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Thirteen things you'll only remember if you grew up in Sudbury

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Sudbury is rich in history and culture, made famous for its silk weaving businesses and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough.

Those who grew up in Sudbury have seen the town adapt and change immensely over the years, leaving them with memories you'd only remember if you used to live in the town...

1. The Gainsborough cinema

The Gainsborough cinema was in East Street where Infinity Nightclub is now situated. Picture: Google Maps
The Gainsborough cinema was in East Street where Infinity Nightclub is now situated. Picture: Google Maps

A trip to The Gainsborough cinema on East Street was a fantastic treat for a youngster growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

The one-screen venue, of course named after Sudbury's famous painter Thomas Gainsborough, opened in 1912 and seated over 300 film-goers.

Situated in the building that now houses Infinity nightclub, the cinema closed its doors for the last time in 1982, 70 years after it first opened.

Many a happy hour was spent in The Gainsborough, with particular memories of The Fox and the Hound screening in 1981 and the final 1982 showing of Sydney Pollack's Tootsie.

2. The Gainsborough pub and Jade's Nightclub

Back in the 80s before fast food giant McDonald's took over their current Chilton Industrial Estate premises, popular pub The Gainsborough sat proudly just off of the roundabout at the top of Gallows Hill.

McDonalds Sudbury, where The Gainsborough pub and Jades used to be. Picture: Google maps
McDonalds Sudbury, where The Gainsborough pub and Jades used to be. Picture: Google maps

It was a regular haunt for many Sudbury residents who would visit the hexagonal-shaped rooms of the venue to drink and socialise.

Some time later, it became Jade's Nightclub which enjoyed a similar popularity and saw young people from all over the town, particularly the Springlands estate, make the trip up the hill for a dance and a drink.

Jade's played plenty of pop and chart tunes and most Sudbury-born 40-somethings will have a memory of some kind that involves dancing the night away on the dance floor.

3. Parrot Records and The Record Shop

While the days of independent record shops and music stores seem somewhat behind us, many Sudbury residents will remember the likes of Parrot Records and The Record Shop as one of the coolest places in town to stop at on the weekends.

Vinyls from the likes of Michael Jackson and The Cure were amongst some of the classics for sale in these stores and anyone who was anyone made sure they visited as often as they could to update their record collection and browse the latest releases.

4. The excitement of Kingfisher opening

Kingfisher Sudbury. Picture: Google maps
Kingfisher Sudbury. Picture: Google maps

In 1987 Kingfisher Leisure Centre and indoor pool opened in Station Road, sending waves of excitement through the community.

Youngsters all over the town and from surrounding villages were elated at the fact that Sudbury finally offered a pool with a roof (and a flume!).

Gone were the days of freezing cold dips in the Belle Vue outdoor pool that was closed in 1985 and suddenly everyone wanted a coveted Kingfisher season ticket.

The leisure centre still stands to this day and remains a firm favourite with children and young people.

5. Schools past and present

Those that went through schooling in Sudbury many moons ago will remember that several of the educational buildings where many spent their formative years have since been demolished or turned into housing developments.

Springlands Primary School was situated on Acton Lane and was built in 1973 to accommodate for the children living on the newly-built Springlands estate.

Uplands Middle School in York Road, previously the site of the Sudbury Girls' High School until 1972, was developed into houses when it closed in 2013 after a two-tier schooling system was brought in.

Ormiston Academy, formerly Sudbury Uppper School. Picture: Google maps
Ormiston Academy, formerly Sudbury Uppper School. Picture: Google maps

Sudbury Upper School, where most Sudbury-born youngsters spent their teens, became an Academy in 2012, operated by the Ormiston Academies Trust.

6. A rich history of silk making

Sudbury has an extensive history of silk production, with multiple high profile weaving businesses working from the town.

Vanners in Weavers Lane, Gainsborough Silk Weaving Co in Alexandra Road and Humphries Weaving, which originally opened on Cornard Road, are all still going strong, in many cases hundreds of years after opening.

Stephen Walters, the oldest silk mill in the country, has been based in Sudbury since 1860. Their silk was used in Meghan Markle's wedding dress as well as the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 and Princess Diana’s wedding dress in 1981.

Silk really puts Sudbury on the map and gives us a rich history to be proud of!

7. Fire at The Four Swans hotel

Those around in the 90s will remember The Four Swans Hotel, which was located at number 10 North Street where M&Co is currently found, burnt down in 1997.

M&Co Sudbury, which is situated on the site of The Four Swans, which caught alight in 1997. Picture: Google maps
M&Co Sudbury, which is situated on the site of The Four Swans, which caught alight in 1997. Picture: Google maps

The beautiful pink and white building was gutted from the inside out. The blaze even took over the roof, leaving nothing but charred rubble in its wake.

The remaining façade was pulled down after and the building remodelled in a similar style to what it once was.

8. BMX track on land between Springlands and Woodhall Farm

Before the Woodhall Industrial Estate with Tesco and B&Q was built on the land past the Springlands estate in the mid-80s, the area was all farmland owned by Woodhall Farm.

Kids who grew up at this time will remember playing 'army' and 'dirty scatter' in the fields until the sun went down.

Others may remember the BMX track that was dug into one of the fields at the edge of the farm. Youngsters would bring their bikes from all over the estate to socialise with friends and take turns on the track - hours of fun!

9. Shopper's Paradise and Finefare

Shopper's Paradise and Finefare were very popular supermarkets in the 80s before shopping giants Tesco, Aldi and Sainsburys arrived in the town.

Finefare, situated in North Street, and Shopper's Paradise in King Street both sold groceries and essentials and, just a short walk from most homes in the town, were perfect for the weekly shopping trip.

10. CAV and Delphi

Everyone who grew up in Sudbury will know at least one person who worked at either CAV or Delphi.

CAV came to the town in the 1940s and the Cornard Road factory, which was at one time large enough to need its own fire service, supplied jobs to hundreds of the town's residents.

The Delphi factory off of Newton Road, which began to scale down in 2017 and closed officially in 2020, was a 22-acre factory manufacturing engine parts, complete with a popular social club which hosted dances, music and celebrations.

The site was sold to Future Properties Industrial Ltd in 2020 but many look back fondly at their time working in the factory.

11. Walnut Tree Hospital

Many will remember a time when Waltnut Tree Hospital was a thriving and busy healthcare centre.

Transformed from a 1800s workhouse and running as a hospital for almost 100 years before its closure in 2014, Walnut Tree Hospital employed hundreds of Sudbury residents throughout the years and cared for hundreds more.

The site has since been developed into houses.

12. Woolworths

One of the most popular shops on North Street before its 2009 closure was Woolworths.

The high street giant sold everything from kids toys and clothes to the legendary pick and mix sweets and a trip to Woolies at the weekend made you the envy of your class as a youngster.

Sudbury residents who visited Woolies as a child will remember the warm fuzzy feeling walking through the double doors and the aisles upon aisles of brightly coloured packaging for new toys (most of which ended up on your Christmas list!)

13. McDowells toy shop

A trip to McDowells was another exciting way to fill a Saturday morning, browsing the rows of toys and gifts.

Britain's painted collectable figurines lined the shelves and a whole end of the shop was dedicated to Airfix models.

It was eventually replaced by Toymaster, but nothing will truly beat the memories of McDowells!

Which of these shops, events and businesses can you remember best?