Gallery: Kindred Spirits - Shelves stacked with memories of old Ipswich stores

The entrance to the Buttermarket, Ipswich, from the Princes Street end, was narrower when this photo

The entrance to the Buttermarket, Ipswich, from the Princes Street end, was narrower when this photograph was taken in June 1930.

Shopping in the Ipswich town centre in the 1950s and 60s featured in a recent Kindred Spirits.

Paul Hyder of Claydon recalled living above the shoe shop his father managed in Westgate Street and named many of the shops from an era when there were early closing days and when the only shop you could find open on a Sunday was a little sweet shop near Anglesea Road Hospital.

Readers have responded with shopping memories of their own.

David Nunn of Ipswich was prompted to write when Paul Hyder mentioned Thornley House School in Norwich Road, which they both attended.

Does this weeks Kindred Spirits remind you of life in the town from decades ago?

Write to Kindred Spirits, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

Wendy Orriss, of Ipswich, said: “In my 89th year, going on 19!

“I vividly remember everything, buildings and items mentioned in the wonderful article. From the opening paragraph of his letter I was literally transported, I was sixteen again! and just out to work during the Second World War. As Paul said the shops did open at 8.30 am. and closed at 5.30 pm.

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“Sundays were Sundays and rightly so (though the little sweet shops were a comfort). I remember the Bata shoe shop as I worked next door at The Needlework Shop, squeezed between Bata and The Great White Horse Hotel, this was my first job. I used Nightingale’s shop. I was married with two little boys by then and we joined the ‘Toy Club” with six pence per week. So handy at Christmas as we lived nearby at Prospect Road.

“Sabbatalla’s fish and chip shop in Orford Street was also mentioned. I used this and the fish shop opposite St Matthews Baths in St Matthews Street. I remember too the Rainbow public house. I knew the people who ran it in the 1940s, their name was Wiffin. Also the Crown Street Methodist Church.

“I too remember the Highlander soldier statue which stood outside Churchman’s tobacconists at Hyde park Corner. I bought cutlery at Smith and Daniels tool shop.

Memories flooded back when Paul Hyder wrote about Sainsbury’s two town centre stores. Just reading of those lovely old established family names like Grimwade’s, Ridleys, J.J. Edwards gives me so much warmth and comfort going down this memory lane.

“I worked at Footman’s in the baby wear/lingerie department. It was lovely there. The living quarters were called “The House” where staff stayed who lived a long way away (I had a friend who lived at Diss and only went home at weekends). In my days the senior assistants were very supportive and so was the head of department. If a customer came to be served, as a junior you said “Forward Miss” She took the sale you took your turn, we were on commission. We had a floor walker, Mr Pike, a real old “Are you being served” type. “We also had our morning training sessions. How to approach your customer, offer help etc, respect, manners all came into it (sadly lacking today I find).

Head of department was Miss Bardwell and the manager was Mr Smith. This was all before the Second World War.

“I went to the Picture House in Tavern Street in the 1930s. My friend’s father worked there and we sneaked in the back way from near the top of Lloyds Avenue. We were sat at the front with our heads thrown back so we could see the screen. We were so close, but we did not care, we were in a wonderful, exotic, warm atmosphere of a picture palace-and only ten years old.

“Woolworths in Carr Street comes to mind with their lovely old mahogany counters.

“In the 1940s when I worked at the Ancient House bookshop the smell of roasting coffee at Limmer’s was heady as I walked to work. I used to look down on Ashton’s sweet shop from my window in the library at the Ancient House.

“Other fond memories were Jacks Bargain Stores and Martin and Newby’s.

“I have just loved and savoured every word of Paul Hyder’s letter and I shall keep the feature to read and re read. It will never be like that again in my dear old Ipswich. Thank you Paul for the lovely warm memories.

Jill Nunn (nee Webb), of Shotley, added: “I was very pleased to read the memories of Paul Hyder and to see the lovely photographs of Westgate Street. My first job after leaving school was at Mence Smiths hardware shop in Westgate Street.

“I started in 1950 and was there until I had my oldest son who is now 56. Like PauI have seen huge changes in Westgate Street and St Matthews Street. I can remember all the shops Paul mentioned and I used to know somebody at all of them. I still keep in touch with Sophia and Joyce, Alec Southgate, Dave Mallet, Gwen Scrivener, Muriel Patkins and Shirley Cross who has lived in America for many years.

“When nylon stockings were coming into fashion every week people used to queue up to buy them and if they laddered we got them “invisibly mended” at Footman’s.

We used to go to the Oriental Cafe for lunch some days, but often we went to the fish and chip shop at the Cattle Market. We bought fish, a buttered roll and a Vimto drink for one shilling and three pence (approximately 6p).

“I bought most of my coats and dresses from Lemans. He used to stand outside the shop and persuade you to buy. I bought my shoes from Bata’s. I also went to the Homemade Sweet Shop in St Matthews Street and bought wool from The Wool Shop. I would spend my time knitting while I waited for my bus to Shotley.

Mence Smith’s was a hardware store where we sold so many different things. They were happy days in the 1950s, the people who worked in the shops were all so friendly and so were the regular customers.

T”he shop had a flat roof and each week I used to sit there to do the ordering and call out to the staff at Grimwade’s on the Cornhill. Derek Haywood was the caretaker at Grimwade’s and used to have a flat above the shop.

“I can also recall the little man who had a barrow and sold fruit and vegetables in Westgate Street.”

Rod Cross, emailed to say: “For me, growing up in Ipswich at the same time as Paul, it was the Butter Market that held most interest. As he said, it was different to the rest of the town and not only because, rather curiously, it had its half-day closure on Monday rather than Wednesday. It also seemed less crowded than the streets of what later became termed the ‘Golden Mile’, whilst the shops had a more individual feel about them and maybe a touch of extra class.

“That was certainly true of Corder’s department store, from where I once purchased a single navy-blue handkerchief in the January sale. It was that sort of shop!

Then there was the wonderful Ancient House, with its narrow stairways, creaky floorboards and seemingly endless succession of tiny rooms. As an independent book shop, it had no equal.

“Quality shoe shops abounded, including James Parnell Ltd, who advertised themselves as ‘High-class Boot, Shoe and Gaiter Makers’, Alderton’s, where I used to buy ‘K’ shoes for school and Hilton’s on the corner of Brook Street. There were two top-end jewellers, F H Fish and Barratt’s; various smart ladies hair salons and an ophthalmic opticians.

“Paul mentioned three other shops I remember well. Limmer and Pipe was notable for that pungent smell of roasting coffee beans in an era when tea was still the drink of the masses; the furrier’s Swears and Wells sold animal furs and was always worth a second look, though I doubt whether trade would be quite so brisk in these more enlightened days; whilst Murdoch’s was where I bought my first transistor radio in 1960. It was a Pye and cost £16. It’s strange to think that 55 years on, one can buy a radio at half the price! “I can also clearly recall standing with two mates in one of Murdoch’s insulated record booths as Buddy Holly’s ‘Wishing’ was pumped through the speakers. That must have been 1963.

“For me, however, the jewel in the Butter Market crown had to be Cowell’s where, throughout the 1950s, the basement of this three-storey department store was as close to a schoolboy’s paradise as it was possible to get. Paul mentioned the Hornby model railway layout, which was always a major attraction during the Christmas period. Three trains constantly toured the circuit, two travelling clockwise and one anti-clockwise, with the occasional foray across country, or into a siding, as directed by the operator.

“The latter, who stood behind the display, always managed to convey an air of studied indifference. This despite having, as I imagined, probably the best job in the whole of Ipswich, if not the entire world!

“In the unlikely event of one ever tiring of watching the trains, nearby was a second stand demanding one’s undivided attention. This was where the Dinky toys were to be found.

“Most were boxed, but a selection was out on display and could be freely inspected, handled and revered. Although Cowell’s stocked Corgi, Matchbox and other lesser brands, Dinky had the real magical quality: at one end of the scale, the humble Morris Oxford and Hillman Minx; at the other, the Cunningham road racer, pure white with a broad blue stripe down the centre and the open-top Cadillac Elderado in its salmon pink livery.

“Then there were all sorts of commercial vehicles: buses, coaches, lorries and vans, as well as racing cars such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, with their drivers perched inside like little buddhas. Dinky toys were unrivalled!

“As a final treat, Cowell’s had a lift which travelled to and from the basement. Although forbidden to travel in it unaccompanied, it was possible to sneak in to the lift beside some elderly couple or unsuspecting mother and child and ride back up to the ground floor rather than use the stairs. The triumph at achieving this feat undetected was immense and crowned any visit to what was my favourite town centre street.”

David Nunn, of Ipswich, added: “Thank you for last week’s most interesting ‘Kindred Spirits’ (21 July). Paul Hyder’s excellent piece of recall brought back loads of memories of my end of town.

“My family lived in Bramford Road, my grandparents lived in Norwich Road and I, my mother, my grandmother and all our siblings went to St Matthews School. I can just about remember all the shops and places that Paul describes. I was, however, most interested to read that Paul attended Thornley House School in Norwich Road. I also went there for a year, slightly later than Paul I think, in 1955/56 before moving on to St Matthews.

“I have fairly vague recollections of the school (I was only 4 at the time) mostly that it was like something out of a Dicken’s novel without too many bad bits. I have been trying to do some research into the history of the school, but at the moment this is all still very sketchy.

Beatrice Goldsmith, the headteacher/owner was born in 1884 in Berkshire, although her family had Suffolk connections, and she died in Ipswich in 1971. It would appear that the school was in existence from about 1923 to about 1966. The two ladies who taught me were Miss Roper and Miss Rumsey.

“I have enclosed a copy of a staff photo (from 1955/56) which shows five lady teachers, two of whom would be the above although I’m not sure which, together with Miss Goldsmith and her spaniel.

“The school had both day pupils and boarders and I seem to recall that the boarders reached their attic rooms via a narrow staircase off a classroom at the first floor rear of the house, but being a day pupil I never got to go there. I remember that we used to have singing lessons in a ground floor front room for which I believe Miss Goldsmith played the piano. I also remember sitting at our desks in our classroom at the first floor front of the house and writing lines and lines of o’s, e’s, u’s and other letters and that one boy was the envy of our class because he owned a Davy Crockett hat, which somehow he managed to have with him at school. Some lunchtimes we would line up and walk down Norwich Road and up Anglesea Road to, I think, St Edmunds Road or thereabouts, to stop and wave at an old lady who would appear at an upstairs window somewhere on route, or did I imagine this?

“I would be very interested in hearing any information any of your readers may have regarding the old school.”

Do you have more memories to add? Email us todaySee here for more from Kindred Spirits

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