Magical times at the picture palace

WALKING across open fields to get to the then-new Clifford Road School and Zeppelins flying low over Ipswich with their crew dropping bombs on the town - these are all memories from close to a century ago.

David Kindred

WALKING across open fields to get to the then-new Clifford Road School and Zeppelins flying low over Ipswich with their crew dropping bombs on the town - these are all memories from close to a century ago.

This wonderful look back beyond almost all living recollections are from a recording made in 1982 by Criss Gyford who was born at his parents' shop in Fore Street, Ipswich, in December 1901.

His son John sent me the memories for readers of Kindred Spirits to enjoy. Last week we learned how life was at his parents' greengrocers shop at 90 and 92 Fore Street. This week I pick up Criss's memories as he started school.

He said: “My first school was Clifford Road Infants School. I walked up Back Hamlet, turned left along an unmade road across Grove Lane, which was not then made up. There was a high ground on each side of Grove Lane then and there were deep gulleys down the sandy banks where children climbed.

“There were open fields from Grove Lane to Clifford Road, which appeared to be on the edge of town, although there were houses along Foxhall Road. The headmistress, Miss Garrard, lived in Palmerstone Road. Both my sister and I were able to read well by the time we started school. There were always books in our house, mostly along religious lines. My favourite reading material was comics, like 'Comic Cuts' on Tuesdays with 'Dreamy Daniel' and 'Weary Willie'. 'Chips' was on sale on Thursdays, featuring 'Tired Tim'.

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“At Clifford Road School during the daily reading lessons I was given a duster and told to dust the shelves and silver cups in the hallway to pass the time as I was such a good reader. When I was eight I transferred to the Central School in Smart Street. There was a fee of sixpence per week although it was a council school. Girls were on the ground floor and boys on the first floor. On Empire Day we paraded in the playground and the Australian flag was raised while we sang 'Rule Britannia'. We were told that on the same day the Union Flag had been raised at our corresponding school in Ipswich, Queensland. My sister Bessie began her schooling at five at Miss Banks' private school in Foundation Street so I could take her there as it was just round the corner from the Central School.

“Up to the age of about six I had to wear a smock-like overall to protect my clothes when playing in the back yard. Many children wore overalls then. Apart from the back yard to play in there was also the store sheds and stables with a very large loft above. There was also a large corridor leading to the outside lavatory. The toilet was flushed by a small stream which always seemed to flow into the dock. I think the stream flowed under our home because our kitchen was built up on piles.

“I kept a number of pets, rabbits, guinea pigs and some pigeons and doves in the loft. I borrowed a broody hen from my grandfather and hatched a dozen chicks, but rats got the lot. The hollow plaster walls were alive with rats; you could hear them running along the walls. We always had two or three cats which kept the rats and mice away from the shop and store rooms.

“During holiday time Bess and I would spend a lot of time in Christchurch Park playing cowboys and Indians, which was the outcome of our Saturday visits to Poole's Picture Palace in Tower Street, run by the Poole family and originally began with a magic lantern show. Each Saturday we were given 'tuppenece' (two old pennies). That was usually spent as a half-penny for two ounces of pear drops, a half penny for a comic and one penny to enter the cinema. As you entered the cinema you had to throw your penny into an open box, there was no nonsense about tickets. The box was under the watchful eye of a small man we always called 'Monkey' and he could spot a foreign coin at once. We used to arrive not too early at the cinema as the early arrivals were ushered into the main body of the hall and you had to sit on hard wooden seats. Latecomers were allowed upstairs to sit in the plush seats. The films were silent and accompanied by a pianist. There was always a huge roar when the show started. There was usually three films; a serial, where the villain always put the heroine in danger. The second film was a newsreel watched in silence. The third was what we had been waiting for, either cowboys and indians or slapstick comedy such as Charlie Chaplin.

“In 1915 my friends said 'Gyford we saw you on the news reel last night'. An army sergeant who had lived in Ipswich had been awarded the Victoria Cross and he was given a civic reception and the event was recorded by British Gaumont News. The first part of the reception was a drive from the railway station to the Town Hall in an open carriage. The streets were lined with cheering well wishers. Crowds of youngsters were following the carriage and there I was on my bicycle just behind the cab as it approached the Cornhill. My brief moment of glory!

“In 1917 I saw the first 'talking picture'. It was Shakespeare's King Henry the Fifth. The king's speech was recited on the stage by an actor beside the screen.”

“School days were occasionally interrupted by air raid warnings, which were given by the sounding of the foundry hooters. They were known as “Bulls”. On hearing these we were sent home until another hooter sounded the all clear.

“Although warnings were given on many occasions there were only a few actual air raids. The warnings were caused by Zeppelins returning to Germany from raids elsewhere, mainly London. One raid I do recall was at 7.30pm one evening. Suddenly there was a loud thump that rattled the windows. My mother said “under the table”. Before we got there, there was another thump and we could hear the Zeppelin's engines dying away in the distance. A few minutes later my father rushed in saying he had seen the Zeppelin. The first bomb had hit a house behind the Custom House at the dock. The second bomb fell into the dock and the third at Stoke Bathing Place.

“The first Zeppelin raid I recall was in the summer of 1915 when I was on holiday at my aunt's house at Hollesley. My uncle was away in the army. We were asleep when we were awoken by gunfire from the guns at Shingle Street about a mile away. My sister Bessie and I had trouble waking our aunt as she was almost stone deaf and had heard nothing.

“Most of the popular songs we heard in those days were from the whistling and singing of the errand boys, or from barrel organs and the hurdy-gurdy players - both of which had a monkey to attract donations. There was the occasional dancing bear with a ring through its nose which was attached to a pole. Gramophones were also becoming popular and my parents bought an HMV machine. The first one had cylindrical records that started with 'This is an Edison Bell Record”. Later we had a gramophone with flat records. Both machines were hand wound.

“In my younger days side streets had straw spread over them if there was illness in the road. This was to deaden the sound of horse's hooves and cart wheels. Funerals seemed to be an everyday event; the horses pulling the hearse had black plumes and black drapes on their sides. Most people belonged to a funeral club which they paid a few pence into each week. For a child's funeral the coffin was placed under the driver's seat and there was then room for up to six people in the cab compartment. In the country it was usual for the coffin to be taken to the church on a farm wagon. One wall of my parent's shop was hung with artificial wreaths under glass domes. Small sizes were �1 each and large ones �5. I think eventually the cemetery authorities banned these glass domes as they were considered dangerous.

“My father did considerable business supplying fruit and vegetables to ships and I think he had financial arrangements with the dockside public houses to put ships' business his way. I can recall seeing as many as three fully rigged sailing ships as well as smaller barquantines in the dock at one time, together with several steam vessels and many barges moored side-by-side, several deep.”

n Do you have any memories to share with Evening Star readers? Write to Dave Kindred, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail


The first air raid on Ipswich came on April 30, 1915, when a German Zeppelin dropped incendiary bombs on the town. The first fell on Barrack Corner, the second in Waterloo Road and another set light to three houses in Brooks Hall Road. This photograph was taken the morning after the raid.

Superintendent George Gallaway of the Ipswich Fire Brigade with an incendiary bomb dropped on the houses in Brooks Hall Road, Ipswich, in 1915.

Criss Gyford.

The Zeppelin raid on Ipswich recalled by Criss Gyford was March 31, 1916. Damage was caused to houses in Key Street, where a billeted soldier lost a leg. A man was killed outside the Gun public house at the corner of Lower Orwell Street. The Zeppelin went on to bomb London, but was hit by anti-aircraft fire and a night fighter. It crashed into the North Sea and the crew was picked up by naval ships.

Stoke Bathing Place, Ipswich, where one of the Zeppelin's bombs landed during the First World War, was a walled off area of the River Orwell opposite Cliff Quay. This photograph from Dennis Old, of Blandford Road, was taken around the time of the First World War. This bathing area was in use until it was badly damaged during the East Coast flood of 1953. What memories do you have of swimming here?

The Zeppelin airships which bombed Ipswich during the First World War were massive crafts similar to this.