

“Another money maker was collecting clean newspapers to sell to Mortimer’s fish shop in Norwich Road or to Mr Sabbatella whose fish and chip shop was in Orford Street.

“As the years progressed and the war ended I proceeded to Tower Ramparts School. Mr Heath was the headmaster, a firm, but fair man. He needed to be firm as some of the lads were a bit of a handful! His second in command was everybody’s favourite, “Spud” Baker, a large and powerful man, whose rack of canes sent shivers down the spine of wrongdoers; the words “report to Mr Baker” was like a death sentence. His “V1” cane was a shortened snooker cue, and I can vouch for the fact that it was painful!

“Looking back I appreciate the swift and immediate punishment to miscreants did keep the discipline at a manageable level, and did no lasting harm to the normal pupils. “There were trying days, with lots of fathers dead or missing, the lads looked to their teachers for guidance. Mr Vic Finbow, a well known local teacher, was a prince among men at Tower Ramparts. I have never heard anyone say a bad word about his teaching. He was my first teacher at the school. Several teachers came to the school after being de-mobbed from the services. I think the discipline they witnessed in the war years held them in good stead to look after teenagers and they all had respect for the lads. Roy Lee, who was my final year teacher, was a case in point; he had been in the RAF, and was excellent with the boys; firm, but fair.

“In the late 1940s there was a boatyard in Cullingham Road where canoes and rowing boats could be hired for a modest fee to go boating on the River Gipping. Some of us ‘poor’ lads used to spot abandoned boats up river and volunteer to fetch them back to the depot. We were loaned a boat of some description, free of course, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day rowing about the Gipping, after negotiating the weir at Yarmouth Road it was possible to to get right up to Sproughton. In those days the only polluted water of the river was at the Riverside Road tannery. Swimming and catching small fish was great fun.


Sheila Placencia sent photographs of  SabbatellaÕs fish and chip shop at 4 Orford Street, Ipswich. This was Sheila working with her grandfather Anthony Sabbatella in the 1960s. Anthony started the business in 1906 after working with his father in the same line in Cheltenham. In an interview in 1949 Mr Sabbatella said about his coke fired cooking range, ÒItÕs the original I had installed over forty-three years ago and apart from a few new pans and repairs it canÕt have cost more than a fiverÓ
Do you have more memories of this legendary ÒchippyÓ? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk
Sheila Placencia sent photographs of SabbatellaÕs fish and chip shop at 4 Orford Street, Ipswich. This was Sheila working with her grandfather Anthony Sabbatella in the 1960s. Anthony started the business in 1906 after working with his father in the same line in Cheltenham. In an interview in 1949 Mr Sabbatella said about his coke fired cooking range, ÒItÕs the original I had installed over forty-three years ago and apart from a few new pans and repairs it canÕt have cost more than a fiverÓ Do you have more memories of this legendary ÒchippyÓ? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk

“Days Gone By has already featured swimming facilities in Ipswich, which have steadily decreased through the years, with the closure of St Matthew’s Baths, Broomhill and Pipers Vale, but one water sport which has thrived since 1956 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary is the Sub Aqua Club. My old pal Ray Marshall, a well-known figure in the Ipswich swimming scene since the Second World War, was its founder member and at over 90 is still swimming. I have dived with Ray in many parts of the world over the past 30 years and can recommend our “bubble blowing” sport for longevity. The club still has a thriving membership and offers safe diving training to Ipswich and district residents from their HQ at Fore Street, Ipswich, swimming pool.”

And Mr Sabbatella’s granddaughter has also written in.

Sheila Placencia, who lives in the USA, said: “I am the grand-daughter of Anthony Sabbatella. It is amazing to me that my granddad and his fish and chip shop are still remembered after all these years.

“Obviously being a fryer of fish and chips was his calling in life.”

Anthony Sabbatella and Sheila PlacenciaÕs uncle Tony Sabbatella in their Orford Street, Ipswich shop in the 1960s.
Anthony Sabbatella and Sheila PlacenciaÕs uncle Tony Sabbatella in their Orford Street, Ipswich shop in the 1960s.

The now closed Bentley to Hadleigh rail line featured in a recent Days Gone By and Ken Austin wrote to say: “I enjoyed the recent Days Gone By featuring Capel. The photo of the Hadleigh branch level crossing reminded me of an item that I donated to the Ipswich Transport Museum, which is now displayed in the front of their railway memorabilia cabinet.

“This is a gauging rod used during the Hadleigh line construction and inscribed “EU&HJR - CAPEL”.

“It is almost certainly the oldest and probably the only known surviving artefact from the time of construction of the line by the Eastern Union and Hadleigh Junction Railway in 1846, prior to it being taken over by the Eastern Union Railway in an Amalgamation Act of 1847 - before the line even opened!

SabbatellaÕs Orford Street, Ipswich shop.SabbatellaÕs Orford Street, Ipswich shop.

“A gauging rod would have been used during construction to verify the width of track when laid.

“It is a simple metal rod with two protruding lugs which locate between the two rails to confirm their correct distance apart of 4ft 8½ inches.”

And John Alborough, of Syleham, said: “It’s fascinating to see the picture of the railway crossing of the Bentley line over the A12. I was on one of the very last trains to go to Hadleigh and back from Bentley. My father was signalman at Bentley and he arranged for me to take the trip. When we were crossing the A12, by pure coincidence, my father was travelling along the A12 at the same time and reached the crossing as we went over it. I have a picture of this occasion. I also have a picture of the British Railways sign at Hadleigh Station and an unusual shot of Raydon Station.

“In your recent piece you also showed Bentley signal box. I have that sign here at home from that very box. I also have the one and only surviving blue enamel “totem” signs from Bentley Station.”

A train crossing the main A12 at Capel St Mary around 1960.A train crossing the main A12 at Capel St Mary around 1960.

Did you work for Tibbenhams or do you remember the chip shop? Email David Kindred

1 comment

  • I thoroughly enjoyed that article, many thanks for sharing.

    Report this comment

    SilentM

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

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