Courts and yards in eastern Ipswich, 1880s

'5 January 2014. Just a "thank you" for the superb content on the Ipswich lettering website. I have been researching my family history for almost 50 years... they lived in St Clement/St Helen's parishes for over 200 years, clearly in dire poverty. Your maps and insights add so much colour and flesh to my image of their lives. Thanks, John Welham'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Courts map 18831883 map
Carr Street area
We came across this 1883 map detail which gives some impression of the density of lowly housing particularly in the east, bordering The Potteries area. Cox Lane is at bottom-centre meeting Carr Street. Running horizontally across the centre is Carr Street from Majors Corner (where the tracks of the horse tramway teminate – they weren't replaced by electric trams until 1903) on the right to Upper Brook Street on the left.
See our page on The Potteries for a 1902 map from Cox Lane to Alexandra Park.

Notable features:-
1. Little Colman Street (upper left) is there; the East Anglian Daily Times printworks would be built in 1887 on the corner of Little Colman Street and Carr Street and this was eventually demolished (1966) along with the street, the Lyceum Theatre and all the neighbouring shops before the imposition of the disastrous  'Carr Precinct' – most of it is now a cut-price store;
2. The building opposite the jaws of Great Colman Street is clearly marked 'School (Girls)'; see our Egerton's page for more on this lettered building;
3. Upper Brook Street is very narrow between the Symonds Chemists corner and The Great White Horse;
4. Between Upper Brook Street and Cox Lane (centre, bottom of map) is the 'Steam Brewery' and 'Malthouse'; these lie to the south of a large open yard behind what was to become the Woolworth's store (marked 'The Old House', which appears to have a large garden behind it reaching down to the Malthouse); in 1856 Charles Cullingham and Ashton Blogg (who had previously had a small brewery in Foundation Street – probably where The Unicorn Brewery stands today) had set-up a Steam Brewery here. From 1873 its proprietors were Charles Cullingham and Frances Blogg; by 1885 Cullingham was sole proprietor. The company was a large concern, owning sixty-nine pubs and maltings. It was bought by the Tollemache Brothers in1888 and it closed in 1958 when 'Tolly' merged with Cobbold, leading to eventual demolition to become a car park;
5. Across Cox Lane is an indication of the extreme density of housing in this poorest part of Ipswich at the time stretching eastwards: Union Street, Goodings Court, Union Court, Daniela Court, Charles Court (see photographs below), Well Court, Craig Court and Cook's Yard are visible; much of this area (including the small Permit Office Street – so named because an inhabitant was an official who issued Custom & Excise permits) was demolished and became the Cox Lane car park; Watts Court (see below) further down Foundation Street still had a couple of the original small houses until 2013.
6. Apart from the still-standing Great White Horse, The Cock & Pye and The Salutation, we can see the following hostelries:-
- Steam Brewery Tap/Inn: 39 Upper Brook Street, north of the archway; see our Old Cattle Market page for a closer look at these buildings;
- The Coach & Horses: 41 Upper Brook Street, south of the archway with its Winged wheels emblem);
- The Cross Keys Inn: a coaching inn at 22 Carr Street which existed there before 1650 and closed in 1938; the original building was extensively rebuilt when the street was widened (c.1887-88) to allow trams to pass, now a charity shop;
- The Marquis of Cornwallis: on the sharp corner of Old Foundry Road and Great Colman Street, next door to a marked 'Corn Mill' see our Vestiges page);
- The Post Chaise: at the very tip of St Margaret's Street and Woodbridge Road with a loop lane behind it linking the two roads; standing opposite The Mulberry Tree, still standing today;
- The Admiral's Head: opposite the jaws of Carr Street, on Major's Corner);
- The Duke of Kent Tavern: 10 Upper Orwell Street on the opposite side to the Church of St Michael Church, for many years the offices of the Co-op funeral service – see our Co-op page for a photograph; a Urinal is marked behind tenements on the opposite corner to the church.

'Courts' and 'Yards' were small clusters of poor, overcrowded housing often grouped around a small yard and accessed from the street by a narrow passage. 'Upper Orwell Courts' still has its street sign, but is now just a narrow lane between Upper Orwell Street and Bond Street. Muriel Clegg (see Reading List) writes of houses (mainly one room up, one room down) with no gas, electricity or sanitation when an additional income could be had by storing human dung from the inhabitants in a tank in the yard which was collected and sold on to farmers to manure the fields. The stench and danger of disease can only be imagined. In the 1880s a network of sewers was dug in Ipswich (a notable feature of those dug down the centre of Westgate Street was the discovery of a series of medieval burials. This work may well have been in progress at the time of the above map. Through the 19th century private companies provided the water supply but in 1892 the council took them over. See the Ragged Schools page for other signs of extreme poverty in Ipswich when apparently its economy was booming...

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rags and bones coverRags & bones
A key source of information on this subject is Frank Grace's excellent book Rags & bones (see Reading List) which meticulously documents the truly awful poverty of eight to nine thousand people living in St Clement's parish in the 19th century. One or two examples really bring the squalor to life. The area known for many decades as 'The Potteries' – roughly the site of Suffolk New College, with the 'cliff' (scarp) up to Alexandra Park probably caused by clay-digging was probably the source of raw material for the seventh and eighth century wheel-thrown pottery which was widely distributed in Britain and the Rhineland and which  is called by archaeologists 'Ipswich Ware' because of its characteristic composition and glaze. A stratum of white clay was estimated by historian John Glyde in 1850 to be thirty feet deep in this area and there was, of course, plentiful local, fresh spring water. The greatest number of kilns was found just inside the late Saxon rampart and ditch which ran down what is now Upper Orwell Street and 'St Helen's pottery ground' succeeded these kilns in later centuries.The decline of this ancient trade is the story told in Rags & bones. In addition to The Potteries, Rope Walk (literally a rope manufactory) and the area reaching round the bend in the dock from Neptune Quay and down the east bank to Myrtle Street experienced a massive change from the 1820s. The Rope Walk and Rope Lane were once cut off from the river by meadows until Long Lane was cut through. The remnant of this today is the southern stub of Long Street between the College and the University running from the bottom of Back Hamlet into car parks. This lane was eventually to form one of the worst slums in the town. The decline of pottery, tile and brick-making as well as rope-making seems to have triggered a burst of trading in plots of land, rapid building of 'cottages' with small pubs on the corners, grocery shops etc. (For a 1902 map of much of the Potteries area, see our Holy Trinity Church page.)

All of this was driven by the profit-motive, not by philanthropy. Very little or no attention was paid to decent infrastructure: paving, drainage, access etc. Because it catered to the housing demands of the lower and lowest strata of Ipswich society, the result was the building of slums with appalling sanitation, overcrowding, disease and exploitation of the inhabitants. The distance between the frontages of the cottages varied from less than fifteen feet in David Street, even less in Baker Street and nine feet in Short Lane. The last of these was 200 feet long and in 1881 there were eighteen households with 102 people living there. It was similar in many ways to present-day shanty towns which grow up on the edges of conurbations. Many of the people making money from these ventures were supposedly upstanding members of Ipswich society. People with power, wealth and influence: politicians, mayors, businessmen resisted any social reforms for decades, despite overwhelming evidence collected by the Medical Officer of high mortality and degrading living conditions over a large area of the town where 'repectable' persons might fear to tread. The stench would certainly put them off. So much for the enlightenment of the Victorian industrial revolution and its resultant immense wealth and 'prosperity'.

'Cottage' is a word we like to associate with roses round the door and a pleasant garden, perhaps a thatched roof. In the Potteries it was more commonly a 'single house', no more than a two-roomed shed with a blind back, no doors or windows at the rear. In 1881, one such dwelling in Clark's Court housed thirty-three people. The toilet would have to be emptied by hand, through the house. Many cases of inadequate drains becoming blocked are reported with the surrounding ground, paths and buildings becoming contaminated with effluvia. Slums reported as being health hazards, damp, overcrowded, disease-ridden, were no more than twenty years old in some cases, so the landowners were not just building the slums of tomorrow, but virtually the slums of today. There are examples of builders being unable to finish their work because the inhabitants were so desperate for housing that they moved into unfinished premises. Needless to say, the builders gave up and left houses unfinished. Some jerry-built houses on the clay layer of the Potteries site, close to the scarp either fell down or had to be demolished only ten years after erection. In the 1880s a network of sewers was dug in Ipswich and eventually the major contamination and public health problems of 'The Rope Walk Insanitary Area', as it had come to be known, were ameliorated. (Between 1879 and 1881 the sewer outlet was built downriver from the dock.) In the 19th century private companies provided the water supply but in 1892 the council took them over. See our Street furniture page for a note about Ipswich Water Works. Drainage, sewers, water supply, paving, slum landlords: all unromantic subjects, but crucial to the chequered history of Ipswich and its people.

Another feature of the population of the Potteries area in the 19th century detailed in Rags & bones is its restless nature. People were coming into the area to seek for, usually, very low-paid work then moving around to different addresses, moving away and sometimes returning. Whatever societal structure developed happened despite this perpetual motion. For the powerful employers of the day, notably the dominant Ransome's, Sims and Jefferies engineering works, this would be called "a flexible workforce"...

An 1850 perspective
‘There are 106 courts in the town, containing 627 houses. The drainage from some of these is very defective. In some instances all the refuse water has to be carried to a dead well, situated either in the middle or at the end of the yard. In others, the water course is very badly paved, and stagnant water is the consequence. The demoralizing practice of providing but one convenience for several house is here seen in full force. No less than 67 courts, containing 358 houses, are in this position; giving an average of one to every five houses. The courts are also equally deficient in accommodation for the washing of clothes. Many of the inhabitants have to perform that operation in their dwellings, to the serious injury of their health and destruction of their comfort. The supply of water to the courts is also of a defective character. Ten of them are without any supply, to 4 the water they require is fetched from the wells, and to 21 from pumps. The difficulty and labour attending the procuration of this needful article, must have deteriorating influence on the character of the inhabitants, and prevent the formation of those habits of cleanliness so essential to the health, comfort and moral elevation of the poorer classes. The ventilation of the courts is bad, their situation often very confined, and the entrance in some instances narrow. Some of their houses are situated back to back. Above 500 of them have no back doors; and, in the major portion, the rooms are so small that, where they are occupied by families, they cannot fail of being crowded in the sleeping apartments.’
Contemporary description of insanitary courts, John Glyde: Moral, social and religious condition of Ipswich, 1850; quoted in Grace, F. The late Victorian town (see Reading list).
Frank Grace's
The Victorian town is a very interesting 'slim volume' designed by the author as a teaching guide to research. Much of the book relates to Ipswich  and it is full of passages such as that above, also insights into Franks' working methods and the way in which the stories of people can be reconstructed from historical sources.

Charles Court
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Union Streetphotos courtesy Dave Riseborough
'CHAR[?]..S CT' a street name painted on the brickwork of a wall at the end of the stub of Union Street (off Upper Orwell Street). Dave Riseborough writes: 'On old maps I looked at on the internet it looks as though there was a court there, but it is not named on the maps). It is located up Union Street, off Upper Orwell Street. Towards the end, on the left, there is an old building (I seem to remember reading somewhere that this is an example of the old slum buildings that were there and which was left after the slum clearances, but I can't be sure) the sign is on the rear of this building...'

Certainly there is no name (not even Union Street) on the map of Ipswich by Edmund White, 1867. The two streets crossing at right-angles between Upper Orwell Street and Cox Lane are named Barclay St and Office St. However, an Ordnance Survey (scale 1/1250) map of 1883 given to us by Hilary Platts some years ago shows all the names in this rabbit-warren of the poorest Victorian housing in the centre of the town. This clearly shows, on the north side of Union Street, Well Court and directly opposite: Charles Court. Thanks to Dave Riseborough for bringing this hidden corner of historic lettering to our attention. Below: location photograph of the vestigial Charles Court lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Charles Court 20142014 image

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Orwell Courts See Upper Orwell Court and Dove Yard for this and other metal street name signs. Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dove Yard small

Shire Hall Yard area
This second map of a similar vintage is south of that shown above and shows 'Shire Hall Yard' at its centre lying between Foundation Street and Lower Brook Street. Many features have changed or gone forever and the density of housing is very striking. One survivor is the small house in Watts Court, still standing in 2013. This is off the west side of Foundation Street, level with the lower Shire Hall Yard: this is now called Smart Street, where Smart Street School (marked as 'School - Boys and Girls') can be seen, and that page contains more information on 'Shire Hall' itself. Tooley Street (
which is now called Blackfriars Court, presumably renamed following the rediscovery of the ruins of that monastic church nearby) completes the northern part of Tooley's Almshouses rectangle. Parallel with and just north of that is the long-disappeared School Street, the site of Christ's Hospital School with the Unicorn Brewery above it.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Courts map 2

This detail of Pennington's 1778 map of this area shows the Shire Hall at the centre with
to the east of it the sloping Lower Orwell Street (called 'The Lower Wash' here). 'Stepples Street' (today's Orwell Place) is at the upper right. The lane today called Pleasant Row runs from Shire Hall southwards towards Star Lane and the dock.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Shire Hall map 17781778 map

Wingfield Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wingfield Street sign
A lane at its junction with Tacket Street; it elbows round to meet Foundation Street, but its much smaller today than in the above mid-1880s map (also shown on our Brook Street page relating to Rosemary Lane). See Street name derivations. Our page on Tooley's & Smart's Almshouses shows a 1902 map of the area with Wingfield Street and Little
Wingfield Street clearly shown.
See also our Christ Church URC/Baptist page for the Listing text relating to the still-standing rear wing of Sir Anthony Wingfield's 16th century mansion, next to the church, both of which stand back from today's Tacket Street north pavement.

Tankard Street: the theatre and Salvation Army Citadel

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tankard Inn Tacket StreetPhoto courtesy Ipswich Society Image Archive
Above is a view of the north side of the narrow Tankard Street (now Tacket Street – see Street name derivations) looking east. The Tankard Inn had begun life as a private house bought by Sir Humphrey Wingfield from a Mrs Falstof – probably after 1516 (the entrance to Wingfield Street is opposite) which he decorated in palatial manner. Henry Davy's engraving in Clarke's History and Description of the Town of Ipswich (1830) [see Reading list] shows that the magnificent panelled ground floor room with even more elaborate ceiling decoration survived as a public room in the Tankard Inn. It did so until Henry Ringham, woodcarver and church furnisher (whose Gothic House is in St John's Road), was in 1856 instructed to strip the room of its panelling, repair it and use most of it to line the walls of the study at John Cobbold's residence, Holy Wells. In 1929 the oak overmantel and wall panelling, some of it heraldic, was moved again to find a permanent home in the Wingfield Room at Christchurch Mansion.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wingfield House overmantel
Above: the illustration of the 'overmantel' from the Great Parlour in the Tankard Inn, from Blatchly, J.: Isaac Johnson, see Reading list.
From 1738 of the eastern part of the
Wingfield's House was used for the Tankard Inn and the western part of the site for a Playhouse. The Salvation Army Citadel in the foreground of the above image began life on the site of the first permanent theatre in Ipswich; it was built by Henry Betts, a local brewer and owner of the Tankard Inn in 1736. In 1741 it is claimed that an unknown actor called Lyddal made his debut appearance as an African slave called Aboan in Thomas Southerne's play Oroonoko. This unknown actor was in fact the soon-to-be-famous Shakespearian, David Garrick. The original theatre was replaced by the Theatre Royal in 1803. It closed as a theatre in 1890 and became a Salvation Army barracks. All of the buildings in this view were demolished during the widening of Tacket Street (the Citadel in the 1980s?). Today’s entrance to the NCP car park covering the site of the old Steam Brewery is at the immediate left of this picture. Even after conversion into a Salvation Army Citadel, it is said that parts of the 'auditorium' comprised original theatrical fittings.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tacket Street map 17781778 map
Above: a detail from Pennington's map of Ipswich, 1778 showing the 'Playhouse' clearly labelled in 'Tackett Street'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Tankard Inn 1830Tankard Innc.1830
Above: The Old Tankard in around 1830, converted from part of Sir Anthony Wingfield's house, the inn took the name from Tankard Street, formerly and now: Tacket(t) Street.

For much more on Wingfield's palatial house see A house fit for a Queen:Wingfield House in Tacket Street, Ipswich and its heraldic room by D. MacCulloch and J. Blatchly. Suffolk Institute, 1993.
The website Theatres and Halls in Ipswich, Suffolk
(see Links) has an engraving of the original, early 18th century theatre in Tankard Street and a more detailed history.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Salvation Army 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Salvation Army 2
Above: photographs of the interior of the Tacket Street Salvation Army Citadel, courtesy Morvyn Finch, to whom our thanks. The galleried hall with its cast iron pillars bears striking resemblances to others in the town, e.g. the nearby Christ Church URC and Museum Street Methodist Church.

Watts Court

[UPDATE 21.8.2012: "I stumbled on this very interesting site.  I know there were several courts built for the poor in Ipswich, usually built behind houses on the main streets.  My mother was born in Craig Court off Upper Orwell St, she grew up in Watts Court off Foundation St.  In fact two of these very small houses off Foundation St. still survive, they are now used as some kind of storage facility.  It would be great if you could put a picture of the houses on your site before they disappear. Also is are there any photos in the archives of these two courts.  Thank you for your time, Kind regards, Carolyn Saxon." In response to Carolyn's email, we have added the maps of courts and yards on this page and here are her 2013 images of those houses. Thanks.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Watts Court 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Watts Court 22011 photographs courtesy Carolyn Saxon
[UPDATE: By spring 2013, this humble building had been demolished (see below). "Unbelievable!  Doesn't anyone in Ipswich  who has any say-so have the foresight to save anything of historic value?    I'm so glad I took those pictures when I was home last (2011) & passed them on to you.  Just in the nick of time it seems. Thanks for letting me know, Carolyn" (13.7.2013)]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Watts Court 32013 image

"The usage of these street names is relatively modern. Muriel Clegg in her booklet ‘Streets and Street Names in Ipswich’ [see Reading List] describes the history of each. Lower Orwell Street follows the course of a natural stream the ‘Cauldwell Brook’ that flows ‘from high ground to the east of the town gave its name and its course to Spring Road. Swelled by more water from Warwick Road (formerly Water Lane) the stream continued its course along St Helen’s Street (Cauldwell – 'Cold well' – Lane) to Major’s corner where there appears to have been another stream. There it turned down Upper and Lower Orwell Streets (the “Wash”) to reach the river’. In 1959 ‘excavations in Shire Hall Yard, behind Lower Orwell Street, revealed that the rampart [of the town’s walls] was constructed above a ditch (probably a boundary ditch of between AD900 and AD1100. The stream bed provided earth and gravel for the rampart, and itself, widened and deepened by these operations, provided an outer ditch probably 18 to 20 feet wide’. The street previously known as the ‘Wash’ or ‘Key Lane’ has never been a major thoroughfare. The ditch separated the area of this site from the medieval town and in medieval documents property in this area is described as in the suburbs of Ipswich. Fore Street ‘was originally St Clement’s Street’ or St Clement’s Fore Street’. By the early eighteenth century the name Fore Street had appeared, reflecting the approach to the ‘fore’ or foreshore, no longer apparent since the construction of the Wet Dock opened in 1839...

It is possible to identify the essentially working class nature of Lower Orwell Street in the Victorian period from the list of occupants and their trades as published in1881 ‘Directory of Ipswich’. The houses along this eastern side of the road were listed in the reverse order beginning with John Taylor the then publican of the Gun Inn. The other occupants of the street were 43 J. Clarke, blacksmith, 41 Thomas Pettitt, chimney sweeper, 39 Peter Lawson, tailor, 37 George Simey wheelwright, 35 Ebenezer Robinson, ship builder and William Bennett mariner, 31 Peter Smith blacksmith and wheelwright, 29 James Lord, hawker, and again Peter Smith and George Simey, 27 Mrs Garrod, staymaker, 28 Joseph Church, shoemaker, 25 was vacant, 23 George Andrews, french polisher, 21 Robert Powell, brickmaker, and G & O Ridley, wine merchants, 19 & 17 John Garrod coal dealer, (his premises adjoined Garrod’s Court), 15 Mrs L Southgate, machinist, 13 & 11 Thomas Harvey, baker, 9 Mrs Collier charwoman, 7 Samuel Barrell, engine driver, 5 Mrs Cook, and 3 Walter Powell, labourer. These were not the owners of the properties. Behind the street frontage there were commercial premises sometimes linked with the cottages or small houses along the street frontage. In July 1892 a ‘Capital Freehold Malting Premises with stable, coach-house & large yard also Five Freehold Cottages Tenements forming one block with an area of about 45 perches, having long frontages’ were offered for sale ... These were situated in ‘Lower Orwell Street in the parish of St Mary Key, Ipswich’. The malting was described as ‘Brick-And-Tiled … with Three Floors, 80 Coomb Steep, Barley Chamber, Kiln, Screening Room and Malt Store with Capital Well and Pump on the premises, in the occupation of C. H. Cowell Esq’ and ‘New Brick-And- Tiled Stable with large yard adjoining the Malting in the occupation of Mr Gummersome also, adjoining, Five Freehold Cottage Tenements & Wheelwrights’ shop, being numbered 21, 23, 25, 27 and 28 Lower Orwell Street’. The description continues ‘The Whole forming a complete block with a Frontage to the Street of about 84 feet, and a Frontage to a Cartway on the south side of the premises of 135 feet’. The premises were considered to be ‘well worthy the attention of gentlemen engaged in Mercantile pursuits’. The vendor was a Mrs Debora Barker."
(The above passage is an edited version of an Appendix to a Suffolk County Council archaeological assessment of Essex Furniture Site, Lower Orwell Street, Ipswich, 2007.

It's only a few hundred yards (towards the town) from the here to C.J. Hawkes, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the Bake Office in Felaw Street, The Methodist Mission RoomThe Old Bell and the Trinity House buoy.
See our Christ's Hospital School page for its move from Foundation Street/School Street to Over Stoke.

See also our Historic maps page.

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