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TFG Ipswich #2 — Martin & Newby

Makeshift logo that will inevitably stay here due to complete inertia

— previous entry: Ferodo Bridge
— next entry: Rushmere Water Tower

#2 — Martin & Newby

Shocking front-page news on the Evening Star for Friday March 12 2004:

DIY store to shut after 131 years in town centre
Ipswich's oldest shop is to close

After trading for 131 years, it was announced today that Martin & Newby will close its doors for the last time in June.

Gutting news for us locals. I've left the text below unaltered; I originally wrote it in summer 2003.

According to one of those vaguely irritating "Suffacts" in your local Star, Martin & Newby is the oldest shop in Ipswich. The black and white lettering on its imposing Fore Street frontage proudly boasts: established 1873. That was three years before Bell invented the telephone and five years prior to Edison and Swan producing the first incandescent electric light. More of that later.

Now that's what I call a frontage: general ironmongers, electricians, tool merchants and hardwaremen

It's one of those places that always seems to have been there and hence acts as a handy reference point when issuing directions. Well, start at Martin & Newby, then head up The Wash, etc; you get the idea. Even nearby businesses, such as the John Oliver Retreat situated opposite, feel the need to give their location with reference to M&N.

Somehow or other the shop is still there and (hopefully) going strong despite the vastly increased competition from such soulless emporia as B&Q (Liverpool may have two cathedrals, but we've got two B&Qs, hoorah), Homebase, etc. Survival must be due largely to the extremely old-fashioned service that's proferred to all who enter. Staff, of which there seem to be many, are anxious to fulfil the tiniest request: one bolt? Certainly sir, did you want a chrome or brass finish?

That's Fore St, not Forest Standing on the corner   From the window display: can I interest you in a brush, squire? Wire brushes in the window

Glancing in a Kelly's directory of Ipswich for 1931 reveals an early-ish ad for the company. You could ring them on tel. 2374 and be offered the following:

  • splendid assortment of tools for all trades at lowest prices
  • electrical repairs promptly executed by experienced workmen

Going further back, Steven's directory for 1881, that palindromic year, has this text:

John Martin

2, 3, 4 and 5 Fore Street, Ipswich

Birmingham and Sheffield Goods Hardwareman
Earthenware and China Dealer, &c.
NB — Shops and Dealers Supplied

So we know that the "Martin" half was named John, but who was "Newby"? Over time, it seems, they've slowly increased the size of their empire on the corner of Fore Street and Orwell Place, taking over more and more buildings, including a newagent (Fox's) and a fruit & veg shop (Ellis).

Spot the CCTV in the view along Orwell Place

Briefly, let's talk watts. It was widely reported (nationally and internationally) in early 2001 that a bulb in the premises had conked out. Nothing unusual there, but this one was thought to be "at least six decades old". From its shape, it appeared to date back to the 1930s and was an Edison make. What goes around comes around.

Doesn't get any more straightforward than this Closed Sun.   Established 1873 and rightfully proud of it Love that superscript D

Digging up some facts for this piece I was shocked to discover that Martin & Newby have a real live website! This was much like encountering your grandad in a chatroom.

My advice: go back in time and get yourself down to M&N before, like Grimwades, it's suddenly not there anymore.

— previous entry: Ferodo Bridge
— next entry: Rushmere Water Tower
      Read On…

Martin & Newby:
Official site (beware, maximises your browser)
More about the building
Old shops, inc. M&N

That lightbulb:
Hanging in the toilet
Bulb facts

See it on multimap

Other mentions on the web:
Search Google

Amended 7-Apr-2004 by EFB