Days Gone By: Readers tell tales of growing up in east Ipswich
Photographs of the Woodbridge Road, Sidegate Lane area of Ipswich, were published on these pages recently and readers have responded with memories of the area.
Readers have recalled some of the shops which served the area including Easton’s Exchange Mart, Woodbridge Road, which was, until relatively recent years, a packed shop of “previously owned” items. The proprietor was often seen standing outside as even he could not get in. The Golden Key public house was at the corner of Woodbridge Road and Cauldwell Hall Road. Several readers have recalled this local landmark, which is now a supermarket.
Geoff Dodson emailed:
My family moved from the Waveney Hotel, Bramford Road, Ipswich, to 31 Roundwood Road (at the corner of Bristol Road). In November 1941, the Golden Key became my father’s local. Initially I attended Sidegate Lane Primary School (1941 – 1945), then Northgate Grammar School (1945 – 1950).There used to be a small island in the middle of the junction of Woodbridge and Rushmere Roads on which stood a police telephone box, and frequently a policeman would be seen making a call, or answering a call if the blue light flashed.
Much use was made of the row of shops on the south side of Woodbridge Road, between Gordon Road and Nelson Road and Sidegate Lane corner. On Woodbridge Road, between the Golden Key and the John Bull, there was another row of shops, one of which held many delights – Easton’s second-hand shop. Public transport in the area was provided by Eastern Counties Buses, the country services to Kesgrave and Woodbridge using Woodbridge Road, or to Felixstowe via Cauldwell Hall Road. During the Second World War, an army driver with a 15 cwt truck would park up on the garage forecourt to await passing army traffic requiring petrol.Just inside Roundwood Road was an open area (electricity property, I believe) where an air raid siren on two tall posts was sited – one hurried past in case the siren went off - and when it did, it was very loud!
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At the end of Roundwood Road, there were three sports fields, owned by three of the town’s large industrial concerns – Ransomes & Rapier, Ransomes, Sims & Jeffries (both of which backed onto Sidegate Lane School playing field) and E.R. & F. Turner. On the Ransomes and Rapier field, during the Second World War, there was an RAF Balloon Unit using the pavilion. With my peers we used to dash up the road to watch the balloon being raised at the start of an air raid, and lowered at the end. All good fun for the youngsters – but we must have worried our parents!
Ipswich Corporation Transport had not run any services along Woodbridge Road until trolley buses were introduced to the area in December 1936, and were therefore considered to be the “interlopers”; they ran along Woodbridge Road and Rushmere Road, half of which terminated at Colchester Road roundabout, the alternate trolleys continuing via Colchester Road, Heath Road and Bixley Road to continue to town via Felixstowe Road and vice versa. The Sidegate Lane service opened in April 1947, and was the last new trolleybus service to be opened.
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Rod Cross emailed:
Seeing the photograph of the Golden Key public house reminded me of all the times I must have passed this local landmark, whilst cycling to and from school in the late 50s and early 60s. As I got older it became a convenient venue for a drink on the occasional cold winter evening. At that time, it had just two bars, each conveying such a homely feel that one felt one was drinking in someone’s sitting room rather than in a public house!
When it originally opened, some time in the middle of the 19th century, it was simply known as ‘The Key’. This was upgraded to ‘Golden’ probably in the 1880s, and certainly by the time the 1892 Kelly’s Directory was published. For over 150 years, the Golden Key stood sentinel at one end of Cauldwell Hall Road, which ran arrow-straight for just under three quarters of a mile, to its junction with Foxhall Road. However, in keeping with so many Ipswich public houses, it closed its doors for the last time in January 2013. A Sainsbury’s convenience store has now replaced it.
Between the Golden Key and Nelson Road was a parade of shops enabling one to obtain all one might need for ordinary everyday living: a butchers; a fishmongers, a greengrocers and a bakery. In addition, there was also a tobacconists, a drapery, a ladies hairdresser and even a jewellers. On the corner of Gordon Road stood the Friars Children’s Home and next to this the Roundwood Garage. The latter is now a filling station. Any food products not available at these shops could almost certainly be obtained from F.H.Welham, ‘Grocer and Tea Merchant’, whose shop stood on the opposite side of Cauldwell Hall Road to The Golden Key. Welham’s was the kind of family grocer found all over the town, but seldom seen today. It was where one could buy a few ounces of sugar scooped out of a canister and poured into a blue paper bag; cheese and butter cut to order from a large slab and folded neatly in greaseproof paper; loose biscuits from big square Perspex-lidded tins – maybe Marie, Osborne or Rich Tea; and where the red shiny bacon slicer had pride of place on the well-polished wooden counter.
The proprietor always wore a collar and tie beneath his well-starched cotton coat and there was usually a slight whiff of soap powder or the salty smell of cured ham in the air. Going a little further along Woodbridge Road, towards the John Bull public house, there was a double-fronted shop called Easton’s Exchange Mart. Initially a cycle dealership, Easton’s had diversified into selling just about anything people wanted to get rid of. Old mincing machines jostled with bags of old golf clubs; wooden tennis rackets with missing strings stood next to battered radios; broken down suitcases were offered for sale beside sets of coins in presentation cases. It was an Aladdin’s Cave of cast-offs which tumbled down from the shelves and pressed hard up against the dusty glass of the shop windows. On my way home from school one day, I ventured inside to purchase two packs of cigarette cards, one of 1930s British saloon cars, the other of pre-war cricketers. Although I could clearly see them through the window, it was impossible for me to retrieve them as there were so many other items stacked on top of them. In the end, I had to stand in the doorway and point whilst the shop-owner somehow cleared a way through. I then paid my two shillings for my purchases and dusted them down before putting them in my pocket and cycling on home. On the corner of Woodbridge and Rushmere Road was a branch of Barclay’s Bank, outside of which was a horse trough. During my schooldays, delivery by horse and cart was still a part of everyday life with the Co-op milkman, greengrocer and coal man a common sight on our roads. Even the breweries favoured horse-drawn drays over vans and lorries. Today, the horse trough, the horse and cart and the men who worked with them are long gone – relics of the past. Sadly, the Golden Key is too.
Margaret Gray from Westleton said:
I was so interested to see the photos of the St John’s, Ipswich area. I arrived in Ipswich Christmas 1954, when my father was posted to RAF Wattisham. We moved into Kirby Lodge, Kirby Street, sharing the house with my maternal grandparents for my mother to be with her ageing parents. My brother had boarded at Ipswich School since we returned to the UK from Canada in 1949, but now he became a day boy. I transferred to Northgate Grammar in January 1955, cycling along Woodbridge Road and Sidegate Lane for the next seven and a half years. After A Levels I used to cycle to the then Civic College to do a secretarial course and German, and my first job was with Cory Brothers at the dock, to which I cycled also. I married a farmer’s son in 1964 at St. John’s Cauldwell Hall Road and moved to Yoxford. Unfortunately my mother and grandfather had died the year before and our lovely house, with huge cedar and walnut trees in the garden, was sold when I left to marry. Today those two trees would be safe I think, but in 1964 the house and trees came down to make way for eight houses, something I have only glanced at once since.
Do you have memories you would like to share with readers? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org