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Ipswich: Historic book charts the development Waterfront

13:21 20 June 2014

The building of the Wet Dock Quays by hand, revealed in a discovered photographic archive, now in the care of the Ipswich Maritime Trust

The building of the Wet Dock Quays by hand, revealed in a discovered photographic archive, now in the care of the Ipswich Maritime Trust


A unique glimpse of how the Wet Dock quays were built by hand

Ipswich Maritime Trust members Bob Pawsey and Leonard Woolf examing the book which chronicles how the Wet Dock Quays were built by hand.Ipswich Maritime Trust members Bob Pawsey and Leonard Woolf examing the book which chronicles how the Wet Dock Quays were built by hand.

The Ipswich Maritime Trust continues to gather fascinating historical information about the development of the port of Ipswich and the Wet Dock.

A remarkable leather-bound volume has recently come to light over 100 years since it was first produced by the old Ipswich Dock Commission’s chief engineer.

It was recently acquired by Ipswich Maritime Trust member Leonard Woolf, and gives us a uniquely detailed record of the construction company’s design and construction of the south-west quays in Ipswich Wet Dock. All the tendering specifications, estimates, contracts and bills together with 49 photographs of the work during construction were bound into one volume by the contractors, Easton Gibb & Son.

In the picture, Leonard Woolf and Trust director Bob Pawsey are seen examining the volume.

Trust director Stuart Grimwade describes how, after the construction of the present Wet Dock in 1843 (then the largest of its kind in Europe), the old riverside sloping beach on the south-west side of the dock was used to load ballast for sailing ships that had discharged their cargo.

And so it was not until the need for this activity declined with the coming of steam ships that the South-West Quay we see today was constructed during the period 1902-1905. The construction records are remarkable for the amount of manual labour required, and by today’s standards, the low wages of the men involved. The low wages were endorsed by the low values of the estimates and bills. It is rare to have such a first-hand and personal description of the kind of practical problems that arose on such a major project in those days, and the way they were resolved as the work went along.

The contemporary pictures, one of which is shown here, are remarkable in showing the variety of vessels and lighters using the Wet Dock as well as a detailed record of the quay construction methods.

Leonard Woolf has agreed to donate the use of the records to the Ipswich Maritime Trust and all the photographs have now been scanned by Stuart Grimwade into the Trust’s image archive.

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