St Peter's Dock
Ipswich can trace its port history right back to around the 7th Century, my previous article on Viking Ipswich, alludes to this.
St Peter’s Dock was at the centre of early Ipswich situated just below the site of Stoke Bridge, the original and only crossing point of the river until 1982. It has had a long and rich history but in 2018 what is known as the Historic Waterfront lies empty. Early medieval vessels plied their trade from the dock and even during the early 20th Century Thames Barges continued to use St Peter’s Dock. Unfortunately, during the redevelopment of the docks in the 1960s and the introduction of a high flood wall surrounding the dock, its use ceased. Yet with the construction of the new flood defences at the mouth of the New Cut by the Environment Agency, there is the potential that the flood wall could be removed or altered, and vessels can again make use of the historic dock. This may lead to a regeneration of the area and could possibly lead to a #HeritageHarbour, which is part of a vision for the dock’s future use, filled with visiting historic ships to help regenerate the rest of the Waterfront particularly around the entrance at Stoke Bridge.
The recent archaeological excavations of the former Archant building between Turret Lane and Lower Brook Street which is situated at the heart of Saxon Ipswich have revealed even more about the area surrounding St Peter’s Dock. Objects unearthed included Ipswich-ware pottery, Saxon coins, a fisherman’s needle, oyster shells and the footings of small building, which add to the story of the early town. There were indications that there was an early wharf on the site and early maps suggest a small creek linked it to St Peter’s Dock around Foundry Lane, where small vessels might have traded in the Anglo-Saxon period. These excavations were conducted by the Oxford Archaeological Unit and hopefully the finds will be displayed at Ipswich Museum. There is so much history from early Ipswich around St Peter’s Dock. The regeneration of such an important heritage asset is therefore vital to the continued transformation of the Waterfront.