Lost Ipswich signs / William Brown timber importers / Willis building area

Of course, given the history of destruction and 'redevelopment' of premises, particularly in the 20th century, there are many examples of signs which were once a common feature of Ipswich and are long gone. They mainly deal with commercial and industrial companies. John Bulow-Osborne, an inveterate photographer of often-unconsidered parts of the town, has contributed most of the images below from his collection. Where they indirectly link to pages within this website, links are added. Our thanks to John for his contributions (and for titling most of his photographs).
Walton Surgical Appliance Co., 42-44 St Matthews Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Walton SurgicalPhotograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
Above: a puzzling photograph from the Ipswich Society Flickr collection (see Links). Where on earth is this? Is it Ipswich at all? Hang on, those buildings in the background with the pointy tops… aren’t they part of the St Matthews Street ‘development’ in the early 60s? The ones which today stand next to the BBC Radio Suffolk building? So this must be the part of St Matthews Street which was demolished to build the roundabout approaches. Difficult to imagine today…
[The initial 5s of the telephone numbers have been painted over.]
[UPDATE 9.12.2016: "I can confirm that this shop was definitely in St Matthews Street. I walked past it every day on my way to primary school. Later it was famous for selling condoms and not asking your age! All the best and keep up the good work. Ian Johnson." Many thanks to Ian for this invaluable information.] Ruth Serjeant: Walton’s shop was in St. Matthews Street, nos 42 /44 and is listed for the first time in the 1932 Ipswich street directory, and was still listed in the 1975 one (which was the last one published). It must have disappeared soon after that, for the changes at the west of Berners Street. Peter Brockett:  Next door at 46, which is the building demolished but whose remaining part wall is seen, was ‘The Golden Fleece Hotel’.

Coe's Garage, 15 Crown Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coe's Garage JBOAll photographs courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
The deco-style building next to the church (both now demolished) on the corner of Crown Street and High Street bears the lettering:
and what may be 'SALES' and 'SERVICE' in small characters either side of 'Leyland'.
The end wall has degraded painted lettering:
'W.J. COE LTD. [in turquoise] with partially underneath that:
The garage bears the yellow 'SOLD' estate agent board of Garrod & Turner, so although cars are still in evidence (a red Leyland Mini and a cream Ford Cortina, we think), it wouldn't be long before the building emptied and was presumably demolished to make way, eventually, for the long-empty General Accident block of today. Which do you prefer? At the right is Crown Street Congregational Church, a fine Grecian-style building standing on the corner with High Street (the congregation migrated to Christ Church in Tacket Street) which was also due for destruction at this time.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coe's Garage JBO   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coe's Garage JBO1959 images
[UPDATE 7.3.2018: 'Just wondered if the attached two images are any use to you. They came from an advertisment in an old East Anglian Magazine... Perhaps they are already on that wonderful cornucopia that is your website? For about a year, in the early sixties, I worked just across the road from Coe's Garage [W J Coe Ltd, 15 Crown Street], and went in occasionally. I recall the petrol pump attendant - a now extinct species - called Tommy: a real hard nut, and a Geordie... All those lovely Triumph TRs were lined up for the photographer, I suppose. Certainly, I never witnessed such an array, or the floor looking so clean...' Many thanks to John – at this time the word 'Leyland' in the top photograph of W.J. Coe is replaced by 'Standard and Triumph'.] We learn that the company existed here from at least 1936 to 1965 selling Standard, Triumph, Vauxhall and Opel. Leyland Motors Ltd bought Standard and Triumph (Standard-Triumph International Limited), cars, vans and some agricultural machinery interests in 1961, eventually to become British Leyland (later BL).

Crown Street from Lady Lane
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Crown St 60s JBO
O brave new world, thy name is pedestrian precinct. Although not crammed with interesting signs, this photograph from the jaws of the newly modernised Lady Lane indicates how close the shops were on the other side of St Mathews Street and Crown Street in the mid-sixties (probably around the line of the current central reservation). The future beckoned: dualling the carriageway, demolishing these business premises (including Coe's Garage visible to the right behind the man) and stopping traffic from using this upper part of Westgate Street.

7-9 Woodbridge Road, motor works & Ipswich Caribbean Association
Ipswich Historic Lettering: ICA 1 JBO
7-9 Woodbridge Road, which was Crawley's Garage before it became the Clutch Centre in the photographs (empty at this time). Next door is, of course, the old Territorial Army Centre, later the ICA (Ipswich Caribbean Association). The wider view below is very different to that seen in 2018: the traffic island has been reduced to, more-or-less, street level without the tree and the two featured buildings are long gone to be replaced by... a car park. The restaurant and shops to the right still stand.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 1CA 2 JBO

68a Norfolk Road, corner with Suffolk Road
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Norfolk Road JBO
Majestic Security Services, established by the late David Woolf and subsequently run by his son Richard, who later sold the business. In 2018 this property is private accomodation. On the opposite corner to this building (behind the photographer to the left) is the lettered Suffolk Road Stores.

Kent Blaxhill, Wolsey Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Kent Blaxhill JBO
Kent Blaxhill decorating, glass & building supplies still trade from Trinity Street, off Duke Street. Note the modern version of the carriage entrance. The Greyfriars block development can been seen in the background.

The Zulu Inn, Wolsey Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Zulu pub JBO
The Greyfriars complex (built 1964-66) towers in its skeletal state above a public house which must bear one of the strangest names in the town, if not the country:
With 'TOLLY' above the door, all black lettering on sky blue ground. The Zulu Inn was formerly called The Cardinal's Head closed in March 1965 and the building was demolished. The Battle of Rorke's Drift was a January 1879 battle in the Anglo-Zulu War (the 1964 feature film Zulu was based on the events). It may be that these events were the first time that the name 'Zulu' came into common parlance and it was attached to the public house. Licencee documentation does not name the business 1874 until 1900 when the 'Zulu' name appears. The Suffolk CAMRA website (see Links) tells us: 'Mrs E. Wright was the last landlady [of the Zulu Inn] and also was landlady here for over 50 years. She also had 6 children, 4 of whom were girls who later also ran Ipswich pubs, an extraordinary family achievement.' (For a slightly later photograph of the post-Zulu Inn location from a similar viewpoint, see our Water in Ipswich page under 'Little Gipping & Great Gipping Streets'.)

Wolsey Street / Commercial Road
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 3 Tuns 1 JBO
The painted sign on the brickwork reads:
beneath this we thought it might be : 'ALES WINES & SPIRITS’ but perhaps it is more likely to be:
The Tun (Old English: tunne, Latin: tunellus, Middle Latin: tunna) is an English unit of liquid volume (not weight), used for measuring wine, oil or honey. Typically it is a large vat or vessel, most often holding 210 imperial gallons. In descending vat size from the Tun: Pipe or Butt, Puncheon or Tertian, Hogshead, Tierce, Barrel, Rundlet.
The modern road sign reads:

New Cut East
Orwell Quay
Cliff Quay'
and further down Commercial Road (now called Grafton Way), an industrial building bears prominent white capitals; 'William Brown', see below. In the distance is the burnt-down-and-demolished R. & W. Paul maltings on St Peter's Wharf with the concrete silo behind it. Further views of the lost Paul maltings (notably taken by John) can be found on our Trinity House buoy page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: 3 Tuns 2 JBO
Above, the former Three Tuns public house at 79 Commercial Road with its 45 degree angled corner entrance is in use as 'ERNEST C. CROSS LIMITED: HAULAGE CONTRACTORS'. The white-painted areas on the upper floor would probably have born the pub and brewer's names. The pub closed in the 1940s and for a time was used as a canteen by timber merchants William Brown.
[UPDATE 22.10.2016: "Fantastic to see a picture of the old sign denoting my great grandfather's business that he ran from Ipswich after WW2.  Ernest C. Cross Haulage Contractors. 79 Commercial Road.
He also had a garage on Anglesea Road - I wonder if you have come across it? Thank you for looking after the past. Sally O'Brien" Thanks to Sally – is this the garage...?]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: 3 Tuns 2a JBO1980s  Ipswich Historic Lettering: 3 Tuns 2b JBO2019
Above: Peter Blackburn Cars at No 11 Anglesea Road in the 1980s; photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society Image Archive. Above right: a similar view in 2019, the showroom building replaced by a house.

William Brown Timber Importers
On the opposite corner of Wolsey Street and Commercial Road (visible in the first Three Tuns Inn photograph above) is the blue-painted building shown below, which was City Electrical Factors (with a red hanging sign). The other was the much-lettered: William Brown Timber Merchants, of hallowed memory:
with what might be a telephone number and 'Commercial Road, Ipswich' at the far end in small characters.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Commercial Rd JBO
Below: the 'William Brown & Co. (Ipswich) Ltd. Timber Importers' lettering reappears on a dockside wharf behind a visiting training ship. This looks like Timber Quay (see our Wet Dock map page) seen from the eastern quays with the cooling vents of Felaw Maltings just visible over the rooftops (centre) and the concrete silos of St Peters Wharf to the right.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wm Brown dock JBO
Below left: The William Brown & Co (Ipswich) Ltd timber works, Wet Dock and environs, Ipswich, 1938. This image is taken from the excellent  Britain from above resource (see Links). The 'Public Warehouse' lettering is visible to the lower right with the Harbour Master's office below that. The Custom House is visible at upper left; to the right on Common Quay is the Isaac Lord complex. At lower left are the vents of Felaw Maltings on New Cut West.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wm Brown dock   Ipswich Historic Lettering: William Brown's Wet Dock aerial 1938
The 1938 photograph taken from the opposite direction (above right) shows that Brown's were determined to market themselves to aeronauts, too.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: William Brown advertisement 19361936 advertisement
Note also that William Brown operated at one time from a timber yard in Key Street, as shown on a monochrome photograph of The Old Bull Inn dated '1970s' on our Burtons page.
[UPDATE 24.1.2017: Below is a photograph from a contributor to this website of a William Brown van in Debenham dated April 1965. “Apparently the roof tiles were delivered on 13th April, and by the following day they were all in place. I wish the builder had hung his jacket on the front of the van, then the whole sign would be visible!
TEL. 56761.’
(the side of the van reads 'TILING & SLATING CONTRACTOR')
… I wanted to find out more about the little Morris 1000 van in this photo, and why it was parked outside the bungalow. When I Googled the name William Brown of Ipswich I found the details on your website.
William Brown was a builder's merchant and the company later became Jewson. Jewson has remained on the original Wm. Brown's site in Wolsey Street.” Many thanks for the contribution.]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wm Brown van 19651965
[UPDATE 23.11.2020: while on a circular walk from Shingle Street to Alderton and back the sign 'BROWN'S OF IPSWICH' below was noticed on a barn at Buckanay Farm. One assumes that this refers to William Brown & Co. timber merchants of Ipswich. The corrugated asbestos cladding is, presumably, attached to a timber frame.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Browns of Ipswich sign, Alderton2020 image

The Friars Head, Friars Road
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Friars Head 1 JBO   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Friars Head 2 JBO
On the corner of Friars Street and the now-disappeared Friars Road (at 33 Friars Road) is the quite smart frontage of a public house:
in raised red capitals against a sky blue background on the curving first storey area above the corner entrance (note, no possessive apostrophe) with, above the ground floor windows on each elevation:
so the sign post-dates the amalgamation of the Tollemache and Cobbold's breweries in 1957 to make Tolly Cobbold. The pub closed in 1972 and it looks by the whitewashed windows that this photograph dates from that time. The Willis building was built on this site, constructed between 1970 and 1975.
In the view down Friars Street, opposite The Friars Head is Queensway Warehouses featuring carpets and bedroom furniture. The one feature in the above left photograph which can still be found, quite dominant in Friars Street, is the stripy brick and glass block known as Giles Place (shown below, photographed from outside Willis). Today this connects with the rear of Century House in Princes Street and runs up to Coytes Gardens (see that page for its relationship to this old, limestone sett street).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Giles PlaceGiles Place, 2017 image
[UPDATE 3.7.2023: 'A comment about Grimwade Ridley & Co, in Friars St. There were two buildings which sat on opposite sides of the road. The building on the left of the picture (Queensway Warehouses) was originally one of the Grimwade Ridley buildings prior to being sold to Queensway in the late 1960s. The building shown below was the one I remember, which I thought was behind the Friars Head pub. David Howlett. Thanks to David for the contribution – and that below.]

Grimwade Ridley & Company Ltd.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Ridley JBO
The tablet at the top of the building reads:
Grimwade Ridley & Co. Ltd. were wholesale druggists; their salerooms and offices were in Princes Street, opposite The Friars Head; they were demolished and replaced by the Willis building in modern times. However, the building shown above – a warehouse? – doesn't match other views we have seen. We wonder where this was situated. Grimwade Ridley & Co. (Ipswich) Limited was registered on Saturday December 7 1929 but was dissolved post-1988.
"The long talked-of Swimming Baths for St. Clements [Ipswich] have at last been commenced at a cost of 3,468.   Messrs. Parkington and Son of St. Margaret’s Works have demolished the premises once owned by Grimwade, Ridley & Co …The pool is to be 70ft. long with six slipper baths on either side.  When finished, it will be a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood." (Ipswich Journal February 25 1895) This reference to the buildings which stood where Fore Street Baths now stands may explain the above image, although they could, of course, have had more than one place of business. Significantly, this building bears an 'Acquired for clients' estate agent's board, suggesting that demolition was imminent.
[UPDATE 8.1.2014: 'As for the Grimwade Ridley building, you were nearly right. It actually stood just behind the Friars Head, the rear elevation of which is just visible to the right-hand side of the picture. John Bulow-Osborne']
[UPDATE: 15.4.2018: 'Re: the picture of Grimwade & Ridley on the website: this letter head from the 30's gives addresses of various of the Grimwade warehouses, Turret Works, Princes St, Friars St,  Quadling St. Kate Chenneour.' Many thanks to Kate for spotting this intriguing letter (full transcript below).]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Ridley letter1939 letter
“Please address all communications to the company at Princes Street.
Telephone: Nos. 3769 / 3760 } two lines
Telegrams: “Grimwade, Ipswich.”

Registered Office: 47, Princes Street
Food and Drug Factory: Turret Works.
Princes Street.
Friars Street.
Quadling Street.

Grimwade, Ridley & Co. (ipswich) Ltd.
Directors: A.P. Ridley, G.P. Ridley, A. Grigson.
Wholesale Grocers, Drysalters and Druggists.
Paint, Oil, Colour and Glass Merchants.
Established over 100 years.

Manufacturers of quality [GR] products highest grade packed foods and drugs.

24th July 1939

The Ipswich Water Works,

Dear Sirs,
With reference to your Quarterly Account, we notice that you are charging for Friars Street Factory nearly double the last quarter, working out at the rate of about 2000 Gallons per day. We are quite convinced that we are not using anything like this quantity of water and shall be glad, therefore, if you will kindly investigate.
Yours truly,
A.P. Ridley Director.”

“In the event of a reply being necessary please detach at perforation and attach to letter. … A.P.R.”

Before Willis
John's photographs of this part of Ipswich prompts us to look at the area before the Greyfriars development and before the Willis, Faber & Dumas building swallowed a fair bite of the town.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Willis map1902  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Willis map 2c.1973
Above left: Here we are in 1902: a very different street pattern to the twenty-first century's Civic Drive, ex-Greyfriars blocks (built 1964-66) and, of course, the Willis building (built 1975). This area has been the focus for many changes over centuries. The red line indicates the proposed footprint of the Norman Foster/Michael Hopkins smoked glass Willis offices. In the end, some housing on the north of Cromwell Street (now called Cromwell Square) was saved and the 'Unitn. Chap.' (the Unitarian Meeting House, Listed Grade I) was not so hemmed in. Above right: the map fragment shows the initially planned footprint of the Willis building superimposed on the post-Greyfriars street layout.

One or two interesting features can be spotted:-
See our Civic Drive page for a fuller view of the 1902 road layout with modern streets overlaid.
See our Museum Street page for 1778 and 1902 comparative maps including this location.
See our 'Ipswich Tomorrow' page for more about the Greyfriars and Willis developments and the Greyfriars timeline.

After Willis

This birds eye view of the Willis building (centre) before the Greyfriars roundabout was removed in 2013 as part of the Travel Ipswich project shows the grass-covered roof of the glass-clad building. The double roof of the Unitarian Meeting House can be seen directly to the east of it with the three remaining Cromwell Street (now Cromwell Square, a car park) houses below that.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Willis building, IpswichThe Willis building today
See also our Willis monolith page for the obelisk which marks 800 years of Ipswich history.

John also send these two views of the island of buildings west of Friars Road and The Friars Head pub.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Friars Rd 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Friars Rd 2
John writes: 'Behind the "Half-Timbered" building are the premises of the Walpamur paints company. I might be correct in stating that Brian Jepson had a hand in its design.' The photographs must have been taken, looking south, from the original Friars Street, the route of which was changed during the Willis development, but still exists. The street nameplate on that mock Tudor, but rather handsome (with carved cornerpost), building reads 'Friars Road'. Next is the Ipswich Tool Supply Co. The British Lion Hotel would be to the right of these views.
In the background are the Greyfriars blocks including the logo of the Midland Bank (later swallowed by HSBC) branch on the low-rise building. All of these buildings in the foreground were swallowed by the Willis development about ten years later.

See also our Collage of lost signs and The Ipswich Society's Flickr-based slide collection of vintage Ipswich views (see Links).

Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
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