I'm going to start at the end with Borin Van Loon's summary of his January Winter Illustrated Talk, “I love the snapping-up of unconsidered trifles* and the things we learn from them.” This attention to detail with documentation of our town's small street statements was presented to us in a plethora of signs, milestones, boundary markers and dates. We recognised some of them, pledged ourselves to look for others and we learned a fundamental truth about our town.
Buildings may come and go, but much of the street plan remains intact - and the evidence for the antiquity of some of our streets is in their names. Bishop's Hill, picked out in black bricks on red refers to the residence of the Medieval Bishop of Norwich in Holywells Park. King Street, painted on to the limestone of the Corn Exchange is possibly named for King Edward I, commemorating the marriage of his daughter. The old cast iron sign (one of the “best signs in Ipswich”) of Cutler Street, on the side wall of The Sailors' Rest, refers to William Cutler who endowed Cutler's Charity in 1620. There are 17th century dates carved in wooden bressummer beams at the Old Cattle Market (1620), the Fore Street ropemakers' cottages (1620) and the Captains' Houses on Grimwade Street (1631).
We also learned about our Victorian forebears; their crowded living conditions in the courts and yards of Ipswich illustrated with the Dove Yard cast iron sign. And those with better quality terraced homes loved to name and date them, often with scroll-work or bows on the cartouche as at Blue Gown Villas in Foxhall Road and York Terrace (1879) in York Road. The area across the river in Stoke bustled with industry and commerce in the 19th century. Inns were needed and the Eastern Union Railway Hotel in Croft Street has a monogram 'EUR' (with a lovely curly E and R) in the faience of its frontage. Jacob Garrett's St Mary's Iron-Foundry is immortalised in the milestones it created, which still announce their distance from London to passers-by and C Mills & Co, St Nicholas Foundry (in Tanners Lane), is cast into many hydrants and drain covers in our pavements.
We still add to our street lettering heritage - Stuart Hill of the Claydon Foundry casts clever, attractive letters into his iron fencing. Front place in the queue at the traffic lights is just right to catch the elusive IBH (Ipswich Borough Housing) in the Argyll Street fencing. And if you have trouble seeing that, try the ITFC in the blue fence behind Alf Ramsey.
Oh, and who beats the streets? The Church parishioners do (or did) at their boundary markers - it's called ‘beating the bounds'§. Look out for MGTB (St Margaret's Boundary) on the old County Hall, STC B (St Clement's Boundary) in Alexandra Park and many other parish boundary markers scattered throughout our town. They are all on Borin's web site: www.ipswich-lettering.co.uk/ Caroline Markham
[*actually a quotation from Shakespeare - Autolycus in The Winter's Tale]
[§We will reprint an article about Beating the Bounds in St Clement parish from an earlier Society publication in a future Newsletter. -Ed.]