Lettering crops up in the most unusual places. This striking, graphic
paint-job on the sphere which sits on what some call 'the observation
platform' over the tidal Gipping/Orwell as it enters New Cut is
something of an icon in Ipswich docks. Behind it is the remaining Paul's silo
on St Peter's Wharf. Scroll down
for more images of these.
It was only in 2012 that we noticed the
lettering incised into the metal plate at its top, etched and eroded by
its contact with
the sea and the weather. Peeping over the buoy is the tower of St Peter's Church.
Paul Ltd silo, St Peters Dock
One source tells us that 'TH'
indicates that the buoy was
used on the River Thames*. This large red and white buoy would
originally have served to mark deep water on the Thames; safe for
anchorage of large ships. (*Another explanation might
be thet it's a standard 'Trinity House' prefix.)
For the group of marine buoys on
'The island' nearby, see below.
For commemorative tablets and an abandoned telephone box, see Stoke Bridge.
St Peters Dock from Stoke Bridge
Standing with the Trinity House buoy directly to the left, the
view of St Peters Dock shows how wide the water is here (a
dock outside the locked Wet Dock) before it shrinks
under Stoke Bridge into the canalised part of the River Orwell. Period
photographs show it cluttered with saling barges, indeed Sailing Barge Victor, usually
moored in front of the Custom House, has made the trip out of the Wet
Dock, turning sharp right past the new tidal barrier and along the
length of New Cut to reach this lagoon. Of course, this journey is only
possible at high tide, but it would be good to think that historic
vessels could make the trip on high days and holidays to commemorate
the great days of water trade in Ipswich. The photograph was taken
during the refurbishment of the dockside areas, a precursor of the
Ipswich Borough Council's plans for the whole 'gateway to the Historic
Waterfront' site, including the Benet Aldred house in College Street, the Paul's malting silo,
the remnants of the Burton's factory and the foundry building on the
corner with Foundry Lane.
The buildings show in the photograph include The Mill to the left, with
the old maltings, painted pink, bearing the 'Edward
Fison Ltd' sign and Stoke Bridge Maltings to the right. The Genesis
high-rise on Stoke Quay can be seen above them.
The Paul structure, while bearing broken windows and
very pretty, is the sole surviving silo of the ill-fated Waterfront
Regeneration which ran out of Irish bank funding and left us with
empty tower block 'The Mill' on St Peters Dock and 'The
Wine Rack' on Common Quay (not completed until 2020). Furthermore,
throughout 2012 this building was part of a rather fine illuminated art
installation with lights
which faded from one colour to another.
This close-up show the way in which the tiling – we assume
it is tiled, or similar material – fits together as a mosaic.
See our Paul's
malting page for the
story of the company and its importance to Ipswich.
Burtons factory, St Peter's Wharf
To the right of the Paul silo is the butchered part of the Burtons
factory, both of these overlook the lagoon (St
Peters Dock) at the end of New Cut before
it narrows down to flow below Stoke bridge(s).
Below: the state of the Burtons sign in 2018.
Contractors busted through the fabric of the building at the top where
the confectionery company once painted its name:
to work on
the part of the building fronting College
Street which is now the mainly residential 'Cardinal Lofts'. You can
mangled insides of the Burtons building from Foundry Street which runs
beside it. The College Street version of the namestyle which used to be
opposite Wolsey's Gate is long gone (see our Burtons
page and see it disappear).
This grim image by Tony Wooderson highlights the state of the Burtons
block on St Peter's Wharf. Thanks to Tony.
courtesy Tony Wooderson /Crafted Images (UK)
Here is a snap of these buildings from 1982, when Stoke Bridge was
being doubled showing the original brick built Paul's maltings to the
tragically destroyed by fire, later demolished and made into a car
park. The 'R & W' characters to the left are shaded by an upper
platform. The Burtons building bears a more 60s/70s-style of italic
serif capitals on a panel.
[UPDATE: June 2013. Peter
Johnson, got in touch while working on a project involving the
buildings shown above. He has kindly sent three photographs of them
taken in the early 1980s when the brick-built Paul's maltings was still
intact to the left and the tramway was still intact as it crossed
"I am a finescale railway modeller working on a new project which
features two buildings based on R&W Pauls and Burtons of Ipswich –
partly because they were used as a backdrop for posed photographs by
British Railways of new diesel shunting engines in the late 1950s/early
1960s, and partly from visits to friends in Felixstowe in the early 80s
when I detoured via Ipswich docks as it was then one of the few
remaining places with street-running railways into dock side facilities
... I have attached a couple of photo scans of how things looked in the
1980s before the ship loading gantry was taken away…. At that time the
rails were still in use, I think."]
Following these rails eastwards, then off to the right onto 'The island' reveals several crossovers and
diamonds which are preserved rather than being removed or covered over
as on the northern quays.
[UPDATE 8.1.2016: we have at
last caught up with Peter Johnson's finished models. First are the
prepatory stages, then the exhibited items. Peter writes: "... my model
[is] inspired by the Paul building, but located into a fictional
setting. Anyway it has now been out to a couple of exhibitions and been
very well received. At the first (York) a man in the crowd recounted
how he had worked for R&W Paul within that very building back in
the 1970s, and enjoyed seeing it re-created in miniature!" Thanks to Peter for excellent pieces of
work and fine photographs of it. Recent rumours that an owner of the
Paul building is planning to convert it into accommodation – rather
than demolish and rebuild – could preserve the R. & W. Paul sign.]
Above: work in progress.
Photographs courtesy scale modeller,
Peter has imposed on the brick
malthouse, centre-right, a lettered upper section and a large painted
‘– G AND WE –
On the brick building over the collonade is
further G. & W.E. Downing lettering. Both examples resemble to
those found on the company's Gloucester
(see below). The tiny refreshment shed bears the
vernacular lettering 'DEE'S TEAS', which presumably comes from a period
photograph and adds a nice human touch to this heavy industrial scene.
– BUILT1895’ –
‘G & WE DOWNING
HEAD OFFICE SPON LANE SMETHWICK
WEST BROMWICH TEWKESBURY
signs and weathering at Gloucester Docks
'Maltsters George and William E. Downing from Smethwick in the
West Midlands opened their first malthouse in Gloucester in 1876. As
their business expanded, they built a second malthouse to the north of
the original building in 1895. Designed by Walter B. Wood and built by
the Gurney Brothers, it consisted of three ranges. The first two
included a basement with a steeping tank in which barley was soaked
usually for a couple of days and a working floor where the barley was
allowed to germinate and sprout, a malt room where malt was stored and
bagged, two more working floors, and an attic where barley was stored.
The third range, to the north included a large malt kiln and a smaller
barley kiln, where germination was inhibited. Part of this building was
also used to clean and repair returned malt sacks. The absence of
windows on the upper floors of the third range gave Downing ample space
to advertise their business.'
See our Wet
Dock map page for an explanation of the growth of both rail and
tramway access to the dockland area of Ipswich.
The "Lost" Paul's Maltings
[UPDATE 28.12.2013: John
"... the [photographs, below] of Paul's maltings were taken only a few
days before it burned down."] The red-brick, 18th century maltings
building to the left was destroyed in a mysterious fire in 2003 and the
shell eventually demolished.
courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
The fine views below show the red-brick maltings, complete with
lettering on back and front:
& W. PAUL LTD.'
It does appear that there was something else lettered
in white on the black 'T' shape above the Paul's sign on the rear of
the building. Sadly destroyed,
it would have made a great, restored entrance building to the Wet Dock
from Stoke Bridge.
Below: this photograph
from the Ipswich Society Flickr collection (see Links)
from 1985 shows the Paul's maltings and
the K6 telephone box shown on our Stoke
Bridge page. The telephone box
still has its door at this time, but several of the panes of glass have
in. For more on telephone boxes, see our Street
courtesy The Ipswich Society
For more images of these buildings and of the northern quays during the
2005/6 Waterfront demolition and clearances see our Waterfront regeneration page.
'The Island' buoys
On entering the island site, close to the present-day car park, a group
of maritime buoys are displayed in mounted, restored form.
This Trinity House example bears on its bolted plate the relief
The more spherical buoy has a similar, but much better condition, plate
to that on Stoke Bridge (shown at the top of this page).:
Although no lettering can be found on the green-painted examples, they
are included here as they complete the group.
See also our Lettered castings
The Question Mark
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's
Ground-level dockside furniture
island', the northern quays
John Good and Sons
New Cut East
R&W Paul malting
A chance to
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps
illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone,
the Wet Dock
Maritime Ipswich '82 festival
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission