'Symonds for Kodaks' and Carr Street

12 Upper Brook Street
Let us come clean about this. Once upon a time, drivers of vehicles could come down Northgate Street to the traffic lights at the Great White Horse, before proceeding down Upper Brook Street. It was while waiting at a red light some years ago that Borin Van Loon glanced upwards and noticed this chimney stack lettering on its pale background panel. It was, long before access to the internet (or even the internet iself) became a possibility for 'the man in the street', the gestation for the Ipswich Historic Lettering website. With a vague idea that other examples in the town could be recorded, a (film) photographic sequence was eventually begun; perhaps it could be researched and expanded into a book? This remains a possibility, but a website at least gives the capacity to revise, update and replace images and information.

The buildings at the corner of Buttermarket and (below) Upper Brook Street have a chequered history. Before the latter road was widened in the 1930s, J.A. Symonds' chemists shop (now an optician's premises) appeared in a number of period photographs. Such was the pressure on trading space in the previous century, it was not unknown for shops and stall holders to extend their areas of operation into the street and over pedestrian paths. Streets, already narrow and crowded, became almost impassable at times. The shops on the site shown below used  to project several yards into the street.
In the 21st century it is home to one of the most iconic pieces of historic trade lettering in the town. Once the shop was Brook Craft Market, later a bakers and sandwich shop, then an old fashioned sweet shop. All the while and for many years before, high above stood this lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Symonds 2012
The phraseology of this advertisement (see below* for an explanation) seems at first glance rather esoteric:
'SYMONDS
FOR
KODAKS'
It was clearly designed to catch the eye of those approaching further up the slope of Upper Brook and Northgate Streets. Whether this actually worked is debatable given the plethora of high buildings which surround it. We hope that the signwriter involved was on danger money during the creation of this sign. And to prove that it's not just lettering which perches on high on this building, take a look at the art nouveau mouding which sits atop of the two gables facing Upper Orwell Street:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Symonds mouding
Below: an unfamiliar view from around 1900 of the top part of Upper Brook Street. The viewpoint is roughly from outside the present Wilkinsons shop and clearly shows the original Symonds chemists shop projecting into the street at the junction with Buttermarket.  Other contemporary views show the shop visible along Buttermarket creating a 'nip' in that end of the street. In the 1860s the traders around this north-west corner of Buttermarket 'had succeeded in inducing the Local Board of Health to vote 2,000 for the piece of land to be thrown into the street'.  They bought a number of properties on the north side and replaced them with a row of 'good-looking white and red brick houses' [R. Malster in the Reading List]. This doesn't quite tie up with the supposed date of 1900 for the period photograph below; one assumes that the foreshortening of the buildings on the Butter Market side would have been done at the same time as the projecting buildings on the Upper Brook Street side.  Perhaps it took until after 1900, when the photo is dated, to effect the demolition and rebuild of the 'good-looking buildings' which survive to the 21st Century. The 'Symonds for Kodaks' sign therefore probably dates from the first decade of the 1900s.

Incidentally, more traces of chemist shop lettering can be found at Hales Chemist (doorstep) in St Helens Street, 'E. J. Owles' in Fore Street (frosted glass door) and in Felixstowe Road.
The Symonds sign is opposite The Cock & Pye public house.

[UPDATE 19.1.2014: Tony Wooderson sends this haunting image of the legendary 'Symonds' chimney stack.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Symonds WoodersonPhoto courtesy Tony Wooderson /Crafted Images (UK)

*The origins and philology of 'Kodaks'
In 1883, George Eastman startled the photographic trade with the announcement of film in rolls, with the roll holder adaptable to nearly every plate camera on the market. With the "Kodak" camera in 1888, he put down the foundation for making photography available to everyone.

The business started as the Eastman company, but added the name of its most successful product, to become Eastman Kodak in 1892. Asked about the name, George Eastman replied, 'Philologically, the word Kodak is as meaningless as a child's first "goo" - terse, abrupt to the point of rudeness, literally bitten off by firm and unyielding consonants at both ends, it snaps like a camera shutter in your face. What more would one ask!' The camera proved such an enormous success that the word Kodak was incorporated into the company name.

(The Japanese electronics company Sony gained its invented name in the 1970s for similar reasons: short, memorable and essentially meaningless therefore able to be marketed without bias and adverse connotation in any language, in any country.)


52-54 Butter Market
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 6
2016 image
Over the jaws of Butter Market, a rather florid building stands today with swags of terra cotta fruit and flowers, pilasters and pedimented windows on both faces of the former shoe shop (now, inevitably a coffee chain), wits corner turret. If you want to know the date of this particular building look at the oval window moulding on Upper Brook Street (marked A above):
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 12013 images
'1900'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 42015 images
The elevation on Butter Market continues the interest with art nouveau detailing on the picture window spandrels and wrought iron 'balconette' (marked B on the above large photograph). This was the window designed specifically for a photographer's studio;
as with the whole corner building it is the work of Eade & Johns, architects.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Upper Brook St 5detail
Below is a photograph of the Butter Market shops from the 1940s/1950s (?), with that window at top left:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Butter Market 1950s

18 Carr Street
Round the corner from the former Symonds and to the right in Carr Street, we find another lost trading name from Ipswich's past emblazoned on a high, curving gable:
'SENNITT'S'
sits above the present shop occupied by the butchers, Meat-Inn. Probably the subject of unsuccessful brick cleaning operations, the capitals are now grey and indistinct, but very big.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sennitt's 2011
This close-up taken in 2011 is ghostly (the final 'apostrophe S' less distinct). An 1890s photograph of Upper Brook Street taken from the White Horse Corner shows a row of shops on the east side of the road running down to the Cock & Pye public house (one of the few buildings still standing in modern times. The shop just before the pub is Sennitt's shop selling teas. It seems quite possible that when these buildings were demolished Sennitt's moved round the corner to premises in Carr Street. Hence the giant lettering.
The Listing Grade II text: 'Shop and offices. 1888. By TW Cotman [see also Lloyds Bank and the Crown & Anchor]. For Mr Scheurmann. Red brick laid in Flemish bond. Machine-tiled roof. Flemish style, the gable-end facing the street. 4 storeys in 3-window range. Narrow facade. Late C20 plate-glass shop front with marble pilasters right and left supporting cast-iron railings. First floor with one semicircular window right and left each fitted with two 2/2 horned sashes. Between them is a moulded arched recess containing a French window with glazing bars and margin lights. Upper 2 floors bisected by a flat pilaster and bordered by one polygonal colonnette right and left of elevation. Second floor with two 8/8 horned sashes set within separate moulded arched recesses and fronted by cast-iron railings. Third floor with 2 similar windows. Elaborate shaped gable with finial. Gabled roof. Large internal gable-end stack to west. (Brown C, Haward B, Kindred B: Dictionary of Architects of Suffolk Buildings 1800-1914: Ipswich: 1991-: 86).'

[UPDATE 22.12.2013: Richie Wisbey's Flickr site has a nice collection of period photographs and we chanced upon this rare image of the Sennitt's shop in Carr Street, probably in the 1920s. It is so much smaller an establishment than the size of the ghost sign above might suggest – and it's a grocery shop ('Provision .. SENNITT'S .. Stores'), not the department store or furnishers we imagined. Thanks to Richie for permission to include it here.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sennitt's periodImage courtesy Richie Wisbey   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sennitt's 20142014

6/8 Carr Street
Next door to the Sennitt's lettering is a Subway fast food shop. Here Carr  Street has a much smaller trade sign, brought to our attention by Mike O'Donovan (
who must have a very keen eye, not to mention a good zoom camera lens). It is so high up and so unremarkable, it's not surprising that this went unnoticed for so long.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Alfred Coe 12013 image
Beneath the redbrick swags and the reversed 'S' stretcher point (to the right of the open window in the above photograph) is the metal plate affixed by the company which constructed the building.
'ALFRED COE
BUILDER IPSWICH'
It's a humble little advertisement, but has certainly stood the test of time. Anyone any idea when Alfred Coe was running his business in the town? [See UPDATE below.]
Ipswich Lettering: Carr Street 2[Photograph courtesy Mike O'Donovan]

[UPDATE 31.8.2013: "Hi Borin, Very enjoyable & educational site. I see that you have asked for info about Alfred Coe Builder. Please find attached page from Kelly's 1883.  In the 1888 edition he is is listed at the Brooks Hall Rd Address. In the 1900 edition he is listed in Crown Street. Kind Regards, Brian Warner". Many thanks to Brian for the information. We have resisted the temptation to reproduce the Kelly's listing in case of copyright problems; but we note that Alfred Coe must have been doing quite well in 1883 as there is mention of premises in both "Brooks Hall road & Tacket street". Perhaps this tiny, rusted panel in Carr Street is the only remaining physical evidence of this Ipswich builder.]
The upper part of the building, bears at its apex, the date '1888' with the characteristic eights with flattened tops seen on the E. Brand & Sons building.
Ipswich Lettering: Carr Street 3   Ipswich Lettering: Carr Street 42016 images

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Carr Street 1905   Ipswich Historic Lettering: EADT advert  

The hand-tinted postcard c.1905, above, shows The Great White Horse Hotel in the background, behind the tram. On the right, by the turreted building is the entrance to the long-gone Little Colman Street. That building, although not built for the company, was the home of the East Anglian Daily Times (founded 1874) stable of newspapers from 1887, eventually moving to the Lower Brook Street offices. The Lyceum Theatre (opened 1891, but converted to a department store in 1936) is on the right with the hanging lamps ove the entrance. Demolition of these rather fine buildings in the late 1980s led to the shopping centre 'Carr Precinct' which never really found a place in the hearts of Ipswichians.

The Cross Keys Inn
In this postcard's narrowed-down version of the west end of Carr Street, the buildings to the left were the Cross Keys Inn. Carr Street was for a time known as Cross Keys Street after this inn. The inn was demolished in the 1880s to be replaced by shops. The radical changes were wrought bt the Carr Street Improvement Company, formed in 1887 to buy up old properties and demolish them to allow street-widening. Cross Key Lane is the lane that goes from Carr St to the rear of what was known as Woolworth's car park; The Cross Keys Inn may have been at number 22 Carr Street; but it was listed as 26-28 Carr Street in the 1909 Rates book. Suffolk CAMRA (see Links) say that it was where the British Heart Foundation charity shop now is, number 24. The Cross Keys was a very ancient public house (opened before 1650) in a very ancient street, the home of many 'Ipswich ware' pots going all the way back to the 7th century. It closed in 1938.

For a view of this area from outside Croydon's in the 1930s, see our Tavern Street page.

You can find more Carr Street lettering on our Co-op page. See also Harold Hulcupp Withers' connection to Carr Street.



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