Kindred Spirits - A wealth of memories of the Hippodrome Theatre in Ipswich
David Kindred recently asked readers for memories of the building in St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, which was built as the Hippodrome Theatre and became the Savoy bingo and dance hall.
Ipswich’s Hippodrome Theatre in St Nicholas Street opened in March 1905. The theatre was the idea of Edward Bostock, the owner of Wombwell’s Circus. Many famous names appeared there including Roy Castle, Peter Sellers, Des O’Connor, Tommy Cooper and Max Miller.
The last show was Carousel performed by the Ipswich Operatic Society in October 1957. The building was converted to a dance and bingo hall and renamed the Savoy.
It was demolished in 1985, but plaster castings from the ceiling were salvaged and are now in Ensors’, chartered accountants, Cardinal House building, which stands on the site.
Ken Bean said: “I introduced bingo at the Hippodrome building and stayed there for years as a caller while I fitted it in with my other commitments to bingo, which had expanded beyond my expectations in Felixstowe, Bury St Edmunds, Dovercourt, Leiston and Ipswich.
“My family was featured in Kindred Spirits a few years ago referring to my family home at 48 High Street, Ipswich, where, during World War Two, my mother was housing Hippodrome stars. These visitors were arranged by my brother Ted who sadly died over a year ago. He was employed as spotlight operator at the theatre. I am yet to retire as an active landlord to rented properties despite now being 86.”
Mrs Felgate added: “I was on stage at the Ipswich Hippodrome in the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk with Albert Grant and Renee Beck in December 1952. I was also in “Come to the Show” a variety show, which was on for six weeks.
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“I went to London, the Windmill Theatre, to be taught dance routines by the same man who taught the Black and White Minstrels. When the theatre became a dance hall in 1960 I met my husband there in May that year and we married six weeks later. We have four children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.”
Meanwhile, other readers have written about other subjects raised in Kindred Spirits.
Colin K Sheppard said: “The feature in Kindred Spirits about the town centre and especially St Matthew’s Street brought back many memories.
“When I was seven I went to live in Bedford Street, which is behind St Matthew’s Street between Berners Street and St George’s Street, with my parents and brother.
“When demolition took place in St Matthew’s in the early sixties everything round our house was demolished.
“When building work started the foundations of our end of terrace house was undermined and as a result the gable end collapsed and we had to move out that day into a hotel in Berners Street.
“This incident was reported on the front of the Evening Star in about 1964. While the house was being rebuilt we lived an Chantry until we moved back nine months later. The build quality of the flats overlooking our property was very poor and the flats had to be demolished in the 1980s.
“When I left school at 15 in 1962 I went to work at the Co-op at Barrack Corner, which sadly closed recently.
“I have fond memories working there and also other Co-op shops around the town, many of which no longer exist.
St Matthew’s Baths was opposite to were I lived and I went often for a swim. During the winter it was the Baths Hall with dances. On a Saturday night the music was provided by local bands, some very talented.
“Also I went to the wrestling there on a Friday night, which was fun, especially when the ladies tried to hit the wrestlers with their handbags! Other venues around the town for a dance included the Victor Sylvester studios on the first floor of the Gaumont (now the Regent) and the Savoy Ballroom in St Nicholas Street. Many memories indeed.”
The Potteries area of Ipswich was around Rope Walk until the area was demolished in the 1930s.
Sibyl Double said: “My parents had a grocery shop at 39 Gibson Street, opposite the Bucks Horn public house. My grandparents lived next door, which was good as there were ten children, so we were able to share the bedrooms.
We had a wonderful childhood and I think older readers would remember the Liffen family. People would say to mum “I have no money to buy food” and mum would say “I’ll give you food if you do my washing”.
“Sometimes I would see a special dress of mine on a neighbour’s washing line and I would run into the shop and say “Mum you have given my best dress away” and she would explain why.”
“People would peel potatoes and cook and clean windows to help my mother. I liked Christmas as my parents would give customers a small glass of wine and we children could have a sip. Often someone would then play the piano. So many lovely memories.”
Names have been added to the classroom photographs taken at St Matthew’s School, Ipswich, in the 1950s.
Peter Canham said: “The recent article featuring St Matthew’s School brought back some happy memories for me.
I attended the school from 1953-59. I am in the background of one of the photographs with Keith Skipper.
In another photograph is Carol MacPherson and Malcolm Fenn.
“Other pupils I remember in the same class were Colin Jarrold, Edwin Alderson, Stella Cobbold and Judith Theobald.
“The teachers were Miss Coleman, Mrs Robinson, Miss Frey, Miss Mudd, Mr Wightman, Mr Robbins and the headmaster Mr Denby. At lunchtime we used to troop down to the canteen at what is now Westbridge School, at the corner of London Road and Wilberforce Street.
“At the side of the school was a pub called the Mountain Ash, close to an area then known as The Mount.
“The school’s playground was opposite the school where the new St Matthew’s School now stands.”
Do you have memories of the shows, dancing or bingo there? Email David Kindred with your memories