Roads rang to horses' hooves

REMARKABLE memories from a lady born the year the Titanic sunk, bring a long lost way of life alive for us. Dorothy Cross was born close to Derby Road Station in Ipswich, and today still lives in the same part of Ipswich.

REMARKABLE memories from a lady born the year the Titanic sunk, bring a long lost way of life alive for us.

Dorothy Cross was born close to Derby Road Station in Ipswich, and today still lives in the same part of Ipswich. This lady can clearly recall details of life from around the First World War and today devote this column to her memories.

She was born Dorothy Palmer, at 28 Orwell Road, just behind Derby Road Station in 1912, and attended Rosehill Infants School during World War One.

She said: “One of my very earliest memories is of the soldiers billeted with my family prior to leaving for the trenches. They used to stand their rifles in the kitchen behind the back door and I still have the postcards they sent back to us from the front. Whether they came back, I have no knowledge.

“They shared the middle bedroom so their sleep would not be disturbed by the heavy clip-clop of horses' hooves from the stables opposite. Two coal merchants Thomas Moy and Rowland Manthorpe, stabled their horses in Orwell Road, which was convenient for the coal yards at the nearby station. Each day at 8am, the sturdy brown Suffolk Punches would take to the road to collect the sacks of coal for their first deliveries. They worked all day and returned to the stables in the early evening.

“Behind our house, accessed from Stanley Avenue, was another stable. This was used by Shufflebothams who ran a bakery at the top of St John's Road. Besides their horse and cart “Shuffles” also employed a delivery boy named Cyril. I would often see him riding down Orwell Road on his tradesman's bicycle - a heavily-laden basket full of freshly-baked loaves either on the front of his bike or hanging precariously from one arm. There was also horse-drawn greengrocery cart of George Middleditch and his son Tom who lived along Foxhall Road just past Britannia Road. They made deliveries every Wednesday and Saturday. With the Co-op also delivering bread, milk and coal by horse and cart, it was a profitable hunting ground for the bucket and spade brigade seeking fresh manure for the garden!

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“Also in Orwell Road, nearly opposite Pearce Road, was a little house shop run by an elderly couple called Mallett. When they eventually closed the shop door for the last time, the Bloomfield's, who lived next to them, turned their front parlour into a general store just as their neighbours had done previously. I used to go to Bloomfield's shop on errands for my mother or to spend my few precious pennies on such delights as acid drops, tiger nuts, bull's eyes or aniseed balls.

“At the corner of Orwell Road and Foxhall Road stood Gooderham's, a second-hand shop selling mainly furniture and books. On the other corner was Bertie Wright's butchery. This has long since been converted to a private house, though the original shop front still remains. Almost opposite the end of Orwell Road on the corner of Kemball Street was The Rosary - a market gardening enterprise known locally as Carey's. Here we would wander in and out of the vast greenhouses selecting cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes and beetroot, which Mr Carey or one of his two assistants would harvest as we waited. Near the gate was a huge metal trough of water and it was here that the vegetables were washed before being wrapped - the ultimate in fresh food!

“A little further along Foxhall Road was Rowling's news agency where every Saturday I would buy my copy of The Children's Newspaper. It stood on the corner of Henslow Road where, at the back of a house opposite Coronation Road, there was a small home laundry. This was run by Tilly Punt. I went to the laundry each week with the detachable collars from my father's best shirt. These were left to be scrubbed clean and starched as stiff as boards. I would then collect them the following week so that my father could wear them with his Sunday best. Although the Ipswich Sanitary Steam Laundry was in Felixstowe Road, small-scale laundering was a regular source of extra income and the lady who lived across the road from us had the job of hand-washing towels and tea cloths from Ipswich High School. She would then wring the washing through the mangle in our kitchen before hanging it out to dry on the clothes-line. Spinners and tumble driers were the work of science-fiction writers in those days!

“For everyday use, bicycles were most people's only mode of transport. If you didn't have your own, Freeman's in Tomline Road would hire you one out for the day. The little general shop in Pearce Road, opposite the approach to Derby Road Station, had a nice little sideline charging the Felixstowe day-trippers to store their cycles. People would ride to the station, park their trusty steeds in the garden behind the shop and after the completion of the train journey to and from the seaside would collect them to ride home.

“Living so close to the railway was an important feature of my early life. I can recall many a Saturday afternoon spent with my best friend Winnie Fisk playing on the footbridge that linked the two platforms. The down line trains tended to have their engines standing directly under this bridge and we delighted in running in and out of the grey-black smoke that enveloped it. This game was often prolonged if the fireman of the train below had to refill the engine's boiler with water to complete the journey to Ipswich Station.

“The original Rosehill School on Derby Road was a Victorian design built in 1885 solely as a school for infants. In 1895, a girls' department was added and I attended both these schools before they amalgamated in 1930. My two headteachers, Miss Louise Witter and Miss Mary Jones, ruled over their domains with rods of iron. I couldn't wait to leave.

“Opposite the school was a large drapery called Chiddel and Bedford which I think was run by two very elderly ladies. Next to that in Rosehill Road stood Wiles' butchery and Button's sweet shop. With two other general shops between here and St Bartholomew's Church, children attending the school were spoilt for choice!

“Further along Derby Road there was open wasteland where the Co-op garage recently stood and also the legendary Jackson's pie-shop which sold the most superb meat pies.

“On the corner of Felixstowe Road were two shops owned by the Prentices. Henry ran the grocery and the words 'Family Grocer' can still be seen today on the side wall in Derby Road, while Percy had the outfitters next door. I believe this is the only business along this stretch still trading under the same name I remember from the 1920s.

“The Felixstowe Road shop that I knew best was John Todd and Son, the grocery shop, on the corner of Levington Road. I used to visit this shop twice a week on Tuesday and Saturday to deliver the shopping list for our neighbour Mrs Crowe. She gave me sixpence a month for my trouble!

“Either Mr Todd or his son would box up the items for the grocer's boy to deliver on his bike. I always tried to be served by the father as he would let me help myself to a biscuit from the selection of tins that stood opposite the polished walnut counter. In those days biscuits were always sold loose rather than in packets. The Todds lived in the house adjacent to the shop which was very much the traditional grocers. I wonder what old Mr Todd would say today if he knew that his shop now specialised in selling fireworks!

“I made regular visits to Gibbs' wet fish shop, which is now the Victoria's Bakery, where I would buy my father's tea. Mother would give me the money before school and I would hand it to my teacher for safe-keeping. When school was over I would make my way to Gibbs' to buy bloaters, kippers, whelks or occasionally, a nice piece of haddock. Since my father didn't get home from work until 8pm, there was always plenty of time to prepare his tea.

“Next to Gibbs was a butchers shop run by Ernest Moss. It specialised exclusively in pork products - joints, chops, hams, pies, sausages and a type of brawn made in a pudding basin and known as pork cheese. To me, this had a most unpleasant taste and texture. Further along Felixstowe Road, past Mence Smith's, Fred Hubert's cycle shop and the post office, was a large detached shop with a central doorway and display windows on either side. It was called Johnson's Arcade and was a drapery, outfitters and milliners selling such items as sheets, towels, overalls, ladies' dresses and suits and, of course, hats. It has since become two separate shops.

“On the opposite side of the road, Watcher's shoe shop sold boots, shoes and slippers. They were very good quality and quite expensive. Though I occasionally shopped there for 'best' shoes and boots, my everyday wear was bought elsewhere, usually at Price's in Tacket Street. There was also Stearn the Chemist, which is now Lloyds Pharmacy and at least three tobacconists in the short stretch between the Royal Oak and York Road. It was at one of these that father sometimes bought an ounce of Digger pipe tobacco for himself and some Red Tenner cigarettes for mother. These she smoked at home in the evening sitting on a little stool with her back to the fire. Father waited till everyone was in bed before he lit up!

“Mother also enjoyed half a pint of Old Ale from the off sales department of the Railway Hotel in Foxhall Road. She warmed this in a saucepan and drank it as a nightcap before retiring to bed. These were the only indulgences my parents allowed themselves, though my father did visit the Newton Road Conservative Club on Sunday evenings and was also a regular at the library in Tomline Road.

Father worked a 56-hour week at Ransome's Lawnmower Works in Long Street, my mother had her own schedule of domestic chores. One of these involved scouring all the window-ledges and front and back doorsteps, with hearthstone. This was a block of soft, white stone she bought from the 'Hearthstone Man'. He used to come down our road once a month, always on a Saturday morning, carrying a heavy sack over his shoulder.

“Another regular Saturday caller was the man who sold water-cress. Mother paid tuppence for a bunch which my father had for his tea that evening. I also remember the shrimp boy. He came round every day except Sunday ringing his bell to announce his arrival. He kept his shrimps in a deep wicker basket on the front of his bike and sold them at four pence a pint. Another visitor was the rag and bone man with his horse and cart. His visits were irregular but we always knew of his presence by his cry of: “Any old rags! Any old lumber!

“ My other vivid memories include; coal carts trundling back to Manthorpe's Yard in the gloom of a late December afternoon' Felixstowe-bound trains building up steam as they pulled slowly away from Derby Road station on a beautiful July morning; children playing noisily on warm, summer evenings in the road or on the 'Brickie' , the old brickyard behind Orwell Road; workers in groups of two or three leaving for the morning shift at the local factory; patient horses feeding from nose-bags; cloth-capped delivery men; whistling errand-boys.

“Such evocative images provide a snapshot of life as I remember it. Life was certainly calmer and less frenetic than it is today, though people were less well off, worked longer hours and lacked many of the home comforts we now take for granted. Were they the good old days? That is a matter of opinion.”

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