Anglia Cameras and the town of Ipswich from Jim Empson
When I started my business, Anglian Cameras, in St Matthews Street, Ipswich in 1964 I was told by several that I had chosen the wrong site. They also pointed out that a murder had taken place in the Rainbow pub, opposite. However, this had been pulled down and, as we know, the whole area was rebuilt. Not a good time to establish a new business. However, I could see the potential of the area after visiting the Borough Council when it was based in the Town Hall, opposite the Barclays Bank entrance in Princes Street, and viewed the maps of proposed development in the Civic Drive, Elm Street area. With so many offices around me, how could I go wrong?
I paid the key money to Oxborrow, Son & Morgan of £1,500. I later learned that the shop had been empty for two years and that I could, no doubt, have negotiated a better price - but working from a distance, Reading, I had wanted to make sure of the place. It had a car park for six cars accessed via Blackhorse Lane, which I saw as a great asset.
Before leaving Reading, where I had managed University Cameras whose H.Q. was in my home city of Cambridge, I made the necessary shop fittings in my workshop (which I also built!) to be brought up with the house furnishings. I was a sub-tenant of Great Universal Stores who had the two floors above as offices, with the ground floor as a separate lock-up. Ipswich, then, was a very pleasant county town with a farmers' market every Tuesday, which brought in shoppers too. One farmer always brought me a dozen fresh eggs every week to buy. Ladies with their headscarves would do their weekly shop at Sainsbury's and the International Stores in Westgate Street; fresh fish was also available at MacFisheries. Footman Pretty was still extant, though soon to be Debenhams in a rebuilt store. This was the heyday of Ipswich in recent times.
Now, unfortunately, the demographic has changed -and not for the better. Two years ago I was about to enter HSBC bank in Tavern Street when a young thirty-something fellow fell across my feet, unconscious after a blow to the head. His assailant was led away whilst an ambulance collected the vanquished. Quite an unnerving experience. And now we learn that Barclays Bank had to be closed recently because of a fight! This is a change in town centre personnel which no one can do anything about. I, like others, avoid Ipswich for this reason. Whereas I would enjoy a coffee with fellow traders and office workers in Ridley's basement, it would still carry on at another venue, I'm sure.
It seems that all of those who are in a position of authority regarding the future layout of Ipswich are threshing about like fish out of water. I'm sorry, but I am still wondering what Terry Baxter said which was excellent - but then, I'll give him his due, I could not hear all that was said because of the microphone fiasco (yet another one!).
The idea of LARGE department stores on the east side of Upper Brook Street is ludicrous, dividing the town even more than the Waterfront ever will, unless a motorised footway is installed between Barrack Corner and Major's Corner (now there's an idea, the kids would love it!).
And why raise the level of the Cornhill? Who dreams up these multi-million pound ideas which will produce NO result? The design I saw would form the basis of a goodly collection point for the tons of rubbish discarded in the town and a good fire hazard.