The story of Ipswich Building Society
Ipswich Building Society was established in 1849 as the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society, as part of a national movement to create 'forty shilling freeholders' - giving the ordinary man the chance to buy enough land to enable him to vote.
Ipswich was fast developing, spreading westwards along Norwich Road and eastwards along Woodbridge Road. During the 1840s the Wet Dock was opened, the largest in Europe, and new railway lines linked Ipswich to Colchester, Bury St Edmunds, Hadleigh and Norwich.
The Society’s declared aim was to “improve the social position and promote the moral elevation of the unenfranchised population of this country”. People would be able to invest their savings with the Society, with that money being used to purchase areas of freehold land. This land would be divided into plots of sufficient size to confer its owner the right to vote.
At the first meeting on 4 December 1849 at the Ipswich Temperance Hall (demolished 1964), the Society enrolled 140 members with 150 shares taken. Within a week this had increased to 400 shares.
In 1850, the Society acquired its first piece of land – 98 acres at the Cauldwell Hall Estate. Now known as the California area of Ipswich at the time it was part of an outlying farm well outside the town.
By 1858 the first come, first served model of allocating plots to members was replaced by balloting. Members interested in a particular development would submit their ballot paper to the Secretary; should their corresponding numbered ball be drawn out they could proceed to purchase outright - or through an affordable mortgage with the Ipswich & Suffolk Permanent Benefit Building Society.
In 1866 the Society built houses for the first time, having already allotted 1,000 plots of land across 22 estates. The Society laid out two new Roads, Palmerston and Lancaster, with 28 houses built and sold by ballot for £145. The last houses were built in Shafto Road, Ipswich in 1933 by which time the Society had developed over 50 estates in Ipswich, and more across Suffolk including Felixstowe, Stowmarket, Lowestoft, Framlingham and Hadleigh.
Now, 170 years on, the Ipswich Building Society remains a mutual organisation working in the best interests of its members, with 9 branches and 2 agencies throughout Suffolk.