The new town centre branch of the Ipswich Building Society
My article on Parrs Bank (in Ipswich icons, EADT, Thursday, September 7, 2017) stirred some memories including a note from Brenda Sutton (née Gynn) who was born on the top floor and had a privileged upbringing using the belvedere as her ‘playroom'. It would be unbecoming of me to reveal Brenda's age but she was born during the first couple of years of World War II.
Her father was offered the job of caretaker when the Westminster Bank started operating from the ground floor (1936). The reward was the top floor flat for Cecil Ernest Gynn, wife Amelia and family. There was no ‘back yard' to the bank and therefore nowhere to play outside so Brenda had to go into Princes Street and explore. And explore she did: the provisions market in the Corn Exchange, the newsagents (and sweet shop) in the Thoroughfare and the comings and goings of townsfolk across the Cornhill.
Growing up in the Bank meant Brenda was witness to a number of important town centre events: the big snow in the winter of 1947/48, the disastrous fire in the Public Hall in Westgate Street (February 1948) and the Circus elephants parading along Princes Street on their way from the station to Christchurch Park (early 1950s).
If she was out and about and needed the toilet she would use the one on the corner of King Street and Lion Street (part of the Corn Exchange). They were controlled by a fearsome lady in a white overall. Popping in here was easier than climbing the three flights of stairs back up to the flat.
Parr's Bank was designed in 1902 by Thomas W. Cotman, nephew of the famous watercolourist, John Sell Cotman. Thomas also designed the new front of the Crown and Anchor in Westgate Street in a similar 16th century French gothic style. Four storeys with two storey oriels (bay windows on the first and second floors). The corner terminates with a copper dome, an oak cupola and a spire which is surrounded by highly decorative finials. The detail is fascinating but somewhat lost being some sixty feet above the street.
In addition to the ground and three further above ground floors there is a basement, originally designated coal cellar, strong room (with dumb waiter lift) and larder (with a second separate dumb waiter). There were two flights of stairs down to the basement, the domestic staircase providing access to the larder and the second for exclusive use by the bank from the manager's office on the ground floor into the Strong Room in the basement. No chance of the servants accidentally pocketing the days banking.
The building is faced in Portland stone with a parapet, pierced with quatrefoils and topped with pinnacles, not all of which are still in place, or they weren't when, at the invitation of the contractor, R.G. Carter, I climbed the scaffold for a closer inspection. Today the outside has been refreshed, the rain water disposal is working and the bank sits proudly in the street.
The first floor was occupied by Pearl Asssurance as their Ipswich office and the second floor by English Electric as their retail outlet for domestic appliances. Between the wars electric appliances were in their infancy, marvelled at but not fully understood by the housewives of the day.
On a raised plinth, a revolution in domestic life was on display: an electric cooker and oven: an oven in which the temperature could be controlled, at least more accurately than in the ovens around a range (a range was a cast iron array of open fire and ovens that ran at different temperatures dependent to their proximity to the flames).
Once the contractor has finished the ground floor of the building it will be occupied by the Ipswich Building Society as their town centre branch. The upper floors are once again set to become apartments although I suspect that they will not be occupied by parents with small children.