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Days Gone By: First Floor Club was the only place for late-night fun for decades in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 09:39 24 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:26 24 December 2018

Radio One DJ Kenny Everett was at the First Floor Club in June 1969.  Picture: IAN MCGRATH.

Radio One DJ Kenny Everett was at the First Floor Club in June 1969. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.

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David Kindred looks at the First Floor Club, flooding in Ipswich and The Arlington Ballroom with Olga Wilmot.

Local band, fronted by singer Alan Wade, at the First Floor Club in the 1960s.Local band, fronted by singer Alan Wade, at the First Floor Club in the 1960s.

For decades from the mid 1960s the First Floor Club was the only late night venue in the centre of Ipswich.

Local businessman Ken Bean took over the Tacket Street site in 1966. Queues would form on the stairway leading to the club with customers keen to get in.

In the early years there was a casino and many well known show business names appeared there. The club was open seven days a week.

When Ken Bean sold the club it became Fire and Ice, which ran until 2010, when it closed. Comedians like Bob Monkhouse, Bernard Manning and Ronnie Corbett appeared. Magician Paul Daniels and Warren Mitchell was there in character as Alf Garnett.

Comedian Bob Monkhouse at the First Floor Club with club owner Ken Bean and Miss First Floor in January 1971. Picture: PAUL NIXONComedian Bob Monkhouse at the First Floor Club with club owner Ken Bean and Miss First Floor in January 1971. Picture: PAUL NIXON

Many couples met (and parted!) at “The Floor”. Sports clubs held their awards nights and celebrations. Hen, stag parties and gentleman’s evenings were a regular feature.

In today’s Days Gone By I feature just a few of the thousands of fun times at the First Floor Club. Some of the events would now be deemed to be “out of order”.

Were you a regular there? Do you have memories of the First Floor Club you would like to share with readers? Send an e-mail here.

Flooding in areas of Ipswich, close to the River, featured recently with a photograph of police officers on duty at Ipswich Dock. Former Ipswich policeman Bob Lawrence has added names to the picture along with memories.

Police officer at Ipswich Dock keeping an eye on a high tide in September 1969. Picture: IAN MCGRATHPolice officer at Ipswich Dock keeping an eye on a high tide in September 1969. Picture: IAN MCGRATH

Bob Lawrence, PC 185 Ipswich Borough Police, said: “The Sgt is Les Barber and from the left is Dick Young, Mick Miles, the third is unknown to me. Forth is probably Bob Gosden. On the left at the van is, I think, Brian Mills. Flooding in this area was very common then. Around the same time, in the early hours, I remember as a constable being told by an Inspector to knock up the people living in the pub at the corner of Bridge Street and Greyfriars Road.

“The flood water was at the time rapidly spreading from Stoke Bridge along Bridge Street towards the pub. After several minutes banging on the doors of the pub, a window opened upstairs and a lady leaned out and asked (not in a nice way) what the hell I wanted, I told her the flood water was rapidly coming up Bridge Street.

“I was informed by the lady that they had lived there for 25 years and the water always comes up Bridge Street and stops before it reaches the pub. She then suggested I went away and left them alone (but not in those words).”

The Arlington Ballroom, Ipswich, and its principal dance instructor Olga Wilmot, featured in Days Gone By recently.

Dancers at the Arlington Ballroom, Ipswich, in January 1968. Picture: IVAN SMITH
Dancers at the Arlington Ballroom, Ipswich, in January 1968. Picture: IVAN SMITH

Tony Barnard, emailed: “After my first wife died in childbirth my mother asked Olga to teach me to dance which she did.”

Pauline Looms, said: “My husband and I had lessons at the Arlington ballroom with Olga Wilmot and her sister Pauline before 1955. When we got married we could no longer afford to have that luxury. We enjoyed our time there immensely. Unfortunately my husband died in January, but we had many happy hours at the Arlington.”

Margaret Gooderham, wrote: “What a “blast from the past”. I went to the school of dancing at the Arlington Ballroom, Museum Street, Ipswich, many moons ago now. I attained my bronze, silver and gold medals and also my first bar from the International Dancing Masters Association. Olga Wilmot was a strict but fair teacher and I really did enjoy my lessons. I gave up dancing when I got married in the early 1960s. Todays idea of some dancing is so different from what I remember.”

The picture below shows a celebration held at the First Floor Club after the first season that Speedway returned to Foxhall Stadium in 1969.

Witches riders in the picture include: John Louis, Ernie Baker, Ted Spittles, Ron Bagley, Pete Bailey and John Harrhy. Picture: IAN MCGRATHWitches riders in the picture include: John Louis, Ernie Baker, Ted Spittles, Ron Bagley, Pete Bailey and John Harrhy. Picture: IAN MCGRATH

Riders, their partners and club officials gathered for this photograph.

Witches riders in the picture include: John Louis, Ernie Baker, Ted Spittles, Ron Bagley, Pete Bailey and John Harrhy.

Did you take part in a Go Go dancing contest at the First Floor Club in October 1971. Picture: PAUL NIXONDid you take part in a Go Go dancing contest at the First Floor Club in October 1971. Picture: PAUL NIXON

Comedian Ronnie Corbett, with club owner Ken Bean (left) and a magician at the First Floor Club in March 1970.  Picture: IAN MCGRATH.Comedian Ronnie Corbett, with club owner Ken Bean (left) and a magician at the First Floor Club in March 1970. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.

A Miss First Floor Club crowning in October 1978 with Ken Bean handing over the prize. Picture: PAUL NIXONA Miss First Floor Club crowning in October 1978 with Ken Bean handing over the prize. Picture: PAUL NIXON

Members of the Ipswich Sunday Football League celebrating at the First Floor Club, Ipswich, in November 1968. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.Members of the Ipswich Sunday Football League celebrating at the First Floor Club, Ipswich, in November 1968. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.

A Miss Hot Pants competition at the First Floor Club in June 1971. Picture: RICHARD SNASDELLA Miss Hot Pants competition at the First Floor Club in June 1971. Picture: RICHARD SNASDELL

A performance of  Hair at the First Floor Club in April 1970. Picture: IAN MCGRATHA performance of  Hair at the First Floor Club in April 1970. Picture: IAN MCGRATH

Who was this winner of a Best Dressed Disco Dancer competition at the First Floor Club in July 1979. Picture: PAUL NIXON.Who was this winner of a Best Dressed Disco Dancer competition at the First Floor Club in July 1979. Picture: PAUL NIXON.

Did you see singer Billy J Kramer at the First Floor in May 1968. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.Did you see singer Billy J Kramer at the First Floor in May 1968. Picture: IAN MCGRATH.

The Barron Knights at the First Floor Club in January 1970. The band sung comedy versions of hit songs and had the number one best selling single in 1964 with Call Up the Groups Picture: IAN MCGRATHThe Barron Knights at the First Floor Club in January 1970. The band sung comedy versions of hit songs and had the number one best selling single in 1964 with Call Up the Groups Picture: IAN MCGRATH

Do you remember the Disco Dancing competitions at the First Floor Club. This event took place in July 1979. Picture: PAUL NIXON.Do you remember the Disco Dancing competitions at the First Floor Club. This event took place in July 1979. Picture: PAUL NIXON.

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