When soldiers marched

ST Matthews parish in Ipswich has centuries of history. The church register dates from 1559. Little of the original, quite small church, survives today.

ST Matthews parish in Ipswich has centuries of history. The church register dates from 1559. Little of the original, quite small church, survives today. In the nineteenth century the church was expanded. It stood close to the Ipswich barracks and was the garrison church. As the number of residents in the parish grew rapidly in the Victorian period a new church was built, All Saints in Chevallier Street. The history of that church was recalled in Kindred Spirits recently by Tony Wilcox, the recently retired vicar at the church. David Routh of High Street, Ipswich, had a long association with two of the Victorian churches. David said, “I was born in Bramford Lane in January, 1929 and later my family lived with our maternal grandparents in Waterloo Road from 1933 to 1939.

“With the war looming we moved to Brooks Hall Road in August 1939 and stayed until 1966. Both my sisters and my brother and I attended All Saint's Sunday school before and during the Second World War. The infants Sunday school was run by a wonderful, religious teacher, Miss Olive Brame, who lived nearby in Waterloo Road. She was supported by Mrs Hurry and Miss Molly Shuffrey.”

“All Saint's Sunday School was held in both the hall and the annex between the church. During the war, the hall was occupied by soldiers under an elderly captain we called 'Captain Barnie'. They trained mainly on Broom Hill Park with their mortars and were marched daily to the “slipper baths” at St Matthews Baths. Frank Mitton was the vicar during this period. Mr Willis the choirmaster and organist and Stanley Newman, who lived opposite the church in Waterloo Road, the verger. He was very old. I suspect he would have retired if the war had not started. The curate was a very young, lovely man, Richard Tydeman, who made us children laugh when he was master of ceremony at the concerts. Now retired he lives at Felixstowe. A very young Helen Southgate, later to become Headmistress of Springfield Infants School, was also one of the Sunday school teachers.

“The church had another hall in Beaconsfield Road, where the senior Sunday School children met, also the scouts and guides. The scouts and guides were dominated by the Akester family, Eric 'Knotty' Akester being the general scoutmaster and his sister, Mrs Amy Robinson, the guides. My brother was in the choir and when the church was able to again ring their solitary bell later in the war, my brother and his pal, Shorey Scott, volunteered to do the honors. However they were the worst bell-ringers ever!

One of these small terrace houses in nearby Little Bramford Lane, number 14 in those days, was a “house shop” selling fruit and vegetables run by Mr and Mrs Benjamin Oliver.”

“Included in Kindred Spirits was a photograph of Crown Street Congregational Church. My brother and I, with many friends from the Bramford Lane area, attended the 26th Ipswich Scouts based at this church. This was the early part of the war and Jerry Dawson the scoutmaster got an early “call-up” so often the senior scouts ran the show, which attracted us boys from the Bramford Lane area. Henry Frost was the minister, a fervent speaker, who when we attended the regular church parades and we scouts sat in the front row, often threatened us with damnation and we probably deserved it! The Crown Street Guides were better organised, with Mrs Garnham and a Miss Gibbs in charge, two formidable ladies, we scouts kept out of their way. Our great enjoyment in the scouts was the regular “Saturday night sing-songs” during the war at a hut in Black Horse Lane. During the early 1970's the congregation of the Crown Street Church moved with some of the other redundant churches, now called United Reformed, to Christchurch in Tacket Street.

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Before they demolished the Crown Street Church I purchased some of the ornamental bricks with flowers on them, which adorned the doorway on the east wall of the hall where I had spent many happy hours in the scouts. I have used the bricks to adorn some of my walls and steps in my back garden in High Street.”

Merchie Gardiner (nee Chessum), of Springfield Lane, Ipswich added “I attended Christchurch Secondary Modern School for girls in Bolton Lane, which became Tower Ramparts Secondary Modern School for boys and girls in September 1961.

In the summer of 1962 we had our school leaving service at that Crown Street Congregational church; I vividly remember how big it was inside. We sat in an upper tier. When I was at Bramford Road School we always went to All Saints Church for our harvest festivals and carol services.”

We live in a throw away society today where very little gets repaired. A generation ago the reverse was true. Most things were repaired over and over. John Fitch recently recalled working in Payne's hairdressers in St Margaret's Street, Ipswich, when he started his career in the 1950s. John recalled some of the other shops in the street including 'Pat's' where a lady repaired ladies nylon stockings. Rod Cross of Clifford Road, Ipswich said, “In his recollections of St Margaret's Street, John Fitch mentions “a curious little shop called Pat's”. It was, Pat Hillyard who repaired nylons in the mid 1950s. Nylons had been newly introduced to this country from the United States by the 'GIs' during World War II and were still much valued and sought after. When they became snagged or laddered, ladies could not afford to throw them away so they took them to Pat for repair. She would sit at a table in front of the window for maximum light; she also had a very bright lamp to assist her. I'm not sure of the technique she used but it must have been delicate, painstaking work.”

“Pat ran the shop until about 1957, when it was taken over by a business specialising in baby clothes. Fifty years on and not a trace of the shop at number 14 remains now.”

Getting a haircut at the barbers could involve a very long wait in the days before appointments. It was even worse for small boys who often had their turn taken by an adult. Mrs D. Rolando (nee Staff), of Blandford Road, Ipswich, recalls Mr Sadd's shops, which was recalled in the recent Kindred Spirits, featuring the barbers shops in St Margaret's Street. Mrs Rolando said “We lived in Cobbold Street so Majors Corner and St Margaret's Street area were well known to us. My brother, Jack Chapman, who now lives in Alsham, Norfolk, told me that he was given a 'tanner' (sixpence) by our mum, to go to Sadd's for a hair cut. Mr Sadd only charged him five-pence so he spent the penny change on a Lucky Dip board game and mum was none the wiser! He says he still feels guilty about not taking the penny change home as mum and dad, Nellie and Stanley Staff, had to account for all the “pennies” in those days. He also said the annoying part of going for a hair cut for school boys was joining the queue and when your turn came up if an adult came in he would get in the chair before you. Keep the memories coming it keeps our minds ticking over.”

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