Hales Chemist / St Helens Street, Yard behind Turners Bldgs

12 St Helens Street
While the more high profile chemist's shop lettering from J.A. Symonds in Upper Brook Street celebrates the early marketing of Kodak films, another similar business in 12 St Helens Street (opposite The Regent) has a much more fugitive, but equally appealing example of trade lettering. We noticed by chance that during the period between the shop's closure and its reopening as a bespoke tailor's, that the lettering 'HALES CHEMIST' was picked out in a rather attractive ceramic mosaic on the front step. Generations of visitors to the little shop must have stepped over this lettering; we wonder how many people noticed the name beneath their feet. Before we had a chance to photograph the step, the new owners covered it with grey paint. However, wear and tear are rapidly revealing the lettering; here's how it looked in March, 2004. [Repainted 2005, but lettering showing through slowly! [Update 2008: this shop is empty once again, so no feet will wear away the painted surface for the time being.]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hales Chemist 20042004 image
Another remnant of a chemist's shop exists on Fore Street, opposite Isaac Lord. For other (better preserved) tiled doorways, see 'E.Smith', Woodbridge, 'Roll', Wells-Next-The Sea and 'Smith', Harwich; also Ann Williams' fine collection (see Links).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hales Chemist step cleared2010  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hales Chemist 20122012
[UPDATE May 2010: Since the demise of the bespoke tailoring business at this address, a continental grocery shop has opened and the footfall across this mosaic step has increased noticeably. The full lettering emerges from the coating of grey paint and, amongst the detritus of modern life (dog-ends, gum, litter) and
is once more revealed (with rather puzzling full stop after the first word). The last of the photographs above is from March 2012.
G.W. Hales the Chemist once traded from premises on the corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street. They also had a shop in Wherstead Road. See our page about Price the shoe shop for the Tacket Street shops building bearing the 'G.W.H.' tablet. For another lettered chemist's premises see 'E.J. Owles' in Fore Street.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Hales Chemist 20232023 image
[UPDATE 17.10.2023: Interestingly, in the 21st century, the new owners have cleaned up the mosaic step and it is now the threshold of a Eurpean grocer's shop.]

14-16 St Helens Street
And here's a shot from the opposite side of the road. Two cartouches above, coincidentally, Finch Chemist: the one on the left painted on the wall, the one on the right a shaped board attached to the brickwork. Both bear the signs of obliteration of trade lettering by coats of paint. To the left of the old chemist's shop we find:
incised into a masonry strip above numbers 14 to 16 St Helens Street. The photograph (below right) taken in 2001 shows the lettering - clearer in the close-up - bisected by a metal road sign projecting out from the wall at right angles. The period photograph at bottom shows that this has existed for many years:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Turners Buildings 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Turners Buildings 12001 images
Here is the shop of R.W. Fox, bookseller and stationer, in 1909. The proprietor stands proudly in the centre of grand displays of publications, news hoardings and gas lights. On the right is a glimpse of 'St Helens Drug Store' (the lettering on the shelf below the carboy in the window), so a chemist's business has existed on this site for about a century. The upper right of the photograph (which is enlarged below) shows the same 'Turners' lettering which exists today with the 'Buildings' part obscured by the projecting trader's sign.

Somehow this simple example of a lost age of shop-keeping sharpens the sense of loss when walking the streets of our town. This web page was created in March 2004, when the announcement had just been made of the closure in June, 2004 of Martin & Newby's long-standing hardware, tools and electrical premises in Fore Street. We seem as a consumer society to be using our purchasing power to favour mobile telephone shops, charity shops and short-lived cheap-jack shops over 'proper shops' which sell things that everyone, presumably, has to buy. How many greengrocers, bakers, butchers, electrical and hardware shops have closed down in recent decades? Those fortress-like supermarkets and warehouse DIY shops on the outskirts of the town continue to take away volumes of trade and destroy individual service from a real person behind a counter. There are still one or two old-style businesses in Ipswich such as Browne's Menswear opposite Sainsbury's in Upper Brook Street. [UPDATE: in c.2020 this building was converted into a fish restaurant.]
[UPDATE 28.1.208: '
As the caption says, the Coffee Bar is on the right, and on the left was a cycle dealer named Taylor, if memory serves. John Bulow-Osborne'.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Turners Buildings 41960 image courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
John's suprising view of the yard behind Turners Buildings reveals the Church of St Michael in the background, but also a terraced rown of (six?) houses standing at right-angles to St Helens Street and reaching almost to the church wall. They have their own street lamp. The 2023 view of the yard entrance (shown below) reveals that these have been demolished and the whole area is now used for car parking. This seems to be a case, common in the Courts & yards, where gardens behind buildings were in-filled with (often poor quality) housing to raise revenue for the owners.
Also note the ruins of St Michaels Church –once dominant at the rear of this view – seen above the mass of ivy.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Helens St, Turners Buildings, 20232023 image
The 1902 map detail clearly shows the six houses built at an angle to St Helens Street,just north of the Church of St Michael. The 'P.H.' (Public House) to the east is the Mitre on the corner of Bond Street. The two public houses marked to the west in Upper Orwell Street are The Beehive (a rather fine mock half-timbered building – and a sad loss) with The Duke's Head below it (later the Co-op Funeral Service). The tramway can be clearly seen in the centre of the roads either side of Majors Corner.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Turners Buildings 51902 map

6 St Helens Street ('1636')
A few doors down from the former Hales shop is a tiny, ancient building opposite the Regent Theatre. Empty and in poor condition some years ago, it was refurbished and the original internal beams exposed against white washed plasterwork walls. It is now an internet cafe open for long hours. As we waited in a car at the Majors Corner traffic lights one day we noticed a date in relief numerals painted the same black as the surround on one of the upper beams: '1636'.
Ipswich Lettering: Juliene's Sandwich Bar 1-Ipswich Lettering: Juliene's Sandwich Bar 2c. 2014 images
The carved numerals visible in the enhanced close-up below appear to be original, making this a building of some age; it would be interesting to discover the dates of surrounding buildings. The weathered trade sign in painted wood of a former tenant is still attached to the upper wall, projecting at right-angles to the frontage. We can make out:
Art No...[uveau]'.
It obviously wasn't worth removing! The exterior with its little bay and dormer windows do not appear to have heavy restoration, hence the survival of this anachronistic sign. Anyone know the name of the antiques trader formerly at this address?
Ipswich Lettering: Juliene's Sandwich Bar 3-Ipswich Lettering: Juliene's Sandwich Bar 4
As John Norman points out in one of his 'Ipswich icons' columns: 'This is a typical example of a Tudor house, of which there were considerable numbers in Ipswich. It is almost certain, given the location, that trade has been carried out from the front room of this property since before America was a colony.' A 'Kindred Spirits' reflection on the age of this house appears at the bottom of our County Hall page.
Interestingly, these characters carved above the windows resemble those cast into the water-spouting of the Almshouses.
More St Helens Street lettering can be found on the page for H.W. Turner, IBH, County Hall, also the Regent Theatre on the Bethesda page.
British Listed buildings (see Links) describes this building.
"6, St Helen's Street (Listed Grade II). An early C17 timber-framed building. 2 storeys and attics. The upper storey has exposed timber-framing with plaster infill and a central splayed oriel window with leaded easements flanked by high level mullioned windows. It has a moulded sill beam and a lintel carved with the date 1636. Roof tiled (old tiles), with a central flat headed dormer with leaded casements. The interior has exposed moulded ceiling beams and joists."

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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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