Historic maps of Ipswich
'Earliest settlement' & name derivations


So often Ipswich historians refer to 'Ogilby's map' or 'Pennington's map' and don't reproduce them.
Gippeswiche 1539
John Speed's map 1610
John Ogilby's map 1674
Buck Bros' Prospect of Ipswich 1741
Joseph Pennington's map 1778
Hodkinson & 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 of the most notable maps of Ipswich through history and the dramatic ways in which the town changed, while retaining its central Anglo-Saxon street layout.
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 web-page.
See also the NLS maps website with interesting zoomable period maps of Ipswich; the 1902 version is excellent.
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. The Anglo-Saxons 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 Romans 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 from the 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 what gives 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 timeline.

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.

Abingdon, 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 islands, 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.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Oldest town article[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 articles promote the idea of putting an addendum plate onto the 'Welcome to Ipswich' signs: 'OLDEST ENGLISH TOWN'. No conflict there, then.]









[UPDATE 27.10.2013: Historians 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.]

Archaeology
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 employment.

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 ditch.

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 been massive.

The etymology of 'Ipswich' and related places [DB = Domesday Book]
Variants include:-
Gypeswych 942
G[ypes]wic 991
Iepesuuicc c.1075
Gepeswiz / Gipeswiz 1086 DB
Gepeswich 1159
Gipesw’ 1212
Gypeswic’ 1254
Villa Gippeswici 1327
Ypeswich 1349
Ipswyche 1531
Ippiswich 1595
Ipswich 1674
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 supplied 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 list.]

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 1502.
River Gipping rises near the village of Gipping to the east of Mendlesham Green and flows to Ipswich.

Greenwich, 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 River Orwell.

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 page.

Maps and map details which appear on other web-pages on the site. (In alphabetical order.)
Alexandra Park map in 1902;
Alston Road map 1883;
Barrack Corner (the Artillary Barracks, Militia Barracks, East Suffolk Hospital, St Matthew Church map in 1902;
Belle Vue Retreat: comparative maps from 1867, 1883 (detail) and 1883/1902 of the area around Albion Hill and Belle Vue Road;
Brickyards maps: 'The Potteries' 1674, Dales 1930, Bloomfield Street 1883, Suffolk Road 1883;
Butter Market, Tavern Street, Cornhill and environs map in 1867;
California Estate (FLS) 1902 map, also plan of a 'Garden Farm';
Cavendish Street and large surrounding area on 1867 map;
Civic Drive page shows the 1902 map of the area covering Barrack corner in the north to Cutler Street in the south;
Coprolite Street map in 1881;
County Hall, the gaols on a 1867 map;
Courts and yards maps from the 1880s for the areas from Great Colman Street in the north to Shire Hall Yard to the south;
Coyte's gardens: in 1778;
Dove Street area in 1902;
Dyke Street and environs in 1902;
East bank of the Wet Dock in 1867;
Felaw Street and Great Whip Street area maps: 1610, 1674, 1778, 1848, 1867, 1904;
Felixstowe Road rope walk on an 1867 map detail;
Harmony/Hanover Square between Lacey Street and Woodbridge Road in 1883;
Hope House in Foxhall Road in 1902;
H.W. Turner in St Helens Street on a map of 1902;
Isaac Lord complex, Fore Street comparative maps: 1881 and present day;
Liberties of Ipswich (eastern part) map of 1812;
Northgate Street area map in 1778;
Nova Scotia House and gardens, Over Stoke in 1883;
Orwell and Gipping rivers: 1842, 1896, also the conduit from Over Stoke to St Peter's Wharf in 1792;
Orwell Station, Nacton on the Felixstowe Branch Line on a map of 1946;
Parade Road, Albion Mills pub on a map from 1902;
Palmerston Road, Harmony Square, Warwick Road, Argyle Street map in 1902;
Ransomes Orwell Works in 1881;
Ring-Road that never was. Two sections of a 1958 map showing proposed dual carriageway from Cromwell Street to Bond Street;
Rope Walk maps from 1674 and 1778;
Rose Lane map in 1902;Liberties of IpswichLiberties of Ipswich
Rosehill Estate (FLS) map of balotted plots, 1873;
Rosehill House on a map of 1883;
St Stephen Church and Thomas Rush's house on Upper Brook Street shown on a 1674 map;
Slavery abolitionists commemorated in street names  in west Ipswich on an 1867 map;
Stoke Hall (now demolished) is shown on several early maps (including Bridge Street, Stoke Bridge, the Old Bell and environs);
Stoke Park on a 19th century map;
Turret (House) and Rosemary Lane in 1778;
Turret Lane, Rose Lane and the future Star Lane in 1902;
Upper Orwell Courts on a map of 1881;
Willis building, before it was built; a map of the area from 1902 and 1973;
Warwick Road (upper portion): 1867, 1883, plus the FLS maps of the Palmerston Road Estate;
Water Works in Waterworks Street on an 1881 map;

Wet Dock and River Orwell maps: 1930, Tramways and railways (n.d.), 1973, 1804, 1674;
Wolsey's College footprint shown on a map of 1528; and other maps;
Woolverstone Hall, The Monkey Lodge, Freston Tower on a map of 1882.


See also:
Grand Ipswich timeline for two thousand years of the town's history;
Ipswich invasions timeline to see all the raiders and invaders who attacked Ipswich throughout its history;
Christchurch/Holy Trinity Priory timeline;
Wolsey's College timeline;
Kings and Queens timelines (which includes architectural styles).



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