Welcome to the Fore Street Facelift 1961
These web pages are based on and extend the Ipswich Society's exhibition The Fore Street Facelift 1961 (running from 2 to 16 October 2015 at the UCS, now University Of Suffolk, Waterfront building, Ipswich, Suffolk). They commemorate events on Friday 21 July 1961 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Ipswich to open the newly-built Civic College which stood off Grimwade Street to the east of the town.
Following the opening ceremony (see the official programme) at the college, Her Majesty's motorcade was to travel along almost the whole length of Fore Street, one of the ancient thoroughfares of the town linking the docks with the eastern parts of the town centre. It became clear that the buildings in the street, many of which were of historical interest and value, were generally dirty and in a neglected state of repair. Fore Street itself was a major route for heavy traffic which added to the problem.
In February 1961 an improvement scheme was inspired by The Ipswich Society at a meeting with the occupiers of Fore Street. The idea was taken up with considerable enthusiasm and a committee was elected to carry it into effect.
A co-ordinating architect, Birkin Haward, was appointed and asked to empanel the necessary number of young architects to draw up proposals. This he did with great facility, believing that here was much of architectural value springing from 16th and 17th century origins and connected with the maritime trade of that period and since.
We revisit that time on these web pages with original architect drawings, colour schemes and material surrounding that historic day in July 1961. We also look back to the historical importance of Fore Street, back to times when the centre of the town was around the northern quays of the dock and to childhood memories of the street in 1920, when it was a major shopping area. Given its close links to the maritime activities on the dock, it is unsurprising that Fore Street boasted many public houses and alehouses as well as pawn shops and other less salubrious premises.
The 1960s heralded a new era of hope and prosperity, with technological advances and a shift in global politics. In 1961, four years after Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's "....the British people have never had it so good" statement, the country was thriving. What else was happening that year?
The Fore Street Improvement Scheme masthead shown at the top of the page comes from The Old Neptune Inn scrapbook.