Days Gone By - memories of close-knit Stoke area of Ipswich

Station Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s when children were able to play in the road with few passing c

Station Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s when children were able to play in the road with few passing cars.

The Stoke area of Ipswich was always separated from the rest of town by the River Orwell, writes David Kindred.

This tight little community was like a village where everybody knew their neighbours and families lived there for generations. The area is now very different with many of the major employers in engineering gone forever.

In a recent Days Gone By I featured public houses that have closed in the area, most of them well within living memory.

Readers have responded with delightful memories of the area.

Sandra Wright gives us an excellent idea of a childhood there in the 1950s, with details of shops, schools and street traders.

One photo shows Station Street, Ipswich, in the 1950s when children were able to play in the road with few passing cars. Sandra Wright recalls the bakery that was on the corner of Webb Street, run by the Jennings family. Do you remember when Station Street looked like this?

She also remembers visiting the lock gates at Ipswich Dock. The photograph from the 1950s shows visitors as they had their photograph taken with the lock keepers, including “Tiny”.

Sandra Wright, said: “My brother, Alan Valentine and I were born in Rectory Road, Ipswich. I knew all the pubs round there as I often went to the “Offy” for my dad, children were allowed to buy the beer in those days!

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“At the end of Rectory Road was “The Towers”, an old Fison’s building that had been bombed during World War Two, in which we used to play, our gang headquarters was their old laboratory. A friend from the United States was asking recently if anyone had any photos, but no one seemed to. The Towers was pulled down and Selwyn Close was built on the site.

“The Old Bell public house was at the junction of Stoke Street and Vernon Street. My friend’s dad’s shop, Hydes, was on the opposite corner. She now lives in Texas, she was a regular visitor to Whipp Street, where her mum lived until she died a couple of years ago.

“The Defiance at 22 Stoke Street used to sell Smiths crisps with a salt twist.

When we were eleven we went to Christchurch School for Girls which then became part of Tower Ramparts, the best school in town.

“There were also pubs in Bridge Street and St Peters Street. There was the Oxborrows, where in later years we went to the Folk Club. Ravi Shankar appeared one evening, almost opposite was the Hand in Hand and the Crown. The Falcon was on the corner of Falcon Street and Queens Street. Also in Queen Street was “Newsteads bakery where you could get egg and chips for lunch at about one shilling and six pence (7.5 pence)

“My dad worked at Cocksedges engineering works in Rapier Street most of his working life. He had been sent to Ipswich in the depression from Liverpool, to train as an engineer on a special scheme. When World War Two started he was billeted on my mum who had a three bedroomed house all to herself, having looked after her parents until they died, a bit odd, given the morals of that era, but she had to take two essential war workers, and my dad had been invalided out of army training after breaking his kneecap, so that was how they met!

“Cocksedges, in later years, when I was about ten, began to hold Christmas parties for the children of workers in the Loco Mens Club in Station Street. The locomotive maintenance sheds were at the end of my road, where my brother used to spend a lot of his time when he was not train spotting.

Station Street had a large hall, which my friend Shirley Madder’s grandma used to be key holder for, so she had the most marvellous birthday parties. I recall one year she had a Princess Anne doll, and boy was I jealous. There was also Jennings Bakery on Station Street, the Jennings family lived in Rectory Road.

“On Vernon Street there was a chapel in summer, at the gates of Luther Road Infants and Primary school, people used to give out invitations to an evening of fun, which was singing hymns. It was called Eve in Sunshine corner. Eventually it was stopped as parents objected! It was good fun however.

“We used to play on the site of the planned Maidenhall Estate, particularly on the recreation ground (or tip) at the bottom of Belstead Avenue, where my friend used to live, (the posh part!).

“I had friends in Bath Street, Vernon Street and Ashley Street. I recall when they were moved during slum clearance to the Chantry Estate. My mother said I wasn’t to go and play on ‘that council estate’ . The houses, however, were much better than ours, with inside bathrooms and loos so I never understood why.

“In Rectory Road, we used to have a greengrocer visit every week, with a horse and cart, a milk and bread man every day. He also sold eggs, an ice cream man ‘Stop me and buy one’ on a Sunday, and a man on a bicycle selling shrimps.

“The Salvation Army marched through the road on Sunday morning. My mum used to shop on a Friday evening, at the Co-op in Vernon Street. She would put her hair in pipe cleaners to curl it, get dressed and ready for when my dad used to come home from work at the end of the week and hand over a large white five pound note. “The Co-op used to bag up the sugar by weight in blue bags, cut the butter into chunks, and the chemist used to bottle up the camphorated oil for sore throats (to rub on not drink!).

“There was Potters haberdashery shop where most things, like a yard of elastic, were 6d.

“I also remember “Tiny” on the lock gates at the docks. My friend Veronica and I used to wander home via the long way round the docks and jump from one lock gate to the next as they were opening, I can’t imagine doing that now!

“I wonder if today’s children will remember as fondly their iPhones and tablets. Thanks for the memories.”

D Gilbert, of Ipswich, added: “From the mid fifties to the early seventies I worked at Cocksedge’s and can remember the Eagle Tavern, the EUR, the Great Eastern and the Live and let Live amongst others.

“The one that stands out though is the Engineers Arms. The landlord was then Mr King whose son worked at Cocksedge’s.

“On the last day before Christmas the pub would be packed, standing room only with a great atmosphere. At closing time I would go home on my motor bike well and truly oiled. Great times.”

Marjorie Marsh (nee Thurkettle), of Ipswich said: “I was born in Rapier Street, Ipswich. My husband was born in Robinson Street. Our first home was in Bath Street, we had just got it all decorated to move in when we were flooded during the East Coast Floods of 1953, so we had to do it all again.

“We were opposite the Engineers Arms public house, my husband’s relations ran the Old Bell, they were both lovely pubs.

“We loved old Stoke. Sadly my husband passed away three years ago. The Stoke area of Ipswich is so different now, but I still have my memories.”

John Cook said: “My grandfather, Alf Cook, and then my dad and his brothers Roy and Ray Cook used to run a loan club called ‘The Lifeboat Loan Society’. The money was collected through the year and payed out at Christmas.

“At the height of its popularity they had over 300 members. After the pub closed we continued to run the society from our home on the Wherstead Road, Ipswich. It continued until the mid seventies.”

Russell Ling emailed to say: “I have a copy of the photograph of Fonnereau School, taken in 1936, which was published in the EADT on Tuesday, January 26 and I am the eighth boy from the left in the front row.”

Do you have memories to share? Email David Kindred with your thoughts and any old photos you may have