Edward Caley’s 1837 Waterfront - drawings to inspire ‘The Hold’.
Before the building of the new Wet Dock, ship movements to and from the old wooden quays of the Waterfront were restricted by the river emptying and filling with the tide each day. The first stage of Henry Palmer’s bold plan, described in last month’s Waterfront Life article by Peter Bendall, was to commission a young man named Edward Caley to prepare sketches and measured colour drawings of all the town’s medieval quays, wharves, warehouses, shipyards, maritime businesses and factories from Stoke Bridge as far down river as the then new gasworks.
The 1841 Census shows Mr Edward Caley, then aged 20, living in St. Peter’s Street with his younger brother, whom he had appointed to assist him. We must assume that this is the same Edward Caley who prepared the drawings some years earlier. As assistant-engineer under Mr. Henry Palmer, Edward was then given sole responsibility for overseeing the construction of the Wet Dock that we see today. On the strength of his success in Ipswich, Edward was then appointed by the British Government to be chief engineer of Ceylon, where he sadly died a few years later aged 25. The new dock brought huge industrial growth and prosperity for the town, created employment for thousands, and the many fine Victorian civic buildings that give Ipswich its special architectural character today.
The building of the Wet Dock came just before the commercial use of photography, and so it is particularly significant that Edward’s beautiful drawings survive in almost perfect condition, held in the Suffolk Record Office. Recently they have been used to inspire the architects of the Hold project, and so help make it a worthy new feature of the Waterfront scene.
One of the four Caley panels is featured on the previous page, and below is a small section including, on the left, the original medieval Custom House and its Common Quay crane. The white building towards the right is the Wherry Inn on the corner of Wherry Lane, while beside it is Isaac Lord’s, with St. Clement’s Church tower in the background.