The Ipswich Society has recently been given a set of photographs taken during the building of the Buttermarket Centre (started in 1988; opened in October 1992). 

The location of most of the pictures is easily established but one (upper right on the back page) caused head-scratching and debate. This particular photograph shows the gable wall of a partially demolished timber framed building, but which one?  

We need to remember that when it was originally built the shopping centre was two separate entities. The large western section which today contains the cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and shops. The eastern section (or annex) which, soon after completion was converted to house British Home Stores was on the other side of St Stephen’s Lane. This eastern section was built as a series of small shops either side of a pedestrian mall stretching from the Butter Market (street) through to Arras Square.

You probably didn’t notice this whilst shopping, but the Butter Market facing units which became British Home Stores were actually historic timber framed buildings, a couple of which are listed. Each had had the rear wall removed and the whole group extended through to St Stephen’s churchyard (the BHS café).

Thus, the building in the colour photograph is number 40 Butter Market, Grade II listed by Heritage England as being sixteenth century, the western half of a very large timber framed house with central chimney. I should point out that the demolition that has taken place this side of the gable wall is the remains of the ABC Cinema which was squeezed into the gap between the Ancient House and number 40.

No. 40 Butter Market seen from St Lawrence Street.                  

Note the large chimney stack which was at the centre of a large 16th C. house.






The ABC replaced the Wagon and Horses public house which had been next to the Ancient House since about 1550. The cinema was opened on 1 January 1937 by Dame Anna Neagle who was the star of the very first film shown. When it opened, the cinema was known as The Rex; it became the Regal, then the Ritz before finally becoming the ABC (1962-86). Number 40 had been a carpet shop – you may remember Cyril Lord (‘This is luxury you can afford by Cyril Lord’) which became Eastern Carpets and older readers will remember Swears & Wells, Furriers (they sold fur coats; not many of those in the high street these days).

The eastern half of the timber framed structure (beyond the central chimney) is the double jettied building clearly dated 1994 AD above the first floor oriel window (the date is from the rebuilding after the Butter Market fire of August 1992). The photograph of the timber framed gable end was taken about 1990, before the fire and before the shopping mall was built.

The fire, which started in number 42, the double jettied eastern half of the building in the photograph, at the time occupied by an electrical retailer, completely destroyed the building, spread to the shoe shop next door and beyond that into Booksale (today The Works remainders shop). Not only did the fire destroy the front of these buildings which, of course, had been altered to accommodate their retail function, it also destroyed the rear wings which, until that day remained remarkably unaltered. 

The shoe shop, number 44 had been Alderton’s and more recently 'Jones the Bootmaker', (that was the trading name of the retailer, not a description of the activity taking place inside). Number 44 was a quaint, two-storey, double-fronted cottage today occupied by the British Heart Foundation (listed Grade II).

Smiths Suitall window: behind this window Jack Haste had his studio.




There is an interesting history behind numbers 46 & 48 (The Works) in that after the Second World War they were occupied by Smiths Suitall, primarily a stationer which printed small items, notably postcards that have become very collectable. The company also occupied numbers 50 and 52 which has the very large, decorative (Art Nouveau) window letting light (but not direct sunlight) into the second floor studio.

It had been built as a photographic studio but after the Second World War it was occupied by Jack Haste who, in 1953 opened his own artist materials shop and gallery in Great Colman Street. Jack was, at one stage, a director of Smiths Suitall.

Butter Market - Brook Street corner.

From the right: No. 44 former shoe shop, No.46/48 The Works,  No. 50 Toni & Guy hairdressers, No. 52 HOAX, No. 54 Cafe Nero.





Numbers 50, 52 and 54 Butter Market wrap around the corner into Upper Brook Street, a building designed by Eade & Johns for John White, a photographer with his studio on the upper floor. The date, 1900, is on a plaque on the Upper Brook Street elevation together with the intertwined initials JW. Can we assume that there is a direct link between John White and William Smith who gave his name to Smiths Suitall?

T.E. and J. Conder had a leather business in Ipswich for many years and used number 50 Butter Market as a retail shop from 1836 until 1900 (when the premises were rebuilt). Conder’s moved to 84 Princes Street and, when the new shops were ready for occupation, Smith Suitall offered a similar range of leather goods from the same address.

Smith Suitall had an entirely different product range in the shop next door (46 -48), according to a contemporary advertisement they were a noted retailer of 'Harbutt's Plasticine’. We can probably assume from this that they were also selling other stationery items before the First World War. 

By the early 1970s both 46 and 48 Butter Market had become restaurants, neither outstanding, and they were quickly converted into ‘The Band Box’, a late night drinking haunt which closed in 1978.

Sometimes I amaze myself how just one photograph (of an otherwise unimpressive building) can keep your Chairman and Newsletter Editor entertained for a week!

John Norman








The Editorial of the October 2016 Newsletter (Issue 205) carried two photographs to commemorate the sad demise of British Home Stores. The first floor of the Ipswich branch featured a lively carved bracket showing a lion (now painted white). It was not so when it was in the care of John Field who saved it and offered it for reinstatement in the timber-framed part to the builders of the new store, itself part of the Buttermarket development which opened in 1992. It is still there, awaiting a new occupant of the building. -Editor

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