Norwich Road, Old Norwich Road
The Emperor: a unique survivor in Ipswich!
293 Norwich Road

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor (old)

A mile or so up Norwich Road from the Rose and Crown Brewery, we find the vestige of another era of brewing in the town: 'Tolly Cobbold', one word on each side of The Emperor' public house.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor Tolly Cobbold
The pub sign depicts Napoleon, once the most feared and hated enemy of the British, who gives his self-proclaimed title to the hostelry; it is a name in use for some time, too as you can see the original embossed letter 'E' to the left of the central modern maroon/brown sign, and the side of the last 'R' to the right (see previous names below). Judging by the spacing, at first we thought that there might be 'Tolly Cobbold' or 'Ales & Stout' lettering below the name [see UPDATE April 2010 below]. It's likely that a pub called 'The Napoleon' would have beeen far less popular with patrons. The use of theatres of war and names of warriors in road and pub names is not unknown: down Norwich Road towards the town is the Inkerman public house. Inkerman, fought on 5th November 1854, was the principal land battle of the Crimean War of 1854-56. This war was fought against Russia by an alliance consisting of Britain, France and Turkey and its object was to prevent Russia from seizing Turkey.
Ipswich Historic Website: Emperor unveiled
[UPDATE April 2010: For a brief day or two, during repainting, the Emperor was devoid of its sign board and the original lettering revealed:
The lettering is once again covered now.]

This public house has been part of Ipswich history since 1843, earlier called variously The Maypole and The Rose & Crown. We know of no other public house in Ipswich which retains on its frontage its name in integral relief capitals along with the name of the one time brewer-owners: 'Tolly Cobbold' (who merged in 1957), let alone one that in 2012 was still (just about) trading as a pub.
Similar 'Tolly Cobbold' lettering can be found at Felixstowe Ferry and Needham Market.

[UPDATE 8.12.2012: "Hello Borin, I am writing on behalf of Friends of the Emperor to let you know that unfortunately it seems almost sealed that the Emperor is going to converted into a Tesco Extra! We have been campaigning to save it as a community pub, but Punch Taverns have confirmed they're only talking to an agent acting on behalf of a supermarket. We are expecting it to close in February or March, though of course it may be sooner.
Thankyou for helping to preserve a little bit of local history, Rebecca Moss" Very sorry to hear it. See also The Golden Key, in a similar plight.]

[UPDATE 8.10.2013: the sad state of this Edwardian public house (below) with its lettering just about intact. Thankyou Tesco, g'night!]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor demolition 12013 images
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor demolition 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor demolition 3
See also the Pubs & Off-licences page and the Tolly Cobbold House & Brewery pages.
[UPDATE 20.12.2013: Well, we think that we might have secured a small victory here, given the damage seemingly about to be wreaked on the lettering as shown above. The original architect drawings for the change to a shop showed this Edwardian public house with the street elevation radically changed, all lettering lost. However, the details below show that not only 'TOLLY' and 'COBBOLD' survive (yay!) but that the Tesco Express sign appears to have been fitted over 'THE EMPEROR INN' lettering in the centre. We do hope so.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor 9
It would have been so easy for the once all-powerful grocer to wreck the frontage of The Emperor, so we must take some comfort from that.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor 10   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Emperor 11December 2013 images

The Ferodo sign on Norwich Road railway bridge.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ferodo bridge 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ferodo bridge 2 
Recognised for decades by travellers up and down Norwich Road is the painted lettering in huge trademark font on the railway bridge:
the motor tyre manufacturer who also made the products proclaimed on the bridge's parapet in smaller lettering:
which is readable more from the Ipswich side of the bridge (upper pictures) and almost weathered away on the Norwich side (lower pictures). The smaller signs on each side which show a chequerboard below and curved top display: 'Formula Two-Four'. Symptomatic of our strange culture of over-signing the public highways is the difficulty in photographing the whole of 'Ferodo' from the right angle to see all (most) of it, the main obscuring clutter being the triangular height restriction signs. All we had to do was wait until a train passed over the bridge for that multi-infrastructural effect ... talking of which:-
Norwich Road bridge c.1900
This postcard predates the Ferodo advertising (around the turn of the century) and shows a very different (almost) centralised lettering of an official tone:

'Passengers are requested to keep their seats while the car is passing under the bridge.'

The people of Ipswich had never ridden so high above the roads before and, given that the pale rectangular sign giving the destination and route number at the front of the tram seems higher than a man's head, perhaps they were being rather over-cautious. The absence of any housing to the right of the road on the Norwich side of the bridge illustrates the early date; this area is now occupied by the Crofts and the right turn into Ashcroft Road is at the point occupied by the cart stands in the middle of the road, just visible in the picture). The tram company stopped their vehicle in an appropriate spot for this promotional picture, the camera operator set up his tripod, wet plate camera and cloth and awaited a train crossing the bridge for the full effect.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Norwich Road BridgePhotograph courtesy Dave Riseborough
Above: in digital camera fettle, the Norwich Road bridge by Dave Riseborough, reproducing (by happy chance) in January 2010 the same configuration of train and bus as the c.1900 photograph above it. Hats off to him.

Incidentally, David Kindred's Flickr collection of vintage images (see Links) shows this bridge in a different guise. The caption reads:
'Maintenance staff inspecting damage to the rail bridge on Norwich Road, Ipswich in the 1950s. The bridge had been hit by steel loaded on a lorry.'
painted boldly on the parapet is: ''The SAFEST BRAKES in the WORLD'
and underneath on the main body of the bridge: 'HYDRAULIC   LOCKHEED   BRAKES'
the 'Lockheed' in branded logo - white caps with drop shadow. (On a British Railways poster under the bridge an advertisement for rail travel to 'London: 9/6' (nine shillings and sixpence; nearly ten bob was a lot of money in those days!).

See more about the Ferodo brand and several other Ferodo bridges around the country on Ed Broom's site on the Links page.
More can be found about railway bridges, railway pubs and club in Croft Street and the railway as it skirts Bourne Park.

Vestige of Whitton Crown
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Norwich Road Whitton Crown sign2023 image courtesy Dominic Zagni
'I have attached a photo of the substation on Old Norwich Road. It's a plaque on the wall that caught my eye mentioning the long gone Whitton Crown which was across the road. Dominic Zagni.' Many thanks to the eagle-eyed Dominic recalling a public house of which many will not have heard. Dominic is descended from the Zagni family, famous in Ipswich for founding Peter's Ice Cream.. See that page for more information and a family portrait]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Whitton CrownImage from the book
Ipswich lost inns, taverns and public houses by David Kindred see Reading list
Above: the Whitton Crown public house around the time of closure in 1992. It stood on the west side of the 'original' Norwich Road which ran past The Maypole public house and between fields to Claydon village. The building/expansion of the A14 (formerly the A45) resulted in a new linking road past the football pitches to join the A14 near to the Asda supermarket. On the site of the pub a car dealership was built – opposite where Old Norwich Road joins Norwich Road. The Suffolk CAMRA site has a date of 1817, but the pub may be even earlier.

Old Norwich Road
This road name was invented in the early 1990s when the large 'Ipswich By-pass' was built. The part of Norwich Road which had run between Meredith Road and Claydon village was largely left as a side road with a new link road to the newly-built A14. The current A14 includes parts of the former A45 between Felixstowe and Cambridge, the A604 between Cambridge and Kettering, a short stretch of the former A6 west of Kettering, plus a new link road which was constructed in the early 1990s between there and the M1/M6 interchange at Catthorpe, Leicestershire. It is now a major link for freight from the midlands to Felixstowe Port. The section of the road between Claydon and Ipswich was renamed 'Old Norwich Road' to reflect its lower status. Since that time the Claydon end has become an access road to a few houses and a business park; the only traffic allowed accesss to the whole length of
Old Norwich Road are the buses.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Old Norwich Road street nameplate2022 image
The house immediately to the left of the sign – effectively, the first house in Old Norwich Road – is no. 640. There is a similar vintage street nameplate over the road, mounted on posts. These thin, modern nameplates are showing the distress and fading characteristic of the vintage.

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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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