I'm back! Wow it's been awhile. No small talk, let's jump right back into it. This letter is from Jim & Polly Witter to Fred & Alice Pinborough, my great grandparents. The amount of information about changes in Ipswich & the people is simply astonishing!
I've taken a few liberties with paragraph breaks as this letter was six very full pages with no breaks at all. Typos, mis-translates and poor grammar are a mix of mine and my ancestors. I did my best to get the names & streets correct, but may have misread a few. (Reading the census & reviewing old maps certainly helped!) A few links included within the transcript of the letter to a few places I was able to source additional details.
I'll be researching the folks & the amazing places as I post these letters & see what turns up. It feels so good to have time to return to posting these old gems.
14 Chenery Street
My Dear Old Friends,
We rejoiced yesterday to receive your kind letter to hear you were all well, and that the dear children were doing so well. We sincerely wish them everything that is good for their future lives. In the first place I must tell you that I was under the impression that I did write last, and my dear old girl & I have often wondered whether you were still alive, now dear friends we know, and hope you will live many more years yet.
Well there have been a great many changes in Old Ipswich, many old faces have gone, but not a great many in Chenery St. There are a lot who I think have made up their minds to finish up here.
Mr. & Mrs. Rose, she has been queer but is better again but Ms. Rose looks very queer indeed. The Eversons, Grooms, Aldous, Luttons & Dick Burgess are still here. I suppose you know Dick married again a woman much younger than himself. She lived in Beek St. a dressmaker. I forget her name. He is still Librarian at the stores. His son Stanley Burgess is a socialist member of Parliament and was here a week or two ago. He is a very hot member. The Harveys still keep the Crown & Sceptre, Young Low and Two Sisters. The Leopard is to be closed shortly as not wanted. Tollemache & Cobbold have between them bought all Catchpole's houses & brewery & have divided them to prevent a London firm getting them.
Mr. Reid is still at the stores & has an assistant there, a buyer and Secty so that the three salaries com to pounds 2.500 per year and the members want to know why the Dividends are only about one shilling or fourteen pense.
You would not know the Coop stores. The grocery depot is a great big place in fact the whole place is transformed. Where the Girls Friendly Club was in Carr Street opposite Cox Lane is the Hardware shop & runs right through into Old Foundry Lane & covers a lot of ground then a large grocery drapery & butchers business opposite the station almost at Felixstowe and near the Pier they have a big boarding house and room for parties.
Speaking of Felixstowe you would not know the place it is a beautiful place and everything up to date. We have a Motor Bus Co. here they have very large premises in the old cattle market & Lower Brook St. They run a regular service all over the place. Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Rendlesham, Oxford, Hadleigh, Stowmarket, Bury & Colchester and are well patronized and are doing well.
There is one thing we are overrun with, London Sew Firms have Tailors shops there are 13. From White Horse Corner to Barrack Corner & Boot shops. I think double. And splendid shops all new fronts up to date. Buttermarket, Brook St and everywhere the same. I must tell you the CoOp have a butchers shop in Princes St. opposite The British Lion.
This one Corporation have built some five hundred houses & bungalows upon the Old Race Course & yet we had hundreds of young married people living in apartments cannot get houses. The Race Course is quite a little town and also Hadleigh Road.
I must tell you too (I think of different things as I go along) The management of the store are all Laborer & Socialists except two members. They are trying all they can to amalgamate the society to the Labour party. Then they could use the money for political purposes, but a great many say if that is coming off they will take every penny out, or they will lose it in the end. And that is so I am sure they won’t have sixpence of mine.
Yes the Mirols [name not accurate] are still alive & looking for a husband but have not found one up to the present. But we see very little of them. They still live in the same old house and I suppose will die there. They begin to show their age now. There are still two or three cats sitting outside the house.
You ask about The Meadows, Kitty & Elsie carry on a millinery business and appear to do well at 53 Buttermarket as K&E Meadows. Kitty the eldest was left a widow. the others are married one is a hairdresser the younger Hilda is a newspaper reporter. They live over the shop but none of them ever know the poor people who they used to live near. The father he died a few months ago.
We promise you that if we do go to Yarmouth we will call and see your sister. We did write to her some time ago but never had a reply and the letter was not returned so someone got it. It is years since we were at Yarmouth.
Now a word about ourselves, as you are aware we are both getting old, or on that way. My wife was 70 last November & I was 70 on 15th Month, but I am happy to say Polly & I are still going strong, except that my wife has terrible pains every now & then in the right wrist. Rheumatism, then there she had a fall which made it worse, and a funny thing about it is that to do a little sewing caused more pain than washing of ordinary house work.
A few months ago I got rather anxious about her, we had one of Herbert's girls since she was three until last January she is thirteen now well she got too much for her grandma so her dad had to come and take her home. She did not like the idea of going but the Doctor said the wife was to do less work & have no worry or she would have a breakdown so Ethel went home and my wife had a couple of weeks comfortable rest with her sister & brother in law at Leyonstone and came back much better. The girl won a scholarship and got into the Central School but she would not help in the house at any price and was like the general run of girls have wanted her own way, which don’t go down with real old people. I felt sorry to see her go as her life is far different from being here, but I am pleased to say she has quiet settled down with her sisters and already been put up a standout at school.
They live at Gainsborough near Lincolnshire. Herbert still ives in at Balham London and they both have had a rough time since the war. Hebert had got his pension and six medals then joined up again in the war. Had three more medals but am sorry to say has not had a regular job since he was demoted. Hettie and her husband are doing nicely in New Zealand. We hear regularly from them they want Mother & I to go and end our days there. But mother would not do the journey out there for all the country and the gold that is in it. They say it is a lovely place and they want in time to come home for a holiday but say they would not come back to settle in England at any price. They have a nice place of their own and the pictures and photos they send show it must be a lovely place.
Do you remember Mr. Stannard the Carpenter. He put the childrens sewing up third on Lower Ramparts he has been dead a long while but Mrs. Stannard lives with a married daughter in Berners St. This daughter May has twelve children and has a beautiful house her husband has a large cycle business. My wife often goes to see the old lady she has a nurse with her day and night. Of course she gets up and is quite sociable and reads but it is like palsy in her hands. The hands are continually on the go. She is a nice old soul. Her girls and Hattie used to play together.
Tomorrow & Friday we are having the Suffolk agriculture show in Christchurch park. The place is covered with stablery & herds. They have a record entry this year so we shall have some strangers in the town providing it is fine. it is fine today yesterday it rained all day we have had cold windy weather and a frost most nights which has spoiled a lot of young stuff. Finally end of May & we cannot do without a fire in the house.
Major’s Corner where Dr. Edwards used to live is all pulled own and cleared through to Woodbridge Rd & those old markings are down. Botwood & Egerton are building garages & show room & motor works on it. Cowells in Butter Market have just spent fifteen thousand on their place & made it a splendid place. 'The White Horse' & 'The Crown and Anchor' are owned by a company and are up to date both got ballrooms & have music every evening for dinner.
Mr. Francis (the china shop) is dead his son joined up in the war and was going out when they were torpedoed & was drowned, he sold the premises for £8000 but it did not live long after. Then a man opened the premises outfitting blouses & I don’t know what & was going to cut out all the shops in Ipswich. He was only open about two months when he went smash. The things are in the shop & windows spoiling.
Young Tindall the Dentist has going into Museum St. Mrs. William Sparrow has retired and walks about. They are building a large public library in Northgate St. Where Chapman's school used to be & Old Gallaway’s [not correct name] house corner of Great Coleman St & Garden are beautiful motor show rooms.
In fact every place is altered. Picture houses we have five and the Lyceum Theater did not pay so they are altering that to for a picture house. The Hippodrome still pays well through we have hundreds of unemployed. I am afraid you will think this a funny letter but I jot down as things come into my head.
Time flies quickly 23 years 1st July since I started at town hall. I have seen some different functions there & many changes. They have built a very large post office covering all the ground behind Cowells on the old cattle market & new public swimming baths in St. Matthews leading from St. Matthews church Lane. They keep building & adding on to the hospital. Large engineering works & bronze finery near Hartford Hall Hadleigh Road. Railways run into the yards.
You would not know Lower Ramparts, right from Gower Lower street & The Halbert Inn & Brown St. is a two story garage, send a car up on the lift upstairs. This is common (sp) thru the whole of the place in Northgate Ln where the girls high school. The Malters behind our old house in Crown St are used by pretty lom (sp) for making steels for their corsets. Freuter (sp) the Butcher has sold his business & retired.
One of the Jacksons that married the elder one died a little while ago and the youngest of the women died after an operation. He still refers on the business a man named Pilbrough has renters business walks a little lame.
We enclose you a photo taken in your old garden last summer. The little girl is Ethel the one I have just told you about and the little corn flowers grew in the garden Polly has just picked them for old times sake. I think I have given you all the news at present, at any rate all I can think of I hope you will soon write again. I have not kept you waiting long this time. Give the dear girls a kiss from us both and we will send you a kiss and tell the boys we are very pleased when they are doing so well.
I suppose Mr. P is a big stout man now as he always was included inclined that way. It seems ages since we had a chat together. If we were to meet we should have a lot to talk about. Well I must come to a close. My wife joins with me in the best of wishes and fond love to you all. God bless you.
Your Affectionate Friends, Polly & Jimmy
Thank goodness I did my first post about the Witter letters researching the Witters. (You can re-read it here.) The old insurance maps I found on the British Library website were a tremendous help in making some sense of people, places & street names while decoding the old writing. And the search on Ancestry.com always comes in handy. I can't wait to delve more into these colorful locals that Mr. Witter has done a fantastic job of documenting!
More to come...
Happy Genealogy Hunting!