The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

Co-operative Department Store – Ipswich

Nominated by: Patricia Ware
Have C20 acted upon before? yes
Region: East Anglia
Dates from: 1908-1950/60s
Built for: Ipswich Industrial Co-operative Society, latterly East of England Co-operative Society
Architect: Winkworth and Winkworth
Listed: Locally Listed
Conservation Area: No

Founded in 1868, the Ipswich Industrial Co-operative Society had by the 1880s built a large central premises on Carr Street/Cox Lane in the main retail area of the town (now converted to flats) and in the twentieth century began to expand eastwards on the other side of Cox Lane. Over decades it created a department store formed from a multi-period range of five buildings dating from 1908 through the 1920s and 1930s to the 1950s/60s in a number of different architectural styles with corresponding decoration, motifs and lettering. At the ground floor there are later shopfronts along the whole range while to the rear there is a striking mosaic mural, 1963-4, by the Hungarian artists Gyula Bajois and Endre Hevezi marking the 1960s expansion of the store.  It is one of only four surviving large-scale English Co-op murals from the 1950s and 1960s.

This eclectic range of buildings graphically demonstrates the continued strength and growth of the Co-operative movement in the first half of the twentieth century and its provision of department stores as cheaper alternatives to more middle-class establishments.

In 2009 in the face of a challenging retail environment and continuing the Co-operative movement’s trend away from non-food stores, the East of England Co-op disposed of its department stores to Vergo Retail but the latter quickly went into administration and The Carr Street store shut in 2010 with only charity shop use since.

Vacant and unused and now facing demolition. Despite the building’s local listing and opposition from the C20 Society, Victorian Society, Ipswich Society and Suffolk Preservation Society, planning consent was given in August 2021 under 21/00566/FUL for the complete redevelopment of the site as a primary school. Proposals either to convert the existing buildings or to at least retain the Carr Street facades were dismissed at an early stage.  Ipswich Borough Council has made retention and relocation of the mosaic, friezes and lettering a condition of the consent. Last update: November 2021

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