Gallery: Take a trip through Ipswich town centre of old with Kindred Spirits
Shopping in Ipswich town centre has seen huge changes in the past 60 years or so since reader Paul Hyder, of Claydon, was a child.
Paul lived in the town centre above a shop in Westgate Street, where his father was the manager.
With remarkable detail, Paul has taken us back to the 1950s when there was a bigger mixture of large and small traders in the town centre and many more public houses.
Paul recalls when St Matthew’s Street was a narrow single carriageway and a policeman on “point duty” controlled traffic at Hyde Park Corner. Also when the Feathers Hotel at the corner of Lady Lane and Westgate Street had a slaughter house at the rear and it was not uncommon to see an escaped pig in the town centre.
He writes: “My first school at the age of four-and-a-half was Thornley House in Norwich Road, almost opposite Wellington Street, which was run and owned by an elderly spinster, Miss Goldsmith. She could freeze any pupil of any age with a glance, it was a mixed school up to the age of 15. My teacher was a Mrs Roper who was kindly, but firm and fair.
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“I did my share of standing in the corner. I then changed to Park House, on the junction of Neale Street and Fonnereau Road. It was owned and run by Mr and Mrs Southern, he taught the boys from age eight to 15 and she did the same for the girls. My teachers were a Miss Juby and a Miss Barnes, whose family ran a greengrocers and florists in Tavern Street next to the Walk. Miss Juby’s father owned a butcher’s shop in Great Colman Street.
“In 1953 I moved again to St Joseph’s at Oak Hill, off Belstead Road. This was an all boys school run by Catholic brothers. My first teacher was Brother Robert, again a very fair and kind person even if you did get the odd wallop. I went to school by Eastern Counties bus service 208 Belstead. Several of us used to meet at the Old Cattle Market and we nearly always had the same bus LNG 725, a Bristol single decker. No-one, adult or child, would attempt to board until the inspector announced it, as he did for all buses.
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“Shops in the town centre opened at 8.30am, but mostly at 9am. and shut at 5.30pm. or 6pm. After the newspaper shops had shut at about 10.30am on Sundays, nothing was open apart from a little sweet shop in Anglesea Road, near to the hospital for the benefit of visitors. The pubs opened at 10.30am and noon on Sunday and shut again at 2pm. They opened again at 6pm or 7pm and shut again at 10.30pm.
“My father was manager of the Bata Shoe store in Westgate Street, Ipswich from 1949 to 1960. I was born in 1945 so much of my younger years were spent living in the flat over the shop. This meant that I often wandered around the town centre, children could in those days, and I can recall many of the shops and sights.
At the Bramford Road and Norwich Road junction the first shop a small boy was interested in was Nightingales Toy shop, on the corner of Granville Street. On the other side was a place known as the ‘wood’ shop which was really the forerunner of a DIY store and here you could buy offcuts of plywood to be cut into odd shapes with a fretwork set.
“Just off Norwich Road, in Orford Street, was Sabatella’s or ‘Sabbies’ as we called it, a fish and chip shop, where the range was heated by coal and there was always a long queue as it was reckoned to be the best in the area.On the corner of Barrack Lane, outside a grocer’s shop on the opposite side to the pub, Half Moon and Star, was a police post where the light flashed when the station wanted to speak to the beat officer.
“Opposite St Matthew’s Baths was another chip shop, which we used to visit after going swimming, it was memorable as it sold chips for 6d, 4d, 3d and 2 1/2d. On the corner of Berners Street was the Gem Milk Bar and on the other side Wiggin’s the chemist. A little way up Berners Street my friend’s parents ran a hire car and funeral business and opposite their premises there was an open all hours type of shop.
“Also in St Matthew’s Street was the Golden Fleece pub, another toy and model shop, a rock sweet shop, an entrance to Howes garage, Wesley’s fish restaurant, a knitting wool shop and the Lord Palmerston pub.
“The Rainbow Pub stood on the corner of St George’s Street. This was favoured by U.S. servicemen and I would watch the ‘paddy wagon’ arrive and the military police would go in and sort out the drunk servicemen
“On the opposite side of St Matthew’s Street was Smiths Albion House, which sold ladies’ clothes and haberdashery items. It was here that instead of a half penny change you would be given a piece of paper with about two dozen pins stuck in it. This junction is Hyde Park Corner and had a policeman on point duty. Along the north side of Crown Street was Aldridge’s Sports shop, a Newstead’s bakers, a china shop and a newsagents, run by a Mr and Mrs Bird and their nephew Nev, and Coe’s garage that had a covered lay-by where cars could pull in for petrol. Next to the garage was a church where the point duty policemen for Hyde Park Corner and High Street/Crown Street kept their white coats on a rack in the porch.
“On the other side was the Crown and Sceptre Pub on the corner next was Cooper’s straw and hay store which was burnt down and rebuilt in the middle 1950s. There was a gents barbers run by Mr Edward Gooderham, known to all as Ted. He had his name carved on a wooden block which stood in the window. I would be sent to Ted’s for a haircut and it was often a long wait and he was prone to say to us boys ‘Alright if I do this gentleman before you, he’s in a hurry?’ What could a small boy say, we just accepted it.
On that side of the road at Hyde Park Corner was O’Brien’s electrical shop, which also sold toys. Next door just into Westgate Street was a tobacconists, which had a life size Highland soldier model standing outside.
“In St George’s Street was the Globe pub and Howes garage on the left. There were further houses on the left and Hubbard’s Garage, about half-way up the street opened into a cinder car park in front of some houses, then Dyke Street which remained from the days when the whole area was covered with back to back houses and no one went there after dark.
“Beyond Dyke Street was a piece of waste ground that was used as a cycle speedway track. We also met other gangs there and had stone fights. On the corner of St George’s Street and Upper High Street stood another little shop and it was run by an elderly couple and they kept a good stock of farthing sweets.
The Feathers Hotel in Westgate Street was on the corner of Lady Lane, which also housed a slaughter house and it was quite normal to see a large pile of cattle intestines in its yard. I remember a pig escaping and running down Westgate Street pursued by a man in Wellington boots, it bowled over several people including a policeman and ran into the Town Hall where it was shot.
“Next to the pub was Kershaw’s tobacconist, he always kept a gas flame alight on the counter for his customers to light up with. On the corner of Black Horse Lane was Smith and Daniels tool shop. Westgate Street had the smaller of two Sainsbury’s in the town. The counters ran along each side and you had to queue at each section. I think the first on the right was for tinned goods, then dry goods and lastly butter etc. The other side was fresh meat and cold meat. Next came the Chain Library, which was a commercial book lending library much loved by my mother.
“Further along was Suffolk Farm butchers and Blanche and White greengrocer shop. Mr Blanche had lost his lower arm and wore a false limb with the clenched hand in a brown leather glove. Opposite was occupied by the Belfast Linen Company and Boots chemist, again the smaller of the two in town. Downing’s Oil shop, which sold paraffin fire wood, soap powder etc. The shop always smelt of a mixture of all these items. Next door was another tobacconist shop.
“The Barley Mow pub was on the corner of the High Street. On that side of the High Street was Sam Rush a turf accountant, Bootys famous pork butchers, whose sausages always caused an argument as to which was the best, his or Wells from Fore Street. Next door was a gents’ barbers owned and run by Mr Eade, whose son was a policeman. I was not supposed to use Mr Eade’s as mother said I looked as if I had been in borstal after a visit as he always gave you a very short and high short back and sides. Near the top of High Street was Wilcox who sold cigarettes, sweets and ice cream and between him and the Crown and Sceptre was Graves the butcher, famous for brawn. On the other side of the road was The Stamp Shop where, when we could afford it, we would buy additions to our stamp collection.
“At the bottom of the High Street, opposite the Barley Mow, was Avis Cook’s wireless shop, then International Stores grocers, where I would be lifted up to pull the handle that sent the cash container shooting along a wire to the cash desk. Next was Bata Shoe Store that my father ran. Outside the Barley Mow, every day except Sunday and Monday, there was a costermonger’s barrow selling fruit veg and flowers. The owner was a little man in a cloth cap known to all as ‘Knocker’. He kept the barrow in Lady Lane and one day he was struck by a car whilst pushing the barrow to his pitch and killed.
“On the opposite side of Westgate Street to father’s shop was Lemans, a ladies’ dress shop run and owned by a Jewish gentleman, known to all as Willie. He would go to London in his car and return and unload the stock he had purchased from the rag trade. Willie would spend a lot of his day standing on the corner looking at and admiring his shop.
“The other premises along our side of the street were Bowman’s later Purdys the bakers, Scotch Woollen House, which sold wool and jumpers and Marks & Spencer, which in those days had a large café at the rear of the store.
“Next to Willie Lemans’ shop was an amusement arcade, which later became Dorothy Perkins ladies clothes shop. Then Burneys, another ladies shop, the Singer Sewing machine shop, which later became Janus, another ladies shop. I recall father laughing as their electric sign had failed and the J had gone out. He had to explain the joke to me.
“After that was the Oriental Café and Restaurant, where local businessmen used to meet for coffee. The Public Hall, or what was left of it, was next door, it had burnt down in 1948. In the front of it was a very small shop where ladies could get their stocking ‘invisibly’ mended. There followed Evans, Ladies Outsize Shop and Mence Smith. Stationers Smiths was next, here the newspapers etc were sold from an open-fronted part of the building. They sold stationary and fancy goods and had a lending library at the back.
Grimwade’s then took up the rest of the street round onto the Cornhill. They had a ladies’ section window with curved glass set back from the street so that it appeared that there was no glass at all. They were also stockist of school uniforms.
“Marks & Spencer was on the corner of Providence Street, John Colliers, men’s tailors stood on the other corner next to the Crown and Anchor pub, and Samuels Jewellers, before they moved to the other side of the street. The last was Footman’s Department Store. It had floor walkers just like ‘Are You Being Served’ to keep the staff in line.
“At Christmas time they used to decorate the whole store and put up different coloured tapes from the doors leading to such attractions as Father Christmas or Belton’s Marionettes, who were always situated on the top floor. They changed the play midweek and I was such a regular that I was taken backstage. Each year in the basement, where they normally sold paint, wallpaper etc., they would have rides for little children or see tabloids of Snow White or the Sleeping Beauty. Throughout the year they would hold other exhibitions in that department. Haberdashery was at one side of the ground floor and there were large openings in the first and second floor above it, the same size as the department.
“The roof had a window of a similar size so that you could see cotton fabric etc in natural daylight. Every year on the store’s anniversary they had celebrations and among them was the birthday cake. On the ground floor near the main door a large wooden cake was placed with a large candle on it. The height and girth of this candle varied each year. When it had been lit there was a competition to guess how long it would burn for. The store also had a central cash desk, the department sent the money and ticket off via a screw top canister, which they placed in a pneumatic bronze coloured tube and away it went.
“After a few minutes back it came with the change and receipt. Shopping there was a slow business, but nobody seemed to mind. By the early 1960s the store had taken to closing all day Monday and staying open for the rest of the week. However, the restaurant did open on Mondays, you had to be at the Lloyd’s Avenue entrance at certain times where you were met and escorted through the darkened store to the lift and taken to the third floor restaurant, at the end of your meal you did the reverse trip.
“They also had a lift with a full- time attendant. He was a small man who spent all his working days travelling from the restaurant on the top floor to the basement, via ladies wear on first floor and general goods on the ground floor. The control lever was polished brass as were the outer trellis doors to the lift, the doors to the actual lift car had glass panels and were opened by pulling down a handle.
“At the back of the shop they had hardware and sold all manner of items. There was a large bin of mouse traps. I set several of them and put them back. I did not hang about to see what happened!
“At the Lloyd’s Avenue side of the shop they had a large grocery department, with a black and white tiled floor. The lady staff all wore green overalls with a large white hat. Under Lloyd’s Avenue arch was a newspaper stall run by a tiny lady, who always wore Wellington boots, and her husband. They also had a pitch at the Old Cattle Market bus depot, before them it was run by an old gentleman who always wore a merchant navy-style cap with a dark blue seaman’s roll neck jumper and dark blue trousers.
Burtons Gents outfitters was next and a shoe shop, and a tobacconists who sold very long cigarettes called Joysticks. Wooton’s department store, complete with a gents’ barbers. “Next the Picture House Cinema which also had a restaurant. For a week in every school holiday it ran a programme of Tarzan and Cowboy films together with cartoons, Charlie Chaplin and Keystone Cops’ films. For three hours it was bedlam with children laughing and cheering. The other three cinemas in the town ran Saturday morning pictures, which featured Flash Gordon and other heroes. Also in Tavern Street remember was Richards Ladies outfitters and J & J Lyons shop and café known as Joe Lyons with pink glass top tables. The staff would pour a dozen or so cups of tea in one go from large metal teapots.
“The opposite side of the road was mainly occupied by Corders Department Store. This too had a restaurant. It was considered a lot more ‘up market’ than Footman’s. It ran through to an entrance in the Buttermarket.
“In Tower Street was the Arts Theatre. When the actors exited stage left, it meant going outside into an alley and in again the other side, a supply of umbrellas was kept for their use. On the corner was British Home Stores, which had a snack bar at the back with a serpentine counter and fixed stools.
“Opposite was Ridleys gents outfitter, which occupied the oldest building in the main street, then Thompson Bakers. Next to this was another part of Ridleys, which had been Norths, another gents’ outfitters. Further along on the corner was the second and larger branch of Boots, which in those days, apart from pharmaceuticals, also sold fancy goods and toys. Then came the larger Sainsbury’s and Croydons the Jewellers.
“Opposite was J & J Edwards, who were the town’s premier tailors and also stockists of uniform schools and The Great White Horse Hotel. In Carr Street was F. W. Woolworth, which in those times had bare boards, and in wet weather were strewn with a white sand. The counters were all the same, a mahogany front with glass partitions. They sold almost everything including china known as ‘Homemaker’ which is collected today by retro fans. They had a tea bar with very few seats so you drank your tea standing up next to the urns which were not behind a counter.
“A few doors along was Curry’s, which then sold toys and cycles as well as white goods and the Co-op, a large department store with a food department and a restaurant. It occupied both sides of Cox Lane with a bridge connecting the two on the first floor.
Dividend or ‘divi’ was a big thing in those days and long queues would form on set days of the month for the payout.
“On the corner of Little Colman Street and Carr Street was the East Anglian Daily Times and Evening Star offices, you could see and hear the presses running. They had their own newspaper seller who worked in Carr Street. He wore a dark green uniform lined with gold. He would weave in and out of the traffic serving the drivers as they slowed for the traffic lights or just slowed to buy a paper, this was as well as dealing with pedestrians. His cry of ‘Local Star’ could be heard.
“Further down was a music shop, which not only sold piano and other instruments, but also stocked records and sheet music of the hits. At this time these were purchased almost as much as the records. They had booths where you could hear a record before you purchased. Albert List’s sold cycles and was also the town’s largest stockist of prams etc.
“The Butter Market was different to the rest of the town, which had an early closing day and shops shut at 1pm. on Wednesday. Here they stayed open on Wednesday, but shut on Monday afternoons.
“One of the shops most remembered from the Buttermarket is Cowells Dept store. The store had a large toy and sports department on the ground floor and every Christmas had a large model Hornby train layout, I remember a lady giving displays of making plaster items in rubber moulds.
“Further along the Buttermarket was Limmer and Pipe, restaurant and grocers. They roasted their own coffee beans in the basement and large clouds of blue coffee -smelling smoke billowed along the street. Murdoch’s record shop was next where you could also listen to the records.
“The Ancient House was a book shop and next door was The Ritz Cinema. There was Ashton’s Sweet shop, Parnell’s shoe store, Swears and Wells, a national furriers chain, E L “Hunt, builders merchants.
At the corner of Upper Brook Street was Symonds the Chemist. Their name is still on the chimney stack. The shop was owned by two sisters who were governors of the girls’ high school in Westerfield Road.
“Upper Brook Street had three pubs, the Fox, Coach and Horses and the Cock and Pye. There was the Dolls Hospital, for doll repairs and handicraft. Underwoods was next to the Ipswich Building Society on the corner of Dogs Head Street. They were a wholesale store for various trade including shoe repairers and were the town’s biggest stockiest for Hornby Trains. Like all small boys I often had my nose pressed against the window.
“In Dogs Head Street, was Jack’s Bargain Stores. I remember this opening with a ‘Dutch auction’ and from then onwards it sold all manner of items at cheap prices and became a joke in the town. If you had something that was cheap or looked it you were asked ‘Where did you get that from, Jacks Bargain Store?’
“In Tacket Street was The Scout Shop, which was the only supplier of camping equipment as well as being the official outlet for Scout and Guide uniform.
Upper Orwell Street was the home of a model shop, East Anglian Model Supplies, owned by Bowman’s. They stocked items for model plane builders, airguns plus other things. “Almost opposite was a little shop which stocked all secondhand parts for motorcycles and cars which were left in piles for customers to rummage through. When you had found what you wanted he would peer at it and just give you a price. Almost next door was Wilsons, which sold tools, some metal and sharpened saws. On the corner of Tacket Street and Upper Orwell Street was Martin and Newby’s. They sold everything in the tool and hardware line as well as garden tools and electrical equipment. If you wanted such things a small lock escutcheon, they had two or three sizes, as well as rubber-headed nails! A wonderful shop and greatly missed.
“Louis Jordan shop in Friars Street sold parts for model engineers, everything was labelled with copperplate writing on small tags.
“In the early 60s I was interested in motorcycles and knew all the local dealers. Boltons at Barrack Corner, dealers for Royal Enfield and Vellocette and the AMC bikes with names such was AJS, Matchless, James, Francis Barnett, and Norton. Revett’s, firstly in Berners Street, then St Matthew’s Street and later the junction of Norwich Road and Bramford Road, dealt with Triumph, BSA, and Aerial. Dave Bickers in Woodbridge Road was the dealer for the famous scrambler bike Greeves. Coxs’ in Fore Street was the main dealer for Lambretta and Vespa scooter. I was well known in all the establishments as at that time I worked in Ipswich and lived in Felixstowe. Each lunchtime I would phone the motorcycle shop in Felixstowe and if they wanted any spares I would collect them and drop them off on the way home, a good working relationship.”
Do you recall any of the shops named by Paul Hyder? Email us with your memories