In the early 20th century, the face of Ipswich was changing. Motorcars were seen on the streets and the electric tram became the fashionable way of getting around parts of the town. In the years preceding the start of WW1 the Ipswich and Suffolk Permanent Benefit Building Society (as it was then) continued to prosper, developing plots of land right across the town.
By 1914 it was time for attention, both nationally and locally, to turn towards international matters as hundreds of thousands of young men went off to the trenches in Northern France and Belgium, many of which were never to return. Despite the outbreak of war in early September members of the FLS were evidently determined to carry on life as normal – of course the feeling at that time was that it ‘would ‘all be over by Christmas’. The Society held a ballot for houses in Ipswich on 24th September 1914. The Committee’s recommendation that “under the present circumstances small houses are the best possible form of investment” was clearly accepted by members as there were 343 applications for the 40 houses balloted.
In another development for the Society in 1915, the Society relocated its offices from the Corn Exchange to 44 Upper Brook Street, where it would stay until another move to more modern premises in 2004. It wasn’t until three years later that the Armistice was finally declared on 11th November 1918, and as news came in by telephone, a hush fell in workplaces and factories across the nation. Locally, factory hooters sounded followed by prayers and celebrations. Crowds gathered on the Cornhill, close to the building which is now our Mutual House branch.
Almost 1,500 Ipswich men lost their lives in WWI and the Society was keen to support the fund to provide a permanent memorial to those who died in the conflict. At the 1919 Annual Meeting, the Committee proposed making a donation of £25 to the ‘Ipswich Hospital War Memorial Fund’. After discussion amongst the members this was increased to £100 (2017: £5,400).
Based on excerpts from ‘150 Years On: A Century and a Half of Ipswich Building Society’ by Ivan Howlett, published 1999 and ‘First World War Centenary – Freehold Land Society developments after the Armistice’.