Port of Ipswich
Review and History

The Port of Ipswich lies on banks of the River Orwell estuary in Suffolk County, England. It is classified as a non-metropolitan district. In 2007, it received the “Cleanest Town” award by the British Cleaning Council. Ipswich industry is largely based on agriculture. The world’s first commercial motorized lawnmower was built there in 1902.

The working Port of Ipswich is one of three deep-water Haven ports, with several million tons of cargo passing over its docks each year. In the past few years, the town’s Neptune Marina has become more popular, and several ship- and boat-builders have located there. In 2001, almost 139 thousand people called the Port of Ipswich home.

Port History

In Britain, the 50-thousand year period before the last ice age is known as the Ipswichian age, ending about 80 thousand years ago. The site of the Port of Ipswich was on an important route for the Roman Empire. The Port of Ipswich is one of the oldest towns in England, growing up in Anglo-Saxon times during the rule of King Raedwald in the 7th Century AD. It is believed that the King’s grave is located in the ship burial found at nearby Sutton Hoo.

In the 7th Century, the Port of Ipswich was called “Gippeswick,” and it was built around the quay. In about 700 AD, potters from the Netherlands settled here, establishing England’s first large-scale potteries since Roman occupation.

The Port of Ipswich was already an important national and international center by 720 AD. It was the main stopping point for trade between York and London and between Scandinavia and the Rhine.

After 869, the town was ruled by the invading Vikings who build earth ramparts around Ipswich. Some of their ancient roads still exist under the Port of Ipswich’s streets. In the 10th Century, the English recaptured the Port of Ipswich from the Vikings. A royal mint operated there from the late 10th Century, through the Norman Conquest, until 1215 during the reign of King John.

King John granted the first town charter in 1200. For the next four hundred years, the Port of Ipswich’s wealth was largely built on the trade of Suffolk cloth with the European Continent. Medieval Ipswich was home to five religious buildings and several hospitals. The Shrine of Our Lady of Grace was a famous destination for pilgrims that included King Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales satirized Port of Ipswich merchants in the late 14th Century. Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, one of Henry VIII’s allies, was born there and founded a college in Ipswich in 1528. During the reign of Queen Mary, their Protestant beliefs created the Ipswich Martyrs who were burned at the stake.

The Port of Ipswich prospered for centuries from the export of textiles from East Anglia. In the early 17th Century, the Port of Ipswich was a busy port of departure for emigrants to New England in North America. In fact, the first minister of Ipswich, Massachusetts, came from the port. In the late 18th Century, Lord Nelson was made High Steward of Ipswich.

Painter Thomas Gainsborough lived in the Port of Ipswich. In 1835, Charles Dickens stayed there, and he used it as a setting for parts if The Pickwick Papers that described the town’s Great White Horse Hotel. A few years later, coprolite mining began, forming the base for Fisons fertilizer business.

Over the past decades, the Port of Ipswich has undergone ambitious gentrification efforts, particularly around the waterfront, converting the dock into a residential and commercial center and undermining the town’s industrial and maritime heritage.

The Port of Ipswich’s 19th Century Tolly Cobbold brewery is one of the United Kingdom’s best Victorian breweries. A Cobbold brewery has been located in the town since 1746.

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