The Maltings

EVERY working day hundreds of people walk in to the large Edwardian building in Felaw Street, Ipswich, wearing their smart business clothes. They head for the brightly lit offices and sit at their computer screens, probably unaware of what life was like for those who worked there during the eight decades the building was a maltings.

EVERY working day hundreds of people walk in to the large Edwardian building in Felaw Street, Ipswich, wearing their smart business clothes.

They head for the brightly lit offices and sit at their computer screens, probably unaware of what life was like for those who worked there during the eight decades the building was a maltings.

The first of the massive massive red brick buildings were constructed in 1904 when there was a huge trade with brewers and malt was used in the preparation of food. Business was so brisk that a second was soon built.

Malt is barley which is allowed to germinate and then dried after most of the starch of the grain has been converted to sugar. The distinctive sweet smell from the maltings was familiar to those who lived in and around the Stoke area of Ipswich.

The maltings were built by R and W Paul, close to New Cut on the River Orwell, giving good access to the company's own barges to take the malt to London and other ports.

By 1980 most of this style of malting in Suffolk had closed as modern automated plants produced more malt in a month than the floor malting turned out in a year.

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Paul's and Sanders announced the closure of the building in Felaw Street in 1980 and the buildings stood derelict and vandalised for over a decade before they were converted to their present use.

The work of a maltings was a 365 day a year operation. A small team worked in the huge buildings. At the end there were just around eight men. There was once around thirty working there. Every day the green malt had to be turned-even on Christmas Day.

It was very hot and unpleasant work. The twin malting was equipped with the latest machinery. There were enormous kilns and mechanical turners to turn the malt on the perforated floor. The men often worked stripped to the waist turning the grain using wooden shovels in a very hot and steamy atmosphere. They could never have dreamt of the conditions those working in the building today enjoy.

When the weather turned warm, before air conditioning was installed in the late 1930s, conditions became too difficult to convert the barley to malt and most of the workmen had to find work elsewhere for the summer. Many moved onto the farms or local brick works to find an income.

The maltings were listed grade two in 1972.

The poor state of the buildings saw them placed on the 'at risk' register in 1984. In October 1987 the slate roof was badly damaged by the storm force wind which caused millions of pounds worth of damage to the region.

In the early 1990s, several plans to convert the buildings were rejected and there were more problems when there a large amount of slates were stolen from the roof.

The conversion of the building from a maltings to an office also provided architects with a problem as the ceiling levels were low to create as many floors as possible to spread the barley.

Many people now work in an office with windows at unusual levels as new floors were installed during the conversion.

Another similar building, halfway between Stoke Bridge and the Felaw Street maltings, was demolished around 1970. Maltings at Neptune Quay, where a block of flats now stands, were demolished in the 1960s. The huge complex at Snape has been converted to business and entertainment use.

There was another large maltings complex at Stonham on the A140. This has also been demolished.


Do you remember when the maltings were still working? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

Did you know?

Felaw Maltings are one of the largest remaining maltings in East Anglia

Memories of the Ipswich area known as the Potteries have been featured in Kindred Spirits recently. It was a poor part of town around Rope Walk and Grimwade Street. Life there was tough and few had little to spend. Two readers from different parts of the world have sent me more memories of life there.

Joyce Millyard of Morecambe Court, Ipswich, said: “I was born in Pottery Street. My father had a wet and dried fish shop, W H Southgate and Son. My grandfather was W H Southgate Rag and Bone Merchant. People used to take jam jars, old rags, metal, rabbit skins, which were sold for one pence and three pence. Apparently he died a wealthy old man!

“My father used to go to the pub The Malt House but he used to call it 'Tiddlefoots'. I have many memories of the old John Barley Corn on the corner of Pottery Street and Woodhouse Street - it was run by Mr and Mrs Leek. Their daughter and I are still great friends.

“I went to Woodhouse Street Infant School and then on to Clifford Road School. I believe the man who came with shrimps and ringing his bell on a trade bicycle, recalled recently by readers of Kindred Spirits, was my brother Johnny, who also served in the fish shop, where they sold penny bloaters and herrings. My family knew that some of the people could not afford enough for a meal. They got two for a penny. Mr Kett was a barber at the top of Long Street. Mrs Cook sold sweets and other items from her front room.

“Before the Ritz Cinema was built, in the Buttermarket there was an old inn called the Wagon and Horses on that site. I remember it well, as my aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs John Dale, kept the inn. I used to go there with my mum and dad. When I was a little girl I used to have a bottle of ginger beer. I had to push a glass marble down inside the neck of the bottle before I could drink it. I still have some of those old bottles; they are from Talbot and Son and Mallonson and Company, Ipswich.”

Robert Elvin moved from Ipswich to New Zealand in the 1950s. He e-mailed with his boyhood memories of Ipswich. Robert said: “My parents were the publicans at The Malt House Pub, at the corner of Long Street and Short Street. This pub was bomb damaged in 1940 and we moved to the Rose & Crown, junction of Norwich Road and Bramford Road. During World War Two I recall seeing a German aircraft which crashed in Gippeswyk Park and a Messerschmitt fighter plane which was on view in Christchurch Park, in front of the Mansion.

“We did not have much money to spend on sweets so I used to buy dog biscuits to eat in the cinema from a Sneezum's shop in Fore Street. The dog biscuits were scooped from a sack of biscuits at the entrance to the shop. There were red biscuits on the left and green biscuits on the right, like port and starboard lights when entering! As I was brought up in public houses I was familiar with the drink "half and half". This was a mixture of light and dark beer in the one glass. The shop proprietor when serving the biscuits would oblige with a mixture of green and red biscuits which was a "half and half" and placed in a single paper bag!

“My friends and I used to go fishing with cotton and a bent pin in Christchurch Park. The "Parky", the Park Inspector on his bicycle, would chase us away. Throwing sticks into the chestnut trees on the park to knock down nuts was also popular in the autumn.

“When I read of activities around 'my part' of Ipswich, I am lost with some of the street names. Many of the old streets have been built over, as was Short and Long Street and which is now part of the Suffolk College site. In my mind, I can still walk or cycle to various places in Ipswich which have now been lost to redevelopment.”


Do you have a story to tell of life in Ipswich from the past? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star.