Waterfront | Our Port

Associated British Ports (ABP) is the UK’s leading ports operator with 21 ports and boasts the UK’s leading export port for agricultural products at Ipswich.  In the latest of our regular spots, ABP’s former personnel manager – Bob Jones - teaches the second part of a thorough history lesson.

king edward, history of ipswich port


The Prosperity under Edward III continued throughout the 15th century and in 1404, Ipswich was made a Staple Port, whereby wool could be exported legally.  By 1464, Ipswich was the Country’s 4th most prosperous port and in 1500, was made one of 11 King’s Ports, providing trading privileges.  With the wool trade declining in 1600, forests of Suffolk Oak were to be the salvation of the Port.  Several new shipyards were built in the early 1600’s and in 1614, Ipswich was quoted as “having more shipwrights than any other port”.  This was not to last though and the mid-late 17th century wars with the Dutch and Spain caused foreign trade to diminish again and in the very late 1700’s it was quoted that “there was little water at the Ipswich quays”.


By 1800, the silt around the Town’s wharves was threatening to choke the Port out of existence.  In 1805, the activities of a local merchants’ steering committee resulted in an Act of Parliament, which vested the conversancy of the river in the ‘Rivers Commissioners’ – 72 members who became responsible for ‘deepening, widening, cleansing & otherwise improving’ the river.  By 1821, the Town’s population had increased to over 17,000 and in 1836 the construction of an enclosed dock was proposed by commissioner H R Palmer, with a construction estimate of £58,000.  The required Act of Parliament received Queen Victoria’s ascent on 1 July 1837 and almost 2 years later, the Dock’s foundation stone was laid.  When the lock gates closed for the first time on 22 January 1842, the cost had escalated to £85,000 and Ipswich had the largest port in the country at 33 acres.

Watch out for the third and final part of our history lesson next month.