Off licences

Off licences, the traditional 'corner shops' which served the local community with groceries and sold alcohol as a side-line, have reflected the dominance of a local brewer and distributor in the town. Just as in Southwold, where the major force is Adnams, so Ipswich has been until recent years been dominated by Tolly Cobbold. Cobbold's The Cliff Quay Brewery has had a chequered history and was still brewing in a limited way (also offering brewery museum tours) until 2002. Tolly themselves had a poor reputation in the fifties and sixties and during the clearances of impoverished housing in the town – notably around Civic Drive – many parlour-type ale-houses were demolished. Some say this was no loss to the town...

Suffolk Road Stores, 32a Suffolk Road (corner with Tuddenham Avenue)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd Stores2001 image
Certain corner shops and pubs still carry the Tolly stamp.
(above in 2001) in brown lettering and rectangular border against white faces Tuddenham Avenue; its counterpart cartouche facing Suffolk Road features:
The all-over whitening of the brickwork and distinct pointing encourages the eye to believe that this is a wall sign in ceramic tiling. The host of hand-painted and home-made signs below only highlight the formality of the Tolly signs above.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd Stores 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd Stores 12014 images
By 2014 the shop is no more (although a central sign is still in place), converted into a dwelling. Fortunately the corner Tolly signs have been left. The white and cream painted brickwork bore the Tolly sign for years until the walls were repointed causing a 'crazed' look to the sign.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd Stores 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd Stores4
While we're here let's include the former Samuel F. Shanks' bakery and shop (possibly a former sub-Post Office by the look of it?) nearby at 7 Tuddenham Avenue:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: S. Shanks 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: S. Shanks 2
The Tuddenham Avenue bakery was opened in 1945 by Samuel Shanks and continued by his sons, Grenville and Rodney. Branches were opened in Queensway, St Johns Road, Norwich Road, Bramford Lane, Penshurst Road, and in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe. This bakery finally closed in April 2004, but the yellow-gold lettering still stands proud of the side wall in 2014. See our Wherstead red brick page for an 1883 map of the brickyard which once stood on this site.

Prospect House, 38b Christchurch Street (rear: visible from Cemetery Road)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Prospect House 20012001 image
Above is a lost piece of Tolly lettering which someone has sought to obliterate with whitewash (now washing down the wall).


executed long before the drainage pipe at top left was installed, was clearly a rear advertisement for a long-disappeared grocer at the corner of Cemetery Road, fronting Christchurch Street. The dark capitals could have been placed on a white rectangle, then overpainted in pale blue, or it might have been that the colours were the other way around.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Prospect House 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Prospect House 22014 images
Above: the view in 2014 from Cemetery Road; the sign from a sloping ramp behind the three storied building.
Below: the former corner shop at 38 Christchurch Street which has the 'Prospect House' sign on its back wall (Cemetery Road on this photograph goes off ot the right).
This former shop is just opposite Santiago Villas.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Prospect House 3

Tolly Cobbold lettering remains intact (albeit often painted the same colour as the surrounding brickwork) on The Emperor in Norwich Road, the Ferry Boat Inn in Old Felixstowe, the Rampant Horse and The Bull former pub in Needham Market, and the Shoulder of Mutton former pub in Hadleigh. Vestigial Cobbold lettering can be seen on
The Globe and The Rose Hotel in Ipswich.

Peatling & Cawdron, 238 Bramford Road
The letterer's art is nowhere so well demonstrated as in the example of the former off licence 238 Bramford Road,
at the corner with Richmond Road. Once Peatling and Cawdron, later Victoria Wine, this business in 2010 was a grocery corner-shop.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wines Bottled 12012 images
The front gable spanning both the shop front and the house next door has been sympathetically retouched in white, we think, but the blue-grey drop shadow has been left untouched.
Ipswich Historic Lettering, Wines Bottled 2...  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wines Bottled 3 
The whole shaping of brickwork, roof and moulded frame seem to have been designed for the lettering high above the street level:
A tricky navigation of the apex of the upper triangle by the word 'Wines', having the 'N' as its fulcrum (the word followed by a large comma), is shadowed by the centralised curving word 'Bottled' above a delightful 'And' featuring long elliptical tales from the 'N'.
See also the Pubs & Off-licences page and the Tolly Cobbold House & Brewery pages.

Nacton Road beerhouse (off-licence)

[UPDATE 18.12.2018: 'I only just discovered your site and I thought this might be of interest to you. Just about visible behind years of paintwork on this former beerhouse is the legend "Cobbold". It's in the panel between the two windows on the top floor of this hair salon, on the corner of Nacton Road and Levington Road. Nice and handy for Cliff Brewery, though as it would undoubtedly have been serviced by horse-drawn drays, the poor nags were probably knackered by the time they'd lumbered up Cliff Lane, even with a stop halfway at the Margaret Catchpole (also then owned by Catchpole's).
I've been through the licensing books at the Record Office and as far as I can make out, this was most likely an off-sales only beerhouse. I haven't found a definite closure date, but it appears to still have been open in 1941 but was certainly closed by 1961. My best guess is that the beerhouse was no more by the time the two breweries amalgamated; if not it seems to have gone quite soon afterwards (maybe "rationalisation"?). Cheers, Tony Green [of the Suffolk CAMRA website, see Links].' Well-spotted, Tony.]
Ipswich HIstoric Lettering: Nacton Road beerhouse 12018 photographs courtesy Tony Green
Below is the detail of the central frame/cartouche at first floor level: 'COBBOLDS' is just readable in the right light conditions, picked out by the roughly-filled recessed characters of the original sign. The word sits towards the bottom of the frame.
Ipswich HIstoric Lettering: Nacton Road beerhouse 2
[UPDATE 21.2.2023: 'As far as I have been able to ascertain from research in the Records Office, this was only ever an off-sales beerhouse, not one where it was possible to stop for a few beers. It seems to have closed about 1933, so sadly I was 61 years too late moving into my house in Levington Road... Tony Green. Tony also sent a much better view of the lettering for which our thanks.]
Ipswich HIstoric Lettering: Nacton Road beerhouse 32023 image
Cobbold's brewery ran the Cliff Quay Brewery until 1958, when the company merged with their brewing competitor, Tollemache (which brewed at the Staem Brewery behind the Coach & Horses, Upper Brook Street, see our Old Cattle Market page under 'Mansions in Ipswich: 1. The Duke of Suffolk') to become the portmanteau name 'Tolly Cobbold'. We were tipped off some years ago about this building as a former off-licence. Our source, a born-and-bred Ipswichian, said that there was once a painted ‘Tolly Cobbold’ sign (or similar) in the back yard. We couldn't get near it and eventually wrote to the hairdressing business to enquire, with no result. What we failed to do was cross the busy road and observe the frame/cartouche at the upper storey.

The plural ‘COBBOLDS’ – without the possessive apostrophe – compares with the ghost sign on the Rose Hotel which reads “COBBOLD'S ALES & SPIRITS” (as also on The Globe); there is no space for any other lettering below in this example. Perhaps there was once something above, such as 'OFF LICENCE'. We believe that this was an off-licence only, given the position and character of the shop-front. We can imagine it did a good trade here at 243 Nacton Road, on/near the junctions of Levington Road, Clapgate Lane and Cliff Lane. Thanks to Tony for finding this.

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