[Editor: Beryl Savidge, an Ipswich Society member for many years, has
me an extensive account of what she knows about the St George's Street area.
I have selected these passages which show her particular interest in the
site of the new house, Cawthome, an award winner in the Society's 2002
awards. Miss Savidge explains at the beginning of her account that her great
grandparents' small farm in Wiltshire had been commandeered in 1915 so that
the Porton Down Gas Research Station could be created - later Porton Down
Micro-Biological Research Station.]
I was born on 10 September 1920 in my parents' very large flat at 12a St
Matthew's Street, which of course at that time was single carriageway. The
Home & Colonial Stores was underneath our flat, and at No 10 there was a
baby-clothes and knitting wool shop. I remember the Rainbow pub on the comer
of St George's Street where some twenty years later the licensee was
murdered in an affray one night.
Within days of my birth a Mrs Anna Stopher arrived to help my mother - she
was to become our much loved Nanna and remained with our family for the next
forty years and a firm family friend after that until her death at 88. Her
husband was a three-colour printer (a highly skilled job in those days) with
the Ipswich Printing Works until their disastrous fire in Princes Street in
the early 1950s - or it may have been Haddock & Baines which caught fire but
it gutted the Central Cinema also. Our Nanna and Bob Stopher lived at 55 St
George's Street - these small terrace-type houses were considered a' cut
above" the back-to-back houses in Little Queen Street, Bacon's Buildings and
Salem Street and finally Dyke Street .......
Because of their association with Porton Gas Research Station, my parents
were very interested in the small low building on the site of No 80,
Cawthorne. I was always told that this, and an identical building approached
through the brick railway arch off Wherstead Road, were built in 1916 as the
two Gas Decontamination Units for Ipswich, which because of the ease with
which German aircraft and airships could come up following the Orwell and
let loose gas canisters, were positioned fairly close to the docks.
I remember this as a longish brick building with a central door and could
see from High Street that the rear door was not opposite the front door -
this was undoubtedly because of the early 1800s conduit carrying spring
water across this site under St George's Street, down beside Civic Centre
(where it caused two firms to go bankrupt when trying to construct the
spiral car park there) and across to Alderman Cut and so into the River
Gipping. A very elderly friend of mine told me that this is why this Gas
Decontamination Unit was built on this empty site, and similarly the
situation of the one in Wherstead Road which could be tapped into a stream
coming down from higher ground at Belstead. It was the cutting through this
D-shaped conduit which caused so many problems when dealing with the
footings for Cawthome - filled up day by day and by next morning they were
like cement-soup and had to be pumped out.
When Ipswich Civic College - now Suffolk College - decided to use this
building for their Photographic Section, they put on an outside "skin" of
breeze blocks, but they left the original low buttress-type wall intact.
This remained until the building was demolished.
Yes, in the Second World War we were, each and every one of us, issued with
a gas mask, but I can truly say I never heard of the slightest suggestion of
any gas being used on civilians here in Ipswich or anywhere else in the UK.
BERYL SAVIDGE, 23 August 2003
Another new step in making the river an interesting feature of
the town is the painting of a mural on a wall near Princes Street bridge and
near The Navigator sculpture. The mural by Natalie Toplass depicts some of
the industrial heritage of the river and the town. It has been funded by the
Local Heritage Initiative via a grant to Ipswich Wildlife Group.