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Days Gone By - Did you know about the mystery tunnels under Fore Street in Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 June 2016 | UPDATED: 15:26 22 June 2016

Fore Street, Ipswich, in the early 1960s

Fore Street, Ipswich, in the early 1960s

Dave Kindred

Fore Street, Ipswich, has been for centuries a main route to and from the south east side of town, writes David Kindred.

Fore Street, Ipswich, from the junction with Salthouse StreetFore Street, Ipswich, from the junction with Salthouse Street

The section from Duke Street to Salthouse Street - seen here in 1962 - is now one of the busiest traffic routes in the town with thousands of vehicles every hour passing through. Some of the ancient buildings remain like the Old Neptune Inn, parts of which date from the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Most of the buildings featured in this photograph, from over a century ago, are still there today.

This is now one of the busiest sections of Fore Street, Ipswich, between Grimwade Street and Salthouse StreetThis is now one of the busiest sections of Fore Street, Ipswich, between Grimwade Street and Salthouse Street

The building next to Chriss Gyford’s ‘fruiterer and greengrocer’ and Edward Haggar’s pork butchers shop was the Old Neptune Inn, which was originally a merchant’s house. It became an inn during the 18th Century, closing in 1937. It became a private house and is now self- catering accommodation.

Trade has changed in other sections with many small shops, which once served the densely populated “Potteries” area of the town around Rope Walk, now lost to history.

In 1974 Star Lane was cut across Fore StreetIn 1974 Star Lane was cut across Fore Street

In the 1970s Star Lane was cut across Fore Street, in the left background of this early 1960s photograph. Smyth Brothers builders merchants then occupied several sites in Fore Street.

Staff of Smyth Brothers are seen here outside one of their sites in Fore Street in the 1930s. This shop was opposite Fore Street swimming baths.

Staff of Smyth Brothers, builders merchants, outside one of the companys shops in Fore Street, Ipswich, in the 1930sStaff of Smyth Brothers, builders merchants, outside one of the companys shops in Fore Street, Ipswich, in the 1930s

Do you have memories of Smyth Brothers?

This Victorian photograph shows the junction of Fore Street at the junction with Lower Orwell Street.

Sneezums shop is in the centre and part of Martin and Newbys shop is on the rightSneezums shop is in the centre and part of Martin and Newbys shop is on the right

The building on the right was the Prince of Wales public house which closed in 1893 and was demolished the same year. This is the site that was later occupied by Sneezum’s.

In this mid 1930s photograph of Lower Orwell Street and Fore Street, Sneezum’s shop is in the centre and part of Martin and Newby’s shop is on the right.

The building on the right was the Prince of Wales public house which closed in 1893The building on the right was the Prince of Wales public house which closed in 1893

The shops in Fore Street, are seen in the photos taken from the junction with Angel Lane, close to the swimming baths. The part of the building on the left, next to Wells butchers shop, had been the premises of George Jary clothier. This part of the building was demolished, soon after this mid 1930s photograph was taken, to widen the entrance to Salthouse Street.

Next to the butchers shop was Fred Southgate’s barbers shop. Smyth’s ironmongers is on the right.

Shops in Fore street, Ipswich, from the junction with Angel Lane, close to the swimming bathsShops in Fore street, Ipswich, from the junction with Angel Lane, close to the swimming baths

And this shows Fore Street from Lower Orwell Street, looking towards Eagle Street, in the early 1960s. Businesses on the right included Porter and Tonkin wholesale newsagents, Rapid Radio television and radio engineers, Keels butchers, Portia Supplies builders merchants and the Spread Eagle public house.

Martin and Newby’s, hardware and ironmongers shop, is on the left. The tower in the right background was at the Bond Street fire station.

Fore Street from Lower Orwell Street, looking towards Eagle Street, in the early 1960sFore Street from Lower Orwell Street, looking towards Eagle Street, in the early 1960s

Thousands of vehicles an hour now flow along this section of Fore Street, between Grimwade Street and Salthouse Street.

This was the street when tiny cars could park outside shops. The flags were out for a visit to Ipswich by the Prince of Wales.

Thousands of vehicles an hour now flow along this section of Fore StreetThousands of vehicles an hour now flow along this section of Fore Street

Fore Street shops were preparing for a visit to Ipswich by the Queen in 1961.

The 1950s built Lloyds Bank, at the corner of Salthouse Street, is now the Briarbank Brewery.

Fore Street shops were preparing for a visit to Ipswich by the Queen in 1961Fore Street shops were preparing for a visit to Ipswich by the Queen in 1961

The junction of Church Street (now Grimwade Street) and Fore Street in June 1930. This photograph taken, looking towards Back Hamlet, features Barnard Brothers corn merchants which closed here in the 1970s and the Sorrel Horse public house which closed in 1975.

Dutch artist, Cor Visser, had his studio and home at 44 Fore Street. He was the official war artist of the Dutch government during the Second World War. After the war he lived on a boat at the dock before moving to Fore Street in 1962.

Dutch artist, Cor Visser, had his studio and home at 44 Fore StreetDutch artist, Cor Visser, had his studio and home at 44 Fore Street

Some of his work is now at Ipswich Museum. EADT/Star photographer, Jerry Turner, took this photograph of him in his home in May 1976. Can you tell us more about this photograph?

ost to history.

Recently the Record Collectors Shop, which was once in Fore Street, featured in a Days Gone By photograph. Eileen Dennis of Framlingham recalls, via a friend, living over the shop and some incidents of life there.

Catherine Cawood emailed to say: “I’m writing on behalf of an elderly friend, Eileen Dennis, in Framlingham.

“Eileen was delighted to see a photograph of the Record Collectors Shop, Fore Street, Ipswich, in ‘Days Gone By’. She ran the business with her father and lived above the shop with her parents from the early 1950s until the early 1960s. The building was 16th Century - with a shop front added at some later point. Eileen tells many interesting tales of an eventful life there. For example: One day, she opened the back door to find that a large hole had opened right where she was about to step. On closer investigation it was found that the reason for the soil caving in was a tunnel, which led from the basement of the shop all the way to the docks. The police were understandably rather interested. I wonder if it was an old smugglers’ tunnel. Of course, Eileen’s family had no idea of its existence.

“One Saturday evening, as Eileen and her boyfriend and her parents were about to leave for their fortnightly visit to the theatre, Eileen happened to notice puffs of smoke coming through a mouse hole in the kitchen wall. It turned out that the derelict building next door was on fire. It had previously been Mary’s Lingerie shop, but since that business had closed, drug addicts and the homeless often slept there. It was thought that they might have lit a fire to warm themselves. Fortunately, although the walls of the Record Collectors Shop became hot, the fire was prevented from spreading to Eileen’s business.

“Eileen has often spoken of the professional musicians and bands who would perform jazz and the blues in the shop’s small cellar – for free, just for the love of music. The crush of people in the small space would create such heat that an Electrolux vacuum cleaner would often be rigged up to suck the hot air up the cellar stairs and out of the building.”

If you remember any of the premises featured, email us details

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