Hard toil life at maltings

HUGE maltings buildings were once a feature of the Suffolk landscape.The sweet smells of fermenting barley were familiar in the Ipswich town as several buildings in and around the dock were used for this trade until around twenty five years ago.

HUGE maltings buildings were once a feature of the Suffolk landscape.

The sweet smells of fermenting barley were familiar in the Ipswich town as several buildings in and around the dock were used for this trade until around twenty five years ago.

I featured memories of the trade in Kindred Spirits recently. Readers who worked at the maltings or have family connections have sent me their memories of the trade.

Rod Cross of Clifford Road, Ipswich said: “Your fascinating article on the Felaw Street Maltings revived memories of when, as a student in the mid 1960s, I spent my summer vacations working for R&W Paul. Although based at the Albion Mill in Key Street, Ipswich I was occasionally sent “Over Stoke” to assist loading lorries with the malt produced at Felaw Street.

“Although not officially allowed inside the maltings, I remember once opening the door and immediately being affected both by the heat and intense humidity and by the claustrophobia induced by the extremely low ceilings supported by short, stumpy pillars. Perspiring men worked silently, wielding massive wooden spades. The whole scene appeared totally incongruous in the centre of industrial Ipswich!”

“Behind the two kilns stood a row of five sturdy houses, known appropriately as Maltings Terrace. Two of these were occupied by the Bates brothers, Ernie and Albie. The latter was a flat cap and braces-type foreman, who I often encountered at Albion Mill. I was transfixed by his habit of dipping his hand into the nearest sack of grain, chewing thoughtfully on the contents and then spitting out a stream of husks as he spoke.”

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“My uncle, Charles Palmer, spent his entire working life as a maintenance worker at Paul's. He was in his late 70s when he retired and even then continued to work part-time until well into his 80s.

“He always spoke highly of R&W Paul as employers. One of his responsibilities was for the various Paul's tenement buildings in Back Hamlet, Lady Lane, Black Horse Lane and Felaw Street, which I believe were originally built for Paul's employees and their dependents.”

“For the maltsters the work was hard and possibly not that healthy. However, they were well looked after by their employers both during and after their working lives and those two distinctive kilns, now transformed into ultra-modern office blocks will long remain a testimony to their sweat, toil and labour.”

Thelma Dersely (nee Abbott) of Morland Road, Ipswich, recalls visiting Felaw Street as a child to see her father at work.

She said: “It was great to see Paul's Maltings in Kindred Spirits. It brought back a few more “Over Stoke” memories for me, as I lived in Harland Street and my dad Cyril Abbott worked there on night shifts.

“On the long, lighter summer evenings, around 1951, mum would take me for a walk round to Felaw Street and we would “peek” in the, air vents to would see dad pulling the large rake, sweating away, we'd call out and he would look up. Poor dad, he would bang his head on one of the beams across the ceiling, it was rather low. He always had marks and bumps on his receding forehead. “Thinking of it now it's a wonder he never knocked himself out. We lived in Harland Street until 1957. After the 1953 floods, the council condemned the houses and re housed us in Morland Road where I still live close to my family home.”

Janet Knights (nee Bates) of Dunlin Road, Ipswich has strong family links with the malt trade.

She said: “My father Harold Bates was the youngest of 11 children who lived in Cavendish Street. His mother died when he was seven years old and his sisters brought him up. His father was one of the first men to work for R & W Paul's and he was there for all his working life and became foreman maltster.

“Many of his sons, including my dad worked for Paul's at some time. My grandfather received one of the first works pensions as a reward for loyalty from Mr Paul.”

Brian Pinner of Ipswich said: “As someone who spent his whole career with the Ipswich Malting Co and Pauls Malt, their current name, I enjoyed your photographs, and the commentary was better than expected.

“One of the photographs featured the old Ipswich Malting Co who had three quite large maltings next to Paul's Felaw Street Maltings. In addition the Ipswich Malting Company had a silo block in Whip Street on the land previously used by Fison's, the maltsters, not the fertiliser company whose main maltings are now flats alongside Stoke Bridge.

“The Ipswich Malting Company merged with the Associated British Maltsters in about 1958. ABM was later taken over by Pauls.

“Those working in the maltings before air conditioning was installed were mainly agricultural workers and it suited them to work inside in the winter and then to return to farm work through the summer.

“Many working in the old Felixstowe maltings, which was worked by the Ipswich Malting Company. Some worked on the 'round the bay' pleasure cruiser all summer. When the Felixstowe maltings closed, the staff was brought to Ipswich by bus through the winter”.

Reg Shapland of Ipswich added: “Another former maltings building in Ipswich is close to the Princes Street bridge and is now a nightclub. My uncle James 'Sonny' Skeet worked there. In those days children were often allowed to help their uncles and fathers at work. Health and safety would forbid this today.

“When I visited there as a child I remember that the barley came in 16 stone sacks, which were tipped into the steep tanks. Water was added to soak it, next it was loaded into large baskets, it was transported by over head track tipped and levelled out. As the barley started to grow it was raked to aerate it with three pronged rakes.

“I was about eight or nine at the time and found this hard work but great fun. When the barley had sprouted it was transported to the hot floor. It tasted very nice at this stage of the process but even better when it became beer!

“I know the weight of the sacks of grain because my dad had to off load barges in the dock. You can imagine what state his back was after a day of carrying those large sacks all day.”

Do you have any nostalgic memories to share of life in our area? Write to Dave Kindred, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.


Pic 1.

This fantastic view of New Cut, Ipswich, was taken in the mid 1960s by Mike Farthing of Medway Road, Ipswich. Mike took the photograph from the top of Paul's silo. It illustrates how much that part of town has changed in forty years. The huge maltings belonging to the Ipswich Malting Company on the right was demolished in the 1970s. The top of the Felaw Street Maltings is behind this building. The huge gas holder in the left background was demolished in 1977. This is one of a series of photographs taken by Mike. I will feature some more soon.

Picture 2.

In February 1973 fire damaged the grain silo next to the Felaw Street Maltings. As water was poured on the blaze the fire brigade was faced with problem of thousands of tons of wet grain putting pressure on the 90 foot corrugated iron walls, which were then in danger of collapse. This area is a car park for the buildings, which are now converted to offices. In the foreground is the Steam Boat Tavern.

Picture 3.

The Felaw Street, Ipswich building as it was at the end of its life as a maltings.

Picture 4.

Workmen at a maltings in Hadleigh in the late 1940s. (Picture by Peter Boulton).

Picture 5.

Staff of the Ipswich Malting Company around a century ago.

Picture 6.

Reg Shapland recalls how his father had the back breaking job of carrying sacks of grain of the barges at Ipswich dock. This picture was taken close to the Paul's site near the Custom House around 1930.

Picture 7.

Ken Chittock fills a Boby cart at the Felaw Street Maltings in 1980.

Picture 8.

Dennis Young tipping the steeped grain onto the floor at the Felaw Street Malting in 1980.

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