Mutual House, 2 Princes
Above: the view from close to the Giles
statue. Thomas W. Cotman, nephew of the famous watercolourist,
Cotman, was the architect of the Parr's Bank (later
Society and, in 2017, refurbished as a new town branch of Ipswich
Building Society) at the corner of King Street and Princes Street.
His other stone-faced buildings in Ipswich include The Crown and Anchor, Lloyds banking
house on Cornhill and the heavily
decorated and dated '1905' building at 40-42
Museum Street. Mutual House adjoins The
Swan tavern in King
Street (as shown in the first photograph). "The style is a sort of
c16 French Gothic, similar to the Crown & Anchor, Westgate Street,
faced in stone. Four storeys. Two-storey oriels (one on the corner,
with copper dome and spirelet) and friezes of decorative panels.
Parapet pierced with quatrefoils and broken by gabled dormers with
pinnacles." [Bettley/Pevsner – see Reading list]
Above: one feature not mentioned is (on the Princes Street facade) the
gold, chiselled lettering within a kind of Gothic cartouche in relief
Very grand. The small image above shows that this lettering was
covered for some years by a Chelsea
Building Society sign.
The veining of the blue-grey mineral panel is a perfect setting for the
gold-painted chisel capitals, despite the damage caused by the fixing
of a covering sign (a range of drill-holes and plastic rawlplugs).
It was only in 2014 that we noticed a pierced date on the stylish
in 'art nouveau'-type numerals.
Queen Victoria died on Tuesday, 22 January 1901 at the age of 81 to be
succeeded by her son and heir Edward VII. With
a reign of 63 years, seven months and two days, Victoria was, until
the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen
regnant in world history. (That is, until Thursday 22 October 2015 when
Victoria's great-great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, became the
longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.) The
new century and a short-lived period which has come to be known as
'Edwardian' beckoned and the volcanic events of the 20th century
followed. Chelsea House (Parr's Bank) was built at this
crossroads in history.
Ipswich Building Society
Left: ironmongery business, Alfred Stearn & Son (named on the upper
panel, later relettered: 'Commercial Union Buildings'). Architect's
Right: Architect's drawing of the adjoining
Parr's Bank, showing the Princes Street elevation with
the lettered cartouche which is still to be seen, with some further
lettering above ground floor window level: 'Parr's Bank Limited'.
(A fire in October 2016 scorched the pilaster to the left of the
Parr's Bank Ltd (1788-1918).
This private bank was established in Winwick Street, Warrington, in
1788 as Parr & Co by Joseph Parr, sugar boiler, Thomas Lyon, brewer
and sugar boiler, and Walter Kerfoot, attorney; it was also known as
Warrington Bank. The bank was styled Parr, Lyon & Greenall from
1825 to 1851 and Parr, Lyon & Co from 1855 to 1865. Branches were
opened in St Helens (1839) and Runcorn (1853). In 1865 the bank was
reconstructed as a joint stock bank with limited liability, Parr’s
Banking Co Ltd. The partners in the old business were paid £100,000 and
the paid-up capital of the new bank was £100,000. Joseph Parr's son
Thomas Parr was appointed chairman and the bank recruited John Dun,
from Bank of Scotland, as its first general manager. In 1877 a
purpose-built banking house was opened in Winwick Street. The bank
expanded by acquisition of many other banks from 1865 to 1915 including
in 1909 Stuckey’s Banking Co Ltd of Taunton (or the Somersetshire
Bank), which “wielded great power in the west of England” and had the
largest note circulation of any bank in England outside the Bank of
England". In 1892 the bank became known as Parr’s Banking Co &
Alliance Bank Ltd. By 1890 it had 43 branches and sub-branches, rising
to 136 in 1900 and to 329 by 1918. In 1896 the company’s name was
shortened to Parr’s Bank Ltd. In 1918 Parr’s Bank Ltd amalgamated with
London County & Westminster Bank Ltd of London, to form London
County Westminster & Parr’s Bank Ltd. At that date 235 branches and
94 sub-branches were operating.
After Alfred Stearn & Son had vacated the next-door building it was
taken over by Commercial Union Assurance and they went to the trouble
of having the words 'COMMERCIAL UNION BUILDINGS' in relief on the upper
stone tablet. During renovation, a covering layer of cement render was
removed here and the traces of the letters were discovered where some
previous builder had hacked them off around the mid to late-1950s,
presumably when the bank expanded
into this building. The shine on the encapsulated photograph below
a bit, but the lettering is largely visible.
Ipswich Building Society
[UPDATE 12.9.2017: Heritage
Open Days 2017 in Ipswich revealed a restored exterior of Parr's Bank,
now renamed 'Mutual House' by Ipswich Building Society who will use the
building as their town centre branch. The interior is work-in-progress
at this time. At some time, the two adjoining buildings were linked by
an internal arched entry to extend the bank premises, although the
Stearns part is not included on the Grade II Listing. See the Dogs Head Street page for an
illustration of the former IBS branch on the corner of that street and
Upper Brook Street.]
images Image courtesy
Ipswich Building Society
Above left: the two
linked buildings to the left and The Swan Inn
to the right. The IBS captioned
photograph, above right reads: 'Gone with the wind!!! The original
building was built in 1901and the final "topping-out" was achieved by
the placement of a dated weather-vane atop the copper dome cupola
structure on the King Street corner of the building. With great care
attention to the original mechanism, RG Carter and their specialist,
Hall Conservation, have refurbished and restored to working order the
fantastic Victorian weather-vane.'
See also our Brook Street and Dogs Head Street pages for images of a
previous IBS Ipswich branch.
For other dated weather vanes see Tolly
Cobbold Brewery and St Lawrence Church.
Britannic House 28 Princes Street
The passers-by above might be struck by the delightful
in Princes Street, across the road from the Willis building and a few
from Fred Smith & Co. Very nice
details adorn the horizontal above the window and tucked under the
on the left is the lettering:
'GEO. W. LEIGHTON
Was this the office of Mr Leighton, or did he sign his
building as a
signs his canvass? Another building signed by the architect is at
number 36 Museum Street ('R.C. Wrinch').
top: 2004 image
The untidy alleyway beside the building rather
since the above shot was taken in June 2004, the frontage has been
and the signature made barely visible(lower shot July 2004). Meanwhile,
the golden crest is resplendant and further along the two
golden grotesque masks either side of 'BRITANNIC HOUSE' (enlarged in
2004 image 2013
Only a few doors down from
Britannic House towards the
with Civic Drive is
another example of 'lettering over the door'. Beneath the deco-ish
overhang, it echoes times past: 'THE EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY ASSURANCE
LTD.' This is number 34 Princes Street.
Sun Buildings, 35 Princes Street
Up the road opposite the junction with Museum Street
this fine office block, built on a curve:
stands in relief against a curving cornice,
ionic columns. Below, the solemn faced sun motif sitting on scroll
is a nice touch repeated in the wrought iron balcony trims. Designed
by E.T. Johns and built in 1913 for the Sun Fire Insurance Company this
building, photographed in June 2013 before a national bicycle race
(hence the barriers and lack of people), was empty with a 'Sale
agreed' sign on it.
The Sun Alliance Building )adjoining Century
House at right) has a heavily
stone first floor to suggest strength. The central section of the first
and second storey is framed by Ionic columns with large windows set in
the brick facade. The cartouche with the sun, the company's emblem, is
set above the central window on the first floor. E.T. Johns' work can
also be seen opposite.
39 Princes Street, Century House
[UPDATE 14.3.2016: "You
might be interested to see the two attached images. The cutting from
the Evening Star, dating from
1992, is pretty self-explanatory. It's an advertorial for the building,
and I clipped it then because I already had the other picture.
courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
[In the 1992 cutting above: the Sun Buildings at left
Willis building (Listed Grade I) at right background.]
Sadly, I cannot put a date on the other one, but the man with
trilby hat, and what appear to be trolley bus overhead lines - why
didn't they use Photoshop? - must give a rough guide. 1930s probably.
Furthermore, in case you struggle to read the text, it says:
'PREMISES FOR THE Y.M.C.A. Johns &
Slater, F. & A.R.I.B.A.
I don't know when Birkin Haward joined them [c. 1946] but this was obviously
before he did, or when he was yet but a junior assistant. You will note
that the main entrance was originally on the corner. I also have a
picture of a small part of the interior, but no lettering visible. John
Bulow-Osborne." Many thanks to John
for details of an often-overlooked building at the corner of Friars
Street and Princes Street.]
The photograph above right shows the building in 2017. The angled,
corner entrance has been blocked and the door to the left enlarged. Sun
Buildings just visible at far left.
For another building used by a Young Christian
one time, see the Garratt Memorial Hall (Gainsborough House) in Bolton Lane.
Former Frasers building, 23 Museum
The former Frasers furniture shop on
the corner of Museum and Princes Street, later
Maples, is now offices. Right at the top above the stone swags and
the date at which the company was set up, rather than the date of
with stylish numerals such as the '8' with its
flattened top. This feature is repeated round the
in Princes Street (see below).
R.D. and J.B. Fraser's furniture emporium burned to
the ground in a famous and well-photographed fire on the sixth of
April, 1912. The horesdrawn fire engines of the time were outdone by
the fire which, seeming to have been extinguished, flared up again
later that night. Apparently rolls of linoleum burned and exploded,
spreading the fire to other shops in the area. The building we see
today is a replacement by E.T. Johns from 1913-14(?) of the original,
short-lived, Frasers building by Eade & Johns in 1890.
Incidentally, horses weren't abandoned by the
local fire service until 1920. We recall this as Maples furniture store
in the late 1970s with mountainous sofas and armchairs and
more-than-life-size china greyhounds.
Below: the facade on
The Frasers building turns a tight corner onto a longer facade
stretching up Museum Street:
It was only in 2017 that it was pointed out to us that the rain
hoppers here bear the initial 'F', so we can add them to
our Rain hoppers page. Below also, the
decorative swags and flourishes high above the central doorway on
Museum Street, separated from the company's date of establishment by a
The views from Willis
On Heritage Open Day 2015 the views from the Willis building
roof garden show (1). the junctions with Friars Street, Princes Street
and Museum Street with the old Frasers
building at right. (2). The George W. Leighton building at No.28. (3). Fred Smith & Co. building and (4)
remodelled junction of Princes Street with Civic Drive (right) and
Franciscan Way (left); the junction with Friars
Bridge Road is on the right in the distance.
(3) (4)2015 images
See also our Coytes Gardens page for a note about the
way in which Princes Street was cut brutally through existing gardens
and buildings to link Cornhill and Friars Bridge and then, in 1860,
Railway Station Road (now all called 'Princes Street'). Railway Station Road included the
Princes Street bridge: see below.
Princes Street bridge
courtesy Mike O'Donovan)
Down at the railway end of Princes Street, past the R&W Paul maltings (formerly a night club)
we find the plaque on Princes Street bridge. It reads as follows:
'This bridge was erected by the
Borough Council & completed in 1927 replacing
one of wood & iron erected by the Eastern
Counties & Eastern Railway Company
in 1860 when this road was first opened.'
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