Days Gone By: Memories of events held at St Matthews Baths Hall
- Credit: IVAN SMITH
This weeks Days Gone By article looks back at Ipswich’s St Matthews Baths Hall and readers send in their memories of a traffic-less Ipswich and their time working at Martin and Newby.
A great mixture of events were held in St Matthews Baths Hall, Ipswich.
In the cooler months of the year the swimming pool was covered with a floor and the venue used for everything from meetings, flower shows, rock and blues concerts and wrestling tournaments.
The list of the famous who appeared there at different times include, Rod Stewart with the band Steam Packet, Eric Clapton with Cream.
Led Zeppelin were there in 1971. Television cook, Fanny Cradock, demonstrated cooking and Rev Ian Paisley preached there.
The hall was in demand after the Public Hall in Westgate Street was destroyed by fire in 1947.
When the Corn Exchange was converted to an entertainment centre, opening in 1975, St Mathews Baths was used for swimming all year until Crown Pools opened in 1984.
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St Matthews Baths opened in 1924 in St Matthews Street at a cost of £22,770 with a 75x30 foot pools with a balcony for 200 spectators and 21 slipper baths, at a time when many homes did not have a bathroom.
The building, now hidden by offices and a Tesco shop, is now used as a gymnasium.
Motoring from decades ago featured in a recent Days Gone By and Stowmarket reader Graham Day has sent his memories.
He said: “The pictures of motoring in Ipswich certainly brought back memories. There was never any real traffic congestion, as there is now. Car ownership was much less, when I bought my first car, a Ford Anglia, in 1970, I could park in town in the evening with no real restrictions. I could also drive through the streets, which are now pedestrianised.
“In my teenage years we used to stand outside the former Post Office on the Cornhill, a favourite meeting point, and watch as cars and motor scooters, many of the latter top heavy with mirrors (Christmas Trees we called them!), appeared to roar away from the traffic lights as if they were on a starting grid at a F1 race.
“I managed to drive through the pedestrianised streets about ten years ago, as I had a passenger with a blue badge, and as such we were permitted to drive along Carr Street, Tavern Street and Westgate Street to view the Christmas lights. It brought the memories flooding back. Outside of Ipswich, I used to take my parents out on a Sunday around Suffolk. Absolute bliss, totally unhurried, and no one tail -gating, or cutting you up even on country roads. Traffic was far slower. The bonus was petrol in my first year of driving was six shillings and eight pence a gallon, and the car cost £230, and lasted me for almost nine years. Regrettably , the car succumbed, like many Fords of that era to unplanned airflow ventilation-holes in the wings! Nevertheless it had done well.
“Also I read with interest the recent article on the Maidenhall area of Ipswich. I attended the Luther Road Primary School in Ipswich (now renamed Hillside School), where the headmistress was Miss Northfield. The school also hosted Cycling Proficiency tests, run by the police, during the summer holidays. How often do I wish nowadays that some cyclists had taken todays equivalent! I do not recall any real specific coaching for the then eleven plus selection exam, and in later years I realised that the school did not have the greatest record of success with the examination. Hence there were only a handful of students who went on to Grammar School, the rest of us (including me) went to the Tower Ramparts Secondary School in central Ipswich.
“This then had a knock on effect in bad weather. In rain and snow we would endeavour to catch the bus into central Ipswich. However, the bus filled up with earlier stops, so although hope should spring eternal, it never did. We could hear clearly the bus conductor give the signal to the driver to not stop for us! Nothing for it but to walk to school. No comfortable cars then.”
Martin and Newby’s Fore Street, Ipswich shop featured in Days Gone By recently. David Mullett who worked there for forty years has sent his memories.
He said: “I joined Martin and Newby in the early 1960s. I was paid fourteen pound ten shillings a week. I was there for forty years until closure in 2004. Overall they were good times. The manager of the electrical department was Brian Stopher, who was there some years more than myself.
The departments at Martin and Newby were, paint, ironmongery, garden, domestic hardware, tools, electrical and electrical contract department.
The shop expanded into other premises over the years. The electrical department was previously Ellis wholesale fruit and vegetables, the part of the shop at the corner of Fore Street and Orwell Place was previously the Bull public house, the garden department had been Fox newsagents.
The ladies in the photograph with me are Mary Moore and Mrs Pittock.”
What memories do you have of St Mathews Baths Hall, Ipswich? To submit a letter, write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or e-mail email@example.com