Quays & Wharves

The historic waterfront of Ipswich has seen much redevelopment in the last 35 years, from the Mill, to the Winerack and University of Suffolk. It is important for future redevelopments to recognise the historic importance of the area, specifically the historic quay and wharf names, with the aim of reinstating them to their rightful locations, over new names that have no local significance. 

These names have a multitude of interesting stories associated with them. One of the earliest quaysides named was Bigod’s Quay. The Bigod family became the Earls of Norfolk and were important in protecting Ipswich and East Anglia during the Norman period, their large stone house in Key (Quay) Street marked their influence in the Town. Bigod Quay became Smart’s Wharf during the Elizabethan Period at a time when the Smart family were an influential trading family. Due to the constant development of the docks there is little left of the Medieval and Tudor maritime buildings on the waterfront. Both names also disappeared during redevelopment. This area now houses the Mill, Wine-rack and the Ipswich Maritime Trust Window Museum and is currently called Albion Wharf. There is no clear reason for this name; quite possibly it was given during a period of patriotic fervour in the mid-late Victorian period, when the British Empire was celebrated. Many public houses, buildings and quaysides where the trades of the Empire flowed to and from were named in honour of the British Empire, taking such names as Victoria, Inkerman, Albion and Britannia.

Next to Albion Wharf is the original crossing point of the river in Ipswich at Stoke Bridge; a structure which has been replaced several times, such as in 1818 when a flood destroyed the original bridge, and Ransomes provided a cast iron replacement. The area in front of the bridge became St Peter’s Dock and until the 1960s many vessels still unloaded cargoes at the quayside of St Peter’s Wharf to businesses such as Pauls Maltings. The addition of a flood wall in the 1960s unfortunately halted the use of this area but hopefully this will be redeveloped soon as a new entrance to the historic waterfront.


Community, HistoryAndy Parker