Time and tide wait for no man

WATCHING the massive changes to the Ipswich Dock area, now renamed The Waterfront, it is difficult as soon as a building is demolished or re-designed, to remember things as they were.

David Kindred

WATCHING the massive changes to the Ipswich Dock area, now renamed The Waterfront, it is difficult as soon as a building is demolished or re-designed, to remember things as they were.

Even if you pass a site every day or work nearby the exact detail of buildings does not register in your memory. I recently found a set of photographs (above) taken from the island site at the dock in July 1965.

I have returned to the same spot to take the same scene today (below). I have made the photographs into a panorama of the quay spanning close to 180 degrees.

When the dock saw the first ship pass through the lock in January 1842, the 33 acre dock was the largest area of water of its kind in England.

There had been a port at Ipswich for over a thousand years with the town dating from Anglo Saxon times.

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The first narrow crossing point on the tidal River Orwell was where Stoke Bridge is today and the port grew on quays built on the natural bend downstream from there.

On the south side the river was broad at high tide as the water covered mudflats, but at low tide there was little water. The north banks, where Fore Street, Quay Street and College Street are, is where quays were built and merchant's houses stood.

Damming of the river at both ends and building a lock meant the flow of the river had to be redirected as New Cut was dug to take the water past the enclosed dock.

It was June 1837 that the Ipswich Dock Act received Royal Assent from Queen Victoria. The Dock Commissioners included prosperous local businessmen and bankers.

One of the buildings which has stood almost as long as the dock is the Custom House on Common Quay.

The old Custom House was demolished in 1843 and architect John Medland Clark drew plans for the present building costing £4,250.

Today this fine example of Victorian architecture stands as a centre piece to all the changes. The building has been restored and the bonded store on the ground floor has been altered into a conference and exhibition area.

Where there was once the smell of barley, wheat and malt from the mills of Cranfield Brothers and R and W Paul, there is now the smell of restaurants cafes and bars.

Coprolite Street was cut through from Duke Street in the early Victorian period and the road took its name from the material used at Packard's fertiliser factory.

The smell from the factory, as sulphuric acid was mixed with coprolite, was awful and production was moved up river to Bramford and the dock site used as a store.

On the other side of Coprolite Street were the mills of Eastern Counties Farmers Ltd who operated from there until the 1980s. This area of the dock is now busy as the first intake of students have started their studies at the new Suffolk University College.

Gone are the coal yards, mills and chandlers, most of which were still in use when the panorama was taken in 1965.

Now some of the old buildings remain, restored with a new lease of life, The Waterfront restaurant, recently opened in one of the Victorian buildings towards Stoke Bridge.

The main buildings in the 1965 panorama are (from the left) on Albion Wharf: The silos and mills of Cranfield Brothers and R and W Paul; on Common Quay, The Custom House, R and W Paul; on Neptune Quay; William Brown builders merchants, Issac Lord coal merchant, British Oil and Cake Mills Ltd's store, J Whitmore Ltd ship chandlers, Mellonie and Goulder Ltd coal factors and the mills and silos of Eastern Counties Farmers Ltd.

- Did you work for any of the companies which stood around the dock at Ipswich? Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail info@kindred-spirit.co.uk

Grain silos

The mills and grain silos were in the tangle of tall buildings close to Stoke Bridge. Grain was transported to and from the site, in company barges belonging to Cranfield Brothers and R and W Paul Ltd.

Large areas of the mills near Stoke Bridge were demolished in the redevelopment plan although much of the Victorian frontage has been retained. Cranfield's was founded in 1884 by John Cranfield.

More mills were added in 1903 and 1911.

The tallest building in Ipswich was recently 'topped out' on this site. It is called 'The Mill' and has 23 storeys. The structure stands 71.4 (234.25) feet above the ground.

The site will be home to 337 housing units and 35,000 square feet of commercial space. It will also be home to Dance East. Work started on the site in July 2007 and completion is expected in October next year.

British Oil and Cake Mills Ltd

The building which was used as a store by the British Oil and Cake Mills Ltd in the 1960s has now been converted to the Salthouse Hotel. There are plans for the hotel to expand onto the site of

J Whitmore Ltd ship a chandler building next door, which in recent years has been a snooker club.

Eastern Counties Farmers feed mill

The buildings on the extreme right belonged to Eastern Counties Farmers. This farming co-operative built a feed mill on the site in 1954 and operated until the mid 1980s. Cargo was loaded from ship a lorries on the curved quay.

The site also had an entrance on Fore Street. The site is now home to the modern architecture of the Suffolk University College.

R and W Paul Ltd

R and W Paul started as a small grain and barge business in the middle of the eighteenth century. It was established by Robert Paul. The business was inherited by Robert and William Paul when they were just 18 and 15. The business grew into a large company with granaries, mills and maltings around the dock. At one stage the company had a fleet of six steamers and 25 sea going barges. This building was one of the first to be converted and is now Waterfront House with offices, including those of Ashton and Graham solicitors.

R and W Paul grain silo

This massive grain silo belonging to R and W Paul was completed in 1962 next to the Custom House.

When it was demolished, during the recent redevelopment of the site, it was reduced to rubble by a crusher, which looked like a giant prehistoric monster munching its way through the building.

Among the buildings demolished in the late 1950s to build the silo was the Union Jack public house.

One of the problems of clearing the site was a 500 pound unexploded bomb which had been deep in the mud of Albion Wharf since a Second World War air raid of July 8, 1940.