Gentleman Bill left his mark

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a gentleman and community stalwart who ran an Ipswich-based leather company that was in the family for more than two centuries.

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a gentleman and community stalwart who ran an Ipswich-based leather company that was in the family for more than two centuries.

William Muskett Conder, or Bill, as he is better known, died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 98 on March 6.

Besides spending much of his life running a successful leather business in Ipswich, he also played an active role with several groups in the community and continued to play golf into his 90s.

He chronicled his family's history in Ipswich in a book titled “The Conder Family Ipswich”, published in 2001, and leaves his wife, Ruth, 84, three daughters, Jane Hancock, 54, Helen Griffith, 51, and Hilary Andrews, 49, as well as eight grandchildren.


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His daughter Helen Griffith said: “He was a real gentleman. People have said that again and again. He had a hat and he would always lift that to people.

“If he was walking along the street he would always make sure the woman was walking away from the kerb.”

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His wife Ruth said Bill was a man who loved to travel, arrange parties and eat good food. He was also keen on sport, public speaking and poetry.

She said: “He was only really happy when he had four things in his diary. He liked to be busy.”

Daughter Hilary Andrews said: “He was keen on keeping fit and was a fanatical golfer. His great characteristic was he was totally focused when he was doing anything. They couldn't get him away from the business because he loved it so. He lived for it really.”

Mr Conder was apprenticed as a currier when he joined the family leather business TE and J Conder in 1927.

The company traded under the name since 1862 and is believed to have been in family hands since 1765, more than 240 years ago.

He worked at the company for more than 60 years, retiring as he approached the age of 80 after spending more than 50 years in charge.

From a starting point of 7,000 £1 shares in 1935, Mr Conder built the company up to a firm with assets of nearly £1million.

The firm, which traded from several different premises during its history including Tanner's Lane, Silent Street, Butter Market and Turret Lane, continued to be known as TE and J Conder until it ceased trading in 1992.

The business had survived the transition from horsepower (which generated a huge demand for leather) to the internal combustion engine (which didn't) by branching out into sheepskin coats and gloves.

However eventually, a run of warm winters, combined with heated cars, centrally heated houses and a change in fashion, killed demand for those too and the company closed.

Besides the family business, Mr Conder had a great interest in sport and played at Ipswich Golf Club well into his 90s.

He was also a prominent figure in the community and was a member of a number of Masonic lodges in the area, an Ipswich and Suffolk Club member and was a member of Ipswich's Probus Club.

It was back in the 1970s he went about setting down his family's history.

With the aid of unpublished manuscripts by his father, grandfather, great grandfather and great, great grandfather, Mr Conder went about creating a single publication with the help of his cousin Helen who contributed to writing and researching the book.

Using letters and paintings, as well as books and business records stretching back over the 230-year history of the family firm he wrote The Conder Family Ipswich.

The book also records the family's involvement with the Tacket Street chapel. They were among the prominent Ipswich families who funded the building of Christchurch, as it is now known.

A Thanksgiving service was being held for Mr Conder today at Christchurch.

Any donations can be made to Tools with a Mission (TWAM) a charity which sends tools across the world to enable people to earn a living and support themselves, or Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Would you like to pay tribute to Mr Conder? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

In about 1750, Dr John Conder was minister of the Congregational Church in Hog Hill, Cambridge, and from time to time, he visited Ipswich to preach at the

Tacket Street chapel in Ipswich.

There he met and married Susan Flindell, the only daughter of John Flindell, currier, of Ipswich.

They went to live in London, where he taught theology, and had seven children.

At the age of 14, the eldest son, also called John, went to Ipswich to live with his grandparents, where he learned the business of currier and leather cutter from his grandfather.

He took over the business, which in those days was based in Tanner's Lane. He married Deborah, the daughter of John Barnard, a wealthy Ipswich shipbuilder.

Her £500 dowry enabled John to buy the handsome old building that still stands (boarded up and sadly unused) on the corner of Silent Street and St Nicholas Street, where the business prospered and grew.

In 1836, the leather business moved from Silverstone's Corner (Silent Street) to a shop at 50 Butter Market.

Thomas Conder, the proprietor, lived in an adjoining house in Upper Brook Street.

The 1861 census return shows it was a thriving concern, employing four men and a lad, as well as two of his sons, Thomas Everett and Josiah, who took over the business the following year.

In 1900 the business moved again, to 84 Princes Street.

This time the business moved to 93-95 Fore Street, where Bill started work in 1927.

A need for more space prompted another move in 1964 - to Turret Lane. TE and J Conder ceased trading in 1992.

Played golf at Ipswich Golf Club into his 90s

Worked at the family business until he was 80

A member of the Masons

Probus club Ipswich member

Ipswich and Suffolk club member

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