Ruskin House / Blooming Fuchsia

Ipswich Lettering: 192c
Ruskin House
Every picture tells a story. There once was a time, O Best Beloved, when every house and flat in a town the size of Ipswich was within walking distance of something called a "Post Office". This is where a wonderful invention by the Victorians whereby a service was provided for the whole population, whether you had a motorised jalopy or not, was situated. People bought stamps, drew their pensions, used GiroBank and everything. One such fine emporium stood on the corner of Foxhall Road and Ruskin Road until about 2006 and its extinction as a place of business revealed a classic piece of Lettering Vandalism.

In order to build the shop extension which used to front Foxhall Road, they cut the late Victorian brickwork right through the recessed panel bearing the name 'RUSKIN HOUSE' to accomodate the lead flashing. Now removed as part of its conversion into a dwelling, the butchered sign remains. (The lintel below doesn't look up to much, either.)

Residential roads in this area, part of the big eastern Ipswich housing development from the 1860s by the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society, were given names around specific themes - a common practice. Hereabouts we find Faraday Road (scientist Michael Faraday, 1791-1867), Darwin Road (naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin, 1809-1882), Wellesley Road (Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1769-1852), Gladstone Road (Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone 1809-1898) and Henslow Road (geologist John Stevens Henslow, 1796-1861, mentor of Charles Darwin and second President of  Ipswich Museum) among others: all notable Victorians. John Ruskin was born in London on 8 February 1819. He was one of the greatest figures of the Victorian age, poet, artist, critic, social revolutionary and conservationist. Ruskin's range was vast. He wrote over 250 works which started from art history, but expanded to cover topics ranging over science, geology, ornithology, literary criticism, the environmental effects of pollution, and mythology. After his death in 1900 Ruskin's works were collected together in a massive "library edition", completed in 1912 by his friends Edward Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. Its index is famously elaborate, attempting to articulate the complex interconnectedness of his thought.

Here's a view of the former post office/shop in 2013.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ruskin House2013 imagesIpswich Historic Lettering: Ruskin House 2
For houses named after eminent Victorians, see our Russell Villas page.

The Blooming Fuchsia
A short walk up Foxhall Road away from the town brings us to The Blooming Fuchsia at number 167, or rather the site of The Blooming Fuchsia
on the corner of Foxhall Road and Fuchsia Lane.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 20022002 image
The superb 'pub sign' in coloured ceramic tile and relief surround announces
The definite article is tightly curved in a centred arc above a cream scroll; the lettering in large and small caps).  Quite who commissioned this work of art for such a modest building (presumably the brewers who owned the premises, The Colchester Brewing Company Ltd – see the 1920s postcard below) deserves recognition. The fired glazes have ensured that the vibrant colours are as fresh today as they were when created. Noteworthy are the low landscape and the cloud formation against a graduated pale ble sky behind the whole plant. Another ceramic brewery sign exists on The Butchers Arms in Knodishall.

Doctor Fuchs and the Fuchsia plant and flower.
Father Charles Plumier, a Frenchman, was hunting for plants or trees which contained a chemical, later to be known as Quinine, to cure malaria; this probably happened during trips in the late 17th century, although dates are confused and Plumier's date of death is conjectural. He discovered a new genus of plant, calling it Fuchsia Triphylla Flora Coccinea. Fuchsia was named after a German man of medicine, Triphylla because it was three leafed (that, too, can be confusing: most fuchsia leaf nodes having two leaves), Flora for flower, and Coccinea for its scarlet colour (after the maroon cochineal dye extracted from a Mexican scale insect).

When it came to Plumier's naming of plants he liked to use a surname of respected personalities, for the Fuchsia, he thought of a German Doctor of Medicine who had died 80 years before Plumier was born. This Doctor was Leonhart Fuchs (1501-66), (Fox in English) who for most of his working life, worked at Tubingen University in charge of Medicine. He had written several books, including one called De Historia Stirpium, which contained 516 wood engravings and was (and still is) considered a masterpiece when it was published in Latin in 1542. However, the fact is Leonhart Fuchs, had nothing to do with the Fuchsia, other than have his name used by an admiring Frenchman, who remembered and respected him. Leonhart Fuchs is still well remembered for his work to the present day. Indeed 2001 saw celebrations of his 500th birthday throughout Europe.

Fuchsia cochineal, from Brazil is generally accepted as the first living plant to appear in Europe, probably in 1788 when a Captain Firth gave a plant to Kew Gardens. The 19th century saw British plant hunters lead the field with 25 out of 47 new species being found by the British. The countries where most of the fuchsia species were found, and can still be found, are Peru, Bolivia, Equador, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Chile, and other South American countries.
[UPDATE 27.2.2017: We hear that, contrary to the belief that the lane was named after the public house, the pub was itself named after a fuchsia nursery on or near the site. Suffolk is well-known for its enthusaism for fuchsia-growing.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia fenced in
[UPDATE May, 2010: Oh dear. The Blooming Fuchsia was spotted being surrounded by shuttering. What will befall the famous sign? Demolition? UPDATE July, 2010: Having spotted a gentleman chipping away at the ceramic sign with hammer and chisel(!) in June, we enquired as to its fate and he replied that the sign would be going up again. We hope it wasn't damaged in the removal process. Now the Blooming Fuchsia building has disappeared.]
[UPDATE Spring 2011: The new flats are up on this site - for better or worse - and we thought all was lost, but a feature in the Property section of the Evening Star ( 6.5.11) which tried to sell/let the flats featured a photo of the ceramic sign, presumably round the back at the entrance.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fuchsia ad
From the invaluable Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) we learn:-
"A large single bar with an adjoining conservatory overlooking an enclosed garden. Finally closed its doors for the last time in late November 2009 after sporadic opening and closing over several years. The building has been demolished and replaced with six houses. Following a campaign by local Camra members, it's a condition of the planning permission that the unique tiled sign should be preserved and displayed on a wall of the development for as long as it stands. This was put back in place in April 2011. Originally only a beerhouse, first recorded in 1862; it was granted a full license in 1896. This was the only pub of this name in the entire country." All credit to those CAMRA campaigners.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 1 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 2
[UPDATE: Here it is, photographed in May 2011. The sign sits in a dedicated recess in the site's side wall in Fuchsia Lane with comemorative plaque beneath:

The access way to the parking area behind the dwellings is just to the left of the sign. The first thing that strikes the viewer, now that the sign is down at our level, is how large it is. The colours and definition are both excellent with a fine crazing visible in some of the enamels. Careful study reveals that the two 'shoulder' tiles (shown below) on the second row down have swapped places. The one on the right has a small piece of greenery: this should be turned through 180 degrees and place on the left side. The pure blue tile belongs on the right.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 3  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Last Orders - Fuchsia
The Blooming Fuchsia sign was featured on the front cover (shown above) of the Suffolk and North Essex CAMRA magazine 'Last Orders' (Vol.34, Issue 3).
For a map showing the Blooming Fuchsia in 1902, see our Hope House page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 42014 imageIpswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia 4a
The 'Fuchsia Row' flats development fronting Foxhall Road carries a dated plaque '2011'  in one of the gables (above number 2). It is interesting that, while commonplace in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (see our Dated buildings list), date plaques on housing do occasionally crop up in modern developments.

[UPDATE 23.2.2014: "Please find attached a scan of an original photographic postcard of the BLOOMING FUCHSIA, 167 Foxhall Road , Ipswich.
It is postally unused so I’m not sure of the exact date although it looks like it was commissioned to celebrate Edward W. Goodwin’s 30 years as the proprietor so possibly 1920's.  You can see the ceramic tile sign on the side of the pub. Please feel free to add this image to you very informative website. Kind regards, Julian Gooding."]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Blooming Fuchsia period
As well as the unique, tiled pub sign to the left (CAMRA can't find any other public house in the country with this name), we can see the signboard on the Foxhall Road elevation:
E.W. GOODWIN Proprietor'

You can see the brewery premises of The Colchester Brewing Co. Ltd on our Colchester page.
Additional lettering can be seen on the windows and doors with 'The Blooming Fuchsia' diagonally on the frosted glass facets of the large lantern above the corner door. In the lower right corner:
which indicates that, as happened quite often, the photographer/card publisher provided the card to enable Goodwin to promote his business.

Many thanks to Julian for this excellent image and unusual celebration of one landlord. The invaluable Suffolk CAMRA site (see Links) gives us the following information:-
"1861 Richard Turner (Carpenter & Publican, Head/Married/26y/born Woodbridge)
1869 George Sterry (Beer retailer, pub not named) (Foxhall rd)
1871 + George A Sterry (Son/1/Ipswich)
1871 + George Sterry (Father, Widow/69y/Ipswich)
1871 + Sarah Ann Sterry (Wife/25/Ipswich)
1871 George Samuel Sterry (Shipwright/29y/Ipswich)
1888 Edward William Goodwin (beer retailer - pub not named) (Foxhall rd)
1891 Edward W Goodwin (Publican, Head/Married/50y/born Sotterley)
1891-1892 Edward Wm. Goodwin (beer house - pub not named) (Foxhall rd)
1900 Edward Goodwin
1901 Edward Goodwin (Publican, Head/Married/60y/born Sotterley)
1904 Edward William Goodwin
1911 Edward William Goodwin (Publican Licensed Victualler, Head/Widower/72y/born Sotterly)
1912 Edward William Goodwin
1916 Edward William Goodwin
1922 Edward William Goodwin
1932 Oliver Hy. Goodwin
1933 Oliver H Goodwin (Blooming Fuchsia PH - Foxhall rd)
1937 Oliver H Goodwin (Blooming Fuchsia PH - Foxhall rd)
1939 Oliver Hy. Goodwin
1952 Lawrence Stanley Ward
1956 Thos. W Leverett
Edward William Goodwin is known to have run the pub as early as (maybe earlier than) 1881. It took him many attempts (between 1881 and 1896) to obtain a full license for the then beerhouse." That would make the approximate date of the postcard 1918-1921 with the redoubtable Edward Goodwin still the licensee a year later. It looks as though his son took over after that.

See also our Cavendish Street page for a large map detail from 1867, when much of the Rosehill Estate had yet to be developed by the Freehold Land Society, and Fuchsia Lane with hardly any buildings in it – and certainly no railway – is actually labelled 'BIRDS AVENUE', possibly named after a local landowner or market gardener.

Other public house lettering can be found at The Emperor in Norwich Road and in Needham Market. See also the Links list for the Brewery History Society website and archive of signs.
For another Foxhall Road signs see the Foxhall Road Co-op (now rebuilt).
See also the Pubs & Off-licences page and the Tolly Cobbold House & Brewery pages.


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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