Saving the show leather

TO be 'well heeled' refers to somebody who can afford a good pair of boots or shoes, and there were many, who in Victorian times could not afford footwear.

TO be 'well heeled' refers to somebody who can afford a good pair of boots or shoes, and there were many, who in Victorian times could not afford footwear.

Poor children would be sent to school in bare feet. Today footwear is taken for granted and in many cases is worn for fashion as much as a necessity.

A generation ago, most families either repaired their own shoes using an iron shoe last. Parents would heel and sole the family shoes and often add little steel tips to save on wear. We still have cobblers who repair footwear, but most of our shoes are thrown out when they show signs of wear.

One of the last old style cobblers I can recall, was on the Norwich Road, Ipswich, opposite the junction with Bramford Road, where a couple of characters operated until around fifteen years ago.


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Edwin Mason of Web's Court, Kesgrave, started work cycling round town to collect shoes for repair. He said: “My early days of work were with a firm of shoe repairers called Quick Shoe Repair Services who had shops in Upper Brook Street, known as The Wash, and Fore Street. I believe Mr Dent, the owner, had five shops, four in Upper Brook Street and one in Fore Street. The main shop was next to St Michael's Church in Upper Brook Street. It is now an Indian restaurant.

“I used to collect shoes for repair on a trade bike, around Nacton Road, Rivers Estate area, as a Saturday job, pick up one Saturday, and return the next. One Saturday while coming down Cliff Lane, I heard a plane so I climbed on the bank of Oulton Road and watched as a German bomber dropped his bombs in the dock. The blast blew me down the bank. When I got back to the shop they didn't believe me, with all the noise in the shop no one heard the blast.

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“I know that the firm was carried on in later years, by Bill and Tom Garner, at a big workshop in Orwell Place, which is also now an Indian restaurant.

“I am on the right of the photograph by the trade bike. At that time I was in charge of three finishing shops on the other side of Upper Brook Street”. Included in the photograph are: Arthur Dent (seated), on his left wearing a cap is Archie Carracio, Bill Garne is at the back just to the right of the door. In the middle of the door is Cyril Dent, Arthur's son. The ladies were Miss Hazel, secretary, in the front, and Mrs Sheldrake who was related to Arthur Dent. Upper Brook Street was then a very busy street with many shops and trades.

“I came to Ipswich from RAF Wattisham as a lad when war broke out in 1939. I was one of the initial pupils at Western Senior School (now Westbourne). I was a runner for the air raid warden's post at the corner of Marlow Road. When the incendiary bombs were dropped on the school and allotment we picked them up in buckets and piled them against the wall of the warden's post.”

ONE of the main routes into town used to be along Fore Street and Upper Brook Street.

These streets were busy with all sorts of shops and trades thriving on passing trade and from the local residents. Up to the Second World War thousands lived in the Rope Walk area, known as 'The Potteries” and in housing where the Cox Lane car park is now.

I featured the Fore Street area recently with the memories of Alice Brown (nee Hazell) who recalled her childhood living in this part of town where most families were desperately poor. I featured a photograph of Fore Street, which included Sneezum's pawn brokers shop. C. Rogers of Norwich Road, Ipswich, wonders if anybody recalls the Sneezum family home next to St Mary at the Quay Church, Ipswich.

Mrs Rogers said: “Seeing the name A J Sneezum reminds me of a photo I once saw of one of the garden parties his wife Sophie used to give for the poor children of the parish.

“The Sneezum's used to live in a large four-storey house next to the church St Mary at the Quay. Sophie used to dress like Queen Victoria.”

I wonder if any readers remember the family or the parties?

What memories do you have of the shops and places mentioned? Write to Kindred Spirits, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

The Ancient House Press and bookshop in the Buttermarket, Ipswich, has featured in Kindred Spirits recently.

Karen Street (nee Pipe), of Quintons Road, East Bergholt, was pleasantly surprised to learn her parents were in one of the photographs featured. It was taken of an Ancient House staff outing in the 1950s.

She said: “I know this is where my parents first met, however I didn't know at what time they were both working there. I sent an article to them and imagine my surprise when my mum told me she was in the photo. She was then Rosemary Smith, a teenager and worked as a book binder from 1947 to 1954. My father David started there in1952 to 1956/7. They both remember some of their colleagues including Dot Davis, the tea lady Mrs Prior, Herbie Pinder, George Holden the foreman, Bernard Holden and Dickie Bliss. My mum is in her early 70s and my dad has just retired. They have lived in New Zealand for the last 11 years.”

Wendy Orris of Bramford Road, Ipswich, said: “I started work there in 1943 in the library as junior and left in 1946 as head librarian. People on the staff then included, Miss Taylor, head of book department (downstairs) with Godfrey Green, Mr Burch, Dennis Barber, Doris Ducker, Rene Sawyer, Mr Turnbull was then the manager. Among my elite subscribers were many business people. Sir Anthony Crompton/Thornhill, sent his list and books by a liveried chauffeur!

“The 'chapel' in the top of the house where Charles II is purported to have hid, the heavy oak chair he is said to have sat in, and the stout wooden cross and items used by him were on show. Visitors were charged 6d a time. The Americans tourists loved it. I was then 17, I am now 80.”

The photograph I featured of the man with a horse and cart in Fore Street around 1930 has been identified by Fred Maltby of Morecombe Court, Ipswich.

Fred said: “He was my father-in-law, Ernest Sadd. He worked for William Wakeling, a carter and removal contractor, of 301 Woodbridge Road, Ipswich. Mr Sadd lived at the stables. The horse in the photograph was called Captain.

“Bristo's garage now stands where William Wakeling had his premises at the top of the hill in Woodbridge Road.”

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