In October a remarkable discovery was made under the masonry paint of the blank wall to the left frontage of Pickwick's cafe, 1 Dial Lane. The sign has already attracted the attention of Mike Taylor, Conservation Officer for Ipswich Borough Council. The execution by the signwriter, probably around 1900, is an excellent trompe l'oeil of chiselled characters with at least three colours blending from shadow to highlight. The faux ceramic/terra cotta-style border is also striking. The whole sign probably reads:-
JOHN C. SCARBOROW OPTOMETRIST [?]
OPTICIAN BY APPOINTMENT
EAST SUFFOLK & IPSWICH
...although the upper part of the sign is fugitive due to over-painting and possible damp degradation. An advertisement in the 1904 Post Office Directory for Mr John C. Scarborow, Dial Lane, Ipswich, refers to him as "Optician by Appointment to the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital", later known as Anglesea Road Hospital.
The original building may date from the 16th century. The present owner of the whole building, Mrs Fay Cooper, (although not directly related to the shop's proprietors, the Coopers) is a descendant of the optometrist. F.C. Cooper FBOA was running Scarborow's Opticians in Dial Lane in the 1920s and who may even have been an early partner of John C. Scarborow. The 'Victorian' style of the lettered sign seems to be at odds with what must have been a rather modern, avant garde frontage to the shop.
The Art Nouveau alterations to the facade were designed in 1902 by John Shewell Corder, an architect of some repute having worked on Hintlesham Hall and many churches in the area. A copy of the plans hangs upstairs in the cafe. The building has remained in the same family since 1923.
"I am so excited because I'm very passionate about art and history anyway... and I have been spending money and time looking into the history of the building. So uncovering this is just so timely and I just feel it's given us all a real boost, there's a buzz in the shop now. I just want to preserve it, I feel this is quite exciting for Ipswich because the history of Ipswich is incredible and people don't know about it. We're right in the middle so if this brings a little bit of attention to Ipswich that'll be superb." (Proprietress Jane Cooper quoted in the EADT)