Edward Fison Ltd. / 'Underground'

Edward Fison Ltd warehouse
Close to the upper reaches of the Wet Dock, what we at first thought was 'Howard Elton Ltd.' appears faintly through the brick-red paint, with 'Websters Trade Yard' still standing out against the whitewash:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Websters Trade Yard 2000a 2000 images
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Websters Trade Yard 2000b
However, an anonymous email suggests that this is more likely to be a more familiar trade name. "Couldn't it be 'Edward Fison Ltd'?" Thanks for the feedback. The 2012 image shows that the weathering of this wall has made the lettering much clearer:
'EDWARD FISON LTD.'
Gipping House on Dock Street, which is now the pinkwashed warehouse and offices for a yacht and shipwright company, dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. In its early years it was used as an infantry barracks (as was the nearby Stoke Maltings, see below), but became, in 1849, one of many buildings in the town to be converted into maltings. The lettering on the brickwork at the east end of the premises suggests that, as a maltings, it was owned and operated by Edward Fison Ltd: one of the first British companies to produce malt extract for brewers and bakers.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edward Fison Ltd 2012 images
The earlier lettering: 'WEBSTERS TRADE YARD' was covered by terra cotta-coloured paint by 2012.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edward Fison 22012  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edward Fison 2a2016 image
Great Whip Street in the background reminds us that this is the line of a very ancient southern route into Saxon Ipswich before Stoke Bridge existed. The site of the Edward Fison Ltd. sign is at the presumed point where Great Whip Street became a ford across the River Orwell, leaving the water around the end of Foundry Lane. The route north into town was probably via the line of TurretStreet, St Stephens Lane and Dial Lane. The 2016 version of the same view shows the Genesis residential complex.
[UPDATE 19.9.2014: Dock Street and Stoke Quay have been in upheaval since 2013 with the building of a series of tower blocks (see our Felaw Street for a early view of the site from Bulstrode Road), so here are a couple of shots of the Dock Street street nameplate at the junction with Vernon Street –opposite The Old Bell – with that new development in the background.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock St sign 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock St sign 22014 images

Below left: the position of the warehouse on New Cut with Stoke Bridge in the background and immediately to the right, Stoke Bridge Maltings which is now flats and former home to the 'Underground' sign (see below). Below right: The view from the narrow isthmus leading to The Island showing, to the left of the sign, the line of Dock Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edward Fison 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Edward Fison 3a  

Bolenda Engineering
A view across New Cut showing the bottom of Great Whip Street and the somewhat unattractive:

'BOLENDA ENGINEERING LTD'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bolenda Engineering 20002000 image

Stoke Bridge Maltings
Not far from the 'Edward Fison Ltd' building shown at the top, is the converted wharf facing Burtons across the Stoke Bridge lagoon and the narrowing top end of the Wet Dock (on the Stoke side). This attractive rake of buildings was modernised as dwellings and offices in1988
long before the later upheavals of the Wet Dock regeneration.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Stoke Maltings 32006 images

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Stoke Maltings 2
The famous London Underground logo of red circle and blue bar with white Gill Sans caps is a screw-on sign, so doesn't really fit into our parameters laid out on the Introduction page, but it is so incongruous that it had to be included here. Perhaps there's a secret tube platform deep down below the bottom of the Wet Dock basin with a direct electrified line to the Cabinet Rooms below 10 Downing Street and a side branch to the nuclear bunker near Mistley. Actually, it used to be the site of a computerised control system for London Underground, though why it was sited in a converted wharf in Ipswich docks is anyone's guess. Apparently, Stoke Bridge Maltings was built at the end of the 1700s on the site of an old mill. This maltings was converted into an infirmary barracks in the times of the Napoleonic Wars until it was sold by the government in 1813 and reverted to its original purpose by 1849. This was one of several barracks established in Ipswich to hold troops and militia in preparation to repel a possible French invasion (behind Albion Mills on Woodbridge Road, near Barrack Corner on Norwich Road – see Suffolk Militia Depot). Falling into decay, Stoke Bridge Maltings was restored and used as a distribution warehouse by a building componenets firm and renamed 'Gipping House' in 1969. The Grade II Listed building was later converted into 41 flats in 1988.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Underground 2Photo courtesy The Ipswich SocietyIpswich Historic Lettering: Underground 2a
The above left image from The Ipswich Society's Flickr collection (see Links) shows the Dock Street entrance to Stoke Bridge Maltings in the 1990s, with a second 'UNDERGROUND' sign above the porch (close-up above right).

[UPDATE Spring 2012:  the 'Webster's Trade Yard', 'Bolenda' lettering, also the 'Underground' sign, had all disappeared by the time of the 2012 pictures.]

UPDATE 12.2.2013: We are grateful to The Ipswich Society for this period (1950s/60s?) photograph of the Stoke Bridge Maltings with its lettering:
'HAROLD SADD'S SEEDS LTD
GROWERS ... CLEANERS ... EXPORT ... WHOLESALE' [out of shot]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Stoke Maltings period
This compares with a modern aerial view of the converted maltings:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Stoke Maltings aerial

E. E. White's Map of c.1867 clearly shows 'Malting' at top right of the detail below. To the east, Dock Lane led in the 17th Century to the Keys Cooperage; in the mid 18th Century to extensive orchards and a shipyard on the south bank of the river basin; and in the 19th Century to The New Cut and to large maltings (now demolished). In the late 18th Century, the long low warehouse of 4 storeys – three of which were within a deep pantiled roof – was built adjacent to Stoke Bridge. This was used as an infirmary barracks in 1803, converted to a maltings in 1849 and converted again to residential use in 1988.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Stoke Maltings map

Incidentally, Stoke Bridge (or in modern times, more correctly 'bridges': there are two side-by-side) stands only yards away from one end of these maltings, historically taking Bridge Street over the river to run up the narrow Bell Lane. Today it links with the reshaped Vernon Street (site of the town's first Co-op) on the Over Stoke/Wherstead side. It is worth noting that this is the latest in a long line of river crossings on, or near, this spot. It's fairly clear that a ford nearby (the banks at this part of the river being much shallower) was used for animals and heavy vehicles in at least the tenth century. This linked the old Saxon roads later named Lower Brook Street in the town and Great Whip Street in Stoke. The ford existed alongside the bridge probably until the late 15th century. For more on the origins of Ipswich at this site see our Historic maps page.

For a 2007 aerial view of the Stoke Bridge area, click here.



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