Princes Street

Mutual House, 2 Princes Street/King Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 1a
Above: the view from close to the Giles statue. Thomas W. Cotman, nephew of the famous watercolourist, John Sell Cotman, was the architect of
the Parr's Bank (later Chelsea Building 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]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 32015 images  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 4
Above: one feature not mentioned is (on the Princes Street facade) the gold, chiselled lettering within a kind of Gothic cartouche in relief stonework;
Very grand. The small image above shows that this lettering was covered for some years by a Chelsea Building Society sign.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 3a
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).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St weather vane 2
It was only in 2014 that we noticed a pierced date on the stylish weather vane:
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 recently, 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 important crossroads in history.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mutual House drawingsImage courtesy Ipswich Building Society
Left: ironmongery business, Alfred Stearn & Son (named on the upper panel, later relettered: 'Commercial Union Buildings'). Architect's drawing.
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'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mutual House 20172017 images
(A fire in October 2016 scorched the pilaster to the left of the Stearn's building; this clearly indicates that the stone-like material used as cladding, at least on this building, is a fibre-heavy compound.)

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 obcures it a bit, but the lettering is largely visible.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mutual House photographEnhanced image
courtesy 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.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mutual House 20172017 images Ipswich Historic Lettering: Mutual House 2017b
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 and 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

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St, Leighton 22013 image 
The passers-by above might be struck by the delightful half-round window in Princes Street, across the road from the Willis building and a few doors from Fred Smith & Co. Very nice gilded details adorn the horizontal above the window and tucked under the overhang on the left is the lettering:
Was this the office of Mr Leighton, or did he sign his building as a painter signs his canvass? Another building signed by the architect is at number 36 Museum Street ('R.C. Wrinch').
top: 2004 image Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St, Leighton 12013 image
The untidy alleyway beside the building rather detracts... Unfortunately, since the above shot was taken in June 2004, the frontage has been repainted and the signature made barely visible (lower shot July 2004). Meanwhile, the golden crest is resplendant and further along the two individually-styled golden grotesque masks either side of 'BRITANNIC HOUSE' (enlarged in the inset below).

2004 image Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St, Leighton 32013 image

34 Princes Street
Only a few doors down from Britannic House towards the junction with Civic Drive is another example of 'lettering over the door'. Beneath the deco-ish frontage overhang, it echoes times past: 'THE EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY ASSURANCE CORPORATION 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, above soaring ionic columns. Below, the solemn faced sun motif sitting on scroll flourishes 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.
Ipswich Historic Buildings: Sun Buildings 1   Ipswich Historic Buildings: Sun Buildings 22013 images
The Sun Alliance Building )adjoining Century House at right) has a heavily rusticated 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.
Ipswich Historic Buildings: Sun Buildings 3   Ipswich Historic Buildings: Sun Buildings 4

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.
Ipswich Historic Buildings: Century House 2Images courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
In the 1992 cutting above: the Sun Buildings at left and the Willis building (Listed Grade I) at right background.]
Sadly, I cannot put a date on the other one, but the man with the 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.
IPSWICH                                                                    IPSWICH'
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.]
Ipswich Historic Buildings: Century House   Ipswich Historic Buildings: Century House 20172017 image
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 Association at one time, see the Garratt Memorial Hall (Gainsborough House) in Bolton Lane.

Former Frasers building, 23 Museum Street
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 decoration is the date at which the company was set up, rather than the date of building:

with stylish numerals such as the '8' with its flattened top. This feature is repeated round the corner 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.

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Below: the facade on Princes Street.
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The Frasers building turns a tight corner onto a longer facade stretching up Museum Street:
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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 modillion cornice.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Frasers 9   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Frasers 10
The advertisement below shows the company promotion in 1934. Boasting: 'Established over 100 years', this confirms the 1833 date on the cornice.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Frasers Royal Show 1934

The views from Willis
(1)Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St from Willis 1   (2)Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St from Willis 2
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) the 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)Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St from Willis 3   (4)Ipswich Historic Lettering: Princes St from Willis 42015 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
Princes Street Bridge(Photograph 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 Ipswich County
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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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission