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 (intermittently) been used as offices and was in 2008 joined by an in-fill building to the left. A fortunate survivor of the extensive demolitions in this part of the town (Greyfriars and Civic Drive are nearby), it was one of several livery stables in the town including The Old West End Posting Establishment (scroll down for a definition).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 12000 images
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 setting out his stall:

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 now a listed building. Formerly 'Willis-Faber & Dumas' and 'Willis-Coroon'.
Bettley/Pevsner (see Reading list) describe Fred Smith & Co. as "a curiosity by Brown & Burgess, 1898".
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith period
Above right: A period photograph, perhaps in the 1950s?, shows the Suffolk Seed Stores Ltd: the coaching entrance has been closed 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith period 2Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society (see Links)

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 32013 images
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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 4
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 terms.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 52015 images
From above
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 Street page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Fred Smith 20162016 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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