Kindred Spirits - Then and now views of Ipswich town centre streets

Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, was a thriving shopping area until the 1930s when all the housing arou

Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, was a thriving shopping area until the 1930s when all the housing around Cox Lane and Rope Walk was demolished in a slum clearance plan. St Michaels Church (centre background), built in the 1880s, was badly damaged by fire in March 2011.

Around 25 years ago there was much speculation about the development of an area of Ipswich bound by Carr Street, Upper Brook Street, Tacket Street and Upper Orwell Street, writes David Kindred.

The juke box at the Gondolier. (Photo by Keith Deal).

The juke box at the Gondolier. (Photo by Keith Deal).

He has taken another look to see what has happened as developers come and go and planners discuss what to do with the site.

He then took a set of photographs of the premises that were likely to change as the area was redeveloped.

The Cox Lane car park area was, until the 1930s, packed with small poor quality housing. The area behind Upper Brook Street was the site of the Tollemache Brewery until the company merged with the Cobbold brewery in the late 1950s and all brewing moved to Cliff Quay. Both areas have been used as car parks for decades.

Kindred Spirits recently featured a photograph of the East Anglian Daily Times and Evening Star offices and printing works in Carr Street, Ipswich.


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Reader Jack Brown, of New Southgate, London, has memories of the building.

“I became well acquainted as a newspaper delivery boy with the East Anglian Daily Times building in Carr Street. Each evening after school I collected piles of the Evening Star to deliver to my newsagents and then proceed on my paper round. On Saturday evenings I delivered copies of the “Green-Un”.

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“I attended St Margaret’s Boys Church of England School, Bolton Lane. Mr Death was the headmaster and was chorister at St Margaret’s Church. He was a very strict disciplinarian. Woe betide any boy who stepped out of line when he was around.

“At fourteen I left school fully prepared, as taught by the excellent teachers, with a good grounding in maths, history and geography.

“I was subsequently employed at the Ipswich Co-operative Society delivering bread from a van driven by Bill Harrell, who became a lifelong friend until he died in 2003.

“I went on to work at the Co-op butchers shop at the corner of Springfield Lane and Surbiton Road. Ben Gammage was the butchery manager, assisted by Jack Talbot.

“My family had moved from 4 Navarre Street to 45 Myrtle Road. From there I enjoyed a swim at Fore Street Baths, also, what I thought was a luxury at the time, a hot bath, as we only had a tin bath at home.

“On a recent visit to Ipswich I found that our house in Myrtle Road had gone. There is a block of flats on the site.” He said: “A juke box in the corner of the Gondolier coffee bar in Upper Brook Street, featured in a recent Kindred Spirits, sparking memories for Rod Cross.

I loved Keith Deal’s nostalgic photographs of Ipswich in the 1950s (Kindred Spirits, September 22), especially the one shot in the half-light of the Gondolier coffee-bar. With the moody-looking youth in the corner and the dazzling glare from the juke-box, he had captured to perfection the atmosphere of this iconic venue.

“Opened in late 1958 by Sabrina, the pin-up of the day, the Gondolier was Ipswich’s first espresso coffee bar and the in-place for teenagers to meet. Its dark, shadowy interior was, of course, part of its appeal and the combined smell of cigarette smoke and sweet coffee made a heady mix.

“On Saturday mornings, when I used to go with fellow youth-club members, it was so crowded, that one could make a coffee last the entire morning without anybody noticing. The cups were clear glass and each table had its own little bowl of Demerara sugar which one could spoon into different geological formations should boredom set in. Hygienic, it certainly was not!

“The popularity of coffee-bars began to wane in the 1960s and the Gondolier served its last frothy cappuccino in 1964. It may have only lasted eight years, but it left behind a long-lasting legacy.

“Keith had also taken three superb photographs of Ipswich Docks in 1959 and these too were of particular significance to me.

“Any boy who started at Northgate School in the mid to late ‘50s will remember having to keep a Shipping Record as part of an on-going geography project. This entailed searching through the Evening Star every night for the list of arrivals and departures at Ipswich Docks and recording the cargoes and their associated ports in a little book provided for the purpose.

“Regularly featuring in my book were the continental ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Esbjerg and Bremerhaven, to where much of our malted barley was shipped and also London, where the Thames barges served the big London breweries such as Charrington and Whitbread. Little did I know that during my stint working at Paul’s Maltings after I’d left school, I’d be helping load some of those boats myself!

“Imports included coal, predictably from Newcastle; wheat for milling into flour at Cranfield’s; sand for the local foundries and timber for William Brown’s yard on New Cut East. There was also a regular listing for something called superphosphates, which was presumably connected with Fison’s fertiliser factory.

“We seemed to do a lot of trade with Immingham, which I later discovered was on the Humber estuary and with the Isle of Grain, which could have been anywhere, but turned out to be a huge oil refinery in the Thames estuary with no connection with grain and, in fact, not an island at all.

“Having collected all our statistics, we then had to graph the results and produce a simple analysis. The fact that I have remembered some of the details after more than half a century means it must have left some sort of impression!

“To complete the project we were given an outline map of the Quay, showing every building from St Peter’s Street round to Coprolite Street. We then had the Easter holiday task of finding the name and function of each of the silos, mills and warehouses shown. My list began with Burton, Son & Sanders and ended with Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies – rather lyrical, I remember thinking at the time!

“Thinking about it now, sending unaccompanied 11-year-olds to investigate a busy, working dock with its railway wagons, heavy lorries and overhead cranes, all operating in a confined space, would be unheard of in these health and safety conscious times. However, as far as I know, nobody ever came to any harm and what an effective way to learn about one’s home town!”

What are your memories of this part of Ipswich? Share your memories via email

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