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Days Gone By - Churchman's made one million cigarettes a day in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 21:21 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:37 24 November 2016

Churchman's premises at the junction of Crown Street and Westgate Street in the 1890s. Photographer William Vick took this photograph from St Matthews Street

Churchman's premises at the junction of Crown Street and Westgate Street in the 1890s. Photographer William Vick took this photograph from St Matthews Street

Dave Kindred

Cigarette and cigar production in Ipswich employed thousands of people in the long history of Churchman's, writes David Kindred.

The junction of Crown Street and Westgate Street - where Churchman's was founded in 1790 - as it looks nowThe junction of Crown Street and Westgate Street - where Churchman's was founded in 1790 - as it looks now

The firm of W A and A C Churchman was founded in Ipswich by William Churchman in 1790, beginning as a small pipe tobacco manufacturer with a shop at Hyde Park Corner at the junction of Westgate Street, Crown Street and St Matthew’s Street. The company expanded with sales all over the country. Cigarettes were a large part of its output and in the 1890s plans were made to move to a larger site at the junction of Portman Road and Princes Street.

In January 1939 floods hit the low areas of Ipswich when torrential rain and rapidly melting snow flooded the Gipping Valley. Tons of tobacco leaf were ruined at the Churchman's siteIn January 1939 floods hit the low areas of Ipswich when torrential rain and rapidly melting snow flooded the Gipping Valley. Tons of tobacco leaf were ruined at the Churchman's site

Churchman’s Portman Road factory was extended several times during the 1920s and 30s. By 1965 production was concentrated on the manufacturing of cigars. With a workforce of more than 1,000, the Ipswich factory produced in excess of 1,000,000 cigars a day. In 1972 the cigar business was integrated with John Player & Sons. In May 1992, the parent company moved all production to Bristol and Churchman’s closed with the loss of over 400 jobs.

It was the end of a transport era, when the drinking trough for horses outside one of the Churchman's buildings, at the junction of Portman Road and Princes Street, Ipswich, was removed in November 1961It was the end of a transport era, when the drinking trough for horses outside one of the Churchman's buildings, at the junction of Portman Road and Princes Street, Ipswich, was removed in November 1961

In this week’s Days Gone By I feature photographs of the days when millions of cigars were being produced by a mainly female staff in Ipswich.

Members of Churchman's staff in November 1975 with the Highlander figure, which stood in the reception of the company's officesMembers of Churchman's staff in November 1975 with the Highlander figure, which stood in the reception of the company's offices

Who was with the highlander figure at Churchman's in the 1960s?Who was with the highlander figure at Churchman's in the 1960s?

The scale of the Churchman's Ipswich site is illustrated in this aerial view from 1965. The Ipswich Town Football Club ground is bottom right and the stand featured was known as Churchman'sThe scale of the Churchman's Ipswich site is illustrated in this aerial view from 1965. The Ipswich Town Football Club ground is bottom right and the stand featured was known as Churchman's

Churchman's had a float in the 1953 Coronation celebrations in IpswichChurchman's had a float in the 1953 Coronation celebrations in Ipswich

Winners of the Miss Churchman's competition photographed outside the company's works in June 1969Winners of the Miss Churchman's competition photographed outside the company's works in June 1969

Part of the complex of Churchman's buildings in Ipswich photographed in October 1960. The building in the foreground is now converted to residential use.Part of the complex of Churchman's buildings in Ipswich photographed in October 1960. The building in the foreground is now converted to residential use.

Do you know anybody in this work study group at Churchman's in 1969?Do you know anybody in this work study group at Churchman's in 1969?

The Mayor of Ipswich Ruby Skerritt visited Churchman's in February 1974The Mayor of Ipswich Ruby Skerritt visited Churchman's in February 1974

Grandee cigars were among Churchman's products. Can you name those featured in this 1973 photograph?Grandee cigars were among Churchman's products. Can you name those featured in this 1973 photograph?

Who was this making cigars in Ipswich in 1973? (Photo by Ivan Smith/Archant)Who was this making cigars in Ipswich in 1973? (Photo by Ivan Smith/Archant)

Who were making boxes for cigars at Churchman's in 1973?Who were making boxes for cigars at Churchman's in 1973?

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