Kindred Spirits - change is the only constant in Ipswich town centre
Recalling the continuing changes to Ipswich town centre recently, reader Paul Hyder prompted a big response from readers.
This week Mr Hyder, of Claydon, has written again, featuring mostly the area around Upper Orwell Street, Tacket Street and the Old Cattle Market.
Upper Orwell Street is still referred to by many as “The Wash”. This name goes back centuries when water, from what is now the Spring Road area, flowed down to Upper Orwell Street, through Lower Orwell Street, to the River Orwell. Centuries ago “The Stepples” were at the junction of Eagle Street and Orwell Place (formally know as Stepples Street).
Stepping stones were placed there to help people cross the then muddy ground.
Mr Hyder wrote: “Since my memories were published I have been contacted by several people. One was Dave Mullett, who worked for Martin and Newby for over 40 years and knew the area around Tacket Street and Upper Orwell Street, which was known as “The Wash”. With Dave’s help I have managed to fill in some details.
“The shop which became Martin and Newby’s opened in September 1873. Nearby in Orwell Place was decorator’s merchants H and R Buckeldee. The Unicorn public house stood on the corner of Foundation Street. On the opposite corner was Ford’s School of Motoring, this was later Terry Neeves’ Photographic shop. Witherley’s radio and television shop and Deeks and Seager’s butchers shop was next door.
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“On the corner of Lower Brook Street was Price’s shoe shop, whose name is still high up on the building. On the opposite side of the road, at the corner of Upper Brook Street, was Avis Cook’s radio shop, which had relocated from Westgate Street, nearby was the Scout Shop. Lipton’s had a supermarket just the other side of what is now the entrance to a car park.
“The Salvation Army Citadel was next to The Tankard public house. Hawes outfitters, who supplied workman’s and motorcycle clothes, was next to the Tacket Street Congregational Church.
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“St Pancras Church in Orwell Place, on the other side of Cox Lane, was followed by Palmer and Harvey, wholesale tobacconist. On the corner of Upper Orwell Street was Ernie Clarke’s butcher’s shop. In Eagle Street was Eagle Electronic and into Rope Walk was Wright’s Fish and Chip shop. Sneezum’s was in Fore Street at the junction of Lower Orwell Street, a department store that also dealt in Army surplus and like items. They also had a branch on the corner of Coytes Gardens and Friars Street called Brown and Bradbrook, which they had taken over. That shop would have shoes on poles and Army surplus clothes hanging outside as well as general workman’s clothing.
“I was also contacted by Sandra, whose family home was in Tanners Lane, the houses still remain at the bottom of Civic Drive. Sandra, like me, remembered the tannery in Tanners Lane where you could buy gentles (maggots) for fishing bait at the rate of 6d (two and a half pence) for a jar full. They would either scrape them straight off the hide or get a handful from a large bin. Sandra also told me that the figure of the Scotsman, that used to stand outside the shop on Hyde Park Corner, went first to the offices of John “Player in Portman Road and when that closed it passed to the safe keeping of Christchurch Mansion.
My mention of Thornley House School in Norwich Road brought a lot of memories. I was contacted by Mr Nunn, who had a picture published in Kindred Spirits of Miss Goldsmith with her teachers. A lady from Felixstowe also contacted me, her late husband also attended there. His family lived in Norwich Road before the Second World War, where his father opened and ran Wakelin’s Wireless shop on Norwich Road, near to the Bramford Road junction. It sold parts to make your own radio and other similar items. It was still there in the early 1960s long after Mr Wakelin had sold it and moved to Felixstowe.
“In the Buttermarket were two high class shoe shops, both independent, Randall’s and Parnell’s. One of these had an X-ray machine where you could see your feet in the shoes. “This was long before they were discarded as highly dangerous, not only to the customer, but more so to the staff.
“Also in the Buttermarket was Smith Suitall, a small department store which specialised in stationary items. It was opposite Hunt’s builders merchants. When they left the Buttermarket, the Bandbox opened up on the site, it was a pub that opened with extended hours. Later it became a shop again. The adjoining sites were lost in a fire in August 1992.
“When Limmer and Pipe grocers closed in the Buttermarket it became a Berni Inn, which was one of the first steak house chains. When that closed it became the Butter Market Tavern and Limmers, both public houses.
“Opposite the end of the Buttermarket, in Upper Brook Street, was the site of Ipswich’s first coffee bar called The Gondolier, it was opened in the mid 1950s by the then star Sabrina, which caused quite a crush. The premises had diamond-shaped coloured glass panels for windows.
“In Upper Orwell Street was Mabel Pecks secondhand clothing shop, like Jacks Bargain Stores, it was a town joke. If anyone had an item of clothing that looked odd they were asked “Where did you get that from, Mabel Pecks?”. This shop was almost opposite the old car and motorcycle spares shop, run by Len Askew.
“In St Nicholas Street, opposite what is now Cromwell Square, was Manning’s Music and record shop. This I frequented in the 1960s as they sold ex-juke box discs cheaply and that enabled me and my friends to expand our collection. The middles had been knocked out and you could also buy plastic replacement centres. In the same street, near the “Falcon Street junction, was Everybody’s Hobbies, this was a real boy’s shop as it sold model railways, aeroplanes and other toys. It was tiny, but had a lot of stock and I believe it was run by a Mr Frenzell. His son later took over and moved to larger premises on the corner of Northgate Street and Great Colman Street.
“In Northgate Street, opposite Great Colman Street was Sketchley’s cleaners, you could see them working and smell the fluid when you walked along Oak Lane, which ran behind the premises between Northgate Street and Tower Street. The building later became Mortem’s, a large shop selling stationery items, toys and greetings cards. It also had quite a large café at the rear of the shop. The Joke Shop was also in Great Colman Street. Here you could buy itching powder and stink bombs.
“A public house that changed completely was The Running Buck, a chain took it over and built a large log cabin style restaurant at the rear. After the steak house closed in 1970s it became Cindy’s nightclub which closed in 1991.
“Another street with a strong smell was Market Lane, which ran from the Buttermarket to Falcon Street, it has now disappeared under the Buttermarket Shopping Centre. In Market Lane was W S Cowell printing works, the whole area was heavy with the smell of printers’ ink. W S Cowell had several works around the town and to move print jobs between them they used Land Rovers which towed small horse boxes. The site had a basement loading dock, which was down a ramp from Falcon Street. There was also Watson’s printers in Falcon Street and Calver’s in Friars Street, opposite Coytes Gardens.
“Between Market Lane and the Post Office sorting office was a fish and chip restaurant. It was very basic with odd tables and chairs, but you could have a sit down fish and chip lunch with a slice of bread and butter for one shilling and eleven pence, which is just under 10p.
“In Queen Street was a branch of Newsteads bakers, which had a small café. Newsteads, a local firm, had shops all over Ipswich. As small boys we used to buy ‘stales’ which were yesterday’s cakes at greatly reduced prices.
“The Mount area of Ipswich was a site around the now demolished police station. There were a few shops on the site where the Magistrates Court is now. In the 1950s there was also a scrap yard and a public house, The Elephant and Castle. The corner of the police station site in Elm Street was where the town’s mortuary had been.
Bakers Barbers shop was in St Matthew’s Street. I went to school on Saturday mornings and it was hair cut time on Saturday afternoon. Bakers was a long, narrow shop with a large settee. They usually had the radio playing and the BBC always broadcast the second half of a league game, there was no idle chat while this was on. These were the days when, as a customer was brushed down, the barber would ask ‘Something for the weekend sir’ which was a discreet way of asking did he wish to buy contraceptives.
“The roller skating rink was situated on the corner of London Road and Yarmouth Road, in front of the Greyhound racing track in Yarmouth Road. In the early 1950s it was all the rage to go roller skating and the rink was lit at night. I can recall coming down Crane Hill on a coach at about 9pm and seeing the rink almost solid with skaters. By the early 1960s ten pin bowling had become popular and a bowling alley was built on the site. This is where Halfords and Next now stand. The dog track was where The Range etc is now sited.”