Ipswich shops we loved, lost, and want back!
PUBLISHED: 19:32 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:37 20 December 2019
What was your favourite? Woollies? C&A? Fanny boutique?
Someone please put me out of my misery. I can't remember the name of the sweetshop at Tower Ramparts in Ipswich in the 1970s.
This enterprise couldn't have been better placed. Tower Ramparts (or, in bus-stop lingo, Electric House) was where the town's "green buses" stopped and started their journeys.
Staff could hold a glass jar of sweets in the crook of one arm and gently tip cola cubes onto the scales. Experience meant they invariably dispensed the right amount by eye, before closing the paperbag with an expert twist.
In the mid-1980s the area was turned into Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre (now Sailmakers). There really ought to be a brass plaque somewhere, to honour the memories.
Relatives came up from Kent one day in the early 1970s and my cousins wanted to buy Scalextric racing cars. Somehow, they knew about Everybody's Hobbies.
It was a narrow and jam-packed building in St Nicholas Street, I think. If you wanted a specific model tree to make your railway layout complete, or a particular shade of Humbrol paint to make your Airfix plane the colour the real thing would have been on an August Tuesday in 1942, you'd find it.
The business later decamped to bigger and brighter premises on the corner of Northgate Street and Great Colman Street - badged with the nationally-recognised Toymaster logo but displaying the Everybody's Hobbies name, too.
I understand the opening of the Toys R Us warehouse at Copdock Mill spelled bad news. I'd love to see Everybody's Hobbies back… if only to wean people off their phones and let them enjoy something more tangible.
To a child of the 1960s, Footman's department store was the Harrods of Ipswich - a bustling bazaar of wonder. It was the smell that grabbed you: a mix of cheese, fresh bread and roasted peanuts.
Then there was the lift, controlled by an operator. It all felt swish - as was the "posh" restaurant.
If only Debenhams, which now occupies the site, could replicate some of that magic and "warmth"…
It's nearly three-and-a-half years since Ipswich BHS closed, but my BHS pants are still doing sterling service.
In its heyday it sold good stuff. I had a Saturday job at the old store in Tavern Street, when it earned a great reputation for food (such as cheeses and fruit), lighting and hats.
I miss everything about it - apart from the pink chipboard wall-covering with little holes in it. And the mannequins that were difficult to move without them coming apart in your hands.
Bright and cheery, it sold almost everything one could want - at reasonable prices and decent quality. We bought our records, cassettes and CDs there… and then there were pic 'n' mix sweets.
Ipswich's fresh fish counter had a seven-feet-long fibreglass model of a leaping salmon, with water cascading over it. As a young child, you were never quite sure if it was real or not.
I've still got a microscope bought from Sneezum's, known for its good old-fashioned service. It sold cameras and photographic equipment, sports goods, tools and musical instruments.
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It occupied a wedge-of-cheese-shaped building on the corner of Lower Orwell Street and Fore Street. There was a turret on the narrow end; today, we'd think it Potteresque.
Martin & Newby
A stroll away from Sneezum's was this Fore Street hardware store. Martin & Newby was the kind of place that sold single screws and other vital accessories. Staff knew where everything was; they'd nip off to a little wooden drawer and pull out the thing you sought.
It was a sad day when it closed in 2004.
Gordon Thoday fabric shop
Thousands of homemade wedding dresses began their lives here, in Westgate Street - a place where you could choose a pattern and then buy the precise amount of material required.
It was fascinating watching experts unwrap cloth, measure it by the yard, and cut it with sharp scissors that sliced through the fabric like a knife.
Ancient House bookshop
The 15th century Buttermarket building, known for wood carvings and the plaster pargeting depicting the world (though not Australia, as the Tudors didn't know it existed) is at least still with us - home to kitchenware chain Lakeland.
But I mourn the eclectic bookshop. The "idle student's guide to…" books came in very handy in explaining those O-level texts I couldn't fathom.
I didn't like the bollards outside. When you walked past, glancing in the shop windows and not paying attention, you hit them in just the wrong place. Particularly if you were male.
About 200 people responded rapidly to our Facebook invitation to name their favourites. Here's a selection:
Jayne Louise: BHS, especially Christmas time
Lisa Porter Ellis: BHS and C&A
Wendy Ann: I miss the cafe in Grimwades... somehow the ice-cold milk from there was always the best ever!
Susan Kerry: Woolworths, and Newsteads - their cream cakes were the best - and Marshall's in The Walk
Jemma Careswell: Woolies! Especially at this time of year
Jacqueline Perks: The Co-op. Their Santa was fantastic. Nothing in Ipswich was like it
Richard Noble: Worked on the grotto with Bernard Dye in 1984; mechanical elves and hand-painted toadstools.
Mark Exton: Andy's Records, Mintz and Davies
Tracy Myles: Ancient House Bookshop, Woolworths, Mortems, Spoils, Dolcis
Patricia Allington: Sargeants dress shop, Albert List's (toyshop).
Sandra Ling: Corders
Alex Catling: Chelsea Girl
Gabrielle Howard: Marno's cafe. If I was younger I'd have said Fanny Boutique! (It was opened in Crown Street in February, 1967, by pop music TV show presenter Cathy McGowan, of Ready Steady Go! fame.) There was a brilliant lingerie shop, I think it was called Contessa, near the Ancient House; and CC Fashions, my most favourite shop that was nearby. These shops made a visit to Ipswich worthwhile.