Download George Bodley Scott's marvellous 1970 booklet about the story of The Old Neptune Inn.
Bearing the sticker: ‘COWELL, Fore St., The Neptune' on the back of this undated photograph, it is easy to see why so many photographers of Fore Street chose this location. The photograph yields a number of details which might help us date it. From left: Pearks Stores, .. Haggar the pork butcher, Ye Olde Neptune Inn (no. 86), E. C. Parker (no. 84) and on the far corner with Salthouse Street, G.H. Jary, ‘Clothier, Nepal Outfitter' [?].
This is an image which straddles the era of horse-drawn traffic and that of the electric tram. The clothing fashions suggest the 1910s to the 1920s. Cycling past Parker's shop, a man in a panama hat takes his small white dog for a run. Something you still see today, but not perhaps in Fore Street. Bob Markham tells us that tram rails and wires were in Fore Street between 1903 and 1926. He can't be more specific about the date than that without a tram in the shot. The zig-zag chimney stack above The Neptune is irresistible, but sadly long gone.
Ted King decribes this row of buildings in detail in the oral history donated to this project:
"Coming out of that yard into Fore Street again, the first shop was a greengrocer's and a small grocery shop [Pearks Stores]. That's two… Next to that was Hagger, the pork butcher. You went up two steps to that.
Next to that was The Neptune Inn. So altogether, with those shops and the overall frontage of the Neptune Inn (possibly a bit beyond at the back) was in excess of about forty feet. The Neptune Inn was no different when I was a boy, other than the fact that you didn't get the stagecoaches there. But people put up there and 'course they had their cars, which didn't take up a lot of room. That was a public house, pure and simple, but it did take visitors.
Next to that, was a large, double-fronted shop: a very smart wine shop, where they sold rum, ruby port and things like that.
Next to that was another gateway which had still got big, square, wooden doorposts and that had a beam across the top. I would say that that doorway was fifteen feet, maybe more, high. That led into a large, cobbled yard where a man dealt in horse food, bales of hay, straw and things of that sort. He also had a little chicken food.
Next to that was a row of offices [Isaac Lord]. That was an old-fashioned building with timbers outside, overhanging upper floor, diamond windows. And in the middle of this office block - which would be, I should say, thirty feet long - that had a real, oak gatepost and a square lintel over the top, which was horizontal and not curved. That had two heavy oak doors with square-headed nails driven in; they were not ornaments, they held the door together. That double door was about ten or eleven foot high. That led into a courtyard…
Well, that property was owned by a couple of elderly men - they were once young, 'cause they'd been there years: known as Mr Sizer and Mr Lord. I never did meet Mr Lord, but I met Mr Sizer many times...
He also delivered coal. If I remember rightly, there were three men lived in those cottages: one was a man who looked after the malt and things like that and did the odd jobs and two men went out on the cart. They always went out loaded with coal; they used to pass the house where I lived - well, when I was not at school - every day of the week, including Saturdays.
Well, we came out of there and the next shop was Mr Potter, the greengrocer. He had pomegranates and pineapples: he was a little more than the ordinary potato, cabbage and carrot shop. He had the different sorts of fruit. That was a very smart shop and they did good business - a big shop, too, double-fronted.
Next to that was Mr Fuller, the musical instrument man. He had, to my knowledge, nearly every instrument you can find, from a tin whistle to a bass drum or a 'cello. The brass and silver bugles were in the window, piano accordions and concertinas. He was busy, it seemed.
Next to that was a sweet shop. Mind you, all these shops had overhanging first floors and were all timber-framed, although Mr Potter broke the rule and had a modern shop front put in,so that stood out unfortunately. But never mind…
Then there was Blowers. You went down a step there. He was a little, short, fat man: a nice, pleasant man. And he had two daughters. They were both built like miniature barrels, but they were clean and pleasant, always wore white aprons. On the left of the shop going in, there was a separate place that was divided up with children's clothes - I think that there were some women's clothes as well, but I can't remember that. Little frocks and dresses and knickers for the children. And long black stockings. On the other side they kept the sweets: the gob-stoppers, the honeycomb bars. I suppose that was every sweet you could think of. And the thing he always kept a good stock of was ship's chocolate. That was like chocolate, made in long bars like tunnels. And the seamen used to come and buy that. We used to buy it; it wasn't sweet, but you could suck that and it lasted a long while. If you wanted to, you did what the seamen did and scraped it into powder to make nice, thick cocoa. They used to have about a dozen of these fingers in one row and a dozen in the other.
After that, the next one - and the last one before the corner - was a public house of the corner called The Brewers. There was no need to say it was a public house, because we knew that. By that time, we'd reached Salthouse Street.
Well, the other side of that was a nice old fellow. You went up three steps. He had a window either side on the corner - it was a round pavement - and he kept sou'westers, oilskins: a ship's chandlers sort of thing, but he never kept ropes or anything like that. And he kept duffle-coats and everything that a seaman needs…"
See another period photograph featuring horse-traffic in Fore Street on our Wheatsheaf page.
Photograph taken outside The Neptune Inn in the evening at Christmas time. Captioned: “Left to right - Reg Cooper, MPs wife Dingle Foot?, Ray Atkinson, owner of EA Wire Working Co., MP, unknown, Neville Sneezum, George Scott.” Back of photo labelled ‘J.Coe'.
[Sir Dingle Mackintosh Foot, QC (24 August 1905 - 18 June 1978) was a British lawyer, Liberal and Labour Member of Parliament, and Solicitor General for England and Wales in the first government of Harold Wilson. He was Labour MP for Ipswich, 1957-1970.]
George Bodley Scott was owner and renovator of The Neptune, see above for a link to his book about the buildings.
Stuart and Gina Cooper, the owners and original restorers of the Isaac Lord complex, sent this photograph. Stuart explains that one spin-off from the Fore Street Facelift 1961 project was the founding of the Fore Street Association of traders and residents in the street. They continued to put up Christmas lights in the street for many years and this photograph records that.
Old Neptune Inn sign 1961: a still from The Ipswich Society's film of the Facelift project