Days Gone By - The lost pubs of Upper Brook Street in Ipswich
Upper Brook Street is one of the oldest streets in Ipswich and over the centuries it has been home to several public houses and inns, writes David Kindred.
The only one remaining is the Cock and Pye. The Greyhound, which dated back to at least 1343, seems to have closed around 1750, it stood on the south side of the Cock and Pye. The Brewery Inn, also known as the Steam Brewery Inn, at number 39, where the passageway now runs to the car park, closed around 1916.
In more recent years the Coach and Horses and the Fox have closed.
The entrance to Upper Brook Street from The Buttermarket and Tavern Street end was originally very narrow but several buildings were demolished when the road was widened around the turn of the last century - see photos furtehr down.
Regular contributor Rod Cross has recalled Upper Brook Street as one of his favourite streets from his youth in Ipswich.
He writes - Growing up in Ipswich in the 1950s, my favourite street to visit was always the Buttermarket. Not only did it have the Ritz cinema and the wonderfully quirky Ancient House bookshop, but also Cowell’s, which had, by far, the best toy department in town.
Once the latter inevitably lost its appeal, I gave the town centre a wide berth, other than when the odd shopping trip for school clothes was unavoidable. This would usually begin at the Co-op, incorporate a visit to J & J Edwards in Tavern Street and end at Marks and Spencer, along what was once considered the Golden Mile.
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Then, in the early 1960s, a visit into town had a whole new focus. Ostensibly unremarkable and unfashionable, Upper Brook Street became the place to be – a kind of teenager’s Mecca.
Half-way down on the left-hand side was the Gondolier. Opened in late 1956, it was Ipswich’s first espresso coffee bar and for a while was the in-place for teenagers to meet.
Its basement location and dark, shadowy interior, gave it something of an air of mystery and with the smell of cigarette smoke, the taste of the sweet coffee and the sound of The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers and the rest blasting out from the juke-box, it appealed uniquely to all the senses. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite the 2i’s Coffee Bar or the Ace Café, but arranging to meet in ‘The Gon’ still provoked a frisson of excitement.
There was something just a little risqué about it – the sort of place of which parents were uncertain, even downright disapproving. This, of course, all added to its appeal and the rebellious 60s generation loved it!
Next door to the Gondolier were Yapp’s the bakers, the Gem Milk Bar, which seemed to belong to another era and Mander Bros. which sold paint. One then came to a long, gloomy passageway at the end of which was a vast room, every bit as dark and shadowy as the Gondolier. This was the Lucania Temperance Billiard Hall, known to one and all as the Snooker Hall.
On entering, the first thing one became aware of was a thick, heavy fug, which had a kind of blue tinge created by the smoke from countless cigarettes and maybe the odd pipe. This resulted in much coughing and throat-clearing. It was the only sound to be heard, other than the constant crack caused by two or more heavy objects in collision. The participants only assumed human form when they moved within the compass of the intense light that shone down over the green baize of the two dozen or so heavy wooden tables. Otherwise they were mere silhouettes, lurking silently in the background, like characters from a Lowry painting.
The only other sources of illumination were a few dim overhead lights and two that shone over a reception desk near the entrance and by a tiny snack bar. The latter provided sustenance for those who spent long hours at the table, as was evidenced by the dirty coffee cups and half-eaten cheese sandwiches left on the window ledges.
Without overstating it, the Lucania was as far removed from Sheffield’s Crucible as Murray Road Rec was to Wembley. However, this was before snooker achieved TV coverage and subsequent respectability.
Fifty years ago, it was always regarded as the sign of a misspent youth and certainly it had more than its share of thin-looking, pasty-faced lads – this, of course, being an exclusively all-male environment. Indeed, there was something of the James Dean in the sullen expressions and lack of outward emotion that accompanied each shot, however good or bad it might be. This was a man’s game!
A little further down, beyond Hewitt’s the grocers, a shop that sold the increasingly-popular Dr Scholl’s sandals and Charles Harvey’s furniture store, were three public houses. The Cock and Pye and the Fox Inn were unfamiliar to me. However, between the two was the Coach and Horses Hotel, another favourite venue of mine. Its location meant it was never quite
As its name suggests, the Coach and Horses was a former coaching inn with a fascinating past. It closed over 30 years ago and is now a charity shop – another piece of Ipswich’s history gone.
At that time, Upper Brook Street probably had more men’s clothing shops than any other street in town: Millett’s, Alexander, Victor Raper, Foster Brothers, the Surplus Clothing Store and John Collier (‘…the window to watch’) all vied for trade along its few hundred yards. However, they either provided clothes for the working man or merely enabled one to dress like one’s dad. What young male teenagers wanted was a shop that would bring Carnaby Street to Ipswich.They got it in the form of Harry Fenton’s, which opened in the mid-60s, at the top end of the street towards the Great White Horse Hotel.
Mark Gable was the man who founded the Harry Fenton chain. Starting with a single shop in London, he soon realised that it wasn’t just mods from the capital who were obsessed with their appearance. It was becoming a nationwide trend amongst most young men with a little money in their pockets. In no time at all, Harry Fenton became a familiar name in every provincial town, including Ipswich.
Whilst other men’s clothes shops in town had a certain greyness and formality about them, Harry Fenton’s seemed colourful and vibrant. The shop in Upper Brook Street wasn’t big, but it had great variety, enabling any lad to look casual yet stylish without the need for collar and tie and a formal jacket. The mod staples of the Fred Perry or Ben Sherman shirts; Evvaprest slacks or slim-fit Levis; to be worn with either Chelsea boots or suede desert boots, could all be purchased here, together with parkas, Beatle jackets, hipster trousers and other classics synonymous with the 1960s decade. I paid £1.10s (£1.50) for a black-roll neck at Harry Fenton’s and still have it to this day, along with my brown cord shirt and mohair jumper from the same store. Alas, time has taken its toll and they no longer fit me, but I wore them for years. They were obviously made to last!
A coffee bar, a snooker hall, a great pub and a trendy clothes store, all within one hundred yards of one another in the same street – a magical combination. What more could a teenage boy have wanted?
Do any of the photographs, or Rod’s memories, bring memories for you? Share your thought via email