Cliff Quay Brewery

The Cobbold’s on Ipswich Docks

Over the last 60 years in Ipswich nearly every pub was run by Tolly Cobbold, with a brewery based at Cliff Quay since 1746. It now stands empty after closing in 2002, on its site is the now closed but what was once a hugely popular pub the Brewery Tap, housed in the Victorian brewery offices and possibly in what was an 18th century brothel. It now faces possible regeneration, becoming an area of the waterfront for residential housing, restaurants, new businesses and use by the University of Suffolk.

cliff quay brewery, ipswich

Cliff Quay Brewery was built when Thomas Cobbold moved his operations to Ipswich. The early 18th century operation has been a debating point for local historians over the last century, due to limited documents. The traditional viewpoint is that the Cobbolds moved from Harwich due to issues with the water supply, forcing them to ship water to Harwich from Ipswich. 

There is little to no evidence for this, having become lost in Suffolk folklore. A more tenable view is that the ability to be closer to the water spring in what is now Holywell’s Park (a Cobbold estate) made it cost effective and closer to the emerging markets for Cobbold beers and ales. However, without evidence for either reason the point is moot, nonetheless the business flourished in Ipswich following the move. 

The success of the brewery and the importance of the Cobbold family in every aspect of Victorian Ipswich society and business, including banking, shipbuilding and the railways, pushed the growth of the town. The Cobbolds were a driving force in the creation of a railway that established a line to London. The railway helped expand the breweries markets and helped the port of Ipswich develop and thrive. The result of this was seen in the popularity and demand for Cobbold pubs, with around 300 pubs across Suffolk, many in Ipswich surrounding the docks and its workers. Today the Cobbold name is synonymous with Ipswich and the development of the town owes itself largely to their businesses and philanthropy.