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Days Gone By: The history of Fisons factory in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 16:02 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:14 29 August 2018

The Fisons site at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, in a photograph from the 1980s, sent by reader Joan Smith. Landseer Road is across the top left corner of the picture

The Fisons site at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, in a photograph from the 1980s, sent by reader Joan Smith. Landseer Road is across the top left corner of the picture

Archant

Fisons Cliff Quay, Ipswich works, occupied a large site and employed hundreds of people, writes David Kindred.

Fisons buildings at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, are the main feature of this view from the air in the 1980s. Picture: JOAN SMITHFisons buildings at Cliff Quay, Ipswich, are the main feature of this view from the air in the 1980s. Picture: JOAN SMITH

The factory was built during 1932/33 and production started in 1933. With a deep water quay for shipping it replaced smaller factories in East Anglia. The site produced superphosphate. An administration block was built in 1955.

Martlesham reader Mrs Joan Smith, has sent photographs taken at the Cliff Quay site.

Cliff Quay, Ipswich, around 1960, with a crane unloading to the Fison’s site Picture: JOAN SMITHCliff Quay, Ipswich, around 1960, with a crane unloading to the Fison’s site Picture: JOAN SMITH

Joan said, “My husband John, who was known as Jack, worked in the maintenance department as a fitter. When he retired he was Senior Supervisor. It would be nice to hear memories from people who worked for Fisons at Cliff Quay, Harvest House at Felixstowe and at Levington.”

Fisons history originates from a business established in 1843 by Edward Packard to manufacture superphosphate. In 1919 the company purchased a fertiliser business founded by James Fison in Thetford. The parent company name became Packard and James Fison (Thetford) Ltd. The company became Fisons Ltd in 1942. In the 1980s the company decided to focus on pharmaceuticals and the fertiliser side was sold to Norsk Hydro.

Fisons offices at Harvest House, Felixstowe, are in the centre of this 1975 photograph.  Picture: JIM EMPSONFisons offices at Harvest House, Felixstowe, are in the centre of this 1975 photograph. Picture: JIM EMPSON

In 1952 Fisons became the owners of the former Felix Hotel, Felixstowe, which was built by Douglas Tollemache and opened in 1903. They renamed it Harvest House.

It had 250 bedrooms, 20 grass tennis courts, eight hard courts, two croquet lawns and an 18 hole putting course. It was purchased by the Great Eastern Railway company in 1919. It was a hotel for nearly 50 years and the head office for Fisons for 30 years. It is now retirement apartments.

Russell Whipps taking a photograph at Melton Station in 1985Russell Whipps taking a photograph at Melton Station in 1985

Fisons also had offices in Princes Street, Ipswich. Their main administrative offices and research facilities were at Levington. Their factory in Paper Mill Lane, Bramford, is now derelict. The company sponsored Ipswich Town Football Club from 86/87 season to 91/92.

Did you work for Fisons? Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or send an e-mail.

A happy group of Fisons maintenance staff  in the 1950s. Do you know anybody featured?A happy group of Fisons maintenance staff in the 1950s. Do you know anybody featured?

Spotlighting photographer Russell

Fisons staff gathered at the Co-op Hall, Carr Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s for an annual dinner and dance event Picture: JOAN SMITHFisons staff gathered at the Co-op Hall, Carr Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s for an annual dinner and dance event Picture: JOAN SMITH

Some of the work of keen amateur photographer Russell Whipps featured recently.

Russell is an enthusiast for steam power and railways. Reader Stuart McNae has sent a picture of Russell at work in 1985.

A photograph of the Orwell Bridge under construction brought memories from Graham Day. This view was taken from the east bank in March 1982 Picture: RUSSELL WHIPPSA photograph of the Orwell Bridge under construction brought memories from Graham Day. This view was taken from the east bank in March 1982 Picture: RUSSELL WHIPPS

Further to your article showing excellent photos from the Russell Whipps collection, please find attached photo I took at Melton Rail station on November 9, 1985, where the man himself is seen on the platform recording the arrival of, at the time, the next generation of diesel multiple unit, the class 150 `Sprinter`, which was being demonstrated that day to the public running on the branch lines from Ipswich to Lowestoft and Felixstowe.

The following day the unit ran from Norwich to both Sheringham and Gt Yarmouth. Stuart McNae, by email.

Janice Poulson’s photograph of the fire damaged shops in the Buttermarket, Ipswich, in 1992.Janice Poulson’s photograph of the fire damaged shops in the Buttermarket, Ipswich, in 1992.

I was very pleased to see the photographs taken by Russell Whipps. The two which stood out for me were the Orwell Bridge Construction, and the Cavendish Hotel in Sea Road, Felixstowe in 1987.

Mrs Peck, Eric Peck’s grandmother, in the front garden of her home at 1 Bishop’s Hill, Ipswich, in June 1930, the day the Prince of Wales visited townMrs Peck, Eric Peck’s grandmother, in the front garden of her home at 1 Bishop’s Hill, Ipswich, in June 1930, the day the Prince of Wales visited town

Being born in Old Stoke, our house in Rectory Road, Ipswich, was over halfway up the steep Station Street hill. From the back bedroom of the house we could see the Ipswich Power Station at Cliff Quay, and consequently had a very good view of the progress of the Stevin Construction Ltd work on the new bridge.

I can recall my late mother being enthralled and excited about what was happening. Every time I visited her, she would give me an update on the progress she could see from the bedroom window; I was suitably impressed when I drove over the bridge for the first time.

Days Gone By recently featured the expansion of the west side of Ipswich including Castle Hill and the Crofts. This aerial photograph was taken August 31, 1940 and it illustrated how Ipswich has expanded since. Picture: SUBMITTEDDays Gone By recently featured the expansion of the west side of Ipswich including Castle Hill and the Crofts. This aerial photograph was taken August 31, 1940 and it illustrated how Ipswich has expanded since. Picture: SUBMITTED

My early career was with the Inland Revenue in Ipswich 1 Tax District Office. Every year in December or January, a joint dinner dance would be held with the staff from Ipswich 2 and 3 at the Cavendish Hotel. These were always must go to events, and a coach would collect staff from

the office and take us to the hotel. After dinner there was dancing to a band as the function was for staff of all ages. There was a grandeur about the hotel which made these occasions very special. I was very sad when it was demolished. An Art Deco treasure destroyed. Graham Day, Stowmarket.

Work to demolish the houses in White Elm Street, Ipswich, in January 1959 Picture: DAVID KINDREDS ARCHIVEWork to demolish the houses in White Elm Street, Ipswich, in January 1959 Picture: DAVID KINDREDS ARCHIVE

Having looked at Russell Whipps’ photo of the Buttermarket with the fire that hit Hughes TV shop and Alderton’s shoe shop in Ipswich, August 2, 1992. I remember it well. A few days later, when the fire had died down, the area was blocked off, but I managed to find a few gaps to put my camera through to take some photographs.

Seemed like only yesterday, how time flies. Janice Poulson, by email

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