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Peter's Ice Cream - an Ipswich favourite

PUBLISHED: 20:00 15 May 2019

Members of the Zagni family outside Napoleone Zagnis shop at 66a Rope Walk, Ipswich. Picture: Dave Kindred

Members of the Zagni family outside Napoleone Zagnis shop at 66a Rope Walk, Ipswich. Picture: Dave Kindred

Dave Kindred

When Maria and Napoleone Zagni, arrived in Ipswich from Modena, Italy, in the 1890s, they brought with them the family recipe for ice cream. Founding Peter's ice cream, their distinctive brand has been enjoyed by generations,

Ipswich ice cream makers Peter;s have long been a feature of the sea front at Felixstowe. This seller was on Sea Road, Felixstowe in the mid 1930s. Picture: Dave KindredIpswich ice cream makers Peter;s have long been a feature of the sea front at Felixstowe. This seller was on Sea Road, Felixstowe in the mid 1930s. Picture: Dave Kindred

In 1960, on Sundays, in Robin Drive, Ipswich, Lynne Mortimer, then five-years-old would be sent out to the Peter's ice cream van with a pudding basin and ask for 9d of ice cream and a packet of wafers.

It was the highlight of a small girl's week imprinting the name of Peter's on my happiest memories.

Earlier in May, it was reported that Ipswich Borough Council have confirmed major plans are in the pipeline for the redevelopment of Grimwade Street - including the former Peter's site - to provide affordable homes. It is hoped work will start in 2020.

Peter's vacated its Ipswich factory in the early 2000s after deciding to relocate to Needham Market. Then, in May 2012, its Grimwade Street site it was snapped up at auction by an anonymous developer but has not had a permanent use since.

A Peters Ice cream van in the 1920s. Picture: Dave KindredA Peters Ice cream van in the 1920s. Picture: Dave Kindred

It is a rather sad end to an uplifting story.

In 2001, the Ipswich Star talked to Kevin Denny, the then owner of Peter's Ices who talked about the history of Ipswich's own ice cream.

The story of Peter's founders is a rags-to-riches tale.

In the late 19th century, Maria and Napoleone Zagni arrived on British soil from Modena in Italy, set on a new life in America. The stay was intended to be temporary but Maria was pregnant and for the short-term they proposed staying in Suffolk where they decided to recreate the taste of Italian ice cream on the kitchen stove in their Rope Walk home.

Carlo Zagni  of Peter's Ice Cream. Picture: Archant Library.Carlo Zagni of Peter's Ice Cream. Picture: Archant Library.

In fact, they never left for America instead, creating the Peter's name. The rest is a delicious history.

Mr Denny said: "No-one around here had had an opportunity to taste anything like it before they arrived.

"They would get up in the early hours, make the ice-cream in copper tins with the help of ice from the docks. Then Napoleone would push a barrow all the way to Felixstowe, sell it in glass cornet dishes to people and then come all the way home to prepare for the next day."

The Zagnis' sons Carlo and Victor took over and it would later become Carlo's business.

The empty Peter's Ice cream shop in Grimwade Street in 2007. Picture Clifford Hicks.The empty Peter's Ice cream shop in Grimwade Street in 2007. Picture Clifford Hicks.

"I came to the firm for the first time when I was just nine years old and I was so excited by it all.

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"My father also worked here for Carlo for many years in the factory and I would watch what was happening, always waiting for the chance to get my own job here." He had to wait until he was 15 but achieved his ambition.

He said: "I remember Carlo taking me aside on the day I joined. He told me that the day I became bored of the place and didn't want to get out of bed, that would be the day to turn my back on this firm.

"I never have done that. I didn't need to because I fell in love with the business in exactly the same way that Carlo did.

"He even said to me that, if I worked really hard, one day it might all be mine." The irony, that he was continuing Carlo's legacy, was not lost on Kevin.

"This is not an easy business and I have certainly learnt that over the years. We have had good times and bad times through the history of Peter's Ices"

In fact, Carlo, who died in 1998 at the age of 88, came out of retirement for a time at the age of 83.

The Ipswich Remembers group website has been busy with memories of Peter's:

"I have never tasted ice cream as nice as the original Peter's recipe."

"My very first job was summer Sundays down at the kiosk near the Spa Pavilion, on the beach... I ate so much ice cream because it was wonderful."

Today, there are still unanswered questions: does anyone still make Peter's Ice Cream to the original recipe? The Peter's vans and kiosks are still spotted in and around east Suffolk - who now runs them?

Peter's fact file:

■ Peter's was founded in Rope Walk in 1897, but moved to Grimwade Street in 1939.

■ The ice cream is still made to a recipe from Modena in Italy.

■ In the company's heyday, 25 vans sold the ice cream around the region.

■ The name Peter's Ices came about because Napoleone was nick-named Peter when he arrived in Ipswich.

■ Carlo, a widower, died in March 1998, four months after marrying his former housekeeper, Liliana Franklin."

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