Wiggin & Son, Chemists

Nick Wiggin writes: "According to letter-heads and advertisements, the business was established in 1840.
John Wiggin was born in Peterborough (where his father was a bank manager and acted as Constable for the city) and came to Ipswich to join Alfred Lambert in his chemist's shop at 34 St Matthews Street.  White's 1844 Directory still lists Alfred Lambert.
His son, also John Wiggin, was a keen scientist experimenting with early photography in the early 1860s, so is considered one of the pioneers in photography (see his photograph below). He was appointed as Gas Analyst for the Ipswich Corporation and Public Analyst for the Eastern District. He made a whole range of over-the-counter medicines and also produced veterinary and agricultural products including his 'Seed wheat protector' (see the advertisement on blue background below).

"His son, John Chinery (b.1862), was involved with a branch shop at 47 St Nicholas Street, recorded there in 1895 and 1902, and also a paint and colour shop on the opposite side of St Matthews.
Revetts in Berners Street, and businesses to the West including the Golden Fleece pub were demolished (1961) and a new parade of shops built by the Borough set back from St. Matthew’s Street.  In 1962 Wiggin & Son moved across Berners Street to the new premises without closing for business.  The old shop, and all buildings to the East including the Rainbow pub at Hyde Park Corner were pulled down, and a roundabout and dual carriageway constructed. [See our Ipswich tomorrow page for a 1968 photograph of this area, taken from close to the rebuilt Wiggin chemist's shop.]
Nick Wiggin joined his father Felix in 1968, and in 1999 sold the business to East Anglian Wholesale Supplies of Norwich (one of our wholesalers).  After reorganisation they resold the chemist to Boots, which closed the shop in 2017 (?)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 51. (All images courtesy Nick Wiggin)
Photograph 1. A Victorian view of the shop on the eastern corner of the Berners Street and St Matthews Street junction (c.1840-1850). Bottles and carboys of coloured liquids,  a selection of products and and a few notices fill the windows and little lettering can be seen.
is the main shop sign in highlit capitals on a sign board on the Berners Street elevation. A projecting gas lamp and large replica pestle-and-mortar are mounted on the corner. The same words appear on the St Matthews Street sunblind. It seems that the main door into the shop is next to the corner, up a couple of steps. The double-doors to the left may or may not have been in use. If the Wiggins lived above the shop at this time, they took the trouble to have a window-box at first floor level.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 5a
Promotional card from 1910. The signwriting below the shop windows: 'OILS PAINTS & COLOURS' 'MEDICINES'. Tight cropping at the right, compared to the main Photograph 1. With the sun-blind retracted, a figure is visible at the doorway.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 22.
Photograph 2. An Edwardian photograph of "Wiggin's Corner" judging by the full-length costume and broad-brimmed hat of the woman passing the shop (left). Electric trams replaced horse-drawn trams in Ipswich in 1903.
To the right of the Town Hall clock tower in the distance is a projecting wall bearing the lettering:

A host of projecting shop signs and lamps lead the eye up to the old ‘QUEEN’S HEAD.’ public house on the corner of (St Matthews) Church Lane. The large letters are in a dark paint with a paler drop-shadow. The jettied first floor of the pub bears the lettering: ‘COBBOLD’S ALES & STOUT’. In the 1960s reshaping of this whole area, a new building of the same name was built some distance to the right on the corner of the dualled St Matthews Street and Civic Drive. In the middle of the entry to the lane is a water pump/drinking fountain.
Wiggin & Son Chemist’s shop hides beneath the projecting sun-blinds on the left.
By this time the entrance door was on the corner, typically at a 45-degree angle to the streets.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 2a1904
Above: from a printed article, a photograph of a trade stand at an Ipswich Camera Club exhibition in November 1904. Main sign: 'WIGGIN & SON PHOTOGRAPHIC CHEMISTS'. A Lantern (projector) would set you back four guineas (about 464 in today's money).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists 1a3.
Photograph 3.
The two girls on the pavement are being passed by a fast-moving gent in a bowler hat. Their clothing suggests a date later than the view above (perhaps 1910 to 1920?). Note the double tramway tracks in St Matthews Street. Berners Street runs off to the left. Fortunately for us, the sunblinds have not been pulled out so the shop windows can be seen.
On window to the right:
A busy window display features ‘CAMWAL Table Waters PURITY GUARANTEED’ (on central band),
two cards concerning ‘WEED KILLER’
Projecting sign: ’STEELE’: W. Steele was the shop next door at no. 32 St Matthews Street.

Over 45-degree door: ‘WIGGIN’.
On the left-hand door: ‘SELTONA’ [photographic paper] and the frosted decoration reading ‘WIGGIN & SON’.

On window on the far left:
Foods’ (twice)
‘Ilford Film’ (twice)
Note the reflection of the ‘REVETT’ lettering on the sunblind over their shop opposite; also a parked bicycle outside Revetts’.
Centrally, a large wordy sign promotes the wares of Wiggin & Son including ‘SCIENTIFIC APPARATUS’.
Interestingly, beneath it is a small POST OFFICE LETTER BOX’, let into the window.
Beneath that, close to the pavement is a sign:
??? MAIL
On the window on the near left:
More central band promotion of Camwal Table Waters: ‘MANUFACTURE CONTROLLED’ and another Weed Killer card.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 3a4.
Photograph 4. "Wiggin's Corner" post-1948 (see 'National Health Insurance' lettering below).
By this date the white brickwork on both elevations has been cleaned and painted with dotted-line frames bearing the following advertisements for the shop:
-& SON-
LIME and
On the far left window (Wiggin & Son are doing well, so have expanded to the next shop in Berners Street):
The National Health Service was launched in Britain 1948, so this photograph presumably post-dates that.
The large wordy sign in the middle of the next window is still present, but the Post Office box has been removed.
The projecting sign above the corner door reads:
The window on the right bears the same lettering on the glass as photograph 2 (above) with the additional sign ‘KODAK FILMS’.
Wiggin & Son were early suppliers of Lanterns and Lantern Slides for home entertainment. See a catalogue leaflet of their products.

Below: a close-up of the shop window of a roughly similar date shows a splendid mash-up of Kodak photography, cosmetics, patent medicines, chemicals, retorts and flasks.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin 3b
Peruvian Bark,
Compound Tincture of Rhubarb,
Compound Syrup of Figs: 10d, 1/- & 2/-,
Purest Medicinal Liquid Paraffin,
“Kodak” Time,

‘Easter Comes But Once a Year
Give a “KODAK”
The Best And Most Appropriate Easter Gift’


Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists 45.
Photograph 5. 1890s to 1900s:  Curson Lodge at the corner of St Nicholas Street and Silent Street – for many old Ipswichians this building was known as ‘Wolsey’s birthplace’ (he was probably born in a building on the site of The Black Horse and his father ran an alehouse across from Curson Lodge, on the site of the later Hippodrome Theatre, where Thomas Wolsey lived as a boy). Note the lettering ‘Wolsey’s House’ at the top of the gable. The most commonly seen photographs of this shop show the lettering ‘WOLSEY PHARMACY’.
On the gable:
['SILENT STREET' street nameplate]
On the St Nicholas Street elevation a signboard reads:
Perhaps Palmer took over the shop and hadn’t yet had the ‘Wiggin’ lettering painted over.

Curson Lodge was the focus of an important restoration/conversion project by Ipswich Building Preservation Trust (see Links) in the late 20th century.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists advertisement 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists advertisement 2a
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists advertisement 3
'The preparation will be found to prevent SMUT, BUNT, RUST and BLIGHT. It protects the seed from ROOKS and other Birds, and from the SLUG, GRUB, and WIREWORM. It is suitable for every description of Seed, and materially improves the yield of the grain and straw; it dissolves easily, and seed dressed with it dries rapidly and is soon is ready for drilling; umlike other so-called "Carbolic" Dressings it does not clog the Drill. Manufactured solely by WIGGIN & SON, Manufacturing Chemists, IPSWICH.'
'FOR BARLEY and OATS WIGGIN'S SEED WHEAT PROTECTOR is also a most valuable dressing, as when used as directed it destroys the fungus spores before sowing. It will be found an effective preventative of "BLINDNESS" in BARLEY without having any bad effect on the seed.'

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists advertisementc.1900?
"We all use Wiggin's Nursery Hair Lotion"
We estimate that this advertisement card dates from around 1900. The children all seem to be singing, or perhaps they're in mid-sentence of the strap-line. The artwork is original (not a print), so hand-made specifically for the Wiggin shop window by a local designer/sign-writer. The rectangular card is shaped around the protruding costumes at right and left. One assumes that the lotion in question is to treat head lice.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists advertisement 41887
Above: advertisement for boys' (definitely not girls!) half-crown 'Chemical Cabinet' (chemistry set), as featured in the East Anglian Daily Times, 24.12.1987. A half-crown piece, in sterling currency, was worth two shillings and sixpence (2/6) – in decimal currency about 25.3 pence. In 2017 a half-crown would be worth approximately 10.27.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists shampoo
The small envelope shown above was used to package portions of Wiggin's Cleansing Shampoo Powder (two old pennies per packet): 'For washing the Hair and making it Soft, Curly and Bright'. It features a line drawing, very reminiscent of the work of Ipswich artist Leonard Squirrell (see Blue plaques) featuring a gable, half-timbered, country public house with the name 'THE WIG INN'. The pub sign (close-up below) shows a version of the visual pun of a man trying to retrieve a wig floating on a river with a stick. This comes from an 1846 sheet entitled: 'A hieroglyphical list of inhabitants of Tavern, Westgate, and St Matthew's Streets, Ipswich' promoting, in a rather obscure way, the businesses which may have paid to be included. Ths sheet was featured by Dr John Blatchly in his column in the East Anglian Daily Times (30.9.2006).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists shampoo
Below: the first part of the sheet.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin hieroglyphs
Below: two more printed packets. 'Foot ease foot bath powder (foot shampoo)' is priced at six old pennies and states: 'For TENDER, ACHING, PERSPIRING FEET. Makes an antiseptic, soothing and penetrating solution which toughens the tissue'. By the time of the second enbelope the price of the Cleansing shampoo powder had risen to six pennies per packet for '2 Shampoos'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists foot powder

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists press 1895Document dated July 24, 1895
Above: reprinted in a trade magazine, this features a piece of Wiggin stationery. The typeset sections reads:
"Memo. from Wiggin & Son, Corner of Berners St., St. Matthew's, Ipswich; And at 47. St Nicholas (Corner of Silent Street); Address for Telegrams: Wiggin, Ipswich. Warehouse and Oil Stores: 55 and 57 St Matthew's. Pharmaceutical and Analytical Chemists. Wholesale Druggists and Drysalters. Oil and Colour Merchants. Dealers in Photographic & Chemical Apparatus &c. Optical Lanterns and Slides." The signature may be that of the younger John Wiggin who was born in 1862.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists 66. c. 1970?
Photograph 6. Built into the windows on opaque glass are the signs:
A large card reads:
for the

Clearly Wiggin & Son continued the tradition of pharmacy, perfumes etc. alongside scientific products and photographic equipment and supplies – the right-hand window display is mainly photographic. The large carboys of coloured liquid from days of yore continue to be part of the display on either side of the sign 'Dispensing Chemists'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wiggin Chemists 20182018
The former chemist's shop beneath the angled canopy after Boots had vacated the premises in 2018. The window sign reads 'This shop is closed' with directions to the branch in Tavern Street. A laundrette is next door, then My Food Shop.

John Wiggin, photographic pioneer
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Wiggin portrait
Photographic portrait of John Wiggin (9.9.1818 to 7.1.1879).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Wiggin Ancient Houseearly 1860s photograph
Above: a very early photographic print from a wax paper negative, taken by John Wiggin. Despite a certain amount of 'foxing' at the left the definition and detail of The Ancient House is remarkable. At this period the pargeting from the first floor upwards isn't the snowy white to which we've become accustomed in modern times. The Wagon & Horses Inn had a history dating back to the 16th century; in the photograph it bears the lettering (presumably referring to the current licensee): 'LATE COACHMAN TO THE YARMOUTH STAR. PORTER & FINE ALES... GOOD STABLING &c.' The 1844 White's Directory details carriers operating from the inn to Bentley, Boxford, Burgh, Bury St Edmunds, Chelmondiston, Copdock, Elmsett, Erwarton, Grundisburgh, Hadleigh, Harwich, Manningtree, Nayland, Newton, Oakley, Shotley, Stowmarket, Sudbury, Stutton, Tattingstone, Witnesham, and Woodbridge. In1906 it was an Ind Coope house whose landlord was John Dale. The inn closed in 1935 and the ancient building was demolished in 1937 to make way for a picture house: the Ritz cinema, opened by Anna Neagle, later became the Regal, then the ABC Cinema. Around April 1986, the last picture show took place at the site.
(Images scanned digitally by David Kindred.)

An album of John Wiggin's early photographs can be viewed on the Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links).

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