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)
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
On the ground
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:
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).
Sections of end-grain wood block flooring.
Distressed internal wall of the Ransome works. A thick steel sheet
almost covering a man-hole.
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.
'I' and 'U' section iron girders set into the concrete, then later cut
off at ground level.
Traces of iron surrounds partially covered by patchwork concrete.
And what on earth is this rusting iron oblong on a chunk of
crumbling concrete? Decorated with 'hi-viz' safety tape for the summer
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'
(at one time called 'St Clements Fore Street'), today called Fore
Street; it leads
into 'Wykes' (elsewhere labelled 'Wykes Ufford Hamlet', today's 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 Factory (here marked 'Factory') below it and the Steam
Packet Tap above it, as shown on the Fore
'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 St Clement's 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, the
Promenade. '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 (see Street name derivations) 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 surprise. In fact the
avenue of trees labelled 'Mile End Road' is shown linking the two
'Promenades' across the site of the future south lock and extending to
'Clifton Road' – the line of today's Ship Launch Road. Members of the
public were accustomed to promenading from just south of the western
lock down to the Umbrella shelter (show as a circle on the map) and all
the way round to the Gas Works, if they so desired. No wonder some
commentators demand that the route across the present-day lock be
re-opened as a public right of way. For an
exposition of the naming of the Ipswich Wet Dock quays, see our Wet Dock map page.
A modern bird's eye view of the area, including the remnants of
the St Clement's Shipyard – where Sailing
Barge Victor was built in 1902 – can be seen on our Ransome's page.
The postcard view above shows the leafy, well-ordered and
spacious Promenade on the Island site in 1909.
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
You can see more ground-level elements of maritime Ipswich on the northern quays page and on 'The island'.
See also our Lettered castings
Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission