Memories of growing up in the centre of Ipswich in the 1930s near the town's prison, when the area also included many public houses and the town’s fire station. A neighbour of the town’s Gaol was Ethel Beecroft, of Ipswich. Ethel said. “My father William had a timber yard in the Rope Walk, which backed onto the prison wall from Rope Walk. I lived there with my parents and seven brothers.We had a sign, which said, "Here we are again Beecroft and his seven sons.” During the day you could hear the prisoners exercising in the yard and on Sunday singing could be heard.
When the prison closed my brother Ted took me into the prison as he was buying timber, I can clearly remember seeing the gallows, which were still intact. My father and four brothers served during the First World War; unfortunately George was killed at the Battle of Ypres.
My brother Jim who lived until 101 was the last surviving Old Contemptible in Ipswich.”
Colin Campbell of Ipswich said the foundation stone of the prison was laid in 1786. It was the first prison to have separation for felons and debtors and for male and female. The building had a treadmill, the invention of Ipswich engineer William Cubitt. Mr. Campbell has a fascinating book published in 1808 “Neild’s account of Prisons” in which it details that “Gaoler” Samuel Johnson’s salary was £200, plus coals and candle for his own use. Allowance for prisoners was “Two pounds of beef per week each; and on Sundays a pint of porter, a dark brown bitter beer, and a two penny loaf: But if the debtor is very poor, and cannot support himself, he is allowed by the County, in addition to the above, four loaves of 1 ½ pound per week.”
The last public executions was of John Ducker on April 14 1863. He was guilty of murder. The execution took place in the archway off St Helens Street. The last execution at the Ipswich prison was November 27 1924. F Southgate from Ardleigh had been found guilty of murdering his wife.
A list of executions at the Ipswich Prison includes those sentenced to death for crimes other than murder. They include T. Keeley and J. Read, laborers, hanged for burglary in 1802. Lionel Lee, laborer, for burglary in 1804. William Homes, soldier, for rape in 1805. G. Christian blacksmith, for horse stealing in 1806. John Took, laborer, for rape in 1812. Joseph Bugg, laborer for arson in 1816. J. Ranson, sawyer, W. Hillyard, hay trusser, and H. Laws, laborer for burglary in 1819. W. Aldous and R. Bennett for arson in 1822. The last listing I could find of a hanging for an offense other than murder was William Jolly a laborer, for arson on August 17 1833.
Mavis Westerling from Ipswich said. “I lived near Majors Corner, it was a cul-de-sac called Turners Place. My family lived there, mum, dad, Eric, Freda, Edna, Jill and I, we lived at number 1, altogether there was six cottages in Turners Place. All the youngsters in my family attended St Michael’s Church in “The Wash” Upper Orwell Street. We all went to St Helen’s School and then senior school the Central Girls School, it changed to Christchurch School while I was attending. A few yards down was St Margaret’s Boys school. I also remember all the pubs in that area. The Beehive Majors Corner, The Duke of Kent Upper Orwell Street, the Salutation Carr Street, The County, The Mitre, and The Dove all in St Helen’s Street. The Fire Station was in Bond Street.”
“My dad worked at Crane and Bennett, he used to walk down the wash, to Chittock’s paper shop for a paper and fags then off to Cranes on Nacton Road. When he came home on Fridays the kids would all meet him at the bus, it was a number 8, there was a bus stop outside the jail in St Helens. I remember all the shops along St Helen’s Street, Lol Minters, Bright’s Fish Shop, Enemy Papers, Western’s Greengrocery, Golding’s Meat, Kemp’s Bone Meal, and Benny’s Sweets. My dad's parents lived in Well’s Street. All sorts of beautiful girls from Ipswich had their pictures done at Sarony’s photographic studio at Majors Corner. The photographer was a tall man always dressed in brown pin stripe he had a Clarke Gable mustache.”
“Opposite Turner’s Place was the Regent Theatre and every day about seven women used to scrub the steps, what a happy lot they were, always singing.
Nearby was Mr. Finch the Chemist, he was good to my family, he used to give advice. On Mondays my mum used to have an old fashioned copper to boil the clothes and Mr. Finch was glad to give her the old cardboard cartons to burn under the copper. Washing soap was a big green or yellow bar, our sheets on the line were always white and when one got a small rip in it my mum would mend it.
Next to the chemist was Wright’s the butcher, Pansy Norten hats, Grafton’s sweet shop, and Sargents Fashions. One day when during the Second World War, a bomb dropped on Majors Corner and Sargent’s Fashion models were all laying on the road and the clothes from the shop everywhere.When war broke out I was about 10 or 11, we had an outside air raid shelter and our mum and dad made it nice and cosy inside, the air raids got so bad we slept down in the shelter. First the air raid warning then the “cuckoo” would sound it meant that we had to get to the door of the shelter quickly in case the doodlebugs or machine gunners were overhead. What an awful time for us. Then the children all were evacuated to Leicestershire, we were away 18 months. My father was on war work at the time and was unable to come to the Midlands with us. My brother was shot down over the North Sea, mum and dad had a telegram to say my brother was missing, maybe dead, he was only 24 years old.”