Ipswich Icons: Old Cattle Market just the ticket for growing service

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 May 2015

The Old Cattle Market today

The Old Cattle Market today


In the 17th Century the route between Falcon Street and Dogs Head Street was complex and devious, writes John Norman, of The Ipswich Society.

Dogs Head Street in 1985Dogs Head Street in 1985

The direct route, available today was blocked by a private garden extending down from the north. To pass from west to east it was necessary to turn south into Cole Hill (now Silent Street) and then east across the front of the Blue Coat Boy (built 1620).

According to John Ogilby’s map of 1610 this street was the Timber market. On reaching Turret Lane it was but a few steps left to the Plough from where you could proceed straight ahead into St Stephen’s Lane or turn right into Dogs Head Street. This route encompassed three sides of a square, a space that was to become Ipswich’s Cattle Market in 1810.

The cattle market moved to Portman’s Marshes in 1856, Falcon Street and Dogs Head Street became directly connected and an open area was created outside the Blue Coat Boy.

It was the Great Eastern Railway that first used the Old Cattle Market as a bus terminus, with their service to Shotley via Ipswich Station starting on August 21, 1905. This was the only bus service to run “out of Ipswich” until after the First World War. Bus services inside the borough boundary were operated by Ipswich Corporation, a service that was to become Ipswich Buses.

Blue Coat Boy, pre 1988Blue Coat Boy, pre 1988

Eastern Counties Road Car (ECRC) buses initially started their journey from Cheapside (the junction of Queen Street and Butter Market (now Giles Circus) but the corporation (with a vested interest in their own bus company) soon had these private companies’ vehicles moved to the open space outside the Blue Coat Boy public house.

ECRC Co. ran a booking office in Dogs Head Street and buses waited outside the Plough public house at the top of Turret Lane. Land was purchased behind the pub, numbers 4 - 6 Turret Lane with gardens extending across the back of the booking office. The Turret Lane properties were demolished and the land surfaced so that buses could ‘lay over’ off the public highway. The expanding company also purchased numbers 2-4 Lower Brook Street (in 1919) and numbers 8-14 Dogs Head Street which they demolished. This allowed buses to enter the parking bays through a newly-created gap in the buildings in Dogs Head Street, and leave directly into Turret Lane for onward travel in any direction. By the mid 1920s the fleet had expanded to some 43 buses and considerable congestion ensued around the Old Cattle Market.

In 1919 the ECRC purchased 32 Silent Street which became the company’s registered office, a facility which relocated to Lower Brook Street in 1920 to allow number 32 to become the traffic office. They purchased the property next door, number 46 Old Cattle Market probably with a view to creating an access into the rear gardens for use as a bus station. It wasn’t until 1933 that they were able to purchase land west of Turret Lane and a new bus station came into use in November that year. The bus station remained substantially unaltered until the mid 1950s when the first of a number of rebuilding projects took place.

Between 1944 and 1955 ECOC were buying property in Lower Brook Street, the back gardens of which fronted Turret Lane, such that in 1956 the refurbishment of the bus station extended both sides of Turret Lane, a vast open arena for buses with a public highway running north-south through the middle. Number 8 Lower Brook Street became a passenger waiting room and lost property office (accessed from the bus station at the rear) with facilities for staff on the first floor.

A further major development took place in the 1980s; property at the southern end of the bus station was purchased and demolished with the intention of making this the major access route for buses (rather than through the gap in Dogs Head Street which had become increasingly difficult). New buildings were constructed; Lower Brook Street Mews and Knapton Court and in Dogs Head Street (today occupied by Wahoo). Other bus operators began using the bus station in 1981 and the natural segregation of the east and west sides separated ECOC buses from those of the smaller companies.

There was a further refurbishment in 1993 when, as well as new shelters the Sutton Hoo ‘gates’ were installed and again in 2013 when they were removed!

Have things improved? Is it any easier to find the bus to Shotley than it was a century ago and is the fare still a penny (or shouldn’t I mention spending a penny).

The Ipswich Society

The group was founded in 1960 following widespread concerns about the dangers facing some of our valuable old buildings and also the poor quality of the new ones. Many other towns were forming civic societies at this time.

The aims of our non-political society are to conserve what is of value in the town and to try to ensure that new work enhances the best of our heritage. To this end we examine all local planning applications and comment formally where appropriate. We also study and respond to national and regional proposals which affect Ipswich. The Society is well aware that a thriving local economy is an essential base for development of the town and encourages and supports measures to bring this about.

Our annual Awards Evening recognises particularly good quality development in the town. Architects, builders and owners are presented with certificates to mark their contribution to the ambience of Ipswich. In addition, our Blue Plaques draw attention to notable people who have connections with the town.

Members receive a quarterly Newsletter, which helps them to keep in touch with what is happening in the town, throughout the winter there are a series of Illustrated Talks on a variety of topics and in the summer there are visits to places of historic or architectural interest.

Our Annual General Meeting is usually followed by an interesting talk of local relevance. Both the AGM and the Awards Evening conclude with refreshments and socialising.

The Society provides the local organisation for Heritage Open Days which is held in early September. Members of the public can see inside interesting local buildings which are not normally open. A restored Ipswich Transport bus is often available for free rides between attractions.

To join the Society, just send either £15 for family membership or £10 (individual) to the Membership Secretary, 11 Dalton Road, Ipswich, IP1 2HT with your name and address. The subscription qualifies for Gift Aid (which enhances your subscription by 25% at no cost to yourself). If you are a UK taxpayer, please write ‘Gift Aid’ on your joining letter.

Email the society or find out more here

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