A History of F.A Christies and Son

There is a small plaque, part of the Ipswich Maritime Trail, on a building between Bistro on the Quay and Issacs on the Quay and home today to an architecture firm and an estate agent. 200 years ago, it was a coal warehouse for the company owned and run by John Christie, born in 1798, and whose family would become leading coal merchants in the town during the 19th Century.

waterfront history, fa christies and son

His son, Frank A Christie, was born in 1835 and started out as a draper’s assistant and then a merchant’s clerk in Ipswich. When John died in 1866 Frank took over and the business expanded. As a coal, salt and timber merchant Frank provided work for his two elder sons, Frank Herbert and Leonard Alexander; both were clerks with Frank H also being the company accountant. In 1894 F.A Christie had several premises on Salthouse Street which included a Coal Warehouse, a Salt Warehouse and Office & Timber Depot as well as Saw Mills. Over the following 10 years the business developed becoming F.A Christie and Son, a Coal, Salt and Timber Merchants, based on Cliff Road with offices and warehouses still operating on Salthouse Street. However, Frank H died in 1896 aged only 29 and in 1907 Frank A Christie died leaving the business to Leonard.

In 1918 Leonard died and subsequent pressures on the business, both locally and nationally, forced the closer of the company in the 1920s. The decontrolment of coal as well as coal strikes and coal shortages during and at the end of the First World War hastened the decline of Christie’s, already under pressure from competitors. Following Leonard’s death, the company assets were sold off or acquired by competitors. A variety of competitors inhabited Ipswich during the early 20th Century including, Mellonie & Goulder Ltd, Rowland Manthrope and Co as well as Isaac Lord, the building complex that houses the bar and restaurant Isaac’s on the Quay next door to Christie’s warehouses. 

These buildings today sit quiet and unassumingly on the modern waterfront.