Scarborow Optician - now a tea shop
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.
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:-
1 Dial Lane
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:
The ironwork gate not only
Mackintosh style in shape, but also in its use of an inset paler,
metal with a raised 'pierced heart/shield' motif spaced vertically on
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
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
but not the gate configuration.] The gate does not
appear on the original
drawings (shown below). The
minerals used in the small inset pillars contrast nicely with the
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:
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
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
'Ipswich: century old artwork discovered under plaster at Dial Lane business premises
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.