2017 was a big year for our Branch.
We celebrated our 85-year anniversary, having had our first ever Committee meeting on 24 May 1932. We also saw the Martlesham Animal Centre celebrate its 40th birthday, opening in Mill Lane in September 1977. However, the Centre is a youngster compared to the Clinic, which has been at its current site in St Georges St, Ipswich for 55 years. It opened in October 1962, having been bought for the princely sum of £1600 (old money) with a building fund raising £151.14s6d “for alteration and decoration”. The Branch had always run a Clinic, right from the first decision made by the Committee back in 1932, but this was the first time the Branch had owned our Clinic premises.
Until the 1970s everything happened in Blackhorse Lane in Ipswich, but we were fortunate enough to receive a very generous legacy from Miss Butcher of Ipswich. It was decided to purchase the land and property at Mill Lane, Martlesham, a site found by (the late) Miss Olive Cossons (former Hon. Secretary for the Branch) and Insp. Ron Summers. In September of 1977, the Animal Centre opened, not in its present form and with second hand kennels and make-do facilities, but nevertheless a sanctuary for abandoned and needy animals.
In the 1990s, it became necessary to improve the soundproofing of the kennels. We had to raise £100,000 towards the cost. An appeal was launched and thanks to many caring and generous people the target was achieved. In 1998 the new kennels were opened.
Over the years, we have steadily expanded our string of charity shops, a vital source of income that supports both the Animal Centre and the Clinic. 2007 saw us move outside Ipswich for the first time, with a new shop in Hamilton Road, Felixtowe. 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the Felixstowe shop – and we celebrated by renewing the lease for another 10 years. In 2012, we moved from our tiny shop in Carr Street, Ipswich, to the beautiful glass fronted premises on the corner of Tacket Street – trebling our sales area and having – at last – ample space for sorting and storing stock. 2013 saw the opening a small but thriving charity shop on Reynolds Road, Ipswich, and in 2018 we extended our family of shops with a new unit at the Meadow Centre in Stowmarket. We are still looking for potential new shops.
Over the last few years we have undertaken a lot of improvement work to the Centre and the accommodation. March 2013 saw the opening of a super new cattery with 14 pens, which was filled to capacity within days. As well as a new cattery, we have taken the opportunity to create a new kitchen just for the cats. This was only possible due to the very generous legacy left to the Branch by the Late Mrs Heather Evans. We also took down the existing sub-standard ferret accommodation and replaced it with ten, fit for purpose, UPVC pens.
In 2018 we were able to start work on Project Winston – replacing the old “x4 block” kennels and dog isolation units, which were at the end of their lives. A £101,486.54 legacy – suitably from an avid dog lover – is the foundation of the funding for the plans, augmented by a £258,380 grant from the Dr Millar Danks Charitable Trust, £50,000 from RSPCA HQ and £5,720 received as our “share” when the Ipswich Mayor chose the Branch as one of his charities in 2015. The Branch is currently fundraising for more money towards this project, especially as we’ve encountered unexpected additional costs, including an entire new waste treatment system at over £100,000!