Ransomes' Orwell Works site

The car park which occupies the site between the eastern quays of the Wet Dock and Duke Street (south of the Neptune Marina block –
see our Wet Dock map if you're confused) is apparently owned by University Campus Suffolk and in 2013 is on the back burner for further development of the university. This gives us the chance to see the remnants of the Ransome's Orwell Works: one of the greatest engineering works in Ipswich – if not Britain and beyond. Almost everything to be found is at ground level, visible amongst the uneven patchwork of concrete and asphalt.

On the ground
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ransome site 2a2013 images
Industrial archaeology is normally covered in some way, but the merest remnants of the Orwell Works are being walked and driven upon every day. Here is the only piece of historic lettering found:
'DRAIN
1308'
It was certainly tempting to think that the bottom number was a date (1908), but close inspection shows the '3' pretty clearly (see close-ups below).
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 2   Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 1

Sections of end-grain wood block flooring.

Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 3

Distressed internal wall of the Ransome works. A thick steel sheet almost covering a man-hole.

Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 5   Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 7

Dockside tramway
Clear evidence that the tramway came right inside the works.
See the criss-crossing tramway lines preserved on the 'The island'. Many ground level features there, too.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 8

'I' and 'U' section iron girders set into the concrete, then later cut off at ground level.

Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 9

Traces of iron surrounds partially covered by patchwork concrete.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 11

And what on earth is this rusting iron oblong on a chunk of crumbling concrete? Decorated with 'hi-viz' safety tape for the summer solstice. Probably.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome site 16

On the map
White's map of Ipswich 1867; the detail below shows the extent of the Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Orwell Works site at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Comparing this with the 1881 and modern maps of the area  on our Ransomes page proves fruitful:-
1. To the north is 'St Clements', today called Fore Street; it leads into 'Wykes Hamlet' (Back Hamlet) and 'Wykes Bishop Hill' (today's Bishops Hill). The unlabelled Coprolite Street runs off Duke Street (close to the 'D'), eastwards to the dock with the Packard Manure Facory (here marked 'Factory') below it and the Steam Packet Tap above it, as shown on the Fore Street'1620' page.
2. The 'Gas Works and Depot' is south of the two Ransomes '
Orwell Works' sites (which sit either side of Duke Street, John Street and 'Foundry Road'. The last of these had disappeared by 1881. Today's Maude Street and Patteson Road are on the site of the gasworks. Not shown on this map is the gasworks quay inlet which was once cut into the east bank for the unloading of coal. Here we see that Myrtle Road, which today stops at the roundabout on Duke Street/Holywells Road, used to run westwards all the way to the dockside (today this section is Patteson Road). While the name 'Maude Street' has been reused in the modern housing development, the appellation 'Patteson Road' appears to be a more recent naming.
3. Further south,
'Cliff Road' runs past the bodies of water in today's Holywells Park, clearly visible. A second road 'Clifton Road' branches off the same junction with Myrtle Road. This can be seen as the main southerly access to the shipyard just outside the lock and the Cobbold Brewery (originally known as 'The Cliff'; the large Victorian tower brewery building did not appear behind it until 1894). The most probable solution is that the junction with Myrtle Road is today's roundabout, 'Clifton Road' is now called Cliff Road and 'Cliff Road' has been renamed Holywells Road in modern times when the road system – and in particular Duke Street – was radically reshaped.
4. Quay and wharf names. 'Common Quay' stretches from the Custom House more-or-less right round to Coprolite Street. No sign of 'Neptune Quay' at this time. 'Ransomes Wharf' takes up much of the eastern quays, suggesting the dominance of shipping visiting the Iron Works. Interestingly, the dockside we now call Helena Road is a treed area labelled 'Marine Promenade East';while many people will know about the the tree-lined walk on the Island, south of the first lock (still in existence in 1867) here labelled 'Marine Promenade West', this one might come as a surpise
. For an exposition of the naming of the Ipswich Wet Dock quays, see our Wet Dock map page.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome Orwell Works map 18671867 map

The only other lettering connected to Ransomes is to be found not far away in Wykes Bishop Street and in Cliff Road.
See also a page containing images of Ransomes & Rapier.
You can see more ground-level elements of maritime Ipswich on the northern quays page and on 'The island'.



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