Days Gone By: Great memories of ‘The Saints’ Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 July 2017
I recently featured photographs of the part of Ipswich known as “The Saints” and in this week’s Days Gone By regular contributor Rod Cross has sent his memories of the area, writes David Kindred.
He has included Manning’s Music Shop where hundred of local musicians purchased their first instruments, often on “hire purchase”.
The Rickshaw Cafe at 31 St Nicholas Street is also recalled.
The Rickshaw was one of the “trendy” coffee bars, set up in the late 50s and early 60s, with “frothy coffee” and a juke box where teenagers would gather to hear the latest records in an era when little popular music was played on the radio.
Rod Cross, who grew up in the Area in the 1950’s, has written in with his memories.
He said: “St Peters Street and St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, were a little off the beaten track when I was growing up in Ipswich in the 1950s.
They weren’t home to any of the big names of town centre shopping, but did have a wide range of small specialist shops and other establishments which, as I got older, had increasing appeal.
One such shop stood a few doors down on the left, as one entered St Nicholas Street from Falcon Street.
It was called ‘Everybody’s Hobbies’ and sold modelling kits for ships, aircraft and famous buildings. Airfix was the name with which every boy in the land was familiar.
The shop also sold everything for the model railway enthusiast, from carriages to coal-wagons and little figures that could be positioned on the platforms or in the station yard.
An electric train ran along a track just inside the window.
It disappeared into a tunnel at one end of the display and left me, as a small boy, waiting eagerly for it to re-emerge at the other end as it continued its endless journey.
A few doors down was the legendary Manning’s.
Long before pop records were sold in stores all over town, Manning’s was the place to go.
Initially, it sold 78s, but as the pop revolution took hold in the early 60s, it sold not only full-price 45s, but cheaper ones that, in a previous life, had done service in the juke boxes of cafés and pubs.
These discs were minus the centres, so a kind of three-legged insert had to be purchased to allow it to fit on your turntable.
Not only did Manning’s sell singles and LPs, but also sheet music and musical instruments.
I paid £6 for my first guitar there.
It had metal strings like cheese-cutters.
Even Bert Weedon, author of the best-selling ‘Play in a Day’ guitar guide, would have struggled to learn on it.
A little further on was the Rickshaw coffee-bar.
Although it never achieved the same iconic status as the Gondolier in Upper Brook Street, it was of its time and I actually preferred it. Appropriately dark and gloomy inside, it had a huge juke box, the inevitable espresso coffee machine and, more surprisingly, large jars of pickled onions and gherkins on the counter!
It also made its own rather tasty hamburgers.
There was an antique bookshop in a half-timbered house on the corner of Silent Street.
It had shelves of very dusty, but important-looking tomes inside and trays of well-thumbed novels in the doorway outside.
Opposite was Cox’s Car Showrooms and the former Rose Inn.
A Grade Two listed building, the Rose dated back to at least 1689 when it was named as one of the town’s twenty-six hostelries.
Apparently it used to have stables and cages to accommodate the animals and birds that regularly featured in the variety acts seen at the Hippodrome on the other side of the road.
It would also have been popular among the artistes themselves as well as those who flocked to see the shows.
The Rose closed in November 1969 and is now an office block.
I never visited it, but I did occasionally go to the Oxborrows Hotel, a little further down the street.
This is another listed building that closed as a drinking establishment in 1997 and is now in commercial use.
It used to have the more conventional pub name, The Plough and Sail, until the licence was taken over by first Edmund Oxborrow in the 1870s, then his son George.
It was known as Oxborrow’s Hotel from then on.
Apart from its seventeenth century timber-framed and plaster façade, Oxborrows was famed for the folk club in the long, narrow room upstairs.
It opened in 1963 at the start of the folk boom and saw some of the finest folk musicians of the day.
My friend Trevor recalls that Manning’s Music Store played quite a big part in the launch of the Folk Club and was where he went initially to join. The club used a mix of floor singers and special guests, including Cyril Tawney, Martin Carthy, Ewan MacColl and probably most famous of all, the world-renown sitar player, Ravi Shankar.
Trevor remembers going to hear the singer Louis Killen, but he arrived a little late and found the place so packed that he had to stand outside in the street and listen!
On the other side of St Peters Street stood a third drinking establishment, The Hand in Hand, which closed in 1981.
There was also a pet shop, which sold goldfish and was owned, at one time, by the appropriately-named Mr Pond.
I once bought a budgerigar cage there and was overwhelmed by the combined smell of animal feed and small rodents.
Along that stretch of St Peters, were also Yapp’s the bakers, a post office, now long gone and the red-brick home of the British Sailor’s Society that stood on the corner of Cutler Street.
The final place of note was the former Hippodrome Theatre.
Opened in 1905, many of the great names of show-biz, such as Max Miller, Tommy Cooper, Peter Sellers and Roy Castle played there and also Des O’Connor.
The last show was Carousel. This was put on in 1957 before the Hippodrome was converted to a bingo hall and renamed The Savoy. It was demolished in 1985.
I remember seeing the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk one Christmas-time when I was about seven years old.
It must have been one of the last shows to be performed there and I sat high up in the auditorium, as spell-bound as Jack himself.
After years of neglect and being largely forgotten, the St Nicholas and St Peters Street area has become completely rejuvenated.
They are now vibrant and prosperous streets – very much the place to be. It’s really good to see.”
Do you have memories of the early coffee bars or photographs of them to share?
Write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or e-mail him here.