S. Wilson, cutler, Upper Orwell Street
When this thoroughfare, linking Majors Corner with the Spread
Eagle crossroads, was in its heyday, it contained shops and businesses
– and pedestrians. Known for many years as 'Upper Wash' (or just 'The
Wash'), it was one of
the key routes carrying springwater from the
Cauldwell Hall and Albion Hill areas of east Ipswich into the town and
out again to the River Orwell – and later the Wet Dock. In the later
20th century, these businesses included Fruits of the Earth (a
wholefood shop), a sewing machine shop, Amberstone Bookshop, Peck's
Ipswich Motorcycle Accessories, Pryke's barber shop, Ipswich Record
& Tape Exchange, Barnes soft furnishings among others.
However, blighted by endless failed plans to create a shopping centre
spreading across the area behind the central Co-operative store (to be
called The Mint Quarter, The Cloisters among others), demolitions of
empty, neglected buildings south of Upper Barclay Street eventually
occurred and a number of businesses came and went, often selling fast
One of those long-standing shops occupying the now-demolished buildings
was a well-known Ipswich business: S. Wilson, cutler at
50 Upper Orwell Street. It was only after completing
this page that Des Pawsonwas able to tell us that 'S' stands for Sidney
(see update below) .
Photographs courtesy Paul Laughlin
Above: in this undated photograph the business occupies two
shops, each with a separate door and window display. Although the
windows show arrays of bladed tools from garden shears on the left to
woodworking planes on the right, a projecting sign reads: 'VALET
Auto Shop'. The circular saw sign which reads 'S.WILSON
CUTLER', remained a feature of the shop until its closure. The
windows to the left show signs reading: 'GARDEN SHEARS GROUND,
SCISSORS GROUND'. Removable glazed cases on either side of the left
door contain displays of knives.
Above: a second undated photograph shows the business
reshaping of the ground floor to unify numbers 48 and 50. The sign
'50 TOOL MERCHANT. S.
WILSON. PROFESSIONAL CUTLER.
48'. The hanging sign reads: '[S. WILSON[?] CUTLER.' A
smaller hanging sign reads: 'We sell Gillette razor blades'. The
display in the centre includes clocks and watches.
Below, these two photographs were indicated on the cover as
enlargements, however they measure only 88mm x 135mm. It illustrates
how expensive early photographic prints were. These smallish prints
would have been a deal larger than standard family snaps. The company
which produced them is another old Ipswich firm, G.W. Hales F.S.M.C.,
'Photographic Chemist'. The company, clearly having brances in a number
of towns, till has a trace on a building in Tacket Street: 'G.W.H.,
1934' – it is shown on our Lower Brook
For a page about another 'Photographic Chemist' see our Wiggin Chemist page.
Photographs courtesy The Ipswich Society
Above: image from the Ipswich Society Image
archive (see Links) shows that the
upper circular saw sign reads; 'The SHOP for GRINDING' we think.
Wilson's seems to be doing well and, on the hanging
sign, calls itself:
The signs above the varying shop fronts read (from left to
right): 'CUTLER & TOOL MERCHANT ... S.WILSON ...
WOODWORKER SUPPLIES ... DO IT YOURSELF WITH WILSON'S ... KITS, TOOLS,
TIMBER ETC.' A large flat (sponsored) advertisement sign is screwed to
the wall above the nearest shop unit:
PRACTICAL SAW MAKER
CUTLER and TOOL MERCHANT
WOOD TURNERS AND CABINET MAKERS SUNDRIES
for all decorating puposes'
Above: this photograph from the 1960s shows that the same five small
shop units were occupied by S. Wilson. Epitomising the local DIY shop
of the past, Wilsons were just one of a number of similar businesses in
the area which included Smyth Bros (numerous branches) and Martin and
Newby (itself an amalgam of small shops linked together). There was
obviously sufficient demand as all three traded successfully for many
years alongside each other. The shop windows have magnificent displays
of their products, even the open glazing of the first floor sash
windows appears to carry product signs.
Above: this photograph of the S.Wilson shop (48-52 Upper Orwell Street)
from the same source is dated May 1985, by which time the business had
closed for good. However, the circular saw sign seen in the earliest
photograph is still there at roof level and now reading: 'SAW repairs'.
Time will tell whether this relatively short street can find a
new role in the 21st century.
'During my research [into Ipswich cutlers and or tool makers/dealers] I
spotted in the 1925 Kellys Directory
Sidney Wilson Saw Maker 48-50 Upper Orwell Street & 16 Palmerston
Road. I used to buy items from S Wilson's, Upper Orwell Street in the
1980s and for some reason saved this small envelope pinned up in my
workshop. Whites Suffolk Directory
1844 lists Saw Manufacturer John Roberts (and dealer in tools) in Upper
Orwell Street, on wonders if there is any connection. I was also
researching Smith & Daniels cutlers, first of St Matthews and then
of Westgate Street. I have a razor marked 'Smith & Daniels Cutlers
Ipswich' and Bob Malster has a table knife with their name on. Cheers,
Many thanks to Des for the
image and for the encouragement. At last we find out what the 'S' stands
Parliament Road page for
street nameplates for this street and 'Upper Orwell Courts';
Martin & Newby
page for that shop and the southern part of Upper Orwell Street
('Palmers Door Mats');
The Spread Eagle on the corner of Eagle
Street and Fore Street;
The former Co-op Funeral Parlour '1903'; also
the former Duke of Kent);
The former 'Barnes of Ipswich' shop.
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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