For the love of skating rinks and Ipswich Summers Written by Julie Oldring, Retired Administration Typist

Published on September 1, 2023

For the love of skating rinks and Ipswich Summers - Ipswich.love

Dear Ipswich, I hope you are having a great week.

Ipswich, I shall always love you unconditionally whatever happens, I was born here and I hope I shall eventually die here and my ashes be scattered on your Suffolk soil.

I was born in North-East Ipswich in April 1946 into a very austere world. Poor Ipswich had been bombed by the Germans and there were still many damaged buildings and piles of rubble around the town, notably in the dock area, Ropewalk and St. Margaret’s Plain, not surprising as Ipswich was of course a port and had a lot of heavy industry at that time so was a strategic target for the Nazis.

Despite everything, brave Ipswich rallied but it took up to the 1960s for all reminders of the war to disappear.

As a very small child, I used to love going into town with my Mother on a Friday to meet my Aunt. In those days you travelled by trolley bus, these hardy old vehicles had hard wooden seats, no heating and ran by taking power from overhead electric wires which sparked when it was frosty and often became unhitched. As we went down the lower Woodbridge Road Hill suddenly the panorama of Ipswich spread out before you displaying its plethora of factories and their assorted smoking chimneys. We used to go early and have a cup of tea and a scone in Lyons’ Restaurant, it was long and narrow (the space which Sailmakers occupies today) and had coal fires where rather grubby-looking old men would sit and warm themselves. Times were much colder then and we used to get frosts from October until April.

At Christmas, Footmans store used to put on a children’s entertainment and I remember being taken to a marionette show there. The Co-op Juniors also put on a show at the Co-op Hall in Carr Street which we always saw and after I was taken to meet Father Christmas. Don’t laugh, I continued to see Father Christmas at the Co-op until they finally closed and I got to know the guy who played him quite well.

When I got to be 10 we use to go down to the Rollerskating Rink in London Road. It was very popular as they used to play all the latest records

I loved my Ipswich Summers, we used to cycle down to Broomhill Swimming Pool, have the morning in the water and have a picnic lunch in Broomhill Park after, pure magic! Sometimes my Mother would take my friend and I to the Strand to swim in the river. We would get the Bourne Bridge No. 1 bus and get off at the Ostrich (now the Oyster Reach). It had to be a midday tide and you had a half an hour each side of high water to swim or you would be up to your knees in black mud. Afterwards we would go into Bourne Park and play on the equipment in the children’s playground which we loved. There was of course Ipswich Town Football Club which was almost a religion in our house and I went to matches from aged 11. Also, Speedway which we used to go to on balmy Summer nights. I remember the boys at school racing around the playground all wanting to be Sid Clark, Len Silver or Junior Bainbridge.

When I got to be 10 we use to go down to the Rollerskating Rink in London Road. It was very popular as they used to play all the latest records, Elvis Presley, Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan, while you skated.

I used to love the fetes, Ipswich had two large fetes in the Summer, both held in Christchurch Park. The Co-op Fete and the British Legion Fete and we usually went to both. We would start by taking fish and chips into Christchurch Park and eat them by the Wilderness Pond. The Co-op Fete always had a large main ring, where impressive physical displays of all kinds happened, then there was a funfair and lots of sideshows, including a Dog Show, Rabbit Show, Model Railway Show and many others. They also had a stage at the foot of the big hill where bands like Acker Bilk and the Spinners played but at 6.00pm a famous political figure from the Labour Party would speak. I saw the legendary Bessie Braddock speak on one occasion but as a young teenager her words were probably lost on me.

The first version of Ipswich I knew and loved was a quite heavily industrial town, with foundries like Ransomes Simms and Jeffries, Ransome Rapier, Cocksedge, Cranes, Turners, Reavels and Manganese Bronze and factories like British Sugar Company, Fisons, Burton Son and Sanders, Prettys, Philips and Pipers and Jennings and people were proud to work for them and of the products they made which went all over the world.

Ipswich in the 60s and 70s had a wonderful high street, the town had branches of most of the main department and chain stores and many independent shops like butchers, fishmongers and hardware. When we first had a little money of our own, my friend and I would spend Saturday afternoon going the length of the main streets looking at clothes and things in the shops and after, would have a coffee and burger in the Wimpy Bar which was the embodiment of cool in those days.

I have studied the history of Ipswich from 650ad to 1900ad and one thing is clear, Ipswich has suffered from boom and bust ever since its creation but it is a survivor, a Phoenix that always manages to rise from the ashes and become great again.

So here is to you and your future Ipswich, you are a wonderfully diverse place, with a raw, vibrant beating heart. All you need at the moment is investment, someone to believe in you and a little TLC which at 77 I hope I live long enough to see.

Julie Oldring
Retired Administration Typist

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