V.A. Marriott Ltd
Dave Riseborough sent in this gentle
memory-jogger of trade lettering:
"... the Marriott Builder's building in Handford Road, which I think is
particularly beautiful. Here is a quote from their website: "Valentine
Arthur Marriott, a bricklayer by trade, founded the company in 1895.
The business developed with projects of all types and size being
undertaken and in 1920 the company was incorporated as V A Marriott
Limited and moved to our still current address in Handford Road,
Ipswich.". So I think the letters could go back to the 1920s, but they
could have brought them from their previous address as they look
Victorian and cast iron to me."
A. MARRIOTT. LTD
we find stray full stops after the 'A' and
the word 'Marriott' (but not after the 'V', which would have made more
sense). Dave points out that this second full stop is actually painted
onto the white-painted brick surround; so the cast iron full stop has
probably been lost. This also explains the absence of a full stop after
Also, shouldn't it be 'Building Contractors'? or are we being
pedantic? Lovely, eccentric font with little flicks on the serifs and
(for example, a third of the way up the 'O'). Nice tight paint job on
these raised cast iron characters,
mind - even if the word 'Contractors' is a bit too close to the
fenestration for comfort.
Another glance at the company website reveals some interesting facts.
'The history of the company shows a catalogue of quality buildings many
of which are still in good use, such as the Cobbold family public
houses, the Safe Harbour and the Suffolk Punch, shops and offices
around The Walk, Cranfield Court and the Footman Pretty (now Debenhams)
department store in Lloyds Avenue. We have been developing schools,
public buildings, commercial sites as well as building residential
housing from our own sites....
One of the best examples of traditional construction and our ongoing
involvement has been at St. Helens Primary School in Ipswich A few
years ago we won the contract to build an extension to form a new hall
and classrooms. During this work someone remembered seeing an old cost
book from long ago with St Helens costs itemised. Only 3 old
handwritten ledgers survive from pre World War Two but one of these has
details of every pound, shilling and penny spent when VA Marriott built
the school during 1913 and 1914.
The total cost was £10,971 18s 6d
In 2005 we again secured a contract to extend the front of the school.
An idea of inflation during the 20th century is given by comparing this
cost of the whole school in 1914 with the later infilling extensions
which came to nearly £1,000,000.
Extended Warranty? So durable were the large sash windows we made in
1914 that we took them out of the old front elevation and fitted them
in the new front. When we removed them they were as good as the day
they had been fitted two world wars ago.'
[UPDATE 17.9.2009: on the Contract
'As many as 55 jobs could be lost at Suffolk-based contractor V A
Marriott, which has started the process of entering a company voluntary
The 114-year-old firm is to complete all current projects but will wind
down its operations over the coming months, with all work likely to
stop by early 2010, according to the East
Anglian Daily Times.
Creditors are expected to receive full payment once the assets of the
business have been realised.
In a statement yesterday, Marriott said: “The company has
the decision because of recent trading results and an inability to
obtain finance from its bank. A return to profitable trading is not
foreseen during this recession.
“The directors want to reassure customers that current
projects will be completed to the firm's usual high standards and
intend to meet all post completion obligations.”
Managing director Roland Marriott added: “The
V A Marriott are very proud of the long tradition of quality
workmanship associated with the firm.
“We have taken this action so we can meet all our outstanding
obligations and keep the company's reputation intact.” ']
[UPDATE November 2011: The
whole site is being cleared including this lettering.]
17.12.12: "Some while ago you featured the lettering on the end wall of
the joiners shop at our old premises on Handford Road.
Before demolition we removed the cast iron letters and have them
stored. If you know of a good use or home for these (other than
Sackers) I would be interested to hear from you. Roland Marriott" We're sure that we can come up with some
ideas for the characters.]
21.1.13: by chance John Norman, Chair of the Ipswich Society, penned
the following article for the local press. Our thanks for permission to
reproduce it here.
Valentine Arthur Marriott started his building business from premises
next to the seven arches bridge at the bottom of Crane
Hill in 1895. From the beginning he set his sights on
sizeable contracts and created a successfully company building schools
and large detached houses. Valentine was a bricklayer but as the
company grew he employed carpenters, joiners and plumbers to offer a
complete building package. Records of most of their early
contracts are lost but one ledger remains and it contains details of
the building of St. Helen’s Primary School in 1913. The
original school was built for less than £11,000.
Marriott’s returned to St Helen’s again and again as the
school expanded and changed, most recently in 2005 for their latest and
largest extension, a project that cost almost £1 million.
In 1920 Valentine Arthur Marriot purchased part of the garden of
Handford Lodge in Handford Road, one time residence of Peter Bruff,
railway engineer and designer of the tunnel under Stoke Hill.
Adjacent to the Alderman Canal (the original channel of the River
Gipping) the land was marked on the first Ordnance Survey maps as being
‘liable to flood’.
In the same year the company was incorporated as V A Marriott Limited
and this land registered as their head office. The land Marriott
purchased surrounded Handford Cottage which was; at that time a popular
public house, complete with Bowling Green and a number of ‘pub
In the late 1920’s Marriott’s were contracted by Leslie
Barefoot, Architect to build The Walk, one of the first pedestrian-only
shopping streets in the country. The company also forged a close
working relationship with the Tollemache Company Ltd, the Ipswich
brewer and built a number of mock-baronial Public Houses in the style
of Helmingham Hall (the family seat in mid Suffolk) including The Safe
Harbour, The Suffolk Punch and The Golden Hind, the latter having one
of the finest pub interiors in the south east. These pubs have
become known as the ‘Tolly Follies’.
Handford Cottage continued trading [as a public house] until December
1974 when it was purchased by Marriott’s for conversion into
their own offices. Like all good builders they were always too
busy to get around to it but they did manage to recycle the turf from
the bowling green before it became another corner of the
When the recession hit the construction industry Marriott’s
decided to call it a day, complete the contracts that were already
underway, honour their outstanding commitments and sell the site.
It drew interest from a small German supermarket, from a local medical
practice that had considered moving and from McCarthy & Stone who
are currently developing a 60 room assisted living retirement home.
Passers by will recall the sign on the gable end of the joiners shop
‘V A. Marriott.Ltd Builders Contractors in Victorian cast iron
lettering. Interestingly it was in an unusual typeface that as
far as we can establish was only used elsewhere on the Weston Clevedon
and Portishead Railway."
Above: the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, based at Brockford Station,
Wetheringsett, displays a couple of restored station signs from this
tiny line including this from Wilby station. Here, too, the scrolly
capital letters resemble the Marriott sign – particularly the 'L'.
Handford Lodge was Peter Schuyler Bruff's home from 1846-1900; it
was the home of Mr D. H. Booth after the
death of Mrs Bruff at the age of 102 and was
demolished in the 1920s. (Booth, as Mayor of
laid the foundation stone of the Corn Exchange on 22 October 1880.) The
reference in the above article to Handford Lodge being 'liable to
flood' is ironic given that Peter Bruff's first Ipswich house in the
Halifax area of Over Stoke was near the Orwell and in the abnormally
high tide of December 1845 the house flooded to a depth of five feet.
He moved his family to a house in Norwich Road, thence to the rather
eccentric architecture of the Lodge (shown in a period photograph
above). Bruff was once travelling by train back to Ipswich and a fellow
passenger asked if he knew Handford Lodge. Bruff said he did, without
disclosing that he lived there. The man said that when he was stationed
at the barracks, he attended parties there. At one card party in the
drawing room, a lady was accused of cheating and the resulting dispute
led to a duel. The duel was conducted there in the room and each
gentleman fired twice, both missing. Honour being satisfied, it is not
recorded if they all sat down to gin rummy once more – or what their
host thought of the whole thing. He said that he believed that the
bullets were still lodged in the wall by the door. Bruff examined the
area when he got home and the room was never repapered in his lifetime,
the bullet holes being preserved behind two small pictures. Details
from Moffat, H.: East Anglia's first
railways, see Reading List.]
For more on Peter Bruff see our E.U.R. page
Many will recall this feature of Handford Road with its doors boarded
up for many years when it was used by V.A. Marriott's building firm as
storage. When it was a popular public house, it had several sets of
lettering. 'COBBOLD BEERS' on the wall facing the town, 'Garden and
Children's Entrance' on the side gate – very much a sign of the times –
and a set of worded stained glass (perhaps as screens sitting
inside the ground floor sash windows: 'SMOKE ROOM' is visible on the
left and the others were probably 'Saloon Bar' and Off Sales'. Comapre
with the stained glass signs of The Golden Key.
An Ipswich Town Football Club banner hangs at top right signifying its
proximity to the football ground in Portman Road. This building
replaced the original cottage pub, it closed for business on December 9
1974 and was demolished in November 2011.
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Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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