Martin & Newby R.I.P.,
Meremayd, Palmer's Door Mats
Martin & Newby's, Fore Street
An old established business, suffering closure due to
the rise of
DIY outlets in the town, provided customer service and the
of small quantities of screws, other fitments, hardware, electrical
and tools. Martin and Newby proclaimed their business on manifold
the company establishment date of 1873 clearly shown. While these are
all bolt-on signs on a linked string of
shop premises which
ostensibly fall outside the brief of this website, the architectural
at the top of the building (shown below) qualifies it. Standing at the
south-west corner of the Orwell Place/Upper Orwell Street/Eagle
Street/Fore Street crossroads, that corner building was once a pub, as
were all the other corner premises. The Bull's Head was at south-west,
The Eclipse at north-west, The Shoulder of
Mutton at north-east and The Spread Eagle at south-east – the only
surviving pub here.
'COMMEMORATION ... 1897 ... BUILDINGS'
The first word curves over the centralised date, the
shole contained in a rectangular recessed frame. The date 1897
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. We wonder where Martin and Newby was
during the first twenty four years of its existence. Perhaps it was in
one of the smaller premises which made up the whole business by the
late 20th century.
Beneath the building name we can read (in a Gill Sans-type font):
'MARTIN & NEWBY ... ESTD
. 1873 ... MARTIN & NEWBY
GENERAL IRONMONGERS ... ELECTRICIANS ... TOOL MERCHANTS
MARTIN & NEWBY ... HARDWAREMEN ... MARTIN & NEWBY'
Across the whole
agglomeration of buildings there were, in its heyday, no less than eigh
repetitons of the company names, icluding the italic serif'd capitals
over the electrical shop, so redolent of the 1950s. Below: the shop
on Orwell Place (formerly Stepples Street) and the side entrance on
Street, photographed shortly before the business closed its doors for
last time in June, 2004.
2005: during a snow shower (see also Unicorn
update below), we
see the sad sight of Martin & Newby bereft of its midriff. The more
section demolished down to the basement and netted off from the
pavement was presumably unlisted, as were the warehouses behind and to
the left, also gone. It's doubtful that any new retailer will display
so proudly the word 'HARDWAREMEN'.]
By 2012, the shop premises are patchily occupied by
retailers and the lower signs removed. To the right is the infill
building with dormer windows above; to the left can be glimpsed the new
flat block built in what was once the M&N warehouses and car park.
The Ipswich Society
Newsletter July 2004 carried a fascinating article by Ruth
Serjeant: 'Goodbye to all that'. A tour of the linked buildings in
Fore Street and Orwell Place was conducted by Michael Atkinson, the
person who had to decide to close down the business. A bewildering
series of rooms, passages, cellars and attics were explored through the
range of different buidings, each with their own staircases. Some were
offices and workshops but most were shelved out as storage for
thousands of boxes of stock. It was noted that some of the boxes were
labelled: 'washing line pulleys', 'Victorian ring door knobs',
'chain saw files, all sizes, same price'. There was evidence in
the large store-room at the rear of its use as a warehouse for Ellis
the fruiterers, whose premises in Orwell Place the company had acquired
during 1950s and 1960s expansion. A small room at one end had rows of
hooks in the ceiling which were once used to hang hands of bananas to
ripen. It was still referred to as 'the banana room'.
"A small portion of the walling at the end of this building is made of
flint stones, and this has raised the archeological question of whether
this southern boundary of the site is related to the adjacent buildings
of Blackfriars uncovered over recent
years. Further flint walling in cellars elsewhere on the site has been
found, whether as original or re-cycled remains to be seen."
In the 1897 Commemoration Buildings an internal fire escape was
observed: a vertical ladder straight down to the ground from a small
trap door in the floor. The large upper storey windows of this building
finish literally at floor level with no sill. Old photographs show that
they were use to display goods with the windows open although it is not
reported who might have been able to see them up there. The expansion
of the business already noted also included purchase of Fox, the
newsagents, along Fore Street and the Bull Inn which stood on the
corner. In fact there were public houses on all four corners of this
crossroads at one time; the Spread Eagle is the only one which remains
in business. Evidence of the living accomodation above the Bull Inn was
seen with 1950s wallpaper and paintwork, plus wall cubboards and cast
iron fireplaces from an earlier period. The cellar below the former inn
is very low and those entering had to stoop all the while they were
looking at the remains of the 'beer cask pavement' along the floor on
which barrels would be placed to be tapped with an open runnel to take
the drips. I another cellar an even lower ceiling made it hard to see
how anyone could have operated the black iron cooking range which was
still in situ: perhaps the
ceiling of this 'below stairs' living area had been higher at some time.
The Board Room of Martin & Newby had old photographs, a plan of the
Bull Inn before the takeover and many of the firm's business ledgers
(which with other archives were subsequently handed on to Suffolk
Record Office). In its own way, a great loss as a time capsule of
Ipswich life. At least much of the building still stands and the black
and white signs are largely intact as a remembrance.
courtesy The Ipswich Society
Above: this remarkable
photograph from The Ipswich Society's Flickr collection of images (see Links) shows the much-lettered Martin &
Newby's shop – the lettered panels in the negative form to that seen
today. The view is from the entrance to the Co-operative Education
Centre across Fore Street with a green, metal pole to the left
supporting the power lines for the trolley buses. Instead of the string
of linked Martin & Newby shops up to and round the corner into
Orwell Place to which many were familar in the late twentieth century,
we see the newsagent's business of L.B. Fox: an orgy of displayed
periodicals and advertising signs. Perhaps ironically, the largest sign
promotes that most salacious of Sunday papers The News of the World, which Rupert
Murdoch shut down in a sea of phone-hacking scandals in 2011. One
feature of interest in the photograph is the
rear view of Unicorn Brewery (fronting
Foundation Street), which answers one question about the curious
architecture: at the time of the photograph the brewery boasted a tall,
substantial chimney. This would explain the remaining octagonal
white-brick feature behind the building.
The printed advertisement shown above comes from an E.A.D.T.
Souvenir of the King Edward Memorial Sanatorium 'Ipswich in 1912'. The frontage
lettering on Martin & Newby's at that time advertised somewhat
different products and services:
ELECTRICITY. RANGE FITTERS.
MARTIN & NEWBY. CYCLE
Although many will recall with
affection the linked shops of Martin & Newby, they may not know
that the company were contractors providing electric bells and
telephones (among other things) for the new Sanatorium, otherwise
Foxhall Hospital, let alone acting as cycle agents in direct
competition with Sneezum's, just a few yards down Fore Street. See our Hospitals
page for more on this.
Meremayd (former inn), Fore Street
Just across the road from the M&N vehicular
entrance above: the
wood 'MEREMAYD' on the front wall of 17 Fore Street can be seen. The
Mermaid public house was closed at an indeterminate date and is now in
residential use. It is probably a very ancient pub; few records have
been found and it doesn't appear on OS maps as far back as 1884.
It would be very tempting to think that this carved wooden cameo is
ancient. A look at the definition and lack of weathering of the carving
may suggest otherwise.
The Public sculpture in
Norfolk & Suffolk database (see Links)
cites a carved signature and date: 'M. Hardy, (19)74'. Mermaids were
always shown with a mirror and comb, signs of luxury and vanity, in
medieval bestiaries and misericords. Here her head and hair are
'modern'. It is unclear whether this is a reworking of a traditional
design or based on an earlier sign.
Palmer's Door Mats, 63 Upper Orwell Street
Upper Orwell Street (formerly 'The Wash' to mark the
of water from the springs around Christchurch Park, also Spring Road
via Majors Corner down to
Wet Dock) has been ill-served by 'progress' in recent years. Planning
has left many shops empty and boarded up. The Baipo Restaurant
a high building which is home to one of the most obscure advertising
in town (enhanced but barely readable on this photograph):-
enhanced images2012 image
' - FOR -
The first close-up image above is from 2012 (sadly, a
satellite dish now covers the ampersand.) This capital lettering fits
shape left by the
adjoining roof. There is a
flourish rising up from the roof level next to the word
above the 'ME' of 'Palmer's' the lower part of the word
Clearly there was a shop or dealer name above this; perhaps the
was remodelled - or at least cleaned. The following ampersand is
puzzling: unless it is '&c.' which stands for 'et
cetera', it can only mean that the pitched roof next door was built at
a later date obliterating the lettering. This does seem unlikely given
the way in which the advertisement is laid out in the available space.
for the Lost Pubs Project which has another view of this building,
revealed as the former Eagle Tavern - not to be confused with the
nearby (and still trading) Spread Eagle - which was at 61-63
Street. Suffolk CAMRA (see Links) show this
pub as opening in 1851 and closing in 1903.
For a period painting of The Eagle building (probably Edwardian), see
our Peter's Ice Cream page.
See The Unicorn for information about the
former hotel and brewery a few doors along from Martin & Newby on
Orwell Place/Foundation Street.
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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