Christie's warehouse

The building next door to the  Bistro on the Quay, 5 Wherry Quay, bears an oval plaque cast by Crane Co. for the Maritime Ipswich Festival in 1982. It is the former Salt Office, served by Salthouse Street, which warehoused and traded in salt.
It is also known as Christie's warehouse (or 'The Christies'). Ipswich was an important salt port, bringing in the product of 'salines' on the west coast of France where seawater was evaporated in the warm summer sun. Salt was an important condiment for flavouring bland Tudor food and used as a preservative of fish, meats and other foodstuffs. One notable merchant involved in the trade was Henry Tooley whose bequest founded the Tooley Almshouses. See our Isaac Lord page for a street map showing the location of the Salt Office.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bistro on the quay 12014 photograph courtesy Tony Marsden
'MARITIME IPSWICH 1982
WAREHOUSE DESIGNED BY
H.R. PALMER
ENGINEER OF THE WET DOCK
1839-42
IPSWICH SOCIETY TRAIL ... CAST BY CRANE LTD'
[UPDATE 20.7.2016: However, Bob Malster, historian of all things maritime (see various titles in the Reading list) tells us that this plaque might be misleading. He has seen the architect's plans for the building and they were dated 1886. Given that the Wet Dock was opened in January 1842, this building might have been much later.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Christie's warehouse 1980s1980s image courtesy The Ipswich Society
Above: This 1980s photograph of the site – Wherry Lane is the gap by the bollard – shows the post-industrial state of the buildings. There is damaged, scraped brickwork which presumably resulted from loading and unloading of carts. Metal discs have been recently inserted above the double doors to add stability to the structure. In the left background is the Paul's Home Warehouse and to the right of the lane is part of the Isaac Lord complex (today's Isaac's bars and restaurants) which bears some the 'Isaac' lettering, as shown on our Isaac Lord page – and today, a ghost sign. Two other oddities: an upright barrier painted in black-and-white can be lowered across the dock tramway, perhaps to hold back traffic while trucks are being turned to enter Ransome's Orwell Works; and a pipe runs out to the dockside horizontally form the Isaac Lord buildingperhaps it once loaded grain onto a ship?

The story of Christie's warehouse
These buildings have been converted into offices. But 180 years ago, it was a coal warehouse for the company owned and run by John Christie (b.1798). John and his family would become leading coal merchants in the town during the 19th century. By 1839 Christie was bringing between 500 and 700 tons of coal a month from the coalfields of the north-east of England. These were brought into Ipswich and into the warehouse on Wherry Quay on five of his registered ships, including the Providence and Lady Middleton.
John’s son, Frank A. Christie, was born in 1835 and started out as a draper’s assistant and then a clerk in Ipswich. When John died in 1866, Frank took over and the business expanded. Frank provided work for his two elder sons, Frank Herbert
Christie and Leonard Alexander Christie; they were both clerks with Frank H. Christie also being the company accountant.
In 1894, Frank A.
Christie had several premises on Salthouse Street, which included a Coal Warehouse, a Salt Warehouse, Office and Timber Depot as well as Sawmills. Over the following ten years the business developed becoming F.A Christie & Son, Coal, Salt and Timber Merchants. The company office was based on Cliff Road with warehouses still operating on Salthouse Street and Wherry Quay.
Unfortunately, Frank H.
Christie died in 1896 aged only 29. In 1907 Frank A. Christie died to leaving the business to Leonard. In 1918 Leonard died and subsequent pressures on the business, both locally and nationally, forced the closure of the company. The decontrolment of coal as well as coal strikes/shortages during and following the First World War hastened the decline of Christie’s. Which was already under pressure from competitors. Following Leonard’s death, the company assets were sold off and acquired by local competitors.
A variety of Christie’s local competitors operated close by during the early 20th century. These included Mellonie & Goulder Ltd which bought the coal aspects of Christie’s in 1924 and William Brown & Son Ltd who acquired the timber interests. Isaac Lord’s was also a close competitor, housed in the building complex right next door to Christie’s warehouses (across Wherry Lane). Today the Isaac Lord complex houses the bar and restaurant Isaac’s on the Quay.
Today all of these once busy industrial buildings sit quiet and unassuming on the modern waterfront, each with many stories to tell.
[Information from the Ipswich Maritime Trust website]

The Salt Office
was an important component of the salt trade in Ipswich; it is shown on a pre-1830 map on our Isaac Lord page. We think that it was situated between Salthouse Street and Wherry Quay directly on the site of the 1839-42 building which is today's  Bistro on the Quay restaurant. In the photograph below, the glazed blue section to the right replaces the yard gates (shown in the 1980s photograph) is a part of the bistro which was built over the yard.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bistro on the Quay
2019 image

Henry Palmer
When Henry Palmer designed the Wet Dock, cutting off a section of the Orwell by damming it top and bottom and forming the New Cut to carry the waters of the Gipping to the sea, he proposed the construction of a continuous quay all the way along the north and east sides of the Dock. In fact for reasons of economy the quay was cut short on the east side at what was then known as the Ballast Wharf (see our Wet Dock map), and from there to the lower dam there was merely a slope into the water. Even in later times there were only timber stages at the far end.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bistro on the quay 2
Henry Robinson Palmer (1795-1844) was a British engineer who designed the first monorail system and invented corrugated iron. From 1816, on finishing his apprenticeship, Palmer was engaged by the great civil engineer Thomas Telford and worked for him for ten years on a large number of road and canal surveys and associated designs. In 1826 he was appointed resident engineer to the London docks where, over the next nine years, he designed and executed the Eastern Dock, with the associated warehousing, entrance locks, bridges, and other works. Around 1835 he moved to Westminster as a consulting engineer and was involved in numerous surveys for projected railways, and the design and construction of several docks and harbours, including those at Port Talbot, Ipswich, Penzance, and Neath. He carried out the original surveys for the South Eastern Railway, assisted by P. W. Barlow, and would have executed the scheme but ill health intervened. His original surveys for a Kentish railway dated from the time he was associated with Telford.
Note that one commentator has claimed that the plaque is misleading and that the date of construction is later.

The changing dock page also shows a post-1939 long view of part of Common Quay, Wherry Quay and part of Neptune Quay.

See our plaques page for the full set of ten Ipswich Society 'Maritime Ipswich 1982' plaques.
In 2017 The Ipswich Society
(see Links) published a complete reworking of the original 1982 Ipswich Maritime Trail, copies are available at the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre at 2.00 each. The full colour booklet includes a useful map of the Wet Dock area and the trail encompasses all ten IMT '82 plaques.

Related pages:
The Question Mark
Bridge Street
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's

College Street
Coprolite Street
Cranfield's Flour Mill

Custom House
Trinity House buoy
Edward Fison Ltd
Ground-level dockside furniture on: 'The island', the northern quays and Ransome's Orwell Works
Ipswich Whaling Station?
Isaac Lord

Neptune Inn clock, garden and interior
Isaac Lord 2
The Island
John Good and Sons
Merchant seamen's memorial
The Mill

Nova Scotia House
New Cut East
Paul's malting company
Quay nameplates
Ransomes
Steam Packet Hotel

Stoke Bridge(s)
Waterfront Regeneration Scheme
Wolsey's Gate
A chance to compare
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps

Davy's illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone, 1839
Outside the Wet Dock
Maritime Ipswich '82 festival



Home
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
Search Ipswich Historic Lettering
2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission