The days before electricity- and sewers

DECISIONS that by today's standard seem very harsh, had to be made in families on an almost daily basis for the generation who are now in their senior years.

DECISIONS that by today's standard seem very harsh, had to be made in families on an almost daily basis for the generation who are now in their senior years.

With the main family income usually coming from the man in the family, the loss of a wife and mother, while children too young to care for themselves, could have dire consequences. Fathers worked long and hard and there was nobody to look after young children. Grandparents would cope best they could. They were often very poor themselves, but did their best to cope with extra young mouths. For some, children's home was the only option. Life there was often with little comfort.

The St Clements area of Ipswich, much of which is where the Suffolk College is now, was one of the poorest areas of town. It was declared a slum and cleared before the Second World War. Residents were moved to the new council estates where many had electricity and a mains sewer system for the first time.

Alice Brown (nee Hazell) of Queensberry Road, Ipswich, told the story of her childhood: “I lived with my parents and grandmother in Baker Street, Ipswich. It was a side street off Long Street. This is now part of the Suffolk College site. I was born in 1920; my mother had four more girls Lilly, Alice, Ruby, Marjory and Joyce. Tragically my mother, also Alice, died aged 32, soon after my brother William was born. My dad, also William worked in the foundry at Ransomes Sims and Jefferies in Duke Street and was unable to look after us children.

“My brother was taken into St John's Children's Home, where it was planned that my sisters and I would go but my grandmother insisted she would bring us up. I was then eleven years old, the oldest of six. When my brother was eight we were able to look after him and he rejoined the family.

“We made our own fun, playing in the streets with skipping ropes and marbles.

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On Saturdays my father gave us two pence each to go to the Empire Cinema, which was in the Social Settlement in Fore Street. It was known as the 'tuppeny rush.'

“The little shop opposite was Alderton's. The lady there would break the bottom out of the glass sweet jars with a toffee hammer to get the last few sticky sweets out. She put them in a three cornered bag and sold them for one penny”.

“In my mind I can still see the street sellers in that part of town. There was man with a cart selling milk for a penny a jug. A man with a trade bike sold shrimps by the pint. He would ring a bell and shout 'arwich Shrimps.'At Easter hot cross buns were sold in a similar way with the cry 'ne a penny, two a penny' hot cross buns.

“A man sold chips from a van in Fore Street. It cost one penny for chips with scraps. Fish cost two pence. I would shop for my grandmother in Fore Street. Three pence worth of vegetables would be enough for a stew. At Wells the butcher it cost one penny for scrap lard. On the way back I would get gran a penny worth of stout from the Malthouse public house at the end of Long Street.

“The other shops I remember in Fore Street include; Jackson's the Chemist and Conder's leather shop where my dad bought leather to mend our shoes. There was a little cake shop; I think it was called Welsh's. There was a butchers shop opposite Martin and Newby's at the corner of Orwell Place and Upper Orwell Street. Dad used to go there late on a Saturday just before they closed as they sold everything a bit cheaper then. We did not have the luxury of fridges and freezers. Jackson's Pie shop was nearby in Eagle Street.

“During the summer we had a special treat when coal carts were scrubbed up to take us on an outing to a park just outside town. We were very excited as we rode up Bishops Hill, we knew they would hide one penny pieces for us to find, which we could keep.

“At Christmas time we underprivileged children went to the Corn Exchange for Christmas dinner. As we left we were given a bag containing a new penny, an apple, orange and a few nuts. We also visited the Regent for a film show. There was a big Christmas tree there from which we got another present”.

“Friday night was bath night. We had to bring a tin bath in from the garden and place it in front of the fire. The water was heated by open fire in the “copper” used to wash our clothes in the kitchen. Eight of us lived in a two up, two down terrace.

“If the weather was fine on a Sunday we would walk along past the dock to Hog Highland where Cliff Quay is now. It was then an unspoilt river bank. At the end of the day we would return home and get out the wind up gramophone and have a family sing song. My grandmother loved those special days. Sadly my dad died when he was just 55. If anybody deserved a medal, he did.”

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Do you have memories of housing close to the Ipswich town centre, most of which was demolished in

the 1930s? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP1 4LN.

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If you are interested in the history of the St Clements area of Ipswich there was a book published recently containing fascinating history of this poor part of town. “Rags and Bones” by local historian Frank Grace is an excellent book detailing this working class community of 19th century Ipswich.

I recently featured the tragic day in June 1943 when a bomb hit Myrtle Road, Ipswich, during World War Two. Raymond Garnham of Stephen Road, Kesgrave, who sent me the photograph of Mr and Mrs Smith, who were killed in the raid said: “They were very close friends of my late parents, also godparents to my sister Margaret, now Mrs Landin of Foxhall Road, Ipswich. Both my sister and I remember our mother going off on her cycle to visit Mr and Mrs Smith and returning home in tears and telling us they had both been killed in an air raid.

“During the war we lived at 2 Laundry Cottages in the Chantry Park. The cottage was one of a pair situated by the Beachwater Lake. We had no electricity or gas and used oil lamps and candles. The cottages were demolished several years ago. My father was employed as head forester by the Ipswich Council's Parks Department until 1947 and carried on with forestry on his own until his retirement.

“A large part of Chantry Park was closed to the public during the war years and most of the green areas seen today were used for growing crops as part of the war effort. During part of the war Chantry Mansion was on standby to be used if the main, Anglesea Road Hospital was bombed. I used to sometimes go with my mother to help her put the blackout shutters up in the Mansion.

“Towards the end of the war the Mansion was used as a convalescent home for injured troops. They had a special uniform of red necktie and blue trousers. One night a bomb fell in the garden of a house called 'Parkside', which is the house next to the west boundary of Chantry Park in London Road and was then occupied by the Brackett family. The house was badly damaged and the blast from the explosion damaged ceilings and windows in our cottage, and also the cottage known as South Lodge, which was situated at the entrance to the park and now leads down to the cricket pitch. That cottage was then occupied by the Scrivener family who then moved to North Lodge in Hadleigh Road. I have never seen any mention of the bomb falling at 'Parkside' in any records and wonder if any readers have any information about it?

“My friends and I used to stand outside the park gates in London Road and watch the American convoys go by. They would often throw chewing gum and sweets to us. Many of them were on their way to Raydon Aerodrome.”

Raydon, between Hadleigh and Capel St Mary, was one of 32 airfields in Suffolk during the Second World War. Most of the airfields were built in 1942/43. They cost around £900,000 each to build and over 60,000 men were involved in the work. Much of the rubble and hardcore for the runways came from bomb sites. Many of them in the East End of London. American engineers arrived at Raydon in the summer of 1942 to oversee the creation of the airfield. In December 1943 the 357th Fighter Group arrived but they were transferred to Leiston within a month. In April 1944 the 353rd Fighter Group arrived at the airfield. The American personnel, Raymond Garnham remembers passing by his house, lived south of the airfield close to Great Wenham in accommodation given American names like Greenwich Village, Dodge City and Alcatraz.

Do you have any stories of the American bases to share? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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