Ipswich Icons: Devastating fires in 1970s and 80s destroyed original Fore Street buildings

Old Fore Street

Old Fore Street - Credit: Archant

Over the past century the occasional building in Fore Street has been lost to fire, road building or the owner’s desire to rebuild to suit modern use, writes John Norman, of The Ipswich Society.

Old Fore Street captured ina watercolour by Eade and Jones

Old Fore Street captured ina watercolour by Eade and Jones - Credit: Archant

There were a couple of disastrous fires in the 1970s and early 1980s which were sufficiently destructive to cause the remnants of the building to be removed and the site left vacant.

In the early 1980s Star Lane was extended and pushed through Fore Street to join Waterworks Street. On the west side of the new junction, Tolly Cobbold’s bottling plant was dismantled and stored for re-erection, to the east was the site of a fire-damaged building which provided a gap for this busy cross town link.

On the corner of Angel Lane and Fore Street, on the site of the Lion and Lamb, a new building was erected using the frame of the demolished bottling plant. This building was, in 1986, to be a public house but the demand was never there and it was eventually used as offices. Although the exterior of the building was a supposed copy of buildings that stood hereabouts, including the Lion and Lamb public house, the exterior is plain and lacks the character of original old buildings.

Perhaps the finest building to be lost in Fore Street in the 1960s was the Social Settlement, a magnificent edifice which stood opposite what is now the University’s Waterfront Building. It had been built in 1895 and altered and extended in 1899 when a large public hall was added which survived the demolition and was used by the technical college as a training workshop.

The Social Settlement had been the generous donation of Daniel Ford Goddard whose family owned the Ipswich Gas Light Company and where, for a short time, he worked. Goddard was a great philanthropist and after only five years at work he left and devoted himself to public service. He founded the Social Settlement and spent a considerable amount of his time there, ensuring that not only did it offer accommodation but also social welfare to the local community. The Social Settlement charged 2 pence per week, although for those on a pension of less than 5 shillings there was no charge. There was a sick benefit club and a resident nursing sister for those taken ill or injured at work.

Daniel Ford Goddard was a radical Congregationalist and a leading figure in the town’s political affairs. His motto for the Settlement was ‘For God and People’ and although it claimed to be non-denominational and non-political there were Bible classes, prayer meetings and a people’s Sunday service. It provided rooms for education, welfare and recreation, and allowed residents to form, for example, clubs for bowls, billiards and bicycling. There was a brass band and a choir, all opportunities that were not available to the working man beforehand. Ford Goddard’s lantern lectures were popular and well attended.

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Ford Goddard served as an alderman, he became mayor in 1891 but declined the usual mayor’s banquet preferring to distribute dinners to the poor instead. He was elected as Liberal MP for Ipswich in 1895 and knighted in December 1907.

The Social Settlement was designed by Ipswich architects Eade & Johns in what was described as Edwardian freestyle, and was built on the site of the potteries, an area of Ipswich where the predominant industry was based on clay (mainly bricks and tiles by the end of the 19th Century).

The decrepit housing behind the Social Settlement, between Long Street and Rope Walk, was not demolished until the slum clearance of the 1930s. In the 1960s the Social Settlement was demolished to make way for Ipswich Civic College, continuing the tradition of educating young people on the site.

Sir Daniel Ford Goddard served as MP for Ipswich from 1895 until 1918 and as Mayor of Ipswich in 1891- 1892. He was born on January 17, 1850 and died on May 6, 1922.

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