Shocking front-page news on the Evening Star for Friday March 12 2004:
Gutting news for us locals. I've left the text below unaltered; I originally
wrote it in summer 2003.
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.
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:
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
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?
Standing on the corner
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
WHOLESALE AND RETAIL
BOOT AND SHOE MANUFACTURER
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).
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.
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.
Martin & Newby:
Official site (beware, maximises your browser)
More about the building
Old shops, inc. M&N
Hanging in the toilet
See it on multimap
Other mentions on the web: