As a keen follower of John Norman's Ipswich Icons which appear so regularly in the East Anglian Daily Times, I continue to be amazed by what he manages to unearth about Ipswich and its past. In the middle of August 2017 he described a few of the shops and buildings which once existed in St Peters Street. It reminded me of when, as a youngster living in Belstead Road, I was obliged to use the street before, during and after World War II as the main route into town.
During the 1940s our family weekly shop often started in Vernon Street, where you found Carter's for many of your groceries. Then on the west side, Halliday's the Newsagent, Cable's for fruit, Thurman's corn chandler for chicken feed - then over the river (very smelly at low water - it was tidal then) through Bridge Street and into St Peters Street. On the left beyond the bank and the Hand-in-Hand pub were a few small shops still remaining, like the post office with Pond's pet shop next door and Yapp's at number 10 for bread and cakes. Many had been swept away years earlier by road widening for the trolley bus route. Opposite were Burton's the butchers and Rendle's for sweets; then Walton's cycle shop where I bought two bicycles.
I think it was run by two brothers and as a youngster I experienced one of them with whom you didn't argue and can well remember being put in my place by his gruff approach. A weekly visit was necessary there to pick up a recharged accumulator for my grandfather's radio as, living opposite us on the south side of Belstead Road, he still had no mains electric supply.
Though a few years before my time, at number 27 there was a radio shop for around ten years from 1920, owned and run as Barbrook Brothers & Co (BBC). It was established I believe before 1922 when the British Broadcasting Company was formed and certainly before it received its royal charter in 1927 becoming the British Broadcasting Corporation. The proprietor was Douglas Barbrook - my grandfather's brother and an electronics wizard - years ahead of his time. With another brother he designed, built and sold radio sets which would receive the new public service.
Though without any hard evidence, the family story was that they were put out of business when served with some legal constraint requiring them to change the name of their business. It is now an antiques shop, with its noticeably low entrance doorway. Again on the north side was the Sailor's Rest which we knew as the Port Missionaries (as they were titled), a hostel run by the Robinsons; I was at school with their son Trevor. But the British Sailors' Society moved their staff about and I finally lost touch with them around 1950 when I believe they were ‘posted' to Portsmouth.
Below: an advert for my grandfather's shop which he placed in the Methodist news booklet, The Myrtle. He was fiercely Methodist and was a leading figure at Museum Street Chapel. I believe he thought it disgraceful that in 1946 my parents allowed me, aged 10, to join the choir of St Mary at Stoke Church.
Going a bit further up the road into St Nicholas Street, on the corner of Silent Street was the Wolsey Pharmacy - so often pictured and now part of Curson Lodge following its extensive renovation by the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust. Although frequently shown as the Cardinal Café at numbers 45 and 45A St Nicholas Street, this once separate shop unit has now been reunited with the original ancient structure.
However, during the period between the mid-thirties and 1947 it was owned by my grandfather, trading as R.C. Barbrook, hairdresser (at 45) and confectioner & tobacconist (at 45a).
[More on John's grandfather in our next issue. -Ed.]
What John Norman continues to do in Ipswich Icons is demonstrate so well the long history and ever-changing face of Ipswich streets.