"The Anglo-Saxon settlers were
already active here by A.D. 625 – we know this by the dating of pottery
shards found in the ground – and the ford across the river [near
today's Stoke Bridge] was the vital river crossing which was the
foundation of Ipswich. It took the settlers 300 years to build a bridge
across the river." John
Norman, Chair of the Ipswich Society
The tablet on the north side of the bridge:
ERECTED A.D. 1924-5.
ENGINEER SIDNEY LITTLE A. M. INST. C.C.
BORO' ENGINEER & SURVEYOR.
CONTRACTORS D/G/ SOMERVILLE & CO. LTD.'
The tablet on the south side of the bridge, not noticed by may
people as it is sited between two very busy roads and pedestrians
rarely go there:
ERECTED A.D. 1924-5
MAYOR COL. F.W.TURNER'
Only noticed in January, 2016 here's another plaque attached to
the western parapet of the 'new' bridge with the Orwell stretching up
towards the Princes Street bridge:
'SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL
OPENED BY CAPT. R.J. SHEEPSHANKS, D.L.,
CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNTY COUNCIL
AUGUST 22ND 1983
E.L. WILLIAMS O.B.E., C. ENG. COUNTY
FRENCH KIER CONSTRUCTION LTD. MAIN CONTRACTOR'
See our Stoke Hall page
for early maps of this area. On Pennington's map of 1778
see St Peters Street leading past the church into Bridge
Street which descends southwards from the town centre, past Stoke
Mill (the tide mill with mill pond to the west), over Stoke Bridge,
crossing the junction of Stoke Lane and Dock
Lane with The Old Bell marked 'Bell'.
Vernon Street and, of course, the
locked Wet Dock and New Cut would not exist
until the next century. Scroll down for a modern aerial
The importance of Stoke Bridge
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
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.
There have been number of Stoke Bridges. There are records of a
bridge existing on the site from the late 13th Century. The fact that
the Domesday Book mentions the church of St Mary-at-Stoke implies that
existed much earlier. An iron bridge engineered by Ransomes was built
in 1819, replacing an earlier stone bridge which was swept away in
floods. In 1923 there was a fire at Burton, Son
and Saunders in Key Street that was so fierce the heat buckled the
steelwork of Stoke Bridge which was demolished. It was replaced – as we
show above – by the present concrete southbound
bridge which has a plaque celebrating the bridge's erection over 1924
and 1925. A second bridge to carry northbound traffic was added in the
1982 (shown under construction on our Trinity
House buoy page). The bridge was for centuries the southernmost
crossing of the river in Ipswich
until the construction of the Orwell Bridge in December 1982.
2013 2014: phone
replaced, but not door...
The name was coined in 1835,
"apparatus for signaling by musical notes" (devised by Sudré in 1828),
from French téléphone (c.1830), from the Greek télé- "afar" + phone
"voice/sound". Also used of other apparatus in the early 19th century,
including "instrument similar to a foghorn for signalling from ship to
ship" (1844). The electrical communication tool was first described in
modern form by P. Reis (1861); developed by Alexander Graham Bell, and
so called by him from 1876.
The K6 kiosk is identified as Britain's red Telephone Box; in
fact eight kiosk types were introduced by the General Post Office
between 1926 and 1983. The K6 was designed by the great architect, Sir
Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960, designer of Battersea and Bankside
power stations and Liverpool cathedral), to commemorate the Silver
Jubilee of the coronation of King George V in 1935. Some 60,000
examples were installed across Britain, which is why the K6 has come to
represent the red Telephone Box. Over 11,000 K6s remain and they are
the most visible examples of the eight kiosk types. See
our Trinity House buoy page for 1980s
photographs of this K6 in front of the original redbrick Paul's maltings.
Sadly, this hardly-noticed 'phone box has seen much better days. The
door is missing and so, 2013, was the actual 'phone receiver with
hanging forlornly; it was later replaced. Is
this the sign of a town in
decline? See a lost K6 example from outside The
on our Street furniture page and
the only K6 with door and a working telephone (we think) outside County Hall.
A few yards past the K6 is the Trinity
House buoy. On the Stoke side is Stoke
Bridge Maltings, The Old Bell and The People's Hall.
Aerial View (2007)
In 2007 it is notable that the burnt out shell of Paul's malting
(close to Bridge Street) is still
standing. You can see photographs of this now-demolished structure on
our Trinity House Buoy page. On the same page
are photographs of its neighbours: the R. & W. Paul Ltd silo and
Burtons factory. This bird'eye view captures a significant moment in
the long history of the Ipswich river and docks: the diggers and
vehicles seen at top right are busy clearing the site of the DanceEast
studio block as part of the Waterfront Regeneration scheme. The
orange-painted 'Cardinal Lofts' across Foundry Lane look close to
completion. The collapse of the global banking industry (and in
particular the Irish banks which gave financial backing to the Ipswich
regeneration) was not far off. We suppose that we ought to be grateful
that the DancEast headquarters and the over-tall 'The
Mill' tower above it were built before the crash. However, only the
shell is 'finished' (some of the cladding on the tower was torn off
during high winds in the autumn of 2013) and the interiors and services
have yet to be completed in 2014.
Please note that the labels (black text on water) show 'River Gipping'
to the west and 'River Orwell' to the east. The actual changeover
point, where the freshwater Gipping meets the brackish Orwell is near
Handford Bridge to the west of the town at Horseshoe Weir. See our page
on Water in Ipswich for further information
on these rivers.
The lagoon between St Peter's Wharf and Stoke
Bridge Maltings provides the extra depth for the 'Viewing platform'
to provide views of the Wet
Dock and quays (see the update below). Across the road the modern
Skate Park stands on the
site of the old tide mill. The line of the tramway curves horizontally
across the image. One striking thing about the roads, roundabouts and
Stoke Bridges is the amount of public lettering painted in white on the
tarmac surfaces. Not 'historical' perhaps, but there's a lot of it.
[UPDATE 20.6.2018: it is
only recently that we learn that the correct term for the 'lagoon' to
the east of Stoke Bridge is correctly called 'St Peters Dock' in that
it is a separate dock outside the Wet Dock, accessed only from New Cut,
so is still tidal. This is confirmed by the street nameplate fixed to
the flood wall close to the K6 telephone box.]
Above – St Peters Dock from the ‘viewing platform’ (from left):
Novotel, Trinity House buoy, St Peters Street, St
Peter’s-on-the-Waterfront, R. & W. Paul silo, Burtons building, E.
R. & F. Turner foundry, Foundry Lane and the Jerwood Dance
The street nameplate with Stoke Maltings the 'Edward Fison Ltd'
buildings, both accessed from Dock Street,
and the Genesis development on Great Whip
Street in the background.
R. & W. Paul maltings
Trinity House Buoy
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