7. Electric House
(not to confused with the Lighthouse of Alexandria)
Amped / Brick / Conductive
A name that trips unthinkingly off the tongue for us locals is where the green buses start and end their journeys. Has to be Electric House, built by the Ipswich Corporation, or so they tell me. Compare and contrast the Alexandria Lighthouse, built by Sostratus in the reign of Ptolemy.
This Is The Modern World
Back in 1903, the Electric Supply Undertaking of the Ipswich Corporation was begun. A booklet from the 1930s states that "the power station ... is thoroughly up-to-date and contains five turbo-alternators." That same decade saw the building of:
- Lloyds Avenue, linking to the Cornhill,
- the Odeon, opened 1936, now the Mecca bingo hall,
- and Electric House itself
Stand among the pigeons in front of the House and look up through the trees: you may catch a glimpse of the original insignia: LIGHT POWER HEAT, it grandly proclaims. Harder to spot are the intertwined letters, IESC, standing for Ipswich Electricity Supply Centre. This lettering was made by Saunders Stonemasons, the "largest and best equipped masons in East Anglia", who were based at 21 Cemetery Road. Saunders also won contracts to supply war grave headstones in France and Belgium, including memorials at Loos, Thiepval and, now partnered with Ipswich, Arras.
Service With A Smile
An old Kelly's ad from the 60s reads:
Consumers and intending consumers of electricity in the Borough and District of Ipswich are assured that their electrical requirements, whether of an industrial, commercial or domestic character, will receive prompt, careful and competent attention at the ...
ELECTRICITY SERVICE CENTRE
... where inquiries are welcomed, advice is free, apparatus may be discussed and selected, and arrangements can be made for safe and satisfactory wiring of every type of electrical installation.
Eastern Electricity Board
Ipswich District Office and Service Centre
"Electric House," Lloyds Avenue
Telephone Ipswich 56061
There's also a terrific photo of the Service Centre in all its glory, window displays filled with lamps and fittings. At the same level as the clock (which is still there) are more large letters stretched around the side and front:
POWER .. COOK .. HEAT .. FANS .. SIGNS
Gonna Have Some Wonderful Listening
Those of a certain age won't be thinking of wires and lights; mentally they'll be replaying jingles from good old Radio Orwell, our independent local radio station -- they began broadcasting from Electric House in 1975 on 97.1FM and 1170AM. DJs to become household names included the likes of Norman Lloyd, Nigel Rennie and Andy Archer, who always seemed to be playing The Eagles.
After winning a beat-the-intro phone-in (identifying records by Sinitta, Wax, Godley & Creme, etc.) I remember being invited round the back to pick up my prize of a stack of 7-inch singles. You could also pop in to the foyer to fill out a request card: didn't have no email or texts back then.
Orwell eventually mutated into SGR-FM and moved out, and now we find the Futon Shop there. Graham and Oldham, the solicitors, had the rear offices for some years -- they're now Ashton Graham in a posh new place on the waterfront.
As was the intention with the Alexandria Lighthouse, Electric House is still very much a landmark, shining out its name down Lloyds Avenue in neon letters.