Wiggin & Son, Chemists
Nick Wiggin writes: "According to letter-heads and advertisements, the
business was established in 1840.
John Wiggin was born in Peterborough (where his father was a bank
manager and acted as Constable for the city) and came to Ipswich to
join Alfred Lambert in his chemist's shop at 34 St Matthews
Street. White's 1844 Directory
still lists Alfred Lambert.
His son, also John Wiggin, was a keen scientist experimenting with
early photography in the early 1860s, so is considered one of the
pioneers in photography (see his photograph below). He was appointed as
Gas Analyst for the Ipswich
Corporation and Public Analyst for the Eastern District. He made a
whole range of over-the-counter medicines and also produced veterinary
and agricultural products including his 'Seed wheat protector' (see the
advertisement on blue background below).
"His son, John Chinery (b.1862), was involved with a branch shop at 47
St Nicholas Street, recorded there in 1895 and 1902, and also a paint
and colour shop on the opposite side of St Matthews.
Revetts in Berners Street, and businesses to the West including the
Golden Fleece pub were demolished (1961) and a new parade of shops
built by the Borough set back from St. Matthew’s Street. In 1962
Wiggin & Son moved across Berners Street to the new premises
without closing for business. The old shop, and all buildings to
the East including the Rainbow pub at Hyde Park Corner were pulled
down, and a roundabout and dual carriageway constructed. [See our Ipswich tomorrow page for a 1968
photograph of this area, taken from close to the rebuilt Wiggin
Nick Wiggin joined his father Felix in 1968, and in 1999 sold the
business to East Anglian Wholesale Supplies of Norwich (one of our
wholesalers). After reorganisation they resold the chemist to
Boots, which closed the shop in 2017 (?)"
1. (All images courtesy Nick Wiggin)
Photograph 1. A
Victorian view of the shop on the eastern corner of the Berners Street
and St Matthews Street junction (c.1840-1850). Bottles
and carboys of
coloured liquids, a selection of products and and
a few notices fill the windows and little lettering can
is the main shop sign in highlit capitals on a sign board on the
Berners Street elevation. A projecting gas lamp and large replica
pestle-and-mortar are mounted on the corner. The same
words appear on the St Matthews Street sunblind. It seems that the main
door into the shop is next to the corner, up a couple of steps. The
double-doors to the left may or may not have been in use. If the
Wiggins lived above the shop at this time, they took the trouble to
have a window-box at first floor level.
Promotional card from 1910. The signwriting below the shop
windows: 'OILS PAINTS & COLOURS' 'MEDICINES'. Tight
cropping at the right, compared to the main Photograph 1. With the
sun-blind retracted, a figure is visible at the doorway.
Photograph 2. An
Edwardian photograph of "Wiggin's Corner"
judging by the full-length costume and broad-brimmed hat of the woman
passing the shop (left). Electric trams replaced horse-drawn trams in
To the right of the Town Hall clock tower in the distance is a
projecting wall bearing the lettering:
A host of projecting shop signs and lamps lead the eye up to the
old ‘QUEEN’S HEAD.’ public house on the corner of (St Matthews) Church
Lane. The large letters are in a dark paint with a paler drop-shadow.
The jettied first floor of the pub bears the lettering: ‘COBBOLD’S ALES
& STOUT’. In the 1960s reshaping of this whole area, a new building
of the same name was built some distance to the right on the corner of
the dualled St Matthews Street and Civic Drive. In the middle of the
entry to the lane is a water pump/drinking fountain.
Wiggin & Son Chemist’s shop hides beneath the projecting sun-blinds
on the left. By this time the entrance door was on the
corner, typically at a 45-degree angle to the streets.
Above: from a printed article, a photograph of a trade stand at an
Ipswich Camera Club exhibition in November 1904. Main sign: 'WIGGIN
& SON PHOTOGRAPHIC CHEMISTS'. A Lantern (projector) would set you
back four guineas (about £464 in today's money).
Photograph 3. The
two girls on the pavement are being
passed by a fast-moving gent
in a bowler hat. Their clothing suggests a date later than the view
above (perhaps 1910 to 1920?). Note the double tramway tracks in St
Berners Street runs off to the left. Fortunately for
us, the sunblinds have not been pulled out so the shop windows can be
On window to the right:
‘WIGGIN & SON
A busy window display features ‘CAMWAL Table Waters PURITY
(on central band),
PHARMACEUTICAL & PHOTOGRAPHIC CHEMISTS.’
two cards concerning ‘WEED KILLER’
Projecting sign: ’STEELE’: W. Steele was the shop next door at no. 32
St Matthews Street.
Over 45-degree door: ‘WIGGIN’.
On the left-hand door: ‘SELTONA’ [photographic paper] and the frosted
decoration reading ‘WIGGIN & SON’.
On window on the far left:
‘Ilford Film’ (twice)
Note the reflection of the ‘REVETT’ lettering on the sunblind over
their shop opposite;
also a parked bicycle outside Revetts’.
Centrally, a large wordy sign promotes the wares of Wiggin & Son
including ‘SCIENTIFIC APPARATUS’.
Interestingly, beneath it is a small POST OFFICE LETTER BOX’, let into
Beneath that, close to the pavement is a sign:
On the window on the near left:
PARCEL POST &
More central band promotion of Camwal Table Waters: ‘MANUFACTURE
CONTROLLED’ and another Weed Killer card.
Photograph 4. "Wiggin's
Corner" post-1948 (see 'National Health Insurance' lettering below).
By this date the white brickwork on both elevations has been cleaned
with dotted-line frames bearing the following advertisements for the
BY QUALIFIED MEN.’
On the far left window (Wiggin & Son are doing well, so have
expanded to the next shop in Berners Street):
NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE’
The large wordy sign in the middle of the next window is still
but the Post Office box has been removed.
The National Health Service was
launched in Britain 1948, so this photograph presumably post-dates that.
The projecting sign above the corner door reads:
The window on the right bears the same lettering on the glass as
photograph 2 (above) with the additional sign ‘KODAK FILMS’.
Wiggin & Son were early suppliers of Lanterns and Lantern Slides
for home entertainment. See a catalogue
leaflet of their products.
Below: a close-up of the shop window of a roughly similar date
shows a splendid mash-up of Kodak photography, cosmetics, patent
medicines, chemicals, retorts and flasks.
‘WIGGIN & SON.
PHARMACEUTICAL & PHOTOGRAPHIC CHEMISTS.’
Compound Tincture of Rhubarb,
Compound Syrup of Figs: 10d, 1/- & 2/-,
Purest Medicinal Liquid Paraffin,
‘Easter Comes But Once a Year
Give a “KODAK”
The Best And Most Appropriate Easter Gift’
EASTERN FOAM VANISHING CREAM
Photograph 5. 1890s to
1900s: Curson Lodge at the corner
of St Nicholas Street and Silent Street – for many old Ipswichians this
building was known as ‘Wolsey’s birthplace’ (he was probably born in a
building on the site of The Black Horse
and his father ran an alehouse
across from Curson Lodge, on the site of the later Hippodrome Theatre,
where Thomas Wolsey lived as a boy).
Note the lettering ‘Wolsey’s
House’ at the top of the gable. The most commonly seen photographs of
this shop show the lettering ‘WOLSEY PHARMACY’.
On the gable:
‘WIGGIN & SON
LATE SILVERSTON [?]
… AND RETAIL
['SILENT STREET' street nameplate]
‘AND AT 34 ST. MATTHEW’S, IPSWICH’
On the St Nicholas Street elevation a signboard reads:
‘F.H. PALMER LTD.[?]
CHEMIST & DRUGGIST’
Perhaps Palmer took over the shop and hadn’t yet had the ‘Wiggin’
lettering painted over.
Curson Lodge was the focus of an important
restoration/conversion project by Ipswich Building Preservation Trust
(see Links) in the late 20th century.
'The preparation will be found to prevent SMUT, BUNT, RUST and
BLIGHT. It protects the seed from ROOKS and other Birds, and from the
SLUG, GRUB, and WIREWORM. It is suitable for every description of Seed,
and materially improves the yield of the grain and straw; it dissolves
easily, and seed dressed with it dries rapidly and is soon is ready for
drilling; umlike other so-called "Carbolic" Dressings it does not clog
the Drill. Manufactured solely by WIGGIN & SON, Manufacturing
'FOR BARLEY and OATS WIGGIN'S SEED WHEAT PROTECTOR is also a
most valuable dressing, as when used as directed it destroys the fungus
spores before sowing. It will be found an effective preventative of
"BLINDNESS" in BARLEY without having any bad effect on the seed.'
"We all use Wiggin's Nursery Hair Lotion"
We estimate that this advertisement card dates from around 1900.
The children all seem to be singing, or perhaps they're in mid-sentence
of the strap-line. The artwork is original (not a print), so hand-made
specifically for the Wiggin shop window by a local
designer/sign-writer. The rectangular card is shaped around the
protruding costumes at right and left. One assumes that the lotion in
question is to treat head lice.
Above: advertisement for boys' (definitely not girls!)
half-crown 'Chemical Cabinet' (chemistry set), as featured in the East Anglian Daily Times,
24.12.1987. A half-crown piece, in sterling currency,
was worth two shillings and sixpence (2/6) – in decimal currency about
25.3 pence. In 2017 a half-crown would be worth approximately £10.27.
The small envelope shown above was used to package portions of
Wiggin's Cleansing Shampoo Powder (two old pennies per packet): 'For
washing the Hair and making it Soft, Curly and Bright'. It features a
line drawing, very reminiscent of the work of Ipswich artist Leonard
Squirrell (see Blue plaques) featuring a
gable, half-timbered, country public house with the name 'THE WIG INN'.
The pub sign (close-up below) shows a version of the visual pun of a
man trying to retrieve a wig floating on a river with a stick. This
comes from an 1846 sheet entitled: 'A hieroglyphical list of
inhabitants of Tavern, Westgate, and St Matthew's Streets, Ipswich'
promoting, in a rather obscure way, the businesses which may have paid
to be included. Ths sheet was featured by Dr John Blatchly in his
column in the East Anglian Daily
Below: the first part of the sheet.
Below: two more printed packets. 'Foot ease foot bath powder
(foot shampoo)' is priced at six old pennies and states: 'For TENDER,
ACHING, PERSPIRING FEET. Makes an antiseptic, soothing and penetrating
solution which toughens the tissue'. By the time of the second enbelope
the price of the Cleansing shampoo powder had risen to six pennies per
packet for '2 Shampoos'.
July 24, 1895
Above: reprinted in a trade magazine, this features a piece of
Wiggin stationery. The typeset sections reads:
"Memo. from Wiggin & Son, Corner of Berners St., St. Matthew's,
Ipswich; And at 47. St Nicholas (Corner of Silent Street); Address for
Telegrams: Wiggin, Ipswich. Warehouse and Oil Stores: 55 and 57 St
Matthew's. Pharmaceutical and Analytical Chemists. Wholesale Druggists
and Drysalters. Oil and Colour Merchants. Dealers in Photographic &
Chemical Apparatus &c. Optical Lanterns and Slides." The signature
may be that of the younger John Wiggin who was born in 1862.
Photograph 6. Built into
the windows on opaque glass are the signs:
'WIGGIN & SON ...
A large card reads:
Clearly Wiggin & Son continued the tradition of pharmacy,
perfumes etc. alongside scientific products and photographic equipment
and supplies – the right-hand window display is mainly photographic.
The large carboys of coloured liquid from days of yore continue to be
part of the display on either side of the sign 'Dispensing Chemists'.
The former chemist's shop beneath the angled canopy after Boots
had vacated the premises in 2018. The window sign reads 'This shop is
closed' with directions to the branch in Tavern Street. A laundrette is
next door, then My Food Shop.
John Wiggin, photographic pioneer
Photographic portrait of John Wiggin (9.9.1818 to 7.1.1879).
Above: a very early photographic print from a wax paper
negative, taken by John Wiggin. Despite a certain amount of 'foxing' at
the left the definition and detail of The
Ancient House is remarkable. At this period the pargeting from the
first floor upwards isn't the snowy white to which we've become
accustomed in modern times. The Wagon
Inn had a history dating back to the 16th century; in the photograph it
bears the lettering (presumably referring to the current licensee):
'LATE COACHMAN TO THE YARMOUTH STAR. PORTER & FINE ALES... GOOD
STABLING &c.' The 1844 White's
Directory details carriers operating from the inn to Bentley,
Boxford, Burgh, Bury St Edmunds, Chelmondiston, Copdock, Elmsett,
Erwarton, Grundisburgh, Hadleigh, Harwich, Manningtree, Nayland,
Oakley, Shotley, Stowmarket, Sudbury, Stutton, Tattingstone, Witnesham,
and Woodbridge. In1906 it was an Ind Coope house whose
landlord was John Dale. The inn closed in 1935 and the ancient building
was demolished in 1937 to make way for
a picture house: the Ritz cinema, opened by Anna Neagle, later
became the Regal, then the ABC Cinema. Around April 1986, the last
picture show took place at the site.
scanned digitally by David Kindred.)
An album of John Wiggin's early photographs can be viewed on the
Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links).
Please email any comments and
contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text
or images without express