Scarborow Optician - now a tea shop

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow masthead

1 Dial Lane
A remarkable discovery was made (11.10.2013) during redecoration under the masonry paint on the blank wall to the left of the main shop frontage of the Scarborow shop (you can see the letter-box at top right of the image below), now Pickwick's tea and coffee shop. Jane Cooper, proprietress was very welcoming – indeed, excited by the sign's uncovering – and enabled a couple of photographs of the partial sign between interviews/photoshoots with the local press, talking to Mike Taylor, Conservation Officer for Ipswich Borough Council, and interviews (which included Borin from this website) with Mark Murphy from BBC Radio Suffolk. We include the text from the East Anglian Daily Times website article at the foot of this page, as it contradicts the previous information received regarding the architect of the shop-front.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign 2
The execution by the signwriter, probably around the turn of the twentieth century, is excellent trompe l'oeil of chiselled characters with at least three colours blending from shadow to highlight. The faux ceramic/terra cotta-style border is also striking. Indeed Mike Taylor pointed out that the signwriter had painted the lower courses of bricks grey and overlaid painted dark grey pointing lines to continue the stonework of the main cafe frontage. From the update 24.9.2013, we think the whole sign may say:-

'JOHN C. SCARBOROW OPTOMETRIST[?]
AND
SPECTACLE SPECIALIST
------
OPTICIAN BY APPOINTMENT
TO THE

EAST SUFFOLK & IPSWICH
HOSPITAL'
although the upper part of the sign is fugitive due to over-painting and possible damp degradation. The images above, exposed in autumn 2013, may have greater definition because they retained a certain amount of moisture, having had the coatings of masonry paint removed. The photographs (below) of the whole sign may exhibit slightly less contrast due to drying out of the brickwork, mortar and paint layers.

Thus, an optician's company gets kudos from an association with the local hospital and the sign bridges commerce and the public health service.
An advert in the 1904 Post Office Directory for Mr John C. Scarborow, Dial Lane, Ipswich, refers to him as “Optician by Appointment to the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital”.  The East Suffolk & Ipswich Hospital & Dispensary was built on Anglesea Road in 1835 and the familiar portico still catches the eye at the top of Berners Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign 52013 images
[UPDATE 24.9.2013: The whole area revealed. As half-expected, partly due to suspicions that the damp had affected the painted surface, the upper part isn't in quite as good condition as the lower. Also the optician's name isn't as trumpeted as expected. However, full marks to the owners of the café for exposing the whole thing and let us hope that the sign can live on as a part of the history of Ipswich now that everyone can see it once more.
The characters and design were originally painted over a buff coloured ground (with a grey coloured paint layer near the pavement, as described elsewhere). More detailed examination of the  upper surfaces of the sign reveal that the dominant yellow patches are the (painted?) brickwork beneath the buff coloured layer. This means that the lettering and border were lost in the upper part during removal of masonry paint layers, indeed the degradation of the surface means that they were probably always irretrievable even if expensive, time-consuming, laboratory-condition restoration techniques (which would have been impractical on site) had been possible.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign BBC picBorin with Jane Cooper [photo from BBC Suffolk site]
The optometrist F.C. Cooper FBOA was running Scarborow's Opticians in Dial Lane, Ipswich, in the 1920s and later worked in Colchester. The present owner of the whole building, Mrs Fay Cooper, (although not directly related to the shop's proprietors, the Coopers) is a descendant of the optometrist. F.C. Cooper who may even have been an early partner of John. C. Scarborow.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dial Lane period
We came across this old postcard image of The Ancient House from St Stephens Lane (the trade sign beneath the window advertises W. E. Harrison & Sons Ltd, booksellers, printers and publishers; the building certainly appeared like this in 1911). The eagle-eyed amongst you may spot, in the distance, the Scarborow shop with the sign recently uncovered a few feet behind the standing figure – not to mention a doorway behind that which no longer exists, as far as we can tell. To answer another question, look up to a shop signboard sitting below the shorter third upstairs window (the window is still there today) and just in front of that is a suspended pair of spectacles sign, so it did exist. See the discussion of the decorative gate below.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dial Lane period 2
Above: a detail from an Edwardian photograph of Dial Lane from the Tavern Street end. By this time the large clock projecting from St Lawrence Church, which gave Dial Lane  its name, has gone. The Ancient House projects from the left in the background with the oval spectacles sign projecting from the front of Scarborow's shop. Many signs can be seen on the shops including 'Great Eastern Railway Receiving Office', H. Robinson Tailor', and what looks like '... Resting Rooms' on the side of the shop before Scarborow. The building further down St Stephens Lane has large lettering in white including the word 'WORKS' with the 'R' the wrong way round.

1 Dial Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 2a 

We cannot think how we have missed this little gem at the bottom of Dial Lane, however three days into 2011 we have corrected the omission. An Art Nouveau shop front replete with Charles Rennie Mackintosh-style gates and pillars and a surprising letterbox with lettering. And this doesn't make mention of the stonework surround and the stylised capitals over the curve of the arch:

'SCARBOROW'
   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 1x   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 1b  
But, surely this is "Pickwick's" tea and coffee emporium? Formerly "Boodles", some say, or the "East Anglian Tea & Coffee Company", perhaps. The fact that the stone threshold is so badly worn indicates that this entrance has been in use for a long time. A detailed inspection of the letter box to the left of the two front windows gives us:
'J no SCARBOROW
LETTERS
OPTICIAN'

   The way in which the characters of the word 'Letters' curves round a tight circle on the flap is a delight. Again, the Art Nouveau metal work carrying the optician's company name shows wonderful attention to detail. The company still trades in the area and presumably they moved away from such a clearly named building because they outgrew it. Is it too fanciful to see the two curving windows at the front as echoing spectacles?

 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborrow 5  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 4a

The ironwork gate not only follows the Mackintosh style in shape, but also in its use of an inset paler, blue-grey metal with a raised 'pierced heart/shield' motif spaced vertically on either side. This colour is picked up again in the nearby letter box. The vertical rods of the gate rise up to a perfect representation of a pair of spectacles set into a curved bar, pierced by a central spike. Scarborow's didn't miss a chance to advertise their services; one source states that in Edwardian times these ironwork spectacles projected out over the lane from a lantern. It is possible that some spectacles did hang above, but it is unlikely that they were the same as those in the gate as they seem "all of a piece", in our view. [UPDATE 2.11.2013: See the old postcard image above to confirm that a spectacles sign did hang above the shop, but not the gate configuration.] The gate does not appear on the original drawings (shown below). The warm, pinkish minerals used in the small inset pillars contrast nicely with the cooler surrounding materials. The characters over the entrance seem to be metal, possibly incised into the wedge-shaped stonework blocks. This is no thrown-together or ersatz piece of architecture.

The long shot photograph above right shows the blank wall in the foreground on which the new 'Hospital' sign has been discovered; also that the shop is barely a stone's throw away from 'The Ancient House' in Buttermarket in one direction and St Lawrence Church in the other.

[UPDATE February 2012: "I came across your site today and have some more information regarding Pickwicks in Dial Lane which I own.
The Art Nouveau alterations to the facade were designed in 1902 by JS Corder; an architect of some repute, having worked on Hintlesham Hall and many churches in the area.  Incidentally we have a copy of the plans hanging upstairs in the shop. The building has remained in the same family since 1923. Hope this is of interest to you
Kind regards, James Cooper" Our thanks to James for his valuable contribution (see below).]
John Shewell Corder (1856-1922) was not so easy to pin down. In one citation, he is dimissed: "...about whome nothing more needs to be said". However, we came across a biography on a Suffolk history website run by Ray Whitehand (see Links) which gives a good idea of his career.  His mother Jane was from the Quaker Ransome family in the north east of England (which, of course, became a famous Ipswich name).
"... it is apparent his real love was in the old buildings of the borough. This is borne out by his meticulous and tactful restoration of Christ Church Mansion; and The Guild Hall in Lavenham." He was the author and illustrator of ‘The Corner Posts of Ipswich’ and ‘A Brief History of Christchurch or Withepole House’. There are over 100 commissions credited to J.S. Corder. It is speculation to say that Corder Road (off Gainsborough Road, near to Christchurch Park) was named after him, so we'll add it to our Street names index to await authentication.

Mention of Harold Ridley Hooper as architect of the shop front (in the EADT article quoted at the foot of this page) led us to find a web page from the National Archive: 'Architectural drawings of Colonel Harold Ridley Hooper, A.R.I.B.A. (1886-1953) and others, 1882-1939'. The Administrative history reads:
'Harold Ridley Hooper was an architect based in Ipswich throughout his career. Born in Bury St Edmunds in 1886, he was articled to the Ipswich architect J S Corder but began his own practise in 1912 [our emphasis]. Served in the first World War as a Colonel in the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. He was subsequently a Councillor for Ipswich Borough Council and Deputy Lieutenant for Suffolk. From 1924-34 he was in practice with Cyril Proctor Garrad ARIBA and with B W J Olley ARIBA who carried on the practice after the death of Hooper in 1953.' So, if it is the work of Hooper, it must have been while he was articled to J.S. Corder; hence the attribution to Corder on the plans. Corder was essentially a Victorian architect and antiquarian; the Scarborow Opticians shop in Dial Lane is more avant garde in design and would
, perhaps, have been quite shocking at the time in sleepy Ipswich: just the sort of thing a young, up-and-coming architect like Hooper might have come up with.

[UPDATE 6.11.2013: This authoritative contribution to the discussion is from Dr James Bettley, who has contributed information and images to our Carr Street Co-operative store page. He has been working for some time on an update Suffolk Pevsner volume:
"
I have been following the Scarborow’s saga with great interest, not least because I was there only a day or two before the great discovery, with a photographer, taking a shot of the front as an illustration for the book.  The Corder/Hooper question is one that had been troubling me because it seems to me so important to get the answer right.  The attribution to H. R. Hooper is based on the entry in the Dictionary of Architects of Suffolk Buildings 1800-1914, with a reference to Ipswich Buildings Plans Archive no. 7535.  I checked this at the Record Office yesterday and the plans in question, 1912, are in fact for additions to the rear of the building.  The design for the new shopfront is in the same archive, no. 5460, 1902, and is by Corder.  There is really no doubt that Corder should receive the credit. Hooper may have been in Corder’s office at the time (I don’t know the precise chronology) but connecting him with the shopfront is a misunderstanding."
Our grateful thanks to James for this information (he has also contributed to our Soane Street page and solved the Museum Street 'R.C. Wrinch' lettering mystery).]

Photographs of the plans from March 2012:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 8  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 7

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow 6

From proprietress Jane Cooper's interview with Mark Murphy on Radio Suffolk, we learn that the shop's trade as a coffee shop started in 1977 (they used to roast coffee there until complaints about the smell from local shops); Scarborow Opticians from around 1901; before that it was Keeble's (a good local name) Wireworkers dating back to 1846. The Listed Grade II (?) building is centuries older than that, of course. The top of the Pickwick's menu tells us that the original timber-framed building dates back to the 16th century and is believed once to have been the office of the secretary to Thomas Wolsey, the Ipswich man who was born in nearby St Nicholas Street and was to become the second most powerful person in the kingdom. The earliest date of the building so far established by the Coopers is 1499. So far, we have been unable to trace the official listing of this shop.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow sign 3Detail of the ampersand
'Ipswich: century old artwork discovered under plaster at Dial Lane business premises
Matthew Symington
Monday, October 21, 2013, East Anglian Daily Times website (http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/ipswich_century_old_artwork_discovered_under_plaster_at_dial_lane_business_premises_1_2910045)

Elaborate artwork was found emblazoned on the façade of Pickwicks Coffee & Tea House in Dial Lane, Ipswich, drawing a possible connection to the old East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.
Staff at Pickwicks discovered the ornate, historic sign after a decorator peeled back some of the plaster at the front of the building.
The bottom of it reads ‘Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital’, however it is believed there is more writing further up the wall which has yet to be revealed.
It is hoped when the full sign is visible it will shed some light on the history of the listed, 16th-century building.
Early speculation is that the sign might form part of an artistic advertisement for an optician’s business which occupied the premises at the turn of the twentieth century.
An advert in the 1904 Post Office Directory for Mr John C. Scarborow, Dial Lane, Ipswich, refers to him as “Optician by Appointment to the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital”.
Historian John Blatchly said that in 1912 “the most distinguished shop front in Ipswich was built in Dial Lane for John C. Scarborow, qualified ophthalmic optician.
“The Art Nouveau lettering and the iron decorative features imposed on the stone front suggest to those who have made pilgrimages to Glasgow and Northampton the virtuoso work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
“In fact, the 26 year-old architect was Harold Ridley Hooper, founder that year of a firm still in local practice.”***
Jane Cooper, the proprietor of Pickwicks Coffee & Tea House, said she had researched the history of the building back to 1846, but was completely taken by surprise by the sign.
“We had our wonderful decorator Mike here, I asked him just to freshen up the front of the building and lobby area,” she said. “After his hard work on Sunday I appeared on Monday morning and this amazing piece of artwork has been uncovered on the wall of Pickwicks.
“I am so excited because I’m very passionate about art and history anyway… and I have been spending money and time looking into the history of the building. So uncovering this is just so timely and I just feel it’s given us all a real boost, there’s a buzz in the shop now.
“I just want to preserve it, I feel this is quite exciting for Ipswich because the history of Ipswich is incredible and people don’t know about it. We’re right in the middle so if this brings a little bit of attention to Ipswich that’ll be superb.”
Mike Taylor, the conservation officer at Ipswich Borough Council, said the sign was “a great example of how Ipswich’s history is there to be found”.
“It’s a fascinating piece of evidence of a very well-established piece of commercial architecture in the town centre,” he said.
“Being a listed building we need to see it preserved in some form or other, ideally as part of the historic interest of the listed building. There’s also the question of the cost that imposes on the owners, so there’s a discussion that’s to be had there about what’s reasonable.
“It’s very encouraging to hear that they would like to preserve it and see it as part of the value of the property. The first priority is to make sure it’s protected as it stands at the moment and then to figure out how to cover the rest of the side without causing unnecessary damage. Then we have to work out the long term strategy for its protection into the future.
“I think this is a great example of how Ipswich’s history is there to be found really. It’s a town with a lot of history and it’s not fully recognised yet I don’t think, so discoveries like this really highlight that value.” '

Clearly John Blatchly's statement about the architect being Harold Ridley Hooper seems to contradict James Shewell Corder as the architect as stated above. The architectural drawings displayed in the first floor of the café definitely attribute the designs to J.S. Corder. See our paragraph above about Corder and Hooper with a possible explanation.

An additional tit-bit of information about this ancient building was vouchsafed to us by Conservation Officer, Mike Taylor. He has seen an image of the building from the rear, from within St Lawrence Churchyard; it shows the wall on which the new sign has been discovered projecting up Dial Lane and actually abutting the church wall, so the Lane would have been solid buildings on the east side, as it is on the west side. No access at this point to the remains of the churchyard as there is today. Dial Lane, linking Buttermarket and Tavern Street gives a hint of old Ipswich. It was once known as Cook's (or Cook) Row and was home to the medieval version of fast food outlets. It became known as Dial Lane in the 19th Century. Our page on St Lawrence Church explains why. It is said that there are underground chambers beneath the lane which once led to the Carmelite priory which stood on the site of the present Buttermarket Shopping Centre.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dial Lane sign

Dial Lane
Muriel Clegg in Streets and street names in Ipswich (see Reading List): “Meanwhile the fish market had been moved in 1616 to Brook Street, at the east end of Butter Market. Here it somehow seemed less flourishing, and it certainly made no impact on the name of the street. The vacancy in the centre of the Butter Market was taken over almost immediately, for the dairy market, or the Cheesemarket as it had long been known, promptly moved eastwards. For a short time it established itself in Dial Lane, which in 1655 was ‘the street sometime called Cookrowe now Butter Market’.

However the lane soon reverted to its old name, as Ogilby has it. But this heralded a most confusing little period of name changing, for, as in St Lawrence Street, the church exerted its influence. The lane, one must suppose, had lost its medieval associations, and for most of the eighteenth century was known as St Lawrence Lane, or simply Lawrence Lane. Pennington, who usually showed a praiseworthy liking for old established names,referred to Cooke’s Row, with the result that in 1793 it was ‘St Lawrence Lane now Cooke Row’. These changes were too much for the little lane which had lost its identity. It soon became know by a clock which projected into the street from the earlier tower of St Lawrence ‘which rocks in every high wind’.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dial Lane 1830'The Dial' in 1830
Robson’s Directory, 1839, gives it as Dial Lane, but White, 1844, clung to the old Cooke Row. In 1855 it was ‘Cook Row alias Dial Lane’, then the older name was dropped. The unstable [St Lawrence] tower was rebuilt in 1882, whereupon Chales Borrett, the builder, removed the ‘dial’ and sold it in 1887 to the Rev. A.F. Sutton of West Tofts Rectory, Mundford, Norfolk, for re-erection. Its subsequent history is unknown. But for the fossilizing effect of the street nameplates, it is more likely that the street would have reverted comfortably to its original name.”

For a similar commentary on St Lawrence Street see our St Lawrence Church page; on Butter Market see our Ancient House page.

Scarborow products

[UPDATE 16.3.2015: "Found these in my Grandads garage, with a picture during WWI. There were 5 pairs in that box, all varying in strength. I think they were from the Colchester branch. Thanks, Harry Mack." Many thanks to Harry for these remarkable pieces of memorabilia.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow specs 1Photographs courtesy Harry Mack

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow specs 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow specs 3
The inscription in the base of the box reads:
'A careful record is kept of all Spectacles made by us.
A Duplicate pair of these glasses can always be forwarded by
post if Registered Number or Name and Addtess is given.
When returning Spectacles for Repairs do not enclose the case.
JNO. C. SCARBOROW & CO.,
OPTICIANS,
32, High Street, COLCHESTER,
Head Office: Dial Lane, Ipswich           (opposite Town Hall).'
The final phrase is puzzling as, while the Town Hall and Dial Lane are in the same area of Ipswich, they certainly aren't opposite one another – see following update. More puzzling is the way in which the company name is printed: 'JNO. C.' in front of 'Scarborow' appears to be a mistake, but appears on other John C. Scarborow products in this form. The most notable is the ' Mackintosh art nouveau' letter-box shown above. Perhaps his name was originally 'JoNOthan'?
[UPDATE 16.11.2015: "I note from the page on your website about Scarborow’s (http://www.ipswich-lettering.co.uk/scarborow.html) that you feel, regarding the lettering on the glasses case, that 'The final phrase is puzzling as, while the Town Hall and Dial Lane are in the same area of Ipswich, they certainly aren't opposite one another.' However, if you take the Colchester address given in larger type on the line above (32 High St, the site now occupied by Burton & Dorothy Perkins), this is opposite Colchester Town Hall and this is presumably what Scarborow's intended. Incidentally, Bethell & Clark of Head Street, Colchester until recently advertised themselves on their shopfront as ‘incorporating Scarborow’s’ (I think this was removed when their premises were refurbished a few years back), and the last prescription I had from them (earlier this year) still maintained that claim. I hope that this is of at least a little interest - and thank you for a very interesting website, Tom Stevenson" Many thanks to Tom for these details.]
[UPDATE 14.3.2016: "I have a pair of Scarborow spectacles which may be of interest to you – particularly the case they come in. The script on the case is difficult to decipher but, as best as I can make out reads:
Xxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST SUFFOLK
& IPSWICH HOSPITAL
J C SCARBOROW&CO
IPSWICH
& COLCHESTER'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow specs 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Scarborow specs 5Courtesy Gwen Erskine-Hill
The specs have an excellent lens in them and I think the frame is gold, probably from around the 20s but could be much earlier. Hope these are of interest to you. Kind regards, Gwen Erskine-Hill". Many thanks to Gwen for these photographs. We think that the first lines on the case are: ‘OPTICIANS TO THE EAST SUFFOLK & IPWICH HOSPITAL’, echoing the wall advertisement on the outside of the art nouveau shop.]

A final note about the company
The London Gazette of 13 August 1926 reports:
"Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between John Charles Scarborow and Frederick Chatterton Cooper, carrying on business as Ophthalmic Opticians, at Ipswich, Bury Saint Edmunds and Colchester, under the style or firm of JOHN C. SCARBOROW & CO., has been dissolved by mutual consent as from the thirty-first day of July, 1926. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid respectively by the said Frederick Chatterton Cooper who will continue to carry on the said business under the style or firm of John C. Scarborow & Co.—Dated this 31st day of July, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-six."



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