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Era ends as building tumbles

PUBLISHED: 15:52 23 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:21 03 March 2010

AFTER standing proudly in the town centre for more than 35 years an Ipswich landmark came plummeting down to earth with a bang. Passers-by can now only see a huge pile of rubble where a major centre of employment once stood.

AFTER standing proudly in the town centre for more than 35 years an Ipswich landmark came plummeting down to earth with a bang.

Today passers-by will only be able to see a huge pile of rubble where a major centre of employment once stood.

As the clock struck 6pm yesterday a plunger was pressed and TXU's Russell House was reduced to little more than a collection concrete and dust.

Onlookers gasped in excitement as a huge cloud of dust swept across town to reveal a space in the landscape where the six storey high office block had previously stood.

Hundreds of people gathered in Alderman Road Park to witness the dramatic change in the Ipswich skyline.

However, the open space that has been left by the controlled explosion is only temporary as TXU plan to start building a new state of the art £35 million office block in the exact spot where Russell House previously stood.

Five minutes before the explosion a siren, akin to a Second World War bomb warning signal, filled the Ipswich air.

Then, four minutes and fifty seconds, later the countdown began. The explosion itself was over swiftly but it is a moment in time that those who witnessed it are sure to remember.

Looking from Alderman Road the building collapsed in quarters from the right hand side to the left, the entire spectacle was over in little more than a second.

Derek King, of Rushmere St Andrew, witnessed the event with his wife Rosemary Anne.

Mr King, 66, said: "I didn't believe they were going to do it but seeing is believing and it was a fantastic sight. I have never seen anything like it.

"I used to have to go and pay bills there so from that point of view I'm glad that it's gone.

"I only found out about it on Friday and I wasn't going to come down but I'm glad I did."

Steve Fiddaman, 39, is a senior technical analyst in the computer department at TXU. He was based in Russell House until he was recently moved to Constantine House.

He said: "I have been working for TXU for two years and when I was in Russell House it was past its best."

Mr Fiddaman said he enjoyed the explosion and it certainly seemed to leave an impression on his children Joe, nine and Becky, five.

Joe said: "I thought it was cool. I have never seen a building blown up before and I'm probably not likely to again."

Becky added: "It smelt like a big bonfire. I didn't think it was going to be that dusty. It was really exciting."

Before the plunger had been pressed Paul Marsh, chief operations officer at TXU, said he was looking forward to the explosion as it represented a milestone for the company.

He said: "Every so often we have major milestones. Today is one as it marks the end of the old building and will signal the start of work on the new one."

At the moment TXU staff in Ipswich are situated in five different offices in and around the town.

All of the staff are expected to be based in the new office when it is completed in about two years time.

Mr Marsh said that building work was likely to start in about six weeks, after the debris had been swept away and the land had been evened out.

For a brief moment yesterday the new South Stand at Portman Road was hidden behind a shield of dust from the explosion. When it cleared the stand was visible but it's one time neighbour had disappeared.

Mr Marsh added that he was glad TXU (Ipswich Town's new shirt sponsors) would soon be back near the football ground.

"There has always been an affection between our staff and the football team, it is something I have noticed in my nine years here. It will be good for the staff to be near the ground and also the town centre."

One member of staff who particularly enjoyed the explosion was Kevin Bell.

Mr Bell, who has worked for TXU since 1973, won a staff draw to press the plunger and bring the building crashing to the ground.

The contract manager said: "I never thought I would blow up a building. I was in that building for three years so it does hold a lot of good memories for me.

"It's amazing to think that I am going to play a part in changing the Ipswich skyline. It's not something you do every day."

The prize draw that Mr Bell won helped raise more than £1,700 for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mr Bell was assisted in his explosive task by Darren Palin, commercial director of Controlled Demolition Group.

Mr Palin said: "We carry out about 30 controlled explosions in the UK every year. This one is slightly different because normally we deal with tower blocks that are 15 to 20 storeys high.

He added that 25 kilogrammes of explosives had been inserted in the walls and that the end result would be 9,000 tonnes of rubble.

The company, which was recently featured on the BBC 2 show Master Blasters will soon be heading to Norfolk to demolish the old Nestle factory.

Everything went to plan for the Yorkshire based company as the Suffolk building was brought crashing to its knees. However in a Phoenix from the flames style resurrection, it will not be long before TXU staff are once again located in their familiar work place near the football ground.

FACTS AND FIGURES

n The explosion reached a sound level of equivalently 110 decibels.

n The last time a building in Ipswich was demolished was the Cliff Quay Power Station in 1994.

n Sixty per cent of waste material will be recycled.

n When built in 1965, Russell House was considered to be state of the art.

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