Hats off to Ipswich and Ipswich on the 4th of July

Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed - Credit: Archant

Lynne will be celebrating American Independence Day in tight corsets and with a toast to the Ipswichians over the pond.

It is Independence Day in America and as a staunch Ipswich girl, I am today heading for Ipswich, Massachusetts, which, perversely, is in Essex County.

In this week’s civic news, we find that July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month (nice to think we might need one of those over here) and so the Ipswich Department of Public Health is helping to raise awareness of the risks of sun damage and spread the message of sun safety.

There is also an update on the “mosquito control best management practice plan” and, due to the online form to register participation in the July 4th parade, I’m guessing there’s a parade today. The form asks if I will be decorating my trike, bike or wagon at home or dressing it up on the Winthrop elementary school front lawn.

According to its own website, Ipswich was founded on land originally inhabited by Native American tribes, who called the area “Agawam.”

Today, the town is known for its early 17th Century homes. It has an unmatched 58 houses built before 1725. It has a rolling landscape of forests, fields, farmland, marshes, dunes, and beaches with river and ocean views.

Colonised in 1633, more than a millennium after its English namesake, “a group led by John Winthrop Jr. established Ipswich, a settlement named for a town in England from which most of the first settlers originated”. It sits on the banks of the Ipswich River and one hopes the natives still retain some of our most lyrical Ipswich phrases such as: “‘As ryatt, innat?” and “If the wind chayange, yu’ll stay loike that.”

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The history continues: “Ships from the West Indies unloaded molasses at the wharf. The barrels were rolled directly into a thriving distillery, the town’s second largest commercial operation in Ipswich.

“Lace and stocking making developed as a home industry. The first stocking machine, which had been smuggled from England, arrived in Ipswich in 1822. For several years, small and intermittently successful textile industries came and went. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the Ipswich Hosiery Mills in the old stone mill on the Ipswich River. By the turn of the century, the enterprise had become the largest stocking mill in the country.”

We have no distillery but we certainly had a thriving brewery in Tolly Cobbold and one of the town’s biggest employers was William Pretty & Son, corset makers.

And so in the spirit of Independence Day (when the USA severed its legal ties to Great Britain), let us quaff a glass of ale and tighten our corsets.

Living, as I do, close to Christchurch Park, it was touch and go as to whether I would go along and see Saturday’s Film Night Spectacular, at the weekend. With Brian Blessed hosting the concert, I was fairly sure I would be able to hear it (and certainly him) from my back garden. In the end, I got a ticket.