On this page: Bramford Road School, Argyle Street School, Clifford Road School, Springfield Junior School, Ranelagh Road School, Grey Coat Boys School, Elm Street School, Spring Road School, Sprites Lane Schools
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BRAMFORD ROAD SCHOOL / GATACRE ROAD - the most lettered school in Ipswich!

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School 5
School buildings are a good source of lettering examples. That which stands close to W.B. Kerridge at the corner of Gatacre Road and Bramford Road is now used as part of the redeveloped Suffolk Record Office. The renovation has revealed the polychrome brick and terra cotta. This was designed by noted Ipswich architect, Brightwen Binyon, in 1882 and extended along Gatacre Road in a more elabotate style by Edwin Bisshopp in 1888. It was converted into the County Record Office in 1988-9 by the County Architect, B.A. Ford with the addition of an archive store and offices (see Alan Forsdike's recollections, below).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School x2012 images

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School 3
This remarkably decorative finish to the two gables has the integral lettering on the friezes:
against an almost Islamic diamond-decorated background with polychrome roundel against chequerboard background in a triangle.
[UPDATE 20.5.2014: Alan Forsdike writes: "When the [Bramford Road] school was converted to the record office (1988?) the street name was still covered up from the 1939-45 war. It was decided to uncover and restore the lettering which was damaged underneath... It was the word "Ipswich" which was uncovered and that is why those letters are paler because they were the ones I had replaced... I was working in the then County Architect's Office and had to shin up a ladder to take rubbings of the damaged letters and arrange for new terracotta replacement letters to be made. Best wishes, Alan (Rev'd Alan Forsdike)" Thanks to Alan for this information. This anecdote 'from the horse's mouth', is fascinating because it epitomises the period during World War II when the whole country feared an invasion by Nazi Germany and any sign or lettering which might have aided the invader was uprooted or covered up. We further wonder if that is the reason that the Smart Street School lettering (shown below) is partially boarded over?

Moving round the corner into Gatacre Road, a rounded arch (with a slight point) doorway bearing the word.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bramford Road School 22012 images

Further downGatacre Road, the architectural style (and font) changes and we find another doorway with a decorative brickwork surround with shields, foliage and acorns in the spandrels and above, a central shield bearing the gothic:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre School 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre School 1
It is a reasonably safe bet that the entrance nearest to the vehicular access the Record Office, the one used by the Sir John Mills Theatre, has 'Girls' over the door. The similarity to the 'Infants' door is striking and the large board bearing the theatre name is mounted over the doorway, concealing any lettering.

And on the nearby, decorative, cast iron rainwater hopper: '1888'. Other dated water spouts can be seen at Tooley's Almshouses and The Walk. Such examples are collected on our Dated rainwater hoppers and weather vanes page.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre School 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre School 5

Gatacre Road: home of the Sir John Mills Theatre and Eastern Angles is a veritable orgy of lettering within the crowstepped gables and battlements along the 'side entrances' to the old school.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Road school 6Long shots in 2005

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Road school 11
'GIRLS' and 'SCHOOL' in the Gothic script used throughout; 'ERECTED' and 'A.D. MDCCCLXXXVIII'  At first we had trouble decoding these Roman numerals and thought they meant '1838'.
[UPDATE 16.4.09: "I would be suprised if Bramford Road Board School in Ipswich were built in 1838. There were no 'school boards' in 1838, indeed until  the 1870 Act education was a rather hamfisted affair, mainly operated by the Churches. I would at a guess say 1878 - compared it to the Pauls Road 'Ranleigh School' - the building looks older, much more in age and style to Argyle St. I would call in at the Ipswich records office (now based at the old Bramford Road school) and ask for the date of the building.
Harry". Thanks to Harry for prompting a third or fourth look at these troublesome Roman numerals: we're now sure that it's an 'L' for 50 in the middle of the date. So, to match the date on the nearby rainwater spout, it must be '1888'.]

Here is an ehanced close-up of those brickwork panels:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Road school 7

The central Borough crest (lion rampant with three ship prows) in rubbed red brick:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Road school 8

'INFANTS' and 'SCHOOL' with decoration at top:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Gatacre Road school 12

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Argyle Street School 1  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Argyle Street School 2
Meanwhile in Argyle Street, opposite the former Harry Seaman premises, we find another fine example commissioned by Ipswich Board School in 1872. Crown, thistle, clover and rose motifs appear on the polychrome arched surround.

The lower part of the Ipswich Borough crest is degraded, so that the date '1872' is not clearly readable.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Argyle St School   Ipswich Historical Lettering: Argyle Street crest 22013 images
For more roundels, click here.
Argyle Street School was designed by H. M. Eyton in 1872-3. School boards, created in boroughs and parishes under the Elementary Education Act 1870, were public bodies in England and Wales between 1870 and 1902, which established and administered elementary schools. School boards were abolished by the Education Act 1902, which replaced them with local education authorities.
The 1872 Ipswich Board School building was rebuilt in 1914 for 432 boys taking in pupils from Foundation Street School.
See our Bolton Lane page (under 'Devereaux Court') for information about these local schools and a time when Argyle Street School was 'The Ipswich School of Commerce and Social Studies' for female students in the 1950s.
The railings in front of the school are also of interest. The capstone of the brick wall is actually cast iron, which must reduce the weathering. Embossed at a number of places along the length of the wall is the iron founder's company name:
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Argyle Street railings2013 image
Ipswich Historical Lettering: Argyle Street railingsPhotograph courtesy John Bulow-Osborne 2014
George Abbott Ltd
Ipswich Historical Lettering: George Abbott ironworks advert 1908
1908 advertisement from Harrison's Time Table 1908
Churchill House at 3 Crown Street (an empty block for some years, but now occupied by an accountancy firm) is on the site of the former Temperance Hall, later the 'CROWN... IRON... WORKS... 1840... GEORGE ABBOTT LTD'.
Ipswich Historical Lettering: George Abbott ironworks   Ipswich Historical Lettering: George Abbott ironworksPhotograph courtesy Nick Wiggin  
The photograph (perhaps late 1950s/early 60s) above right shows the location of the old Temperance Hall with its Palladian-style frontage partially obscured by a later structure. High Street runs up the side of the hall at the extreme left; Crown Street runs across the centre from left to right; the photographer stands in the northern end of Museum Street
For photographs of buildings on Crown Street across the High Street junction from here, see Lost trade lettering.
The Temperance Hall
Drunkenness was serious problem in the nineteenth century as working men sought to escape their thoroughly uncomfortable, indeed comfortless, way of life by resorting to the alehouse. There were those who saw total abstinence as the only answer. Perhaps surprisingly, the temperance movement in Ipswich was inaugurated by three soldiers from the Ipswich Barracks, one of whom, Trooper George Grieg, called on his hearers to sign the pledge of total abstinence forthwith. The Temperance Hall on the corner of Crown Street and High Street was built in 1840 at the expense of the Quaker banker, Richard Dykes Alexander [see his house on our Blue plaques page]. It was a ‘large and handsome building, of Doric architecture’ which could accommodate 800 people ‘being 68 feet long’ with a spacious gallery and platform.
By 1890 the hall had ceased to have a link with the temperance movement and had become the Crown Street Iron Works where George Abbott made the ‘Victoria’ cooking ranges that won him gold medals at the 1895 and 1897 Ipswich General Trades and Industrial Exhibitions (information based on Master, R: Ipswich – an A to Z of local history see Reading list).
Abbott’s were also known for their production of lawn mowers, palisading, gates, railings, also boiler repairs and all makes of bicycles, tricycles and perambulators ‘repaired and made equal to new at reasonable cost’.
In 1964 the old Temperance Hall was demolished as part of widespread clearances in this area of Ipswich and the site is currently occupied by accountancy company offices on the east corner of the junction.

And at Clifford Road School, in east Ipswich some rather fine relief lettering remains over several entrances, recalling the days of strict separation of Boys, Girls and
'INFANTS'. The slab serif capitals are stretched in relief across the curving entrance to terminate in a splendidly-bellied 'S'; ceramic or faience door surround. This example faces Woodville Road and is now only used as a fire exit. The school was built in 1906.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Clifford Road SchoolSee the 'Pathology' doorway for a similar 'feel'.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springlands2
Springfield Junior School on the corner of Bramford Lane and Kitchener Road is a typical redbrick-built single storey school which features relief lettering built into two external doorways:

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springlands 1 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springlands 2
No attempt to incorporate the plural possessive apostrophe in 'Boys'. Presumably there is equivalent 'Girls' lettering on the other side of the building, not visible to the passer-by on Kitchener Road. The sort of segregation of genders and age-groups epitomised by these images, where groups clearly had their own entrances and presumably classrooms, is rare today. However, High Schools do – for good reason – tend to create discrete areas of the campus for Lower, Middle and Sixth Form students.
The Borough's local list tells us:
"Springfield Junior School, Kitchener Road. Board school. 1896. Architect: Bisshopp and Cautley [Edward Fernley Bisshopp (1850-1921) & Henry Munro Cautley (1876-1959)]. Red brick, slate roofs. Positioned at the junction of Bramford Lane and Kitchener Road, with long classroom ranges to both street frontages, set behind a low brick wall with original railings. A third range runs at right angles to the rear of the Bramford Lane block, enclosing the iron framed assembly hall. The classroom range frontages are a series of projecting gables and recessed bays, enclosing tall window openings with transoms and mullions and glazing bars, the lower panes with sliding sashes. In the recessed bays, the windows form pitch roofed dormers through the slope of the roof. The most prominent gable, at the road junction, has the Ipswich Corporation arms and the name ‘Springfield School’ carved in the brickwork. Several tall brick chimney stacks are set along the roof ridge of the classroom ranges."
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springlands 1October 2013: can't wait for those leaves to fall...
Early March 2014: at last this fine piece of brickwork is visible, despite creeper tendrils and algae. We have more examples of the use of the Borough coat of arms on buildings. This inventive identifier breaks the traditional coat of arms between the upper lion carrying a sailing vessel and the shield showing a lion rampant and three ships' hulls. The armour helmet has been replaced by:
with the characters in crisp, relief capitals curving in an arc around the shield.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springfield crest 1Enhanced image 2014
Below: the gable close to the junction of
Kitchener Road with Bramford Lane.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springfield crest 2
   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Springfield crest 3
Round the corner in Bramford Lane is Baden-Powell Cottages with its unusual sculptural plaque.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ranelagh School 32013 images
The frontage of Ranelagh Road School seems to be at the back; it just goes to show the influence of traffic flows and speed humps. The are very grand alcoved armorial crests high on the gable tops and lettered stone bands below:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ranelagh School 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ranelagh School 2
The shields also bear lettering scrolls:
'DIEU ET MON DROIT' (God and my right)
(The functions of citizenship are the glory of the citizens). This ungainly motto also appears above the High Street Art School Gallery.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ranelagh School crest
Paul's Road is now an access road to small business and the Co-op warehouses; it's also a many-humped rat run from Ranelagh Road to Crane Hill (London Road). From it we see what is effectively the rear of the buildings, standing on the gentle hill. The Borough's local list tells us:
'Ranelagh Road Primary School. 1906. Architect: JA Sherman. Large single storey school, red brick with stone dressings. Designed to accommodate boys, girls and infants separately. The variety of hall and schoolroom spaces are articulated externally by prominent gables in a northern european renaissance style. These step up the slope, and are set forwards or to the rear in relation to the street frontage; the varied articulation is unified by the strong horizontal stone banding which runs across wall surfaces and through window mullions and chimney stacks. Tall square headed window openings are grouped in stepped arrangements under gables and dormers with stone lintels, and a cill formed from one of the stone bands. 4 light sashes under fixed panes with glazing bars. The gables are ornate; stone shoulder corbels, stepped mouldings. The principle gables facing Pauls Road are capped by round arched stone aedicules containing the corporation arms. Tall brick chimney stacks are set at intervals along the roof ridge and to either side of gables. Gables are linked by lower entrance door bays with moulded stone parapets. Entrances are recessed to the side of round arched windows. Original schoolyard wall and railings to Pauls Road.'

Until it was demolished and replaced in 2007/8 by a rather brutal modern structure, there stood in Curriers Lane a much earlier school bearing the tablet below. Up to that time it was still used as an educational establishment.

Curriers Lane
...and a clearer picture:
Ipswich Lettering: Bluecoat School
(Photograph courtesy Mike O'Donovan)


The Grey Coat School was the earliest of the charity schools in Ipswich promoted by members of the Established Church. It was opened in Curriers Lane in 1709 with the aim of reviving the practice of Christianity by instructing young boys at the school. The master for 43 years was James Franks. For part of that time James' wife Elizabeth ran the associated Blue Coat School for girls while her husband took on the teaching of navigation, in accordance with the bequest of a former pupil, as well as everything else; He resigned ill and exhausted in January 1874 and died six weeks later. The role of the schools was taken over
from 1871 by the Ipswich School Board (as shown on Bramford Road School, above) and later local council schools. The Blue Coat School opened to female pupils in 1710 but was considered to be educationally "inferior": the belief in the unimportance of girls' education was reflected in the withdrawal of writing classes in 1737 due to the cost. One question: given the clear division of gender and respective coat colours, why was there a notorious public house not far away in Old Cattle Market (now a restaurant following a fire and a rebuild in the 1980s) called 'The Blue Coat Boy'? [See Reading List: Malster, R.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Curriers LaneGrudging inclusion of replacement building, 2013
See also the Street name derivations for 'Curriers Lane'.
[UPDATE 9.5.2010: This email was received in relation to the Grey Coat School, packed with personal and local historical information. Our thanks to Derrick Palmer for finding our page and contributing to it.
"My name is Derrick Palmer, I was born 20th January 1937 at 14 Curriers Lane, Ipswich, our home was situated directly opposite the school. The earliest memory I have concerns the war years when the school was occupied by the War Dept, mainly Civil Defence, ARP [Air Raid Precaution] and various Service personnel. My Sister, Brother and myself were often in the building when we would be dressed as war casualties, in fact towards the later part of the war a big exercise took place in Ipswich with many people in the town acting as bombing casualties. This I recall very well because the school took part in the exercise with many children and grownups in the Lane being involved. Military vehicles were used to transport casualties to hospital and the whole event lasted for much of the day, on our return to the school we were given cakes, drinks and a few sweets, which in those austere days was quite a treat. After the war the school remained empty for some time although I do recall young people did use the premises for various activities. Something I would dearly like to know, was the stone sign situated above the center door destroyed, if so then I feel this is quite sad considering the importance and age of the building. Although I no longer live in Ipswich I still keep an interest in what goes on, and I have to say that I was disappointed when hearing that the old school had been destroyed. Sorry, I have no photograph to offer.
One other note, the building situated next to the school "Gipping Mission", my Uncle Frank Palmer was Minister there before and after the war, also he was a member of the ARP at the school. I hope the above will be of some assistance. Yours Sincerely, D.Palmer."]

Round the corner in Elm Street is 'IPSWICH BOARD SCHOOL' on a stone shield
above an old school entrance which is now occupied by the solicitors Gotelee and Goldsmith. This is just down the road from Mrs Smith's Almshouses. It's quite well hidden... Thanks to Mike O'Donovan for drawing it to our attention.
Elm Street Board School 1
Elm Street Board School 2(Photographs courtesy Mike O'Donovan)

Elm Street Board School 3-4
[UPDATE: May 2013. The modern metal superstructure has been removed and the whole area cleaned so that the rather fine lettered crest (below) is much more readable.]
Ipswich Borough Council: Elm Street Board School 52013 images

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Spring Rd sign
Above: the street nameplate on the junction with Warwick Road.
A similar vintage of school lettering can be found at the Parkside Pupil Referral Unit in Woodbridge Road. It still bears the tablets with chiselled copperplate script:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Parkside 2 Ipswich Historic Lettering: Parkside 1
And here's a treated close-up:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Parkside 3
The information below is from John Norman's
column Ipswich Icons: Taking care of and educating children of workhouse inmates in the East Anglian Daily Times date 15 October 2017.

"In the 20 years following its purchase of the farmland, the Freehold Land Society had sold plots (by allocation of lots) and houses and cottages were being built.

The early examples included flint cottages with small market gardens, utilising both back and front gardens. One enterprising individual decided a hotel would be a good investment and set about building the eight-bedroom Freehold Tavern on the corner of Bloomfield Street and Freehold Road (opened in 1860).

The venture failed. Freehold Road simply didn’t carry any traffic (other than local residents), and there wasn’t the necessary passing trade for a hotel.

In 1869 John Chevallier Cobbold stepped in and purchased the building, offered it to the board of guardians and it became St John’s Children’s Home*.

Outside London, the idea of a home and school for children, separated from what were regarded as work-shy adults, was revolutionary. Children could grow and mature, be educated and trained, without the influence of the older residents of the workhouse.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Johns Reception Centre

Initially the former tavern with its eight dormitories was for boys but the forward-thinking board of guardians leased (and eventually purchased) adjacent land: a connecting plot that fronted both Bloomfield Street and Britannia Road.

In 1871 the home was ready and it was immediately set up to accommodate 53 boys in 21 double and 11 single beds. The former pub toilets were still outside and there was a lack of basic amenities inside. If it was the guardians’ intention to create a typical Victorian family house, it simply didn’t work. Modifications were made (although the inside toilets didn’t come until 1896).

A much bigger new building was erected alongside the former hotel: a barrack-like place of three floors of very institutional design; long straight corridors on each floor, with large multi-bed rooms.

At about the same time, major changes were taking place in the education system. The Forster Act of 1870 was the beginning of compulsory education and school boards were established to implement the requirements (and supplement the existing limited number of church and private schools).

Convenient for St John’s Children’s Home, a boys’ school was built (1873) in Spring Road: the California Boys School, just five minutes’ walk from the home.

The building is still there, today known as Parkside Academy, but the primary school children moved to St John’s in Victory Road. It first accepted boys from the home in 1895.

After the new children’s home was opened the former Freehold Tavern became the reception centre. In 1878 an extension was built along similar lines to the barrack-like boys’ wing and girls were accommodated.
The Girls and Infants school was eventually in Britannia Road, even closer to the home. [Britannia Road Primary School is still there.]

In 1904 a receiving house was built fronting Britannia Road (this building has been converted into flats – see the photograph at right). Young people spent their first few nights in this building, rather than in the dormitories off Bloomfield Street. At its height, St John’s could house 250 children all separated from their parents, most of whom were in the workhouse."
[*See our Brickyards page for maps showing
the location of St John’s Children’s Home in 1883 and 1902.]
Peter Higginbotham's Workhouse website (see Links, under 'Specialist subject areas') has a page including St John’s Children’s Home. Scroll down that web-page for information and images about this home, originally set up for pauper children in the town.

Sprites Lane Schools
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sprites Lane School lettering 12021 images courtesy Ed Broom
[UPDATE 15.8.2021: 'Weaving around Chantry today -- Stonechat Lane, to be precise -- I came across an entrance to Sprites Lane school and some fantastic lettering (see attached). I believe those well-weathered letters read "IPSWICH EDUCATION COMMITTEE / SPRITES LANE / JUNIOR AND INFANT SCHOOLS". And is that the work of Bernard Reynolds on the other wall? Ed Broom.' Many thanks to Ed for rediscovering this modernist group.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sprites Lane School lettering 2
Above: the integrity of the school sign is infrined by four signs. Two are understandable: the official 'change of name' panel below and the triangular 'Civic Trust Award'. then comes the 'Warning: anti-climb spikes' and 'No dogs allowed'.
Below; also showing signs of concrete weathering are the reliefs built into the dividing wall which were designed by Bernard Reynolds (once again, a yellow 'Danger of Death' sign intrudes). There is a figure group at the left, then an owl and two further panels with simplified children's faces.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Sprites Lane School reliefs
The Grade II Listing text is entitles: 'Sprites Primary Academy, including entrance walls with sculptural relief panels to Stonechat Road' and reads:'Former infant and junior schools, designed in 1959 by Birkin Haward of Johns, Slater and Haward for the County Borough of Ipswich. Work began on site in 1958, with the infant school completed in 1959 and the junior school in 1960 ... As a concerted, widespread movement for art in schools never materialised, it illustrates much about state patronage of the arts in post-war Britain and the tripartite relationship between artist, architect and local education authority'.

See also Smart Street School, Ipswich Ragged Schools and Ipswich High School.
See also our Lettered castings index page.

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