The Island

This triangle of land was formed when New Cut was dug and a thin strip of land linked it with St Peter's Quay (see our Wet Dock map if you're confused). As we shall see there is a road/rail link across the lock formed by a swing-bridge at the other end.
The first historically lettered objects to be seen on the island are in a group of marine buoys which have been mounted and restored to welcome visitors to the island. We have included these on the Stoke Bridge Trinity House buoy page.

'Public Warehouse'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse 172013 images
The warehouse with a curving roof, clad in corrugated metal is still in use, but by the look of the decaying timbers supporting sliding doors at the side (above), it has seen better days.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse period1896 image
The Public Warehouse still stands at an angle alongside Public Warehouse Quay and was once clearly lettered (although the period image above shows that the 'E's were fading). In the 1896 image the house to the left appears to be the house shown boarded up and behind a fence in 2013, see New Cut East. Also note the  round gabled Harbour Master's Office, the modern version of which is also shown on that page. We think that they must be the same (reshaped) buildings with the original lock entrance visible, so this view must be from New Cut. The original lock was replaced by the one we know today in 1881, but not immediately filled in (see our Wet Dock map page).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse period 2Photograph courtesy Ipswich Maritime Trust
This fine period photograph above shows a vessel in the original upper lock (coming off New Cut), with the clearly lettered Public Warehouse behind. It comes from the Ipswich Maritime Trust Occasional Paper No. 1 linked from our Wet Dock map page: "In 1882 an iron-framed public warehouse was built to the north of the original entrance lock, giving its name to Public Warehouse Quay, as seen in the photograph..., taken in the late 1880s. Remarkably, it stills stands today."
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse period 3Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
The third historic photograph from The Ipswich Society's Flickr collection (see Links) may depict the Public Warehouse in the 1960s/70s. A line of brightly coloured buoys line one wall with three loading gantries suspended above. The 'PUBLIC WAREHOUSE' lettering can still be read through the rusty discoloration of the corrugated iron. The Public Warehouse was built in 1880-81, designed by Thomas Miller. It has a 120 feet by 60 feet footprint. (Information from Bettley: Pevsner, Suffolk East, see Reading List.)
For an aerial photograph of the Island with the 'Public Warehouse' clearly visible, see our Lost trade signs page.


Tramway
Below: the characteristic tramway lines and interchanges; far more are preserved on the Island than on the northern quays. For much more on 'a rat's-eye view' (see the traps in photographs below)  of historic lettering and dockside furniture all round the Wet Dock see our Island at ground-level  and northern quays pages.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse 192013 images
As usual, the Ipswich Society website (see Links) is an invaluable source of scholarship. We can do no better than reproduce a slightly edited version of Ruth Serjeant's article from the IS Newsletter July 2009 (Issue 176).
"...[this] building, situated on the Island site, adjacent to what we now refer to as the old lock entrance in the New Cut. As some members may not have known about this building, now almost 180 years old and quite distinctive with its barrel shaped roof, I thought a few notes on its history may be of interest.
The opening of the Wet Dock in the 1840s brought increasing trade and shipping to Ipswich. Many businesses involved in the import and export trade built their own warehouses around the dock area, and while the Common Quay provided landing facilities for public use, there was little warehousing facility for the same public use - temporary storage for smaller amounts of goods in transit. This lack, and the ever-growing need to re-position the lock entrance to accommodate the larger ships that found difficulty in manoeuvring into the New Cut lock entrance, was finally recognised by the passing in 1877 of the Ipswich Dock Act. This gave the Ipswich Dock Commission the power to undertake these two improvements to the port as well as other associated works. In 1878 Thomas Miller, engineer to the Commission, presented' A Plan of Ipswich Dock and Port, showing proposed new work'.
Included in this plan is the site of a proposed wharf and warehouse where the Public Warehouse stands today.
A report to the General Committee of Management of the Commission was presented in November 1879 by the Warehouse Committee. This stated that though a temporary wooden shed had been originally proposed as a way of measuring the use of a warehouse, "it would now be highly desirable if a permanent iron building could be erected." This suggestion was accepted by the Commissioners and by March 1880 plans had been prepared by Thomas Miller for a substantial corrugated iron shed 120 x 60 ft with necessary provision to receive a second floor. Early in April 1880 the General Management Committee minuted that William Whitford & Co, Royal Ironworks, Commercial Road, London "had entered into contract ... at the cost of 1106". The contract was sealed by the Commission on 9 April 1880.
On the grand opening of the new lock on 27 July 1881 - the day that the new Post Office on Cornhill and the new Museum in High Street were also opened - the Ipswich Journal reported that "the Commissioners have erected a public wharf and warehouse for general trade, and approved plans for an extension ..... to be carried out as trade develops ... "
So began the working life of this new building. Some details of how it operated can be drawn from the Commissioners' minute books. In September 1881 an advertisement asked for tenders to be submitted for the three year tenancy, rental payable yearly. If the tenant in that period applied to increase the storage capacity by putting in the second floor with any consequent alteration to the ground floor and office accommodation, the Commissioners if agreeable would provide the capital outlay and charge the tenant 7 per cent upon the sum required, to be paid at the same time as the yearly rental. Three tenders were received - the highest one of 121 p.a. from Charles Henry Cowell, was accepted - it was stated that the other offers, both lower, had sought to effect changes in the conditions relating to interest to be paid on any capital outlay for extension works. The tenant, it must be assumed, would have responsibility to allocate storage space, charging users on the basis of a scale of rates laid down by the Commissioners. At the turn of the century we find that R W Paul Ltd were tenants. In 1900, as the only applicants to tender, they paid 175 p.a. rental, and in 1902, again as the only applicants, offered 125 which was agreed to.
There is no doubt that more could be found out about the use of the Public Warehouse from the sources I have looked at and perhaps from the recollections of any members who had any working association with it. I hope someone can add more to this short history.
Sources:
    •    Ipswich Dock Commission Records Ref EL1 Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich
    •    Ipswich Dock Commission (IDC) Minute Book 1875-1893, EL1/1/3/6
    •    IDC General Committee of Management Minute Book 1870-1881 EL1/1/4/5
    •    IDC Warehouse Committee Papers 1878-1911 EL1/1/9/5/142-189
    •    Plan of Ipswich Docks, Thomas Miller, 1878 EL1/7/5/7
    •    Iron Warehouse Contract Drawings, Thomas Miller, 1880 EL1/7/6/7 Ipswich Journal 30 January 1881"

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse 27
The tramway lines here have been preserved with newer concrete and tarmac infills. Clearly the lines could be switched right inside the warehouse entrance in the past. This make sense as it means loading and unloading as close to the source as possible. Compare with the tracks still visible in the former Ransome Orwell Works site on the other side of the Wet Dock. Close to the Babcock cranes, the tracks suddenly disappear:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Public Warehouse 41
For a map of the different generations of railways and tramways around the Wet Dock see our Wet Dock map page.
For more on lettered dockside furniture, see our Island at ground-level  and northern quays pages.

Babcock & Wilcox cranes
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Babcock crane 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Babcock crane 2
Further down towards the lock we find this pair of modernist cranes, well known to those who stroll down the western quays. One can walk right underneath them. They are well-kept and well-painted with the relief lettering:
'BABCOCK'
picked out in white on the curved back section behind the operator's cab. The American engineering firm of Babcock & Wilcox opened its U.K. office in 1891. This pair  of industrial cranes seems to be quite modernist in design, suggesting that they were built in the 1930s? It is hard to believe that this was once a promenade for the fashionable citizens to take a Sunday stroll between a double row of lime trees to 'The Umbrella' sheltered seats with its views over Hog Highland and the River Orwell.

Swing bridge
The same dazzling blue paint can be found on the swing bridge and our photographs below show the bridge just beginning to move...
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 2b2013 images
... and completely open as the lock gates eventually swing back to allow boats to leave the lock and pass out into the open river; the Tolly Cobbold Brewery on Cliff Quay is in the distance and the piece of land once called Hog Highland to the right.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 2
From inside the lock:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dock bridge 52017 images
This swing-bridge was replaced in 1949 by a new bridge built by the Ipswich-based company Ransomes and Rapier. The new bridge, on which metal track can be seen (above) enabled main line rail traffic to reach Cliff Quay. (See Reading list for the Malster and Jones' book A Victorian vision.) It must have been quite a journey, leaving the main trackbed near the eastern end of the 'new' Ipswich station, down a curving incline, over the crossing at Ranelagh Road (near to Reavells foundry), over a bridge spanning the River Gipping, swinging round to run beneath Princes Street road bridge, onwards parallel with Commercial Road, past the sidings (site of the present-day Skate Park). Then, with Stoke Bridge traffic halted (possibly by men with red flags), over the level crossing, beneath the shadows of the R.W. Paul and Burtons towers, swinging right onto the Island, then all the way round past the Public Warehouse and down to the lock, over the swing-bridge, round onto Cliff Quay, past the brewery and way down to the long-demolished coal-fired power station.
[Update 13.9.2014: we are indebted to John Norman for this photograph of the plaque on the swing-bridge, usually only visible from on board a vessel in the lock.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ransomes swing bridgePhotograph courtesy John Norman
'RANSOMES & RAPIER LTD
IPSWICH ENGLAND
GG 6054                                                   1949'
For more on Ransomes & Rapier lettering see our Bourne Park page.


Home

Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.

2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission