Kindred Spirits - Readers from ‘across the pond’ remember Ipswich Co-op
A reader from America has sent her memories of Ipswich town centre when she worked at the Co-op store in Carr Street to David Kindred.
Doreen Curtis was working there in the 1940s and 50s when the Co-op occupied large stores on both sides of the street. The first store opened at 34 Carr Street on March 25, 1869.
The business expanded and by the mid 1880s a large building at the west corner of Cox Lane and Carr Street was trading.
A timber building on the opposite corner of Cox Lane was removed in 1907 and drapery and furniture departments were built, opening in 1908. Both of these buildings remain today.
She wrote: “What a collection of interesting stories about Ipswich when it was a thriving town. I worked at the Co-op offices in Carr Street during the late 1940s-early 50s. At that time
“Carr Street was two-way traffic with all the buses passing through there, not to mention bicycles, cars, delivery trucks, vans, and hundreds and hundreds of people. What a contrast to today’s Ipswich town centre.
“I worked in the managing secretary’s office on the corner of Carr Street and Cox Lane, which ran down between the gentlemen’s department and the women’s department.
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“Mr Castleton was managing secretary at that time and he had the corner office. The secretaries had the office behind his, but we had windows that overlooked Carr Street.
“We worked from Monday through Saturday with half a day off on Wednesdays. After a while management determined that we three secretaries could have an extra half a day off every third week on a Saturday.
“The Co-op was a massive department store offering every kind of merchandise that you could want. Now it has disappeared. I used to go into Woolworths occasionally for lunch. “Their fresh ground peanut butter was wonderful. It didn’t matter which store you went into, they were always packed with customers. How wonderful if it could go back to being how it was all those years ago. Well, maybe not the two- way traffic!”
Mr Kindred recently featured a photograph from David Nunn along with his memories of Thornley House School which was at 160 Norwich Road, Ipswich. Readers have responded with memories of the school.
Jerry Blake wrote to say: “In 1940, when I was three and a half, I started at Thornley House School as a weekly boarder which meant that one could come home at weekends. This was not always possible though, and many a weekend was spent with Miss Goldsmith trooping us up to the church on the corner of Portman Road and Barrack Corner for morning service.
This was during the war and on several occasions when the siren went day or night, we all had to lie in a row under the stairs until the “all clear”. I can also remember the cuckoo siren, which meant bombing was very close, so first you heard the cuckoo all clear then the normal all clear. We were very well looked after in the evenings after school
by two ladies, Gwen and Norah, who bathed us every night, made us clean our teeth and made us kneel against the bathroom wall and say our prayers. I attended Thornley House School until 1945 when luckily my father came home having served in Northern Africa and Italy.
“I must have left Thornley House at the end of 1945 or into 1946. My first few months at night I was in a cot in Miss Goldsmith’s bedroom, and later I slept in the bed next to hers. I can well remember when I had a tickly cough and once, in the middle of the night, Miss Goldsmith told me very sternly to stop coughing - not an easy thing to achieve!
“Later still I slept in a double bed opposite Miss Goldsmith’s bed between
two girls and possibly for the final year or two I was in a bed of my own in a dormitory with my friend Brian Swane and two other girls, Diana Squires, who was Miss Goldsmith’s niece, and Frances Nevick.
“One of my teachers was Miss Benderlack. One event I can remember was a school play in which I was dressed up as a golly, which I did not like.
“Holidays were sometimes spent at school as it was not possible to go home. I can recall one very nice holiday that Miss Goldsmith took us on, where we
slept in an old disused bus on a small-holding or farm, but I do not remember where it was, but tasted my first ever goat’s milk there. Another summer activity was walking crocodile fashion along Norwich Road, through a few side streets to Broomhill Park, where we would climb the hill and down to the swimming pool where we were taught
to swim, or in my case not. We were pushed out from the side of the pool on the end of a broom handle which had a loop of rope on which went round under our arms, then we were pulled back to the side of the pool.
“One could just about get three rough splashy breast strokes in and the inevitable mouth full of water and chlorine before grabbing the pool edge to avoid bumping your
“Unfortunately I received the cane on numerous occasions, mostly from Miss Goldsmith herself, usually on the hands, three swipes on each hand and sometimes across the seat of my trousers, but like your previous writers who attended Thornley House, Miss Goldsmith did her best in a wartime world of bombs, rationing and keeping order which was achieved with very strict discipline.
“Finally, two other names I can recall are Sally Anderson and Ann Down. Just before my wife and I left England to live in France, I called on Miss Goldsmith and she ushered me
into her drawing room on the left in the front entrance hall.
“This was in 1964 and I did not realise until your article that she finished the school in 1966.
£One last memory was the tuck shop in which us boarders had small tins of sweets given by our parents which as all things were rationed. Miss Goldsmith would allow us one sweet a week each, then the tuck shop was re-locked.
“Happy memories, but inevitably some not so happy.”
Jean Chaplin (nee Parker), of Horringer, said: “I attended Thornley House School in Norwich Road. I think I was about three and a half or may be four years old in about 1952/53.
We lived in Castle Road off the Norwich Road and my parents, Olive and Stan Parker, had three children under four and a half so as the eldest, and I think to keep me out of mischief, I was sent off to school.
“I remember the driveway up to the school and we went in through a side entrance. There was a small playground at the rear of the building. Lunch on a Monday was always cold beef, mashed potatoes and beetroot. Surprisingly a meal I still enjoy and I still tell my grandchildren about it. I don’t remember what we ate the rest of the week. We went for lunchtime walks up Valley Road.
“We walked in “crocodile formation” in two and held hands with your partner. There was a little strip of parkland to the right hand side. We played games and then walked back again. It was probably about 15-20 minutes.
“In the entrance hall there was a spiral staircase which always intrigued me. I think it went up to the dormitory for the boarders. I recall only a few pupils in my class. We had school reports and I think I may still have one somewhere. I know that we learnt our times tables and by the time I left, when I was about six years old, I knew up to 12 times table. We had spelling and mental arithmetic games.
“I recall seeing Miss Goldsmith about, but she did not teach me. My teachers were Mrs Roper, who had a daughter called Cherry. I thought that name was so wonderful. I also loved another teacher called Mrs Giddings. She was very quiet and gentle and always had a lap to sit on if you were upset. Mrs Roper was a strong and upright teacher, with her hair tied back in a bun at the neck. She had a large stick which she thumped on the floor when we were reciting our tables in the old fashioned way now referred to as rote learning.
“We had a school uniform. Winter it was a navy blue gym slip with buttons on the top. Shirt and a tie which was green and purple striped. I had a velour hat with a band in the same purple and green striped. Summer was a striped or checked dress, I can’t recall colours now and a Panama hat with the same purple and green band. I wondered if the school colours were chosen as a homage to the Suffragettes as I imagined Miss Goldsmith may have supported them.
“During this time my parents had some dear friends called Eddie and Marie Payne. Eddie was a band leader and had a summer show at Margate where they lived. Marie’s mother lived in Severn Road in Ipswich. Marie and Eddie’s two daughters, Carol and Sandy, were boarders at Thornley House and would spend weekends and parts of holidays with us.
I must have enjoyed my few years there as I still recall so much of the time. From here went on to St Matthew’s scool and recall hearing the cattle being shot in Black Horse Lane slaughter house. This was at the original school and Mr Denby was headmaster then. “
Mike Rumsey added: “I was born on December 29, 1937 and lived in Brookfield Road and attended Thornley school in 1942. My sister Barbara, then aged 10, used to take me to school in the mornings on the trolley bus from the top of Springfield Lane, and then return to either Springfield Primary School or to Westbourne. My mother who worked in Ipswich during that time, I believe in a clothing factory, picked me up after school and her bicycle had a little seat on the back.
“I still have the reports from the spring, summer and winter all signed by Beatrice Goldsmith and the teachers who tried to teach me. My immediate memory was entering the school up the steps which are behind the group in the photograph, entering the spacious hall and noticing a large stove, probably a paraffin stove, in the hall. From memory I continued to the rear of the hall and to the right, climbed a set of steep wooden stairs which spiralled to the left and entered a small room which was the classroom.
“According to my reports my teachers were for the spring term a M Durrant, the summer term someone with the initials W B and for the winter term E W Fox. The reports had similar phrases like, needs to pay more attention to his oral work, could do better if he were more attentive, could do much better if he worked harder. At the beginning of 1944 I started at the Springfield Infants School and E W Fox as it turned out later also taught me for a short while at the primary school, not only that, but was the mother of one of my oldest friends, Peter Fox.”
Another former pupil was Irene Went (nee Ellenor), who said: “I went to Thornley House school when I was five years old. I started in 1942 and left when I was eleven years old and went to Christchurch Secondary School. I worked at Marks & Spencer for 16 years when I left school.
“Times have changed in Westgate Street, it is not so upmarket any more, we had so many nice stores then.”
And David Turner also attended the school. He said: “I attended Thornley House School between 1942 and 1945. My family lived at Claydon at the time and I travelled to school on the red service bus No 204 from Stowmarket, which stopped right outside the school in Norwich Road. Several other children rode on this bus and we all wore the school uniform which, for the boys, included a purple cap with yellow piping, and was probably purchased from Edwards in Tavern Street.
“Miss Goldsmith was the head mistress and two of her assistant teachers were Miss Barkaway and Miss Benderlack. There was also a number of young assistants who helped with the younger children.
“One vivid memory I have is of Miss Goldsmith coming into my classroom to announce that the war had ended. It must have been May 1945. This did not mean much to us children, as with fathers and uncles on active service we didn’t know of a time when there had been no war.
“I cannot remember much of the lessons, but when I moved to another school at the age of seven I could already read and write.”
Margaret Gallant (nee Neaves) said: “I attended Thornley House School from 1946 - 1957 and recognise some of the teachers pictured - Miss Goldsmith (Golly) was the head and taught the older children, Miss Roper taught the first year pupils and Miss Mitchell and Miss Bailey were, I think, second and third year teachers, although I believe we had each teacher for two years. I remember Miss Rumsey but cannot recall which years she taught. Golly was really a great disciplinarian and I was always in awe of her. The school had really Victorian rules and discipline.
“I have many memories of the old building and having to walk two by two (crocodile style) for an after dinner walk up Anglesea Road.”
Rosemary Jones (nee Sutton), of Sproughton, said: “I went to Thornley House School between 1947-1950 and I was very happy there. I remember Mrs Roper who had a daughter Cherry in my class.
“I have often wondered what happened to the other girls and boys in my class. I am now nearly eighty years old and have many happy memories of the school. My son went there in 1960 for one year when he was four years old and then went to Springfield Lane Infants School.”
Memories of life in the Bramford Road area of Ipswich have been arriving following a feature on the area.
Wendy Orriss, of Ipswich, said: “I lived in the area when I first married in 1948, until demolition in Prospect Road off Bramford Road. I remember every shop mentioned in Kindred Spirits and used nearly every one of them. Ottley’s butchers, Ward grocers, and Miss Elliman drapers (she ran the shop with her mother) come immediately to mind.
“I remember the houses near the Rose and Crown public house at the top of Bramford Road. Real tumbledown some of them were in the 1950s. I knew a family who lived there. I lived in the same kind of house in Prospect Road, two up two down and a bath on a nail on the kitchen wall outside.
“It was after the Second World War so we were very lucky to have somewhere of our own when young people were on the housing list and sharing.
Albert Lane had a small building that housed paints. One night there was a fire and cans were popping and banging for hours reminding us of the war.
“I remember the shop in Victoria Street, it was called Cobbs and Mason Street was a few steps from my front door.
“There was a shop run by Mr and Mrs Ken Gardner. their range of stock was all anybody needed, even paraffin and bundles of wood for those who had a coal fire.
“What a beautiful building Bramford Road School was. My two sons started there until it was time to move when we were rehoused. There was a tuck shop outside the school gates in the front room of the first house in Bramford Road and very popular it was.”
Betty Ottywill added: “I grew up on Bramford Road, my name then was Betty Smith. I lived at the “Three Cups” public house on the corner of Wellington Street and Bramford Road, my dad was Reginald Smith and the landlord for many years. I lived in the pub from age five to twelve and went to Bramford Road School until eleven and then to Westbourne High.
“The shops on Bramford Road are exactly how I remember them. I had many friends from around there whilst growing up and have lost contact with most of them. I married in 1965 and lived in Sproughton, before emigrating to Canada in 1981. I now live in Niagara Falls, Canada, and would love to hear more from people from that area in the 50s. Some close friends sent me the newspaper cuttings, which was printed on August 11, my birthday, makes you wonder the powers that be!
“My childhood was wonderful, loving parents and of course all the pub customers made a fuss of me. I loved living there and think of the old road so very much, to receive these photos was an absolute treasure and I thank you so much.”
Ipswich town centre and its shops have also featured in recent Kindred Spirits, and Pat West wrote to say: “My earliest memories of Ipswich are of going to see Cinderella at the Hippodrome and walking backwards up the aisle in the hope of seeing Cinderella in her wedding dress as we rushed out to catch the bus to Hacheston. My parents took me to Christchurch Mansion, which is one of my favourite local museums. My mother went missing and was discovered trying to play a harp, she’d always wanted to, but it wasn’t tuned - she’d hopped over the red rope!
“We bought my school uniform from Edwards - such a posh, expensive shop and my mother was relieved to find Marks & Spencer sold much cheaper and good quality blouses.
One of the treats was to go to the Wimpy Bar in Upper Brook Street. My father took my cousin, an American friend and I there, when we went to look round a submarine in about 1963.
“We all wore full petticoats and skirts - a big mistake in a narrow submarine.
“I started work in Ipswich at the Ancient House in October 1965 with Doreen and Pam. Miss Rogers was head of the children’s department and Mr Green head of the adult book department. Georgie took care of the ten inch maps that we sold to Orfordness. I occasionally helped out in the newspaper section with Jean and in the antiques room. I remember being sent to Sainsbury’s for biscuits. There were long counters there and staff with long white aprons. I also liked shopping at Woolworths. The cinema next door to the Ancient House then was the ABC.
“In my early teens my mother and I went with American friends to the Arts Theatre in Tower Street every week. We saw John Carlisle in Billy Liar, Gawn Grainger, Ian Thompson and many other people who appear now on TV. They did a wonderful selection of plays.
“I remember the C & A store coming to Ipswich, in Upper Brook Street. It was somewhere exciting to go shopping and to the pictures with boyfriends.
My friends and I usually went to Woodbridge cinema and watched the screen shake when a train left the station.
“I bought clothes from Richards in the Buttermarket and bargains from Corders when they had a fire. Lunch was from a little delicatessen opposite the Ancient House. My favourite clothes came from a tiny shop called Dors, paid for at a £1 a week. I had a much- loved cream gaberdine skirt which eventually fell apart and a grey thick skirt from there which I still have memories of! These both cost £4.00, a whole week’s wages, but they were well made.
“From there I went to work at Burton Son and Saunders bakery supplies at the office in College Street, from April 1967 until November 1967 when I married and moved to Norwich. My fiancé and I would sometimes have lunch at Limmers in the Buttermarket.
“My second husband and I bought wedding rings at Ernest Jones, and I sold my first one at Croydons for three times what we paid for it, £12.00 in 1976!
Ipswich in those days was a pleasant place, but by the time my daughter lived and worked there in 1990 I worried about her going out at night and living in a shared house near the station. I was actually less worried when she moved to London.”