I can only imagine how Alice must have felt when she received each of these letters. Was her heart racing to hear news from back home? Did she unfold them quickly? Unwrap them slowly? Caress the paper as her friends shared details of their lives and those she left behind? How I wish I had the letters she had written in response!
What a happy accident that these were not tossed into the trash. My father can't recall being the one to keep them, so did my mother know, when she helped empty her husband’s childhood home, that these piles of paper would mean something to someone someday? Did she hope? Did she simply want to use them for genealogy research? Good old fashioned curiosity? I am so lucky to have them, but so sad that others have been lost forever, eaten by time. If only I could rescue them all.
Perhaps one day I'll be wandering the streets of Ipswich, stumble into an antique store and discover the dozens of letters sent from Alice Pinborough to the Witters, or others in the town. Or someone somewhere out there with such letters in their possession might stumble upon this website and send them my way. Hey, a girl can dream.
December 15, 1929 - Pulled Down & Put Up
14 Chenery St
Dear Alice & Fred,
Many thanks for letter & cuttings, which are very interesting. In the first place we are pleased to hear you are all well and happy, and our prayer is that you will all continue so and hope you will spend a very Happy Christmas and hope trade will brighten up for Fred’s sake. In the second place, in reply to your enquiries, I can as you see still use the pen and at present am not sick. I wrote you some time ago & at the same time a Suffolk Mercury.
My dear Old Polly has been far from well for some little time, but she keeps about and does her work in the house. I don’t think she could sit about if she tried always on the go & 77 last month. If I live I shall be 77 in May, but we often say we cannot believe we are so old. I still keep at my job, but must confess I feel tired some nights. Two nights out with the mayor this last week 10:30 & 11pm when I got home and running about the town all day, but we keep smiling or trying.
I am pleased to say our dear ones are all well, but Herbert is short of work a lot of time standing off at his place. Hettie & Ethel are well in New Zealand. Herbert’s family are doing pretty well. Eldest boy Clerk in the City. Second boy in the Post Office & the daughter in Telephone Office. P. Officer youngest a boy not left school yet.
There have been few alterations in this street lately but the town itself is being pulled about. Fred Fishers place rebuilt & Boots Chemists have a fine place thru Collis Jeweler & Smyth Ironmongers Cornhill are coming out. A great archway & road through to Lower Ramparts will come out opposite Peel St. Shops to be built. An arcade Limmer & Pipe are where the Grand Hotel was in Butter Mkt. Miller & Steel moving to a fine place in Queen St., a new picture house at Major’s Corner to seat 2000 people has been opened. It is a fine building. Brown St. widened from Coopers Corner Merchant to Churchmans Corner & corner of the Rainbow Hotel cut off, in fact, alterations everywhere. A fine wide road from Seven Arches, London road over Bramford, Norwich Road through Westerfield on to the Woodbridge Road by the Workhouse, so heavy traffic need not come trough the town.
The Artillery Barracks are pulled down & Corporation bought the place & put up about 200 houses for working classes. No soldiers here now. All naval ships taken from Harwich so we seldom see a live Jack Tar here now. They are talking of making the town larger and having two more Wards. That means more Aldermen & Counsellors. The town is quite large enough for me at present. The Co.op have spent a lot of money lately altered all the fronts. Metal & marble and island windows. The place now looks like a London picture house. Boxwoods next to Lyceum, a fine dance hall. Now we have six picture places in the town. We go about once a year & don’t care for them. There is talk of a new police station being built, there is not room at Town Hall & we have mounted police as well. I don’t think there is much more news.
Oh I must not forget to tell you. Mr Burgess has had to leave the Library Co.op, they say it is to make room for a younger man, poor Dick looks down at heart about it. He has had a good innings. What I can see of the Co.op every employee is a Socialist. They keep finding a staff job for them. I never go to the meetings now. I sit at home instead with Polly. I think I shall tire you so will close. Polly joins with me in fond love & wishes to all.
Your Affc. Friends Jim & Polly
The Whos & Wheres & Some Kiwis
At the writing of this letter, Jim Witter was still a Sergeant at Mace/ Town Hall Keeper, thus he was spending time with the Mayor. As to “Hettie & Ethel are well in New Zealand” - it seems Ethel, Herbert Pread Salmon’s daughter, must have moved to New Zealand to live with her Aunt Harriet. I know Harriet married, but have yet to uncover her married name.
I was starting to research and verify the names in the Witter letter, but was quickly sidetracked with a little treasure hunt through New Zealand, an area I have not yet researched. A quick search on Google for "New Zealand Genealogy" led me straight to New Zealand History Links-Genealogy and New Zealand Government - Search for family history records in New Zealand. They have a getting started guide, links to Births, Deaths & Marriages, old newspapers at PapersPast and so much more! Of course, there are also some New Zealand documents accessible via Ancestry.com and FindMyPast with your membership, but many of the links from the New Zealand government were FREE.
Quickly I found a young Ethel Salmon in October 1918 Otago Daily Times Issue listed with the St. John Ambulance Associate First Aid. Sadly, it’s not the Ethel I was looking for as my Ethel was born in 1909 and still living in Ipswich in 1918. So I dug a little deeper and did discover an Ethel Salmon that could be the one I was hunting for - - Whangarei School Honors List in the Northern Advocate 22 December 1923 - - Queen Voting Contest for the Queen Carnival promoted by the Whangarei Municipal Silver Band in the Northern Advocate, 15 April 1929 - - Miss Ethel Salmon came in 2nd place with 1,820 Votes as the Band Representative. This could be my Ethel, but I'm not sure. I've found no records of her journey to New Zealand and only know from these letters she was in Ipswich in 1923 and in New Zealand in 1929.
I've hit a dead end on Harriett & Ethel Salmon. I'll save them for another time.
I was able to verify names and locations mentioned thanks to that 1900 Kelly’s Directory of Suffolk. After a few creative Google searches, I also found some great old images as well as The Ipswich Star with a wonderful series of articles about old Ipswich called "Kindred Spirits - Days Gone By."
From Kelly’s Directory:
- Frederick Henry Fisher 40 Alpe Street
- Collis Wm. Robt. Jeweler, watch & clock ma. 11 Cornhill
- Smyth Brothers, wholesale & retail ironmongers, electroplated foods dealers, bar iron merchants & stove & range manufacturers & marble & slate chimney piece importers, depot for oils, colors, brushes &c. 56 &58 Fore Street, St. Clement’s & 9 Cornhill.
- Limmer & Pipe Cornhill restaurant 1 & 3 Cornhill, Ipswich
- Cornhill Restaurant (Limmer & Pipe, proprs.), 1 & 3 Cornhill
- Limmer & Pipe, family grocers, tea, coffee & wine & spirit merchants, agents for W. & A. Gilbey Limited, Cornhill restaurant, 1 & 3 Cornhill.
- Pipe John Charles, grocery &c., see Limmer & Pipe
- Grand Hotel 16 Butter Market (Percy Bishop was the propietor)
- Miller & Steel, family grocers, tea dealers, Italian warehousemen & provision merchants located at 3 Butter Market.
- Rainbow Hotel - found on Suffolk Real Ale Guide. Closed November 6th 1961 last owner Tolly Cobbold 2-4 Matther’s Street. It was closed soon after a murder occurred on the premises.
Another thing I learned, Jack Tar was a common English term originally used to refer to seamen of the Merchant or Royal Navy during the period of the British Empire.
When a Street is a Bridge
Without fail, every letter I read has a cluster of words I struggle to make out. This time, it turned out to be “Seven Arches.” Of course, once I figured it out, I couldn't believe I missed it.
I had recognized the word Arch I searched high and low for a street in old Ipswich with "Arch" or "Archers" in it. I scoured maps, traced the new road Jim described that crossed London Road, Bramford, Norwich Road trying to find the right street. Finally, on a 1938 Map of Ipswich on the Old Maps website that is part of the National Library of Scotland collection, there it was, "Seven Arch Bridge." No wonder I couldn’t find the street. It was a bridge!
Next up, a letter from September 1930.
Happy Genealogyy Hunting!
Note: As some of these old letters have limited paragraph breaks and punctuation, I've taken a few liberties to make them more readable online. The same goes for spelling mistakes. Grammar errors I leave in place to keep the sender's story & personality intact. Of course, sometimes, I make a few of mine because no one is perfect.
Looking for someone? Here's a few resources I recommend:
- FindMyPast - Subscription based access to over a billion historical records.
- Ancestry - Subscription based access to over a billion historical records.
- Kelly's Directory Suffolk 1900 - Link to University of Leicester online collection.
- Family Search - 1911 Census and more
- UK National Archive - How to Look for Census Records
- New Zealand History - A fantastic resource of websites for family history research covering all of New Zealand.
- New Zealand Government - Search for family history records in New Zealand
- New Zealand Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records - Free to search. Pay to see complete records.
- Historical Directories of England & Wales - A collection of digital directories from the 1760s to the 1910s. Click here for a list of the directories covering Suffolk. Truly a fantastic resource!