Ipswich: Uncovering one of the town centre’s hidden treasures
IN one of Ipswich’s most historic neighbourhoods, St Nicholas Street and nearby St Peter’s Street have much to offer the visitor, shopper and trader.
Reporter JAMES MARSTON meets some of the people who are part of an Ipswich success story.
By day St Nicholas and St Peter’s streets are a bustling part of our town centre.
Busy with shoppers and passers-by, they are a main thoroughfare to the Waterfront and make up one of the town’s smartest and most fashionable areas.
At lunchtime businessmen and ladies who lunch fill the restaurants and wine bars.
By night, and especially at weekends, this is popular among young barflies keen to see and be seen in one of the trendiest parts of town.
Much of the street is historic – known for its half timbered medieval buildings and it is thought that Ipswich’s most famous son, Cardinal Wolsey, was born here.
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Boutiques, independent shops, bars and restaurants, an art gallery, upmarket delicatessens, beauty salons – these two streets enjoy a huge range of businesses keen to make the most of the passing trade.
But it wasn’t always this way.
In the early 1990s, the streets were quite different, with empty shops rather than pretty boutiques lining the way.
In St Peter’s Street Rob Hardy has been trading at ice cream parlour i-scream! for 14 years. He said: “We are a take away ice cream parlour and it is a niche business. We’ve been here 14 years and business has been good.
“We picked here deliberately as we knew it would one day be an obvious thoroughfare to the Waterfront.
“It is one of the few streets in Ipswich where you can park outside and it is handy for the cinema at Cardinal Park.”
Though much of Rob’s business is weather-dependent he is happy with his location.
“We have a loyal customer base that we have built up over the years. We have never developed through word of mouth,” he said.
Rob said trade has increased in St Peter’s Street. He said: “It has got busier especially in the last couple of years.
“More people walk down here than they used to.
“It is a lovely street to trade in and it is a nice community as well.”
Lisa Mowles is the manager of Finishing Touches – a curtain, blinds and fabric store – in St Nicholas Street.
She said: “We have been trading for three months. It is a modern and fashionable area and I think it is one of the nicest parts of Ipswich town centre.
“The car parking could be a bit cheaper but there’s a good community among traders.”
Ipswich borough councillor Carole Jones, who is responsible for economic development, said: “These two streets, known affectionately as the Saints, hold a unique place in the town centre for residents and visitors alike and have developed over the years to become something very special, with an eclectic mix of independent businesses and restaurants.
“They also act as a link between the town centre and the Waterfront.”
Catharine Jones is the owner of Saints on the corner of St Peter’s Street and Rose Lane.
She said: “We are an independent licensed caf� offering breakfasts and lunches throughout the day. We also have continental-style outside seating.”
Catharine said the business has been trading for four years and employs five part-time staff.
She added: “We chose this street because it is up and coming and the link between the town and the Waterfront. The street is ever changing and improving.
“The business is doing okay and we are looking towards the future.”
Robin Peters has worked at Frame Workshop and Gallery in St Nicholas Street for 28 years.
The store sells artwork by local artists as well as offering a framing service.
He said: “I took over the business as owner in 2003. When we first started, it was quite a run-down area of the town.
“It has really come up in the last ten to 15 years. Most of the traders get on well and we often help each other out. I think it is one of the most interesting and independent streets in the town.”
n What do you think of ‘The Saints’?