Ipswich Icons: So why did George Copping moan about the fish market?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 08 April 2018
John Norman takes us back in time to a long road that would have been full of colour, noise and myriad aromas.
The Butter Market is probably one of the oldest shopping streets in Ipswich and it has a fascinating story to tell of how the fortunes of the traders have waxed and waned over the centuries. It was for a long time the site of a variety of markets, including dairy products. Hence the name.
Confusingly, that particular market was always referred to as the Cheese Market and was confined to the western end of the street.
The fish market was on the junction of the Buttermarket and St Stephen’s Lane until George Copping’s complaints about the smell became so regular that the authorities acted and moved the fish to the corner with Brook Street.
George Copping is credited with building the Ancient House in 1567 and ironically is described in some journals as a draper and fishmonger.
The cloth market was opposite, in St Lawrence Street. There was a number of tailors and drapers close by; a pair of scissors is inscribed in the stonework in the west end of St Lawrence, linking the church to local trades.
Before 1850 Princes Street south of Giles Circus didn’t exist and the Buttermarket and King Street occupied a continuous straight line between Arcade Street and Brook Street. The Corn Exchange wasn’t built until 1880, when it vacated its previous site on the south east corner of the Cornhill.
A new building was constructed on this site, allowing the Post Office to move from number 1 Buttermarket, which in turn was rebuilt as the offices of Garrod Turner, land agent and auctioneers. Garrod Turner was the town’s most prominent property auction house (founded 1801) and a substantial quantity of house particulars from the past two centuries is kept in Suffolk Record Office.
The balustrade around the balcony has the initials GT in wrought iron. Garrod Turner was eventually incorporated into the business of Fenn Wright (established 1768), the current occupiers of the building.
Next door, number 3 (Abbotts) was constructed at the same time, and in the same Tudorbethan style as The Walk, but it is the work of a different architect and contractor. It was factory-built by Frederick Tibbenham, furniture manufacturer in Turret Lane, and transported to the Butter Market in sections.
There has always been a passageway between the Cornhill and the Butter Market but it wasn’t until the 1930s that architect Hugh Munro Cautley (in practice with Lesley Barefoot) designed a scheme that linked the Thoroughfare with The Walk to create a shopping opportunity. This was one of the first purpose-built pedestrianised shopping malls in the country.
Take a look at Number 9 (White Stuff) – not at the goods in the window but at the decoration above your usual eyeline. Notice the Dutch gable and the bay windows with highly decorative plasterwork, an outstanding 19th century building. Typical of many units in the street, it has changed use on a number of occasions, including spells as a restaurant and later a wine bar.
There is an interesting story behind numbers 15-17. Back in 1859 Alfred Wrinch opened an ironmongers, retailing hardware to Ipswich residents, but quickly realised that one of his best selling lines was garden furniture. He opened a factory in Portman Road, initially producing folding chairs, seats and benches.
He sold the shop to Frederick Corder (who already had a shop in Tavern Street). Corder rebuilt the Buttermarket store and connected through to his shop in Tavern Street, creating a sizeable department store selling silk, drapery and furniture.
Corder expanded his range, incorporating china, crockery and kitchen requisites. Debenhams had acquired Footman & Pretty (in the early 1960s) but trade continued under the store’s original name.
When Corder’s suffered a downturn, Debenham’s moved in and in the mid 1970s purchased the goodwill. Both the Buttermarket and Tavern Street shops were sold – Habitat occupying the former, until they too got into difficulties and the shop changed hands, becoming Waterstones.
Alfred Wrinch went on to bigger things and became one of the world’s most renowned garden furniture manufacturers, selling items from wheelbarrows to portable buildings across the world. But that’s a story for next week.
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