Ipswich
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Listed Buildings
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Newsletter, October 2012 (Issue 189)

1930s Architecture in Ipswich


As well as sharp geometric shapes and lines, 1930s architecture incorporated curves into its design, referencing the ocean-going liners which were in their heyday in the 1930s. and there are still plenty of buildings to admire in Ipswich that were built in this style.

Travelling into the town centre from Norwich Road/St Matthew's Street the 'Penningtons' building sails into view at the junction of Crown Street and Westgate Street. Officially called Crown Hall Chambers, it was built in 1930 with a row of shops on the ground floor and offices, or chambers, above. It still retains its cement geometric parapet and its metal Crittall windows, both of them an integral part of the design of many buildings of that period.

A short walk along Crown Street brings you to Commerce Chambers at the corner of High Street. Although this was not built until the end of the decade. it is similar in style to Crown Hall Chambers with the curved end wall and metal windows. It also has a stepped parapet which is very typical of the period. As the line of the building continues down High Street the curve is replaced by a rectangular facade. with long rectangular windows and decorative brickwork adding to the overall 'Modernist' design. (photo opposite)

At the junction of High Street and Westgate Street, the Moss building has a curved vertical parapet which mirrors the parapet of Commerce Chambers at the top of High Street. (photo opposite) The white exterior is echoed by the neighbouring Marks & Spencer building and fortunately all retain their metal-framed windows. The corner of the Marks & Spencer building is geometric with a wrought- iron balcony and is complemented by the strong geometric lines of the windows running along both sides of the building. This is similar in design to the corner of Electric House which fronts on to Crown Street. The ground floor side of the building shows clearly the horizontal lines which were an essential part of Art Deco design.

It is worth noting that when a rear extension was built, enough care was taken to replicate the horizontal lines on the new part of the building.

The theme of curved buildings continues at the corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street. It was built for George William Hales in 1934, as commemorated by the plaque on the building. It has unusual gable-like structures on the parapet but it still has some typical features that denote the Art Deco style. The windows in the top of the building, which have been replaced, would undoubtedly have been metal-framed, but the beautiful coloured glass at the top of the shop windows is still intact on all but one of the windows (photo opposite) as is the curved apron on the front of the building.

The curved frontage is not so easy to see on the Art Deco H&M building in Tavern Street but when it was built in 1937 for British Home Stores, the curve at the front was echoed by the horseshoe- shaped cafeteria inside the store. However, if you gaze up you can see it retains its vertical element and stylish inset windows with the sills built as part of the building. (photo opposite)

These are just some of the many 1930s buildings that survive in the town and should be cherished and celebrated, so the next time you are out and about. don't forget to look up. You'll be surprised at what treasures you'll discover.

Linda Erith

    Front cover of issue 189 Cover, issue 189

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