John Good And... Sons (GCB) Ltd – the story of a building
[British Oil & ... Cake Mills]

Once a well-recognised feature of the Wet Dock in Ipswich, this wharf has lost its famous lettering and became a hotel in 2003.
Dating back to the 1800s, the redbrick building in which the hotel is set was once a merchant's warehouse and many original features such as the arched windows, and iron columns and beams have been retained.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good 12000 images
The unbridled use of reddish-brown paint suggests that this lettering replaces older signs, particularly the bracket shaped areas around the word 'Sons (GCB) Ltd'. See below under 'Early 20th century' for the solution, whn George Mason was the proprietor.

John Good & Sons Limited

In the year 1813 a young boy of 11 left his Scarborough home and 'signed on' the sailing brig "British Volunteer" to begin a life-time's association with the sea and shipping. Over the next 20 years John Good continued his seagoing experience on vessels trading to the Baltic, White Sea and Mediterranean, gaining his Master's Certificate.
In 1833 he set up an office in Hull to found the company John Good & Co., as Ship Chandlers, Agents and Brokers, utilising the connections he had built up mainly with the Baltic and Finnish ship owners. After his retirement in 1864 his two sons continued to run the company, which had also expanded into ship owning. The Company's first regular liner agency was obtained in 1883 for Finland Steamship Company's new cargo and passenger services between Finland and Hull. This agency continued for over 100 years.
The company has continued to expand, concentrating on general agencies, ship agencies, and liner agencies, opening offices throughout the United Kingdom including Felixstowe and the Immingham ports. Today John Good Shipping provides a total transportation service and is one of the largest independent ship agency companies in the United Kingdom, still family owned and run. [current Chair: John Good according to their website]

The part of the name which puzzled us was ''(G.C.B.)' and this refers to General Cargo Brokers which in
1974 became a wholly owned subsidiary of John Good & Sons. Presumably the two companies were close enough in 1965, when they set up offices in Ipswich, for the parentheses to be added to the sign.

It was several years later, on re-examining the photographic prints of this frontage, that we made out the light coloured capital letters bleeding through the russet-painted strip below:
either side of the central teagle doors. It's still readable today, becoming visible with time and weather. See the enhanced portion of the image below:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good 2
British Oil and Cake Mills, also known as BOCM, of 29 Great St Helens, London
1899 The company was founded, taking over several companies and firms of oil and cake manufacturers and oil refiners.
1914 Crushers, refiners and manufacturers of linseed, cottonseed, rapeseed and other oils; manufacturers of linseed, cottonseed and feed cakes.
1916 John Robinson and Co. of Bristol was acquired by BOCM.
1925 Lever Brothers bought British Oil and Cake Mills, one of its major competitors and the manufacturer of New Pin Soap.
Pauls Agriculture was founded in Ipswich in the early 19th century, initially to trade in malt and barley for the brewing industry. This expanded into trading of maize and other foods for horses. From the early 1900s, they started to produce food for other animals too.
In 1992 Unilever sold BOCM Silcock to merge with Pauls Agriculture to form BOCM PAULS LTD (currently owned by ForFarmers Ltd, based in the Netherlands).

Ipswich Historic Lettering: BOCM Pauls sign2016 image
[UPDATE 21.9.2016: This enamelled metal sign was found in a pile of cuttings and rubbish in the car park close to the Jewish Cemetery. Ripped from the wall, it was probably installed in the last ten to twenty years, and is a small trace of a major occupant of the Wet Dock in Ipswich.]

Early 20th century
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good period 1
[UPDATE 27.2.2021: this detail was photographed from the Window museum display on the Wet Dock run by the Ipswich Maritime Trust (see Links). We hazard that this view of the the John Good building across the barge-filled dock from the island site is early 20th century. At that time the mill was run by:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good period 2
It certainly appears that this photograph has been retouched to emphasise the lettering; it does, however, answer the question of the large bracket shapes (either side of the 'SONS (GCB) LTD.' part) which were obliterated with brick-coloured paint to make way for the John Good sign shown in the photographs at the top of this web-page. The 'J.D. WHITMORE' sign can be seen to the right, between two masts.

Period photographs (1950s/1960s?)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good period close-upClose-up of 1960s photo on The changing dock page
The above view of the John Good warehouse may date from the 1960s (that's a mini van parked in front, isn't it?). It shows that the frontage doesn't bear any readable lettering at that time.
The changing dock page also shows a post-1939 long view of part of Common Quay, Wherry Quay and part of Neptune Quay.


Lying between 'Isaac Lord' and 'J.D. Whitmore' ship chandler and sail-maker (and with the tower of St Clement's Church behind it) this 1964 detail of Neptune Quay from the island shows the original sign, a year before John Good took over the building. The only part missing from our deductions above is the very definite article at the beginning and the 'Limited':
The building is markedly different at this time: the upper portion is pointed, bearing a pitched roof, the lower portion carries a canopy along its whole width including the low adjoining building with a sloping roof to the left. The main roof line was clearly changed and a box-like extension built which survived until the warehouse became an hotel in 2003 and the grey extension was built (shown below).
The lower lettering strip running above the arched windows and doors wouldn't be added until the removal of the canopy, hence the difference between this sign on the upper strip (later occupied by the John Good lettering) and the ghost sign on the lower strip.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good 19641964 image

Sadly, all of this lettering has now been expunged with a red-brown paint (but, as mentioned above, it's gradually reappearing), as part of the conversion of the wharf to an hotel. However, 'SALTHOUSE ... HOTEL' painted on an added brick-coloured strip on the upper part of the building facing the Wet Dock on the front and:

on the side wall was, at least, of the same character as the John Good lettering. Clearly an hotel, opened in July 2003, which can't quite make up its mind what it's called. The rather ugly, grey, upper portion has been added, but on the positive side its resores the pitched roof and the building is once again in use as part of the waterfront regeneration. The building of a modern extension on the Whitmore building site (later Neptune Snooker Club) virtually doubled the size of the hotel.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 2aA similar view in 2013
A similar view from Tovell's Wharf (see the Wet Dock map) on the 'Island' formed by New Cut and the Wet Dock. The kiln vent above the Isaac Lord maltings is still in place, as is the company name lettering. Behind is the roof of the Ransomes lawn mower works later converted to accommodation called The Foyer in Star Lane, minus its tall chimney. J.D. Whitmore's building has been replaced by the glass-fronted Salthouse Harbour Hotel extension. The canopy on the BOCM building at ground level has gone, as has the extension to the left with its sloping roof.

The photographs below are from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links) show the John Good and Whitmore buildings still standing in the late 1990s/2000.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good 2000ac.2000 image
The lean-to building in brick and corrugated iron in the foreground still stands, creating a narrow access to the yard behind. 'JOHN GOOD SHIIPING' can be read on the sign. The edge of the Isaac Lord maltings is on the left; the Bellway apartments called Neptune Square are at the far right. Note the blank side wall of the main building.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good 2000b
c.2000 image
J.D. Whitmore ship chandler and sail-maker once occupied this building, which features a deep recess, presumably for unloading carts and lorries, in the foreground which is supported by vertical steel girders. At the time of this photograph, the building features a sign reading 'NEPTUNE SNOOKER CLUB'. The building line changes halfway across the frontage in the form of a slight angle to the right of the satellite dish. This can also be observed on the facade of the Salthouse Hotel which replaced it.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse2003 image

Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 12013 images
Note that the blank side wall of the building has been pierced by windows in the arched style of the facade (one of them blank) and a doorway. the strips of red-brown paint have been continued from the front to accommodate the hotel name lettering.
Below: another view of the lettered side wall of the hotel; and the side of the car park opposite (the walls of the Isaac Lord complex, the only one which runs from the quayside down to Fore Street).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 5
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse 3
Above: the view across the pool of the Wet Dock. The central loading doors of the old warehouse have been converted into glazed doors with balconettes, with a central door on the ground floor.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: John Good Salthouse extension2014 image
The view of the Salthouse Harbour Hotel extension from the lane beside the Neptune Café (to the right). The characterless grey block bridges the lane so that the Wet Dock can be seen through the tunnel. The early buildings in the midground and foreground are dwarfed. Sadly, a story repeated elsewhere around the Wet Dock where requirements for increased accommodation (and profits) on a relatively small land footprint result in higher and higher structures hiding the docklands from view in the surrounding streets.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Neptune Quay map
The map of the modern north-west part of the Wet Dock quays shows the relative size and relationships of the Isaac Lord, Old Neptune Inn and John Good mill/Salthouse Harbour Hotel features.

Why 'Neptune Quay'?
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Old Neptune courtyard
2016 image
This apparently obvious question (Wherry Quay was named after the Wherry Inn – in 2016 the site of the Isaac's extension, Griffin Wharf was named after the Griffin Inn on the corner of New Cut West and Bath Street – see our Bourne Park page) is begged by the distance of the Neptune Inn frontage from the dock. The above view of the Old Neptune courtyard shows the restored buildings with a view of the Wet Dock obliterated by the back wall of the John Good Building (now the Salthouse Harbour Hotel), covered in Virginia creeper. In fact the John Good mill is a newcomer to this ancient building; the Old Neptune had its own quay leading off the natural harbour, long pre-dating the building of the Wet Dock in 1842. The quay, presumably with a removable bridge to allow traffic along the quayside when the Neptune Quay inlet was not in use, would have enabled lighters to unload goods directly avoiding unnecessary handling and carting.

Related pages:
The Question Mark
Christie's warehouse
Bridge Street
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's

College Street
Coprolite Street
Cranfield's Flour Mill

Custom House
Trinity House buoy
Edward Fison Ltd
Ground-level dockside furniture on: 'The island', the northern quays and Ransome's Orwell Works
Ipswich Whaling Station?
Isaac Lord

Neptune Inn clock, garden and interior
Isaac Lord 2
The Island

Merchant seamen's memorial
The Mill

Nova Scotia House
New Cut East
Quay nameplates
R&W Paul malting company
Steam Packet Hotel

Stoke Bridge(s)
Waterfront Regeneration Scheme
Wolsey's Gate
A chance to compare
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps

Davy's illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone, 1839
Outside the Wet Dock

Maritime Ipswich '82 festival

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