The Greyfriars development 50 years on
Trevor Hart's letter to the editor printed in the April Newsletter contained a reference to a publicity document Trevor included which was produced by the developer of what was then seen as the utopian Greyfriars complex (1964-66) until the Government abandoned the planned expansion of the whole area. Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing, but the language used and attitudes expressed in the document are very striking. They ring very hollow over the decades and evoke a mid-1960s struggling to leave the grey austerity of post-War Britain and fling itself towards the white heat of technology proclaimed by Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Two photographs are juxtaposed captioned 'The Old Look...': a street of Victorian terraced housing with corner shop in the foreground - 'Players Please' above the door and newspaper headline boards below the shop window; '... and the New (note roof-top parking)': an architect's scale model of the Greyfriars development with tiny cars visible on the top deck. A major feature of the project, we are told, is greatly increased parking for cars which will attract pleasure-seekers, shoppers and diners to the town to spend money and appeal to "further organisations to join Shell and Fisons as major users of office space in the area, possibly as regional headquarters." Most ironic of all is the caption above an elevated view of terraces, two churches (probably St Nicholas and St Peter) and the distant dockside silos: 'The Ipswich of a bygone age will give way to "a lasting tribute to the architectural and building skills of the 1960s".'
Some of the attractions planned for the complex (apart from the copious parking) are 'a large department store, a supermarket [Pricerite and their S&H pink stamps] and one other large shop, and about 30 smaller shops arranged on two levels, a covered market with 75 stalls and an agricultural showroom below, designed to attract visiting farmers to exhibitions of agricultural machinery etc. on market days... an auction room suite, exhibition hall, public house - and, on the top floor, a restaurant. Proposals are also made for a bank [there was a branch of Midland bank], a small "arts" cinema to seat 300 which can also be used for fashion shows and conferences... a coffee bar, a record shop [remember them?], self-service shop and travel agency and both ladies' and men's hairdressers.'
In reality, what ensued in the tortured history of the development will be well-remembered by many Ipswich Society members. The travelator (moving pavement) which never moved in this writer's memory, the ramp entrance to the multi-storey car park in New Cardinal Street which never seemed wide enough for any car climbing up it between those dangerous-looking concrete edges and tight bends, the wood-grain texture on the poured concrete walls formed by the timber shuttering used, and left as a 'natural-looking' finish. See the article on page 14 for a note about the way in which the site was eventually rescued and reborn.
[Download the whole Ipswich Tomorrow leaflet.]