Ipswich: the Changing Face of the Town by David Kindred
Old Pond Publishing Ltd, 176 page hardback with over 300 photos. £19.95
"Changing" indeed. These very well chosen photos from eras such as the 1880s, the 1930s, the 1960s and the 2000s show that Ipswich has been subject to constant change. Some areas of the town are completely unrecognisable, all buildings, whether good or bad, gone.
One valuable lesson is to realise that simplistic opinions about "the good old days" are wrong. We have clearly lost some splendid buildings, for instance the EADT premises in Carr Street, and many older ones of real character. But it's equally apparent that there was nothing very elegant about our shopping streets. Nothing was sacrosanct - the older the building the more likely it was to have painted adverts all over it. (No wonder Napoleon had called us "a nation of shopkeepers" a century or so previously.) Yet these same 'decorated' buildings were locally owned shops, not national clones like most of today's; they were advertising, however horribly, the uniqueness of the shops.
There are several other appealing features of the book. One is the number of fascinating aerial photos. Another is the many names of former businesses, which will interest older readers. Yet another is the author's judicious use of dates - the Hippodrome Theatre opened in 1905, became the Savoy Ballroom in 1957, then a bingo hall and was demolished in 1985. And trolley buses finished in 1963. We are also reminded that in a town sometimes criticised nowadays for its' inconveniently' narrow streets, several of them have actually been widened and they're still too narrow!
Surprisingly from such a knowledgeable townsman as David Kindred, there are a few errors. Sedan Street was demolished, not Redan Street which very much still exists. The fine timber framed building in Silent Street has been deliberately named Curson Lodge, not House, to emphasise its likely relationship to Curson's great House, which Wolsey hoped to acquire but has long since been demolished. However, these little blemishes shouldn't put you off.
In all such books, old photos need to be thought about - sometimes to orientate yourself - so readers should take their time. It's worth it, because I suspect it's now the best book of its type.