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Days Gone By - River Orwell flows through Ipswich history

PUBLISHED: 19:31 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 19:43 06 October 2016

The marina at Levington, now called the Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Photo by Jim Empson

The marina at Levington, now called the Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Photo by Jim Empson

Dave Kindred

The River Orwell flows from the weir at Yarmouth Road, Ipswich, to Harwich Harbour. It passes the marina at Levington, now called the Suffolk Yacht Harbour, which has expanded considerably since this photograph was taken in the late 1970s.

The original lock at New Cut was moved to its parent location in 1881. This picture was taken from near Foundry Road in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Ipswich Maritime TrustThe original lock at New Cut was moved to its parent location in 1881. This picture was taken from near Foundry Road in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Ipswich Maritime Trust

Much of the river’s banks remain unspoilt and have changed little over the centuries, writes David Kindred as he looks back at the history of the river. When the town was given its first charter on May 25, 1200, it was over 600 years old. The fact that the estuary was navigable and a crossing was possible where Stoke Bridge is now, are the basis of the town’s existence. The wet dock, which was created by damming the river at the Stoke Bridge, opened in 1842.

Stoke Bridge looking towards the dock around 1912.Stoke Bridge looking towards the dock around 1912.

This next photo shows Stoke Bridge looking towards the dock, it was taken around 1912.

Stoke Bridge is in the background of this 1890s photographStoke Bridge is in the background of this 1890s photograph

Stoke Bridge is in the background of this 1890s photograph. The mill behind the barges stood where the skate board park is now. The iron bridge featured replaced a stone bridge, which was washed away in a flood of April, 1818 and in turn the iron bridge was replaced with a concrete bridge in the mid 1920s. Work on a second bridge to dual the road started in 1982.

The River Orwell flowing under the Seven Arches Bridge on London Road, Ipswich, around 1895The River Orwell flowing under the Seven Arches Bridge on London Road, Ipswich, around 1895

The River Orwell flowed under the Seven Arches Bridge in London Road, as seen here in a photo from around 1895. This bridge was demolished and replaced in 1959. Every day thousands of cars now cross the river here. The present bridge links the Hadleigh Road and Yarmouth Road junctions.


The Lower Yard, from the Princes Street bridge, in the 1890s with the River Orwell on the right. This view looking towards Stoke Bridge changed very little for the next seventy years. The tower of St Peters Church is in the centre background.
The Lower Yard, from the Princes Street bridge, in the 1890s with the River Orwell on the right. This view looking towards Stoke Bridge changed very little for the next seventy years. The tower of St Peters Church is in the centre background.

Next we see the Lower Yard, from the Princes Street bridge, in the 1890s with the River Orwell on the right. This view looking towards Stoke Bridge changed very little for the next 70 years. The tower of St Peter’s Church is in the centre background.

Thames barges are dwarfed by the Emmanuelle Aveme at Buttermans Bay in this photograph taken in November 1900.Thames barges are dwarfed by the Emmanuelle Aveme at Buttermans Bay in this photograph taken in November 1900.

Huge sailing ships traded with grain from around the world would anchored at Butterman’s Bay, close to Pin Mill, to offload cargo onto barges so that the ships were lightened to enter the dock at Ipswich. Thames barges are dwarfed by the Emmanuelle Aveme at Butterman’s Bay.

This photograph, from around 1910, shows children playing on the bank of the River OrwellThis photograph, from around 1910, shows children playing on the bank of the River Orwell

Here we see children playing on the bank of the River Orwell where Cliff Quay is now. This photograph, from around 1910, has the lock gates in the centre background.

The paddle steamer Essex in New Cut around 1910. A trio of steamers, The Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, ran a service to Felixstowe until around 1930. Do you remember the house that stood on New Cut West?

The paddle steamer Essex in New Cut around 1910. A trio of steamers, The Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, ran a service to Felixstowe until around 1930. Do you remember the house that stood on New Cut West?

The paddle steamer Essex in New Cut around 1910. A trio of steamers, The Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk, ran a service to Felixstowe until around 1930. Do you remember the house that stood on New Cut West?

Pin Mill around a century agoPin Mill around a century ago

This images shows how Pin Mill looked around a century ago. The Butt and Oyster public house is on the left. Reference to the Butt and Oyster was made in 1456 when a water bailiff’s court was held there.

016 Kindred 4 October16_ (1)-a016 Kindred 4 October16_ (1)-a

And here we see a barge passing through the lock at Ipswich Dock around 1905.

HMS Ganges, the Royal Navys training base at Shotley, from the air. Photo by Jim EmpsonHMS Ganges, the Royal Navys training base at Shotley, from the air. Photo by Jim Empson

HMS Ganges, the Royal Navy’s training base at Shotley, is seen from the air in the 1970s. The base stood at the mouth of the River Orwell. The base was here from the early years of the 20th Century until it closed on June 6, 1976. Between 1905 and 1976 around 150,000 young recruits were trained at the base. The athletics area in the left foreground is now the site of the Shotley Marina.

The athletics track at HMS Ganges in the 1960s. This area is now the Shotley Marina.The athletics track at HMS Ganges in the 1960s. This area is now the Shotley Marina.

Here we see the athletics track at HMS Ganges in use in the 1960s.

The Ipswich registered barge Freston Tower and a Great Eastern Railways paddle steamerThe Ipswich registered barge Freston Tower and a Great Eastern Railways paddle steamer

The Ipswich registered barge Freston Tower and a Great Eastern Railways paddle steamer are seen here on the River Orwell around 1900.

All of these features are now just memories.

• If you can tell us more about any of the photographs, email us here

See more from Days Gone By here

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