Ipswich Society warns that Tesco work could damage former Croydon’s store

John Norman, Chairman of The Ipswich Society, is concerned about the new Tesco Express on Tavern Str

John Norman, Chairman of The Ipswich Society, is concerned about the new Tesco Express on Tavern Street that is going into the old Croyden's building. - Credit: Su Anderson

Work to turn the former Croydon’s jewellers’ store into a new Tesco Express could damage one of the most important sites in Ipswich town centre.

That’s the warning today from the Ipswich Society as work gets under way to convert the building in Tavern Street.

The store has been empty since Blacks’ outfitters moved out in 2012 – part of the original store is now a Virgin Media outlet.

Although it appears old, the facade of the building only dates from 1929 and is not listed. But Ipswich Society chairman John Norman believes much of the building could be considerably older than this.

Mr Norman said when Tavern Street was widened during the 1920s, many existing buildings had new façades built on to them.

Some of the buildings were very old, and could even be Tudor-built, but because the records were not complete they had not been listed by conservation officers.

And while some of the features inside the building had been added during the 1920s, they could also be very old in their own right.

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Mr Norman said: “The architect, John Sherman, was well known for dismantling Suffolk farm houses and selling them off to Americans, which was far better than just seeing them demolished, but he also re-used their features in developments in Ipswich.

“The staircase in Croydons was installed in 1929, but it may well have been recovered from another older building.”

He thought Tesco might be unlikely to want it to stay there if they were turning the place into a single-storey shop.

Mr Norman said the architecture was very important for the town: “The style of façade selected by Sherman was incredibly brave, as not only did the Local Authority have to approve (it was their street widening scheme) but so did the buildings owner.

“The refurbishment extended to the inside of the store with some fine plaster decoration, a magnificent set of stairs and an ambience worthy of the town’s premier jeweller who occupied the space.”

He said the Ipswich Society did not object to Tesco taking over the store, convenience stores were a welcome addition to the town centre, but it was concerned that the company would not pay enough attention to the historic details of the building, both inside and out.

“Will they retain the historic signs that have been kept until now, or will they want to change them for their own branding?” Mr Norman added.

No one from Tesco was available to comment on the work yesterday, but before Christmas a spokesman said: “We are undertaking some strip out works on site at the moment and hope to open our store early in the Summer of 2015. We will be sure to keep the local community updated.”