When the shopping was a local event

CHILDHOOD memories of shopping with your mother decades ago include the excitement of trying to find the box of cornflakes with a free toy enclosed or choosing your favourite biscuits at the corner shop.

David Kindred

CHILDHOOD memories of shopping with your mother decades ago include the excitement of trying to find the box of cornflakes with a free toy enclosed or choosing your favourite biscuits at the corner shop. Rod Cross, who now lives in Southampton grew, up in Clifford Road, Ipswich, where his mother lived until her recent death.

A few weeks ago in Kindred Spirits his mother told us of her life as a housemaid in Marlborough Road.

Rod has told me of his fond memories of shopping in Cauldwell Hall Road along with some fascinating history of this part of Ipswich.

Rod said: “Cauldwell Hall Road may not immediately spring to mind as one of the more exotic or remarkable roads in Ipswich, but along with its widely diverse range of buildings, which represent almost every decade since the middle of the 19th century, it can also lay claim to being the longest completely straight road in the whole town. It is possible to stand outside the Golden Key on the corner of Woodbridge Road and see the traffic lights by the Railway Hotel in Foxhall Road, just under three quarters of a mile away.

“The road owes its unusual name to the unimposing hall, which still stands at the bottom of Cauldwell Avenue. It was the main residence of the vast Cauldwell Hall Estate, so called because of its 'cauld wells' (cold wells), which were the principal source of water for the north east of the old town.

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“In 1849, nearly 100 acres of this estate were acquired on behalf of the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society. Roads were constructed and the land divided up into 282 plots or “allotments”, which members of the society could purchase for £21.10s to build homes. It became such a common sight to see shovel-carrying workers trudging up Spring Road, like the gold-diggings in the USA, that the area became known as California.

“Its population of just 100 in 1851 increased more than tenfold within 20 years and by 1904 California was almost completely built up. Cauldwell Hall Road was an integral part of this housing boom, as evidenced by the plaques on the houses today: St George's Terrace 1876, Lorrimore Villas 1882, Chester House 1899 and London Lodge 1902.

“I was totally oblivious to its historical pedigree when, as a small boy in the mid-1950s, I accompanied my mother to what I knew as “Cordlawl” Road to do the weekly shopping. The first stop was always J S Hotson and Sons, on the corner of Marlborough Road. This was a traditional family grocer's shop. It had bare floorboards and, down one side, a solid wooden counter, on which stood a shiny red bacon slicer. In one corner were open hessian sacks containing washing soda, flour, sugar and various types of dried fruit, all to be weighed out and bagged up as required.

“The white-coated proprietor who, strange as it seemed to me at the time, was not called Mr Hotson, but Mr Bush, would write down mother's order in a little notebook, while I would be carefully examining each and every box of Weetabix or Cornflakes. These often contained various free gifts, whilst the back of the packets sometimes bore designs for models such as vintage cars. These had to be cut out, folded and glued together. Only careful scrutiny ensured that I made the right selection.”

I also selected the biscuits, Rich Tea, Nice or Osborn. They were all sold loose with their individual tins lined up on a shelf. There was also a tin labelled 'broken biscuits', priced a little cheaper than the others. Once the complete order had been taken, Mr Bush would pack everything into a stout cardboard box ready for delivery by Les on his tradesman's bicycle later that day.

“Shufflebotham's Bakery stood on the other corner of Marlborough Road where it joined St John's Road. Because these roads met at an angle, the shop was V-shaped. Customers entered from the “pointed” end and walked down the ever-widening shop floor to the counter at the bottom. Loaves and other bakery products were displayed on shelving down the right-hand side. Mother always bought an un-sliced Devon loaf, freshly-baked. We never got to eat it until much later in the week, once the old had been consumed down to the last crumb! At that time a large loaf cost 4½ pence!

“Crossing St John's Road we sometimes called into Mrs Savage's haberdashery before reaching our next port of call. Bloomfield's was a little butcher's shop with scrubbed wooden tables and a sawdust-covered floor. It was founded by Isaac Bloomfield, but I only remember Albert Bloomfield, the short, elderly proprietor and his young assistant, the tall, young, sleek-haired Ray Sale. Ray, a county bowls player, later bought the shop. At Bloomfield's we bought shop-made sausages and pork, cheese, liver and the weekly joint of lamb, mutton or beef. Bloomfield's also supplied our Christmas chicken, which had a lovely savoury flavour, totally absent in today's factory-reared birds.

“Opposite was Dean's greengrocery. For convenience we mostly bought our fruit and vegetables from the Co-op, whose horse-drawn greengrocery cart paid a twice-weekly visit to our road, but we usually found some reason to visit Mrs Dean to stock up on what we were short of.

“Passing Alex Fordham's betting shop, we would cross back into Marlborough Road opposite the off-licence on the corner of Freehold Road and head home. The weekly shopping was all done within a radius of some 50 yards and from shopkeepers who were all specialists in their particular field.”

In the 1950s there was far more to Cauldwell Hall Road than just the shops we visited. There was a hairdresser and a fearsome dentist named Pritchatt. Further along, between Fuchsia Lane and Foxhall Road, was another row of shops, including a general store, a newsagents, Durrant's electrical engineers, a furniture shop run by Gardiners and an upholstery business, which my uncle, Lew Fitch, took over from Albert Todd. Opposite was Blackburn's the chemist, who also ran a confectioner's next door.

“Today, of all these businesses, only the ladies hairdresser's, one of three clustered round the Marlborough Road junction, and the off-licence remain. The others have been converted into private homes or demolished and rebuilt.

“In the other direction, towards Woodbridge Road, were more shops. These included a fishmonger's, a wool shop, a fish and chip shop and a Co-op store. Opposite the Co-op, on the corner of Upland Road, was the garage for the Co-op bakery vans. These little, red, box-shaped vehicles were powered by electric batteries, which were recharged every night. This created a gentle, not unpleasant, humming noise, which you could hear as you walked by. This site is now another housing development.

“Beyond the Spring Road traffic lights and The Old Times public house, the character of Cauldwell Hall Road changed and it became rather less residential. It was dominated by the massive red-brick St John's Church. Next door was the church hall and the chapel of rest, with the Mount Zion Baptist Church opposite and the original St John's Primary School.

“In the schoolyard children played in their distinctive purple blazers. Finally there was a furniture remover, Pawsey's wholesale warehouse and an engineering works. Near Woodbridge Road was Welham's, a traditional grocer. Each of these landmarks became extremely familiar to me as, every day for seven years, during the late 50s and early 60s, I cycled to school.

“One in particular came to have a special significance. This was the Lion's Head on the corner of Freehold Road. At the rear of the pub was a billiards room containing a full-size snooker table. Once old enough, we would time our journey home from school each Wednesday to coincide with the pub's five o'clock opening time and then spend a blissful hour on the table.

“Fred Rattle, the bluff, shirt-sleeved landlord was not over-keen on an invasion of his pub by schoolboys with little money to spend. We would try to avoid his eye by not using the main entrance, but by entering the pub through the door at the rear.

There was also an elderly barman called Albert. We called him 'Post' as he was extremely deaf! Ask for a packet of hamburger crisps and you could well end up with a small shandy!