Historic maps of Ipswich
'Earliest settlement' & name derivations
So often Ipswich
historians refer to 'Ogilby's map' or 'Pennington's map' and don't
John Speed's map 1610
John Ogilby's map 1674
Buck Bros' Prospect of Ipswich 1741
Joseph Pennington's map 1778
Jefferys (Faden) map 1780
Edward White's map 1867
Town map 1930
[The one we're missing is Kirby's 1766 map.]
Our thanks to Gordon
Pugh for most of these images. They are intended to give an impression
most notable maps of Ipswich through history and the dramatic ways in
which the town changed, while retaining its central Anglo-Saxon street
Note that a number of maps and map deatils appear on other pages on
this website with the intention of making locations and changes
clearer. A list of the most important appear at the botoom of this
See also the NLS maps website with
interesting zoomable period maps of Ipswich; the 1902 version is
Also A vision of Britain through time
run by the University of Portsmouth (See Links).
A note about the Ipswich claim to
be England's earliest settlement
Ipswich, the county town of
Suffolk, claims that it is England's
oldest continuously settled town, with a history of continued
occupation since the Anglo-Saxons in around the 5th century.
The Iceni tribe under Queen Boudicca in the Suffolk area were
eventually crushed by the Roman invaders in about AD 60. The Romans
remained in occupation for over 400 years. The nucleus of the town
(groups of smallholdings and farmsteads) without any formal
organisation was left by the departing Romans by the mid-5th century.
The Romano-British inhabitants were then vulnerable to invasion, but
fortunately those invaders were largely peaceful. The term
'Anglo-Saxon' is a relatively modern one. It refers to settlers from
the (present-day) German regions of Angeln and Saxony, who made their
way over to Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire around AD 410.
began their colonisation
of eastern England around AD 450. At this time, the Jutes and the
Frisians from Denmark were also
settling in the British Isles, but the Anglo-Saxon settlers were
effectively their own masters in a new land and they did little to keep
the legacy of the Romans alive. They replaced the Roman stone buildings
with their own wooden ones, and spoke their own language, which gave
rise to the English spoken today. It is likely that Ipswich is the
cradle of the English language for this reason.
Just as the Romans had colonised Iceni
settlements, so the Anglo-Saxons moved onto land abandoned by the
and built a number of small hamlets along the Gipping and Orwell
rivers. Ipswich, or Gipeswic as it became known, was one of the first
of any size to be founded and one of the first to be populated. The
place between Ipswich and the hamlet of Stoke
was the shallowest part of the river and the most easily forded or,
much later, bridged. This first possible crossing point moving upstream
mouth of the river (that is, until the Orwell Bridge was built in the
20th century) was the nucleus of the continuous settlement in that
precise location. This ford across marshy ground would have been close
to the present day Stoke Bridge and is said to be on a line between
today's Foundation Street on the north side and Great Whip Street on
the south; these streets still line up on a modern street map despite
more recent additions such as the Wet Dock and New Cut. This nucleus is
Ipswich its claim to being the oldest continously settled town in
England. The Anglo-Saxon period lasted for 600 years, from 410 to 1066
(the Norman Invasion),
and in that time Britain's political landscape underwent many changes.
The early settlers kept to small tribal groups, forming kingdoms and
sub-kingdoms. By the ninth century, the country was divided into four
kingdoms - Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex. Wessex was the
only one of these kingdoms to survive the Viking invasions. Eric
Bloodaxe, the Viking ruler of York, was killed by the Wessex army in
954 and England was united under one king - Edred.
Most of the information we have about the Anglo-Saxons comes from the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a
year-by-year account of all the major events
of the time. Among other things it describes the rise and fall of the
bishops and kings and the important battles of the period. It begins
with the story of Hengist and Horsa in AD 449. Anglo-Saxon rule came to
an end in 1066, soon after the death of Edward the Confessor, who had
no heir. He had supposedly willed the kingdom to William of Normandy,
but also seemed to favour Harold Godwinson as his successor.
Harold was crowned king immediately after Edward died, but he failed in
his attempt to defend his crown, when William and an invading army
crossed the Channel from France to claim it for himself. Harold was
defeated by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, and
thus a new era was ushered in.
[See Twinch, C.: History of Ipswich;
see Reading List).]
See also our Ipswich invasions
Colchester is said to be "the
oldest recorded town in Britain" on the grounds that it was mentioned
by Pliny the Elder, who died in AD 79. Before the Roman conquest of
Britain it was already a centre of power for Cunobelin – known to
Shakespeare as Cymbeline – king of the Catuvellauni (c.5 BC
– AD 40), who minted coins there. Its Celtic name, Camulodunon,
variously represented as CA, CAM, CAMV, CAMVL and CAMVLODVNO on the
coins of Cunobelinus, means 'the fortress of [the war god] Camulos'.
Once the Romans had left Britain, archaeological excavations have shown
that public buildings were abandoned, and it is very doubtful whether
Colchester survived as a settlement with any urban characteristics
after the sixth century. In this way, Colchester
cannot claim to have been 'continually settled'.
The chronology of its revival is obscure. But the 9th century Historia Brittonum (attributed to
Nennius) mentions the town which it calls Cair Colun, in a list of the thirty
most important cities in Britain.
Thatcham in Berkshire has a
place in the 1990 Guinness World Records as being the strongest
claimant to the longest continually inhabited town in the UK. Thatcham in Berkshire has also been
claimed to be the oldest settlement because it
has artifacts dating back 7,596 years.
Oxfordshire (historically Berkshire). In 2010
the issue of whether Thatcham or Abingdon was the longest inhabited
town was disputed after the popular TV program QI claimed, rather capriciously, on
its website's 'Fact
Of The Day' that it was Abingdon.
Marazion in Cornwall is one of
the towns claiming to be Britain's oldest town.
These last three claims appear to be based on prehistoric archeological
finds. Iron Age and Bronze Age remains can be found all over these
indeed the evidence shows that humans have lived in and around Ipswich
since at least 5,000BC. Reliance on such evidence to claim to be
'the oldest town' seems to be stretching things a bit. No doubt, the
debate will continue.
[UPDATE: 22.3.2013: The local
daily, The Ipswich Star, went
over the top with the headline: 'Ipswich – oldest English town' with a
front page article and four page supplement. The front page features
portraits of Elizabeth I, Charles Chaplin, Edward VIII & Mrs
Simpson, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer and Cardinal Wolsey (some of
whom may be tenuous). Presumably launched as a
counter-strike to the signs seen as you approach its neighbouring
county town: 'Colchester – Britain's oldest recorded town', the
promote the idea of putting an addendum plate onto the 'Welcome to
Ipswich' signs: 'OLDEST ENGLISH TOWN'. No conflict there, then.]
and archaeologists are now fairly certain the the oldest town in
Britain is Amesbury (the builders of Stonehenge lived on the edge of
town). Amesbury is therefore the oldest continuously inhabited
settlement in Britain; Ipswich will
forever be the oldest
continuously inhabited town in Britain.]
The archaeology of Ipswich, much of which still
lies under concrete and
tarmac car parks, confirms this remarkable story: Ipswich has a rich
archaeological heritage and is of international importance because of
its status as one of only four Middle Saxon ‘emporia’ or ‘wic’ sites in
England. The others are London ('Lundenwic'), Southampton ('Hamwic')
and York ('Jorvic'). These sites displayed urban characteristics in the
AD 700s and were trading with continental Europe. Waterlogged remains
along the waterfront relate to successive phases of reclamation of the
River Orwell, and the town has an 8th century street pattern, a 10th
century defensive circuit and was the centre of an important
Anglo-Saxon pottery-making industry: the products known as 'Ipswich ware'.
See under 'Special subject areas' on our Links
page for two excellent articles by Keith Wade reviewing the unique
Ipswich story as revealed by its archaeology – much of it dug by him
and his team.
The growth of Ipswich population
Rapid expansion took place in Ipswich in the 19th century as foundries
and engineering companies like Ransomes Sims and Jefferies provided
There was also work building ships, brewing beer, tanning leather and
working in maltings and factories making clothes and corsetry. As rural
employment and living standards declined people moved from working on
the land around Suffolk, where they had lived and worked for
generations, seeking employment in the growing town.
Hundreds of tiny houses were built to accommodate the incoming workers,
many of the houses were poorly built and crammed close together. See
our Courts & yards page for an
indication of the conditions. In
1801 there were 11,277 people living mainly within the medieval town
By 1831 there were over 20,200 in the expanded town and by 1861 the
figure reached 37,950. The 1901 census recorded a population of 66,630.
The effect on social, economic and political life in the town must have
etymology of 'Ipswich' and related places [DB
= Domesday Book]
Gepeswiz / Gipeswiz 1086 DB
Villa Gippeswici 1327
Meaning: probably ‘Gip or
Gippi’s trading port, harbour’. Gip (gen. Gipes) + wic. For the
personal name, compare to Gipping.
A ‘-wich town’ is a settlement in Anglo-Saxon England characterised by
extensive artisanal activity and trade – an ‘emporium’ – and
from outside the protected community. The name is derived from the
Anglo-Saxon suffix -wīc, signifying "a dwelling or fortified place".
Four former ‘-wīc towns’ are known in England. Jorvik (Jorwic) in
present-day York and Lundenwic in London, Hamwic in Southampton and
Gipeswic (Gippeswic) in Ipswich. All have maritime trading traditions.
An alternative suggestion is that the first element may be an Old
English noun Gip, ‘Gap, opening’ (derived from the Old English gipian
‘to yawn’), used in a topographical sense referring to the estuary of
the River Orwell.
[Information from Briggs, K.: A
dictionary of Suffolk place-names, see Reading
Gipping. Neuton Gippinge ‘the people of
Gyppa or Gyppi’. Gipping was originally part of the Domesday period
royal manor of Thorney (alias Stowmarket). It was one of two ’newtons’
formed out of the manor; to distinguish them one became known as ‘old’
Newton, the other acquired the epithet ‘Gipping’. It became a donative
chapelry but was still regarded as a hamlet of Stowmarket until 1866
when it was deemed to be a civil parish under the Poor Law Amendment
Act. The chapel, a masterwork of flint flush work, was built for Sir
James Tyrell, who is suspected of having played a part in the murder of
the Princes in the Tower in 1483; he was executed for other reasons in
River Gipping rises near the village of Gipping to the east of
Mendlesham Green and flows to Ipswich.
Ipswich. Grenewic 1086 DB.
'Trading place on
the green riverbank' – same as Greenwich in London.
Hanford / Handford Bridge. Hagenfordabrygge AD970, Hagen's (or Hagni's) ford. Handford
Bridge and Road are part of the Roman road from Colchester to Caistor
by Norwich. The bridge is to the west of where the Gipping and the
Orwell meet: a crossing existed here at an early date. Handford Mill is
also of some antiquity.
Belstead. Bel(l)steda - 1086 DB. Possibly
‘funeral pyre place’ or ‘beacon place’.
Bixley. Bischlea 1086 DB. ‘bushy clearing’.
Stoke. Stoche, Stoches 1086 DB. [stoc can
mean ‘place, a secondary settlement’] but probably ‘a religious or holy
place’; Stoke had an early church and was perhaps sited so as to be
outside the urban areas the port of Ipswich, and visible from its
elevated location on the hill above the southern river bank along the
Orwell. derived from Arewan / Arwan in the 1100s. The
name Orwell probably denoted a side stream of the present estuary:
Belstead Brook, and means ‘hill ridge stream’.
See also our Street name derivations
Maps and map details which appear on
other web-pages on the site.
Courts and yards maps from
the 1880s for the areas from Great Colman Street in the north to Shire
Hall Yard to the south;
Civic Drive page shows the 1902 map of
the area covering Barrack corner in the north to Cutler Street in the
Belle Vue Retreat: comparative maps
from 1867, 1883 (detail) and 1883/1902 of the area around Albion Hill
and Belle Vue Road;
Ring-Road that never was. Two
sections of a 1958 map showing proposed dual carriageway from Cromwell
Street to Bond Street;
St Stephen Church and Thomas Rush's
house on Upper Brook Street shown on a 1674 map;
Felaw Street and Great Whip
Street area maps: 1610, 1674, 1778, 1848, 1867,
Warwick Road (upper portion): 1867,
1883, plus the FLS maps of the Palmerston Road Estate;
Wolsey's College footprint shown on a
map of 1528;
Turret Lane and the future Star Lane in
Harmony/Hanover Square between Lacey
Street and Woodbridge Road in 1883;
Orwell and Gipping rivers: 1842, 1896, also
the conduit from Over Stoke to St Peter's Warf in 1792;
Rosehill Estate (FLS) map of
balotted plots, 1873;
Brickyards maps: 'The Potteries' 1674,
Dales 1930, Bloomfield Street 1883, Suffolk Road 1883;
California Estate (FLS) 1902 map, also
plan of a 'Garden Farm';
Wet Dock and River Orwell maps: 1930,
Tramways and railways (n.d.), 1973, 1804, 1674;
Isaac Lord complex, Fore Street
comparative maps: 1881 and present day;
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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