Ipswich Icons: The changes of Tavern Street
PUBLISHED: 15:00 27 May 2018
John Norman has a stroll down Tavern Street and notes how fortunes have ebbed and flowed.
In the first half of the twentieth century Ipswich was awash with local independent retailers – High Street shops that could provide garments for everyday wear. The increasing number of “white collar” workers led to a rise in demand for suits, shirts and dresses.
Let’s start at 35 Tavern Street – now the O2 mobile phone shop. It was, in 1886, the original home of Arthur J Ridley, gentleman’s outfitters, but they didn’t stay long, taking the opportunity to move across the road to number 32 as soon as it became available (today the Olde Sweet Shop).
In the 1920s Ridley’s started to sell “ready to wear” clothing, a move which outsold their tailored items almost immediately.
As Ridley’s business grew, they expanded – firstly into number 30 (on the corner of Dial Lane). They then took over North’s, a gents’ outfitters next door but one, and opened the basement of their main shop as a barber’s shop and a very popular lunchtime restaurant. A J Ridley and Son closed in May 1983.
Number 35 Tavern Street became the Ipswich branch of George Green of Norwich, a comparatively small concern which progressed and grew when a certain J R Edwards took on the business.
JR was joined by his elder brother, JF Edwards, and together they became J&J Edwards.
The brothers acquired the adjoining property (number 33, today Lush), enabling the business to further expand and become one of the most successful tailors and clothiers in Ipswich, particularly for school uniforms.
J&J Edwards closed in the late 1960s, the store taken over by Hardy & Co House Furnishers.
Opposite J&J Edwards were the premises of Frederick Fish and Son. They were linen and woollen drapers at 46/48 Tavern Street, on the corner with St Lawrence Street.
Fish became mayor of Ipswich and was present when the new lock gates, the new Post Office and the new museum were all opened in July 1881.
Opposite Ridley’s on the corner of Tower Street was Frank Mason’s ladies apparel, in a store that had previously been the London Bazaar.
When Frank took over in 1899, he took on a going concern, choosing not to close but to expand the business into ladies’ apparel and change the clientele. This enabled Frank to claim that Mason’s Corner had been in business since the seventeenth century!
An interesting snippet is that Frank had been apprenticed to Frederick Fish and as he approached the time to receive his indentures he had spotted an opportunity for a ladies’ fashion house. He acquired the London Bazaar at number 19 Tavern Street (the corner store) in 1899 and in 1903 purchased number 17 Tavern Street, an old-established furriers which had been run by a Mrs Brown.
In 1928 he acquired number 15a Tavern Street, together with 1 and 3 Tower Street, and the business became Frank Mason and Son, Geoffrey being admitted to the business.
In the 1920s Mason’s was THE shop for upmarket ladies’ fashion, and Ipswich provided plenty of customers. Mason’s closed in the late 1960s.
In 1927 Footman and Pretty became a public limited company, operating out of Waterloo House on the Cornhill. This enabled them to acquire Messrs Gardiner & Co. of Tavern Street (the corner of Dial Lane), Messrs Curis of Norwich, and to incorporate Frederick Fish’s drapery business into their enlarged shop, which became Debenham’s.
Frederick Fish’s shop was demolished in 1928 (along with Croydons and the adjacent shops) for street widening, and was rebuilt (number 48 became a separate shop, a branch of J Sainsbury’s. (Today it is occupied by Nationwide). The rebuilt corner store became a branch of Boots the Chemists until they moved into the former Timothy Whites store closer to the Cornhill.
The shop was demolished again in the late 1980s and rebuilt for River Island. It is today occupied by Poundworld. (The way things are going in the retail industry, more changes are likely.)
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