Ipswich | Oldest English Port Town

In the 7th century, when the port of Ipswich was first established, there was no dock as such, and for the next 11 centuries the port was concentrated on the north bank of the river following the line of what is now the Waterfront. By the end of the 18th century, although medieval merchants’ warehouses, maltings, shipyards and factories stretched from Stoke Bridge to the then Ipswich Gas Works at Patteson Road, the river itself had silted as the Town’s prosperity declined. Something big and bold had to be done!

ipswich, cliff quay pleasure beach 1900, ipswich maritime trust

It was realised that the Town’s fortunes could be improved with better berthing accommodation, and so, at great expense, the Wet Dock was built by damming the river and cutting a channel [The New Cut] to replace the tidal river. The resulting Wet Dock was formally opened in 1842 with its entrance lock opposite the Steamboat Tavern, but as the ships increased in size a new bigger lock was built in 1881.

As the size of ships continued to increase, it became necessary to anchor the largest of them in Butterman’s Bay below Pin Mill and to discharge their cargoes into barges. Plans were then prepared for a larger entrance to the Wet Dock but before this could be started World War I broke out, and all such projects were postponed. After the War, the enormous increase in the cost of construction-work made it evident that the expense of the new lock could not be undertaken and the decision was taken to construct a deep water quay outside the Dock on the Cliff pleasure beach, with an ultimate length of 1215 metres.

In 1973, construction of the West Bank Terminal began; initially to provide Ro-Ro facilities, but was then developed further and today has a length of 320 metres.