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 last part of a thorough history lesson.

customs house, ipswich waterfront


By the 1840’s Ipswich needed a new Customs House. The existing one was around 400 years old and in 1843, the new design was approved.  As a proclaimed public holiday, the 21st of July 1845, saw the £4,250 building opened.  In 1881 the new entrance lock was opened; to welcome a now blossoming trade with countries as far away as New Zealand.  In 1897 a new dredger was purchased and the next 20 years saw extensive dredging work carried out.


Work began on Cliff Quay in 1923, with the first 600ft being ready for use the following year.  In May 1957, Airey Neave officially opened the entire Quay, by then a much-developed facility.  In 1973 a further 240 metres of quay was opened and by 1977 a railway connection to the Norwich/London mainline had been established; along with three regular lines now serving the near-continent.  The Terminal was now handling in excess of 750,000 tonnes of cargo a year.


In 1973, the Ipswich Port Authority assumed responsibility.  During the late 70’s and through the 80’s, the Port grew in size & strength and by 1987, 4 million tonnes of cargo were being handled and IPA employed 500 people.  The abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme in 1989 heralded a period of relative decline for the Port, which was to lose most of its major trades to competitors; including Felixstowe & Tilbury.


In 1997 Ipswich ceased to be a ‘Trust Port’ and was purchased by Associated British Ports.  The resulting, substantial investment saw the Port grow again and the rest……..well that’s just history!