Details unveiled for major renovation of Tolly Cobbold brewery in Cliff Quay, Ipswich

The Cliff Quay brewery is going to be developed.

The Cliff Quay brewery is going to be developed. - Credit: Su Anderson

An historic Ipswich building which only months ago was considered ‘at risk’ has been boosted by plans for a major redevelopment project which could see it become a thriving hub of the community.

The Cobbold brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich in the 1930s. This building was completed in 1896. The ea

The Cobbold brewery at Cliff Quay, Ipswich in the 1930s. This building was completed in 1896. The earlier brewery nearby was demolished in 1901. Cliff House on the left is now the Brewery Tap public house.

The former Tolly Cobbold brewery on the Waterfront is a Grade II Listed Building, with a rich history dating back to its opening in 1896.

But despite remaining derelict, and having suffered from theft and vandalism, the building’s fortunes are now set to be turned around.

An outline planning application has been lodged with Ipswich Borough Council, with proposals to turn the site into a building containing a cafe, restaurant, business start-ups, an auditorium, and a conference space, as well as other parts of the site being turned into a health club and 222 residential units.

A separate full planning application has also been submitted for a change of use from a redundant brewery to mixed commercial and residential use, with both matters set to go before the planning committee in the new year.

But while plans are only in the early stages, the project has already gathered support.

Paul Clement, Ipswich Central chief executive, said: “There’s an enormous amount of development ongoing in Ipswich town centre at the moment, and I am pleased to see this comprehensive application submitted.

Most Read

“It’s an important site given its history, and the current state of the building is concerning, so I would urge developers to not only submit a [full] planning application, but if consent is given, to go ahead with the development.”

The centre piece of the development will be the installation of a 250-seat auditorium to be used for concerts, lectures and conferences, with moveable seating to allow the space to be used for exhibitions.

The development looks set to benefit local businesses, with a proposed tie-up with the adjacent Brewery Tap to have an extended kitchen area with the firm in the frame to supply the catering for the redeveloped brewery centre.

Mike Keen, owner and manager of the Brewery Tap, said: “We haven’t had any meetings yet as the whole process is ongoing, but it would be a fantastic opportunity to take on a lot more business – a huge amount of footfall nearby can only benefit the Tap.”

The proposal also outlines interest from University Campus Suffolk to use the auditorium for lectures and conferences, as well as a tie-up with the university’s business school to promote business start-ups for its graduates.

Liz Harsant, Holywells ward councillor for Ipswich Borough Council, welcomed the impact the proposals could have in the area.

“It’s exciting and there has been a lot of talk about it, so we want the action now to see that site developed,” she said. “I am thrilled about it and I think everyone in the area will be – it’s that stretch along the Waterfront that really needs it.”

But while the restrictions dictated by the site’s listed building status will present challenges to the developers, the outline plans reveal that Pigeon Developments plan to retain as much of the existing material as possible. The application states: “The starting point for the design expression on a room-by-room basis, is to retain, make good and expose the brickwork walls, glazed brick and Victorian timber panels wherever it is practical.

“With the roofs, the intention is to expose timber rafters, make good and re-paint steel trusses, RSJ’s and tie-rods, and repair/replace close-boarded timber soffits [the underside of construction elements].”

Plans for funding have already begun, with a ‘scoping’ document having been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is understood to have ticked the required boxes for potential grant funding with new job opportunities, education use and business use all part of the benefits.

A formal funding application is set to be made after the plans have been considered by the planning committee.

Transport museum

While plans are still in the early stages, one move that could happen is that of a new dedicated space for Ipswich Transport Museum.

The museum is currently located in Cobham Road, but discussions are under way with the developers for the possibility of a permanent home at the Cliff Quay brewery development.

Mark Smith, chairman of the museum, said: “Potentially, it’s a very exciting development in that it could give us a permanent home in the town for the first time.

“It’s an application we support, and a very exciting opportunity, but we have to be wary of the challenges it potentially puts on the museum.”

Mr Smith admitted that while the museum is set to have had more than 10,000 visitors this year for the first time in its 50 year history, a move to bigger premises could mean it would have to move from a voluntary-staffed museum to needing paid employees.


The Cliff Brewery was founded in 1746, and run by the Cobbold marque.

After nearly 150 years, the brewery was rebuilt and re-opened in 1896 as the structure, which is now a Grade II-listed building, still seen today.

The Cobbold brewers later joined with the Tollemache family in 1957, and was renamed Tolly Cobbold.

But despite an illustrious history of almost 250 years of brewing expertise, the tap finally ran dry in 2002 when it was bought by Ridley’s, and the site has remained derelict ever since.

In 2012, listed building consent was given for renovation of the site for new uses, as part of a wider regeneration project of the Cliff Quay area, but progress stalled in recent years.

Concerns over the state of the brewery prompted the charity Save Britain’s Heritage to list the site in June this year as one of 100 across the country in urgent need of repair, while the Victorian Society named the building on this year’s Top Ten Most Endangered list.