Ipswich's Early Paddle Steamers

Most people rightly associate the Steamboat Tavern with the paddle steamers that used to ply from Ipswich to Harwich and London, but did you know that 2015 was the 200th anniversary of the first steamboats from Ipswich?

ipswich, paddle steamer, SS Norfolk

On 25th June 1814 a notice appeared in The Ipswich Journal announcing the imminent start of a Steam Packet Service to Harwich; 10am every morning from Ipswich and 6pm return from Harwich. However, these were early days of the new engine designs and, just like today, the introduction of new technology did not always go to plan!                           

Their steamer, the Orwell, was built at Great Yarmouth with a Norwich foundry supplying the engine. However, the engine was not sufficiently powerful and a replacement was obtained from the noted London engineers H Maudslay & Co., and was delivered by sea. The Orwell eventually went into service in 1815 between Ipswich and Harwich, but unfortunately was not a success and disappeared from history within a few weeks. 

The next mention in the local press of paddle steamer or steam packet is September 1825, when the launch of the steam vessel The Ipswich was announced; proclaiming services to London in a maximum of 10 to 14 hours with every sort of refreshment and accomodation exceeding anything seen before, particularly for ladies! Bearing in mind that the alternative transportation to London was by stage or mail coach, it will have been attractive to many. 

The Ipswich made her first voyage in March 1826 from London to Ipswich. Her scheduled voyages commenced in April and took around 11 hours to complete. She made weekly sailings from spring to autumn between Ipswich, Harwich and London, and was joined by the sister ship Suffolk later in 1826.

Moving on a few years, with the Great Eastern Railway and their sea-going fleet from Harwich to service, they also introduced paddle steamers for ever popular excursions between Ipswich, Felixstowe and Harwich. They had steamers called the Ipswich and the Stour built in 1864, which were replaced by the Orwell and Stour in 1873 and 1878, and an excursion paddle steamer Norfolk in 1897. This nicely brings us back to the Steamboat Tavern; as the paddle steamers either moored on the quay adjacent the pub or directly opposite on the other side of the new Cut.