'Egertons (Ipswich) Ltd' & The Halberd Inn

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons2013 images
Above: the Egertons sign photographed from Tower Ramparts, alongside The Halberd Inn (which features further down this page), now called P.J. McGinty's & Sons. This sign is on the back wall of the former Yates' public house, and is one of the most familiar (and redundant) signs to Ipswichians.
[UPDATE 2009: remarkably, this public house is now called The Robert Ransome in memory of one of the town's most famous industrialists, the building, once housing Barnes Furnishing, which moved here from Upper Orwell Street, has been refurbished and is owned by Wetherspoons as is the nearby Cricketers.]

BP                         100 YDS
This somewhat enigmatic sign promises something 100 yards away on Crown Street, without saying quite where. Presumably Egertons (Ipswich) Ltd, their sign sponsored by British Petroleum, knew that passers-by would find them if they'd got that far. The premises referred to once stood on the site further down Crown Street on the right, past The Cricketers Hotel (once The Town House, a 'Tolly Folly' designed by architect John Shewell Corder (see also his work on Scarborow), and built by Marriott's in the 19th century to emulate the architectural style of Helmingham Hall, fact fans!) on the site of the current Crown Pools.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons, Crown Street
The above 1962 photograph shows the extensive Egerton's showrooms and works on the right of Crown Street, Electric House straight ahead with the chimney and corsetry works of Footman Pretty behind, with open car parking occupying the present site of Tower Ramparts bus station.
[UPDATE 15.3.2015: "I refer to the photographs on your page in which you show Tower Ramparts car park with Electric House and a Large Building on the right hand side as being Mann Egerton. This is incorrect; the building is Egertons Ipswich Ltd. Which was built, I believe, by my Grandfather, Justin Reginald Egerton (Reggie). My Father, Justin C. Egerton, was a director until his death. My Grandfather sold the business to the Lex Group in the early 60s, just before my father's death. Regards, Charles W. Egerton." Many thanks to Charles for pointing out this loose use of company language ("Egertons" / "Mann Egertons" – now corrected; it is always good to hear from a descendant of one of the well-known Ipswich names. See also the Shortis shop sign in Woodbridge Road.]
[UPDATE 21.12.2013: John Bulow-Osborne writes: "I arrived just too late to snap Egertons Garage because, as you will note, the lettering had already been removed by the demolition contractors. Which fact may render the photos unsuitable for your purposes.
To judge from the vehicles to be seen, (all but one is British!), I would put the date around the late seventies. You will be aware that a market occupied the site for some time prior to the construction of the Crown Pools." Thanks to John for these excellent images of a building which radically altered the townscape here from that we know today.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons, pre-demolition 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons, pre-demolition 2Courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
The lettering removed from the long blue strip above first floor level reads:
Above right: 'BP SERVICE' is still visible on the angled corner, next to building's neighbour: the 'Tolly Folly' which bears its original name 'The Cricketers Hotel' (soon to be renamed 'The Town House' once Egertons was demolished. What strikes us is the scale of this three-storey, cream-white structure. The build up to the pavement would only emphasize the dramatic gap left in the townscape once it was demolished.
See also our Lloyds Avenue page for a different view of the big Mann Egerton works on Crown Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons, pre-demolition 3
[UPDATE 2.10.2021: Following one of Borin's talks at The Felixstowe Society, Peter Finbow got in touch to say that, having been born and brought up in Ipswich, he has a recollection that the 'Egertons - BP – 100yds' sign shown above referred specifically to a small petrol filling station within the large Egerton's works in Crown Street. The close-up of the above photograph shows The Cricketers public house on the right with William Street (now a pedestrian walkway to a car park) running off Crown Street. On the opposite corner is the easternmost part of Egerton's works with a tight drive-through behind the pillars at ground level. He believes that this small petrol outlet was the destination referred to as 'BP – 100yds' on the rear of the Yates building, although it was accross the street for drivers heading west on Crown Street. The sign above the 45-degree section reads 'BP SERVICE'; also the pillar/support to the right of the lamp-post carries vertical marks below the blue-painted board. The above rather grainy monochrome photograph from 1962 clearly shows the projecting, illuminated 'BP' sign in this position.
Thanks to Peter for this memory; he used to ride past this area as a Post Office telegram motorcycle delivery boy – younger readers might need to look up the word 'telegram'. Incidentally, while the building awaits destruction, there are still two or three cars parked within and a figure or two, plus the 'No parking' sign on the ground at the exit to the right.

A similar deco Egertons structure occupied the triangular site at the junction of St Margaret's Street and Woodbridge Road (
Major's Corner – see Street name derivations) until the 1980s, with a ramp for vehicles from Woodbridge Road running up to the upper level, parts department, service centre and showrooms. Situated on the north side of Major’s Corner was Botwood’s Garage, built in 1923, on the site of Major’s House and the adjacent Admiral’s Head pub. Botwood’s were carriage builders during the second half of the 19th Century and amalgamated with Mann Egerton in 1910. The Majors Corner building was partially demolished to make way for the now-redundant Odeon Cinema (1991-2005); the remainder facing Woodbridge Road had been used as a furniture shop and car dealership but is now demolished to make more parking space between the cinema and the Regent. They also traded in agricultural machinery from Princes Street, near the Greyfriars roundabout and had a lawnmower dealership on one of the newer industrial estates. However, the 'Motor Works' lettering (bottom of this page) confirmed that the company once occupied the old Assembly Rooms in Northgate Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons2012 images
The view is of the top of Northgate Street, including part of the former Halberd pub (see below). Egertons, the motor engineers and vehicle dealers have a long history in the town and have occupied several locations that we know of.  It is noticeable from the close-up (and presumably before the rooftop fire escape was installed) that a much earlier and larger lettered name 'Egertons.' - the initial  'E'  and final 'S' complete with full stop - was painted onto a dark ground. A tribute to the signwriter's ability to work with large letterforms and character-spacing in a lofty location. Just across the road is the Bethesda Church.

Mann Egertons - period photoThe Botwood & Egerton Motor Garage, Carr Street in 1908
To find the source of the Egertons company name, we need to start with William Botwood's carriage making works in Woodbridge Road (between Kirby Street and Milton Street) established in 1870. In 1882 showrooms were opened in St Matthews Street. Botwood died in 1896 and the business was caried on by two sons, Samuel Ernest and William Thomas, who a few years later were joined by a pioneering motorist, Reginald Egerton. Until 1910 the motor car manufacturers Botwood & Egerton ran alongside the carriage-making firm until Egerton left to set up his own business in Northgate (Street) next to the Great White Horse Hotel (see photographs at the foot of this page). The Botwood company became Botwoods Ltd  and in the 1920s the Botwood shares were acquired by Mann, Egerton & Co. of Norwich who had by then expanded to the town end of Woodbridge Road/Majors Corner. [Source: R. Malster: Wharncliffe companion to Ipswich in the Reading List]

[UPDATE 19.1.2014: Tony Wooderson sends this monochrome image of the Egertons sign.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons Wooderson
Photo courtesy Tony Wooderson /Crafted Images (UK)

1930s view
Below: part of a 1930s monochrome view of that Egertons wall - the roof of which appears to have been extended upwards since that time -
THE GARAGE (pointing hand)'
One interesting feature is that the present cream rectangle containing the 'BP' sign almost wholly covers the earlier black rectangle which drops down from the company name and bears the tiny, almost-vertical 'THE', the word 'GARAGE' and the pointing hand.

The upper part of the frontage
of the Halberd onto Northgate Sreet was very different then. The early drop-shadow lettering painted onto the brickwork to the left is also of interest probably reading: 'THE HALBERD INN. [?] STABLES. COBBOLD's FINEST ALES & STOUTS.' ('The Smoke Room' is signed, stables behind are visible, as well as The Oddfellows Hall with its wordy sign):
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Halberd Inn 1930s
The Suffolk CAMRA site (see Links) tells us that the Halberd (sometimes also The Halbert) was open by 1755 when the Ipswich Journal described it as 'the Publick House adjoining to St Margaret's Bar-Gates' i.e. the Northgate. The building is thought to date from the 16th century, so the hostelry may be much older. A halberd is a combination of spear and axe with a shaft about two metres long. Halberdiers were body guards to Tudor monarchs and they are still used ceremonially by the Yeoman of the Guard.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons2016 image
Above: the sign as seen from the yard of The Halberd Inn (as we archaicly like to think of it.)
[UPDATE 16.11.2022: the building bearing this sign turns out to have been a showroom of Egertons, later Collins Carpets, Barnes of Ipswich (after they moved from Upper Orwell Street), Yates Wine Lodge (twice) and Wetherspoon's The Robert Ransome. The upper floors of the building were used during the Second World War for the organisation of the distribution of petrol, mainly to the RAF bases across Suffolk but also in the allocation of petrol coupons to doctors and other professionals. This went on for some years after the end of the war. Trolleybuses like the one shown below on a snowy day on Tower Ramparts ran in Ipswich from 1923 to 1963. At the date of the photograph, perhaps early 1950s, the building lacks the pediment with clock which was added when Yates took on the lease for the first time.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons, Tower Street1950s image from Tower Ramparts

See our page on Public clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the front of the building ('Yates') and its clock.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons ad 19321932 advertisement
Above: Egertons of Ipswich show off their long Crown Street Works in the photograph (open until 11pm nightly). However, the main address given is 'Northgate, Ipswich', with the Northgate Works (shown below, 3-5 Northgate Street) 'open all night – ALWAYS', which is a surprise...

The Halberd Inn, 15 Northgate Street
P.J. McGinty & Sons - an Irish theme pub now occupies this old coaching inn, so it is both surprising and refreshing that the original lettering:
(much better name, being the weapon hybridising the battle axe and the pikestaff) which stands in sans serif caps projecting in relief against the whitewashed wall between first and second storeys facing the mouth of Old Foundry Road has been left. The letterforms are similar to the 'TOLLY COBBOLD' relief lettering seen on old pub buildings (for example, The Emperor). Not only that, but the (apparently misleading) pub name has been nicely picked out in racing car green. See also Manning's for similar lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd Inn   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd 20132012 images
The building is thought to date from the 17th century, though it was re-fronted around the turn of the 19th century and again in 1923 by which date the stabling was still in demand by local traders who wanted to keep their horses and wagons close to the town centre. It is said that the cellar contains a bricked-up entrance to a maze of tunnels. It was common to site inns near town gates and the Halberd was just outside the North Gate - which gave the street its name - on the far side of Tower Ditches (the rampart running along Tower Ramparts and the line of Old Foundry Road). The Suffolk CAMRA site provides a list of many of the landlords of the inn (see Links, also on that page see our Reading List - James, T.: 'Ipswich inns, taverns and pubs').
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd Inn 2013b
One quirk of the lettering applied to the building by McGinty's is:
'Wines . Groceries . Spirits'
seen above the window facing St Margarets Plain. Is this an idle, 'olde worldy' usage, or could we purchase butter, fire-lighters and sausages from the bar?
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd groceries2016 image
The Halberd Inn (standing on the site of the North Gate to the town) and Bethesda lettering photographed in 2016:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd 20162016 image
It is said that the remains of the old North Gate to the medieval town were incorporated into the cellars of the Halberd Inn; we've heard that these traces can still be seen there.
See also the Pubs & Off-licences page and the Tolly Cobbold House & Brewery pages.

[UPDATE February 2019: The Halberd has finally reverted to the pub name emblazoned on its east wall (from P.J. McGinty's). Photographs below show a particular taste for goth black in the exterior decor, also more than one pub sign.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd 2019   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Halberd 20192019 images

The chequered history of The Assembly Rooms, 3-5 Northgate Street
The photograph below is taken from St Mary le Tower churchyard – a very important site for gatherings and meetings of Ipswich Portmen and townspeople for centuries – of the rear of the building more recently occupied variously by the Chicago Rock Cafe and other nightspots (fronting Northgate Street). The church butresses and porch with lamp are visible to the left. The building has an attractive frontage and was for a time home to a girls school among other things and for many years the stationers' shop Mortem. The vestiges of the lettering on this less attractive elevation of the building:
 'E G E R T O N S'
  are visible in the close-up, below, in faint outline only in the centre. This is the site of Reginald Egerton's first motor car works. A 1960s photograph of the front of the building, when it was Sketchley's, appears on our Introduction page...
  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons churchyard
... but here's a close-up from 1890. Looking rather more Classical than the building known to so many residents 100 years later as Mortem stationers and furnishers (which business later shrunk and moved to Buttermarket, occupying the shop later to become 'Past Times'), this is the original Assembly Rooms. At some point the frontage was altered and another storey added. It was later a School of Art, Ipswich High School for girls (which moved to Westerfield Road, then to Wolverstone Hall), Egertons motor works, Sketchley's the dry cleaner, Mortem's shop and the Chicago Rock Cafe and other night clubs. The view below left is from the jaws of Great Colman Street which was built in the 1820s on the gardens of the Tudor residence, Harbottle House. (There is a blue plaque dedicated to John Harbottle, wealthy merchant and rebellion leader, in Northgate Street.)
Mann Egertons - period 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Oak House period
The old postcard of Oak House (above right), also shows a vehicle (1930s/40s, perhaps) and to the left what must be part of Egertons motor works with, behind the street lamp, a petrol pump?

[UPDATE 10.1.2013: We just noticed the ghostly shapes of letters (perhaps more than one set) high up on the brickwork of this building (3-5 Northgate Street). What did they spell?

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons 22013 images
Given the choice from the list of occupants (above): Assembly Rooms, School of Art, Ipswich High School, Egertons, Mortem,  Chicago Rock Café etc. it is still unclear – see below.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons 3

[UPDATE 12.1.2013: John Norman, Chair of The Ipswich Society, sent this fine image (possibly late 70s/early 80s) of the same view as the monochrome 1960s photograph and it clearly shows the remnants of the Egertons tenure of this building:

which solves the mystery of the ghostly shapes still visible, despite brick cleaning at a later date. Two memorable shop names from this period can be seen: Mortem stationers and Everybody's Hobbies toys, games and crafts to the right, both long gone. The spire of St Mary Le Tower rises in the background.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Egertons 4Courtesy The Ipswich Society

See the 1778 map of the area on our Bethesda page.

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