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Days Gone By - When Ipswich’s Central Cinema went up in flames

PUBLISHED: 18:12 18 October 2016

The night of drama in Princes Street, Ipswich in 1950.

The night of drama in Princes Street, Ipswich in 1950.

Dave Kindred

Memories of a dramatic fire in Ipswich town centre in February 1950 have come from a reader on the other side of the world.

The burnt out Central Cinema building, Princes StreetThe burnt out Central Cinema building, Princes Street

Bill Daking, who now lives in Australia, recalls the evening when buildings in Princes Street were badly damaged in a blaze, which started in the premises of Haddock and Baines, paper merchants and printers, and soon spread to the Central Cinema next door.

The fire brigade had to tackle the fire with Second World War tenders with trailer pumps.

The Central Cinema opened on February 8, 1914, as one of a chain of cinemas and following the fire stood derelict for several years following the fire of February 1950. What memories do you have of the Central Cinema?

The Beehive Inn at the junction of Carr Street and Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich in March 1960, shortly before closureThe Beehive Inn at the junction of Carr Street and Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich in March 1960, shortly before closure

Mr Daking was prompted to write when he saw a photograph in Days Gone By featuring the Beehive Inn, which was at the junction of Carr Street and Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich.

He said: “I remember the ‘Beehive’ very well. Back in 1953, coming home after my army demob’ not knowing Ipswich very well and hearing music, I ventured upstairs in the Beehive to the dance hall. Halfway up the stairs I was hit by a sailor being thrown out. I landed on top of a couple, the guy cracking his head pretty badly. At that time I was staying in Westerfield Road. So much for the old days!

“I remember when in 1937/8 my dad and I used to come from Snape to Ipswich on a Saturday night, park on Tower Ramparts car park, he to the pub and I went to the Odeon or the Gaumont and sometimes the ‘Flea Pit’ Central Cinema in Princes Street, after which I would go and sleep in the old Ford’s ‘Dicky Boot’ till my dad arrived, not a bit worried that a nine-year-old kid was out alone in those days.

The Fountain Inn at Tuddenham as it was in January 1950. Bill Daking recalls living in a converted bus thereThe Fountain Inn at Tuddenham as it was in January 1950. Bill Daking recalls living in a converted bus there

“The Central Cinema caught fire during a showing of ‘Call Northside 777’ with James Stewart, the newspaper caption said “Although It was 777 they had to call 999’.

Incidentally I see that the Tuddenham Fountain public house is well and truly on the up nowadays. I lived in a converted bus in a sand pit there when Giles used to hold court at the pub, he was the last person I spoke to before I started my overland journey to Australia.

“I remember my dad doing business in the ‘Sporting Farmer’ - he was a corn chandler, buying and selling wheat and barley, it was very close to the sale ground. He also had a stand in the Corn Exchange. I, as an eight-year- old, watched farmers selling their wheat or barley crop, dad would pull out his seed cutter and slice through the grain to see the value and check it for moisture. He worked for the firm of Wood, Sadd & Moore of Lodden Norfolk. He also went to many markets around the district, at this time 1937/38 we lived at Snape. Later in life, in 1943, I worked as an apprentice fitter and turner at Cocksedge’s off Wherstead Road, bombing and power cuts were the norm.

Bill Daking recalls his father trading corn at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. This was the busy scene there in the 1950sBill Daking recalls his father trading corn at the Ipswich Corn Exchange. This was the busy scene there in the 1950s

“The war over, I came back to live in Ipswich after I was demobbed and used many of those pubs mentioned, a favourite being the British Lion. I still have my member’s card from the Ambassadors Bowling Lanes in London Road. In 1964/6 I worked for Pointer Group Transport. Now at aged 88 and having been here 50 years, I still have good memories of Ipswich. I still have relatives in Ipswich and Halesworth.”

Share your memories of the fire with David Kindred via email

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