4. Towers of Cumberland
(not to confused with the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus)
Aspiring / Blocky / Commanding
Old Greek fella Antipater of Sidon, compiler of the original seven wonders list, observed that "the house of Artemis towers to the clouds." Fair enough. We more than make do with Cumberland Towers, climbing 35m or so to claim its unmistakable place on the Ipswich skyline.
Twelve Flight Rock
Mid 2004 and there's much fretting in the town about the proposed Cranfields development on the waterfront. Seems that planning permission's being given for a 23 storey (mini) skyscraper: hotel, dance studio, the whole shebang. Blot on the landscape, say the Ipswich Society.
Would be fascinating to find out what was the reaction locally when Cumberland Towers was unleashed in the early 1960s. It's a mere pretender with just the twelve storeys, though its positioning at the summit of Bramford Road hill is like a pair of heels, giving it a feeling of added height.
Buy One Get One Free
For starters, let's address the whole singular/plural issue. There are two square-ish blocks that kind of merge into each other, a two-for-one deal. This is a BOGOF building.
Originally built for Borough Council tenants (more of that in a minute), CT was converted to sheltered housing some years back. Apparently it's cited as a good example of high-rise dwelling, which is nice.
Ask The Jean Genie
Now, as it happens, one of my earliest memories involves a trip up Cumberland Towers. My mum was with me, as was a small green metal toy cannon that fired matchsticks. I'd guess we were on our way back from the town centre and stopped off to see my Aunty Jean, who lived there.
What's certain is that we clambered up the stairs to the 7th floor: me mum didn't like lifts, see. Jean tells me that there were two separate lifts:
- one lift to even-numbered floors
- one lift to odd-numbered floors
If your lift was busy, you'd take the other one and then walk up or down a flight of stairs to reach your floor. Makes sense.
She'd been hoping for a council place to live and was offered, and took, a place in the Towers. Flat 74, to be precise, a one bed flat. Moving in around the spring of 1970, rent was about £3 a week, payable at the council offices in Museum Street. Wot no direct debits.
Ever So Nice
Talking to Jean about life in a high-rise 60s tower block, I'd expected her to have unpleasant memories. Not so. Her time there was "wonderful". Flat had all mod cons, including underfloor heating, plus a balcony providing a "gorgeous view" down Bramford Road and beyond.
Their full time caretaker ensured that everything was kept in good running order, so the lifts always worked, and she was even lent a spin-drier to use. There were very few children there: the Council encouraged you to move elsewhere if you had a baby, which is why Jean moved out in 1972 when a daughter came along.
Switching back to Ephesus, the great marble temple was burned to the ground by a misguided chap named Herostratus, who wanted everyone to remember his name. Let's hope that Cumberland Towers remains for a few years yet.