Fred Smith & Co
38 Princes Street
This fine facade, replete with relief lettering above a
shop and coaching
entrance was built in the early twentieth century. It was still trading
as a garden supplies shop into the early eighties. It has since
been used as offices and was in 2008 joined by an in-fill building
to the left. A fortunate
of the extensive demolitions in this part of the town (Greyfriars and
Drive are nearby), it was one of several livery stables in the town
The Old West End Posting Establishment (scroll down for a definition).
A branch of the Co-op stood to the left of the Fred
Smith building until the late 1960s(?). Short of demolition, there is
very little that could be
done to remove or disguise this fine proclamation of a tradesman
LIVERY & BAIT STABLES
FRED SMITH &
A sunny day provides a striking reflection of the
Livery and Bait Stables
in the smoked glass of the Willis building opposite. This Norman Foster
designed landmark was built between 1971 and 1975 and contains a
swimming pool, roof garden and is itself
a listed building. Formerly 'Willis-Faber & Dumas' and
Bettley/Pevsner (see Reading
list) describe Fred Smith & Co. as "a curiosity by Brown &
Above right: A
period photograph, perhaps in the 1950s?,
the Suffolk Seed Stores Ltd: the coaching entrance has been
in to create a trading area, subsequently opened up for parking at the
rear. See the Woodbridge
page for more 'Suffolk Seed Stores' lettering. Below: the view in July 1983
showing the rake of shops opposite the Willis building.
courtesy The Ipswich Society (see Links)
Above: in the early morning
sun coming over the Willis building opposite. Below: the reflection in the Norman Foster/ Michael Hopkins-designed Willis
building's smoked glass wall.
The puzzling nomenclature
Livery stable; livery yard: a
stable where horses are kept at
livery or let out for hire.
At livery (of a horse): kept
for the owner and fed and cared for at a fixed charge.
Bait: (Middle English) from Old
Norse beit ‘pasture, food’, beita ‘to hunt or chase’.
A 'livery and bait stable' is a place where you would stable your
horses (and perhaps get a meal yourself). A livery and bait stable
would have had horses for hire, as
well as stabling and feeding client's horses - hence the need for both
The view of the Fred Smith & Co. building from the roof garden of
Willis on Heritage Open Day 2015 shows its relative shallowness and the
modern building behind; gardens of council houses in Curriers Lane are
in the background. For further views from this vantage point see our Princes
2016 image courtesy Graham Smith
Above: Graham Smith, to whom our thanks, sends this fine view of the
Livery & Bait Stables lettering in the morning sun on Heritage Open
Day, September 2016.
Fred Smith, 38 Princes Street research
Trawling through Stevens and Kelly’s Directories reveals the,
perhaps, surprising fact that Fred Smith operated his business here
only from 1903 to 1919. The trade listing reads ‘Smith, Fred & Co
seed merchants’. Interestingly, during those 16 years there is no
mention of ‘The Central Livery & Bait Stables’, as shown on the
well-known facade. Suffolk Seed Stores operated from this address from
1920 – see the 1950s(?) monochrome photograph above..
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Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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