Tough times in 'The Potteries'

MICE running over the display of sweets in a shop window.

David Kindred

MICE running over the display of sweets in a shop window.

Infant deaths being a common occurrence.

A family of fourteen living in a tiny house and shop.

Houses with just one room on the ground floor with a single room above and tin baths kept in the yard.

These are all memories of life in “The Potteries” area of Ipswich, a crowded and poor part of town which was finally cleared in the late 1930s and residents moved to new council housing.

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I featured this area of Ipswich in Kindred Spirits recently when reader Rod Cross told of his family connections with the area.

Derek Wegg's family has a long history with “The Potteries” he said “My grandparents, the Hubert's, lived in Dorking St where my mother was born along with her many brothers, my parents were married in St Clements Church and I was christened there, my grandfather worked over twenty-five years at Ransomes Sims and Jefferies engineering works around Duke Street, so did many of the brothers. My grandfather was born 1886 in Wykes Bishop Street, his father; my great-grandfather, was born 1862 in White Elm Street.”

“When the Potteries area was demolished the family moved nearby to Waterworks Street. Most of the row of houses still stands today. I was born at number 29; sadly it had to be demolished in the 50s when the chimney fell right through the house. As I spent many of my early years at my grandparents I have many memories of the area and their time there. They lived there with no hot water, gas lights and for a long while they had an outside toilet at the bottom of the garden, a tin bath hanging on the outside wall, a mangle in the garden, a coal and wood water boiler in the kitchen area, which was filled and emptied by hand. It was only used once a week for washing also sometimes for a hot bath. Their children would go to Fore Street Baths. My grandparents were strict, but fair. When my grandfather wanted a doze he would look at me and say 'forty winks boy' then I would not dare make a noise.”

“Most Saturday afternoon's I had to go round to the wet fish shop in Eagle Street and sit outside waiting for the fish van to arrive from Lowestoft to pick up a fresh crab for grandad's tea. He had the body with bread we had the legs. We also used the fish and chip shop in Grimwade Street. My grandfather gave my mother a crown coin when I was born, which I still have today. After a year or so we moved to the Gainsborough estate where my childhood continued and I went to Landseer School. I can also recall “Suggies” who dealt in scrap and waste paper at the corner of Long Street and Fore Street. We used to collect papers etcetera from the Landseer Road refuse tip and drag them along Landseer Road, Holywells Road and Duke Street to “Suggy's” for a few pence as we did not get pocket money then. With the money we used to go to the Saturday morning pictures and if we had some spare we would buy a bag of stale cakes on Fridays from a baker's shop on the corner of Duke Street near the roundabout. I think they were two old pence a bag. We also had to build our own bikes from spares collected from the refuse tip, Landseer Road. It took many weeks to build. We raced them on a cycle speedway track on the park. We spent many weeks building dens on what is now Landseer Park in the school holidays. I now work at Suffolk New College and University College Suffolk where “The Potteries” were.”

Glynis Littlejohn added “How nice it was to see the Kindred Spirits feature about “The Potteries” and to see a photograph of my late grandfather Bert Dowler standing outside his house in East Court. Bert hailed from Whitechapel, London, he met my grandmother Violet Wilby from Gibson St and they fell in love and married. When the area was demolished, Bert, Violet and my mother, moved to the Greenwich estate. Sadly Bert did not enjoy good health and died at the age of 62. My grandmother used to tell me many a tale about life in the Potteries, mostly of the destitution; it seemed most families lost at least one child. She lost a little boy called Michael from a simple childhood illness, the measles. My mother informs me that the house that Bert is standing outside that they lived in was a one up one down. Everybody shared the same 'loo' and the washing was done in a hut at the top of East Court. How different things are today.”

Sheila Whiting of Witnesham said “My mother, Grace Cannell, nee Keeble, has just passed away at the age of 89. She lived at 47 Woodhouse Street until her marriage in 1937. She often talked about the characters around that area, like the two spinster ladies and their mother who had a little shop over the road from the family home, where she often saw mice running around on the sweets in the shop window! People then lived with mice in their home and bugs behind the wallpaper and thought nothing of it. Her mother had twelve children and like a lot of other residents at one time had a shop in their front room. My mother told me that as a child she played with the weighing scales when the shop finally closed.”

“She also often mentioned the town jail, which from her bedroom window she could see the roof or the skylight. She said when a prisoner escaped an alarm went off and her mother would pick the children up from school which was nearby.”

“My father, Vic Cannell, came from Albion Place, which was from Albion Street to Myrtle Road. My grandparents lived and worked around the dock area, which was desperately poor. I wonder what they would think if they could see it now. Unless you had family from these areas it is hard to understand just how difficult their lives were.”

“After the Second World War my father came home from being a prisoner on the Burma railway and my parents spent the rest of their lives on the Gainsborough estate. My mother outlived my father by a few years and spent 65 years in the same house. This must have seemed like a palace compared to where they came from.”

Edna Maden of Renfrew Road, Ipswich, said “I lived as a child in Lacey Street and my grandmother lived in Rope Walk. She was for many years forewoman at Philip and Pipers, she died when I was 10-years-old. I am now 85. I remember going to her house entering the area from St Helens Street through Dove Street. On the corner of Dove Street was Kent's the corn merchants. At the far end of Rope Walk was Peter's ice cream business. Close to the bottom of my grandmother's garden there was a slaughter house. Our name was Flack, my mother's maiden name was Dutton and my Gran' was a Fuller. She had a family in Waterworks Street in a house owned by the Waterworks. I attended St Helens School with my two older sisters. We went to St Margaret's church when Canon and Mrs Miller were there. They were such wonderful times.”

Basil Liffen of Melville Road, Ipswich, added. “I was born at 39 Gibson Street at Liffens General Stores opposite Bucks Horns, the eldest of twelve, two boys, and girls. Your picture shows my dad on the step. It could be Mum too. I still have a book sent to my dad with all the names of all the streets and people living there before the demolition.”

Justin Grimwood of Bradley Stoke, South Gloucestershire, has family connections with the area. He said “Mention of 'Suggy's has also brought back memories of my own childhood in the 70s where it was a common jibe to accuse others of getting their clothes from Suggy's. I never actually knew who or what 'Suggy's was, but it all makes perfect sense now.

Blob. “Suggy's” was W H Southgate and Son Ltd who operated from premises in Short and Long Street, Ipswich, dealing in scrap metal, paper and rags.

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