The Brewery Tap ('The Cliff')
Above: the view across the
car park from outside the earlier Cliff
And the main door
into 'The Cliff' (Anthony Cobbold of The Cobbold Family History Trust –
see Links – tells us that 'Cliff
House' was a Cobbold property
in Felixstowe), the original residence of the
Cobbolds on this site, built before
1746 and then not overshadowed by the later Victorian Brewery building.
Before this, the Cobbolds lived at The Manor House on St Margaret's
Green, Ipswich which still stands and is enshrined in legend as the
place from whence Margaret Catchpole stole John Cobbold's prize horse
in 1797 and rode to her lover in London. The Cliff is known today as
The Brewery Tap public house and restaurant.
door can be found elsewhere on the site. The beacon/brazier was run on
gas and blazed for several years in the 1990s at the front of the
building while it
was also the entry to the Brewery Museum.
"In 1798 John Cobbold (1745-1835) – the grandson
of Thomas Cobbold (1680-1752), the company founder
(famed for his two wives: 'Elizabeth I' and 'Elizabeth II' and a total
of 22 children)
moved the family to The Cliff. He and his parents had been buying
parcels of land in that part of Ipswich since the 1740s and in 1811
John was able to buy Pitt’s Farmhouse which formed the basic U shape of
the Holywells mansion which he built in 1814." The land was eventually
given to the
Borough and opened to the public as Holywells Park in 1936; the mansion
was sadly demolished in 1962. Tollemache and Cobbold breweries merged
and the noble family of Tollemache, with their seat at Helmingham Hall,
must have agreed to the rather familiar contraction 'Tolly' to make a
combination brand name which rolls off the tongue.
caryatids ('satyresses') seen on the nearby Cliff
Cottage appear again over at
least two of
the doors. They appear to be machine-made and of poorer quality in
their carving to those on The Old Brewer's House.
support a bizarre structure featuring the
eared, horned head of another Green Man with foliage escaping from
front wall is studded with motifs and heads, some
painted silver with (below left) heads positioned low down either side
of the doorway.
Listed Grade II as 'Cliff House' the description reads:
"An C18 timber-framed and plastered building with early-mid C19
additions on the north end. The C18 block faces west to the quay, 2
storeys and attics. 2 window range with a lower extension of 1 window
range at the south end. The ground storey has a large early C19 bay and
a C20 entrance porch. The west front comprises 2 gabled wings with
ornamental bargeboards and a centre part with a castellated parapet.
1:2:1 window range. The winders generally are double-hung sashes with
glazing bars,The north central doorway has a large mullioned fanlight
and an ornamented pediment on brackets carved with figures. Roofs tiled
with a modillion eaves cornice on the brackets carved 2 flat headed
dormers between the C16 and C19 blocks there is a tall C19 chimney
The main brewery buildings
round the building on the river side, past the
picnic table is a shuttering wall over which a very pink doorway can be
glimpsed. The algae on the brickwork in 2013 is very striking here.
above the doorway is a water tank formed between two
towers by riveted cast iron platework, each plate carried the name of
the manufacturer in a cartouche:
The firm of Buxton and Thornley was based in
Burton-upon-Trent and specialised in machinery for the brewing
industry. When the brewery was open for tours in the
1990s, a notable feature was a static steam engine restored to working
order which was designed to pump spring water up to the storage tank at
the top of the building. We wonder if this was a traditional brewery
steam engine and if it is still in
The Beer Garden entrance
the left of the main entrance is a skirt brick wall
under the trees with a studded gothic-shaped door with matching window.
The pathway is composed of bricks and tiles, some of them lettered.
Presumably this particular colour just happens to have the
manufacturer: 'HARRIES-PEARSON, STOURBRIDGE' on the flat side and one
couldn't lay the brick the other way up as that would feature the
'frog', the deep well which takes the mortar. Not suitable for a path.
The company was founded in 1860 and operated from its Black Country
offices until 1980/1990.
Behind this is the tiny beer garden. Further up the slop and round to
the right, the way was blocked in February 2013, but the view over the
shuttering is shown below right with, oddly a marquee/gazebo in view.
The main entrance to the yard
round and up the slope are the impressive main
gates to the old brewery yard.
gate post to the left is sheltered by a building;
that to the right has weathered more noticeably, the peeling paint
resembling an avant garde work of art. The 'flying saucer' finials are
views of the brewery complex aren't familiar to many
passers by on Landseer Road. The blue glass in the lantern in the
shorter tower was thought to help fermentation and not spoil the brew
with sunlight. When we look at the Cliff Brewery now what we see is
basically the brewery that was rebuilt and extended between 1894 and
1904. Large sections of the old brewery were demolished during this
time and what original parts survived were pretty much erased during
the 1904 expansion. To achieve industrialisation of the brewing
process, designs of the day made use of gravity - the so-called tower
brewery - so the raw materials started at the top and made their way
downwards, via the brewing process, to be matured and put in casks at
the bottom. Over a two year period from 1894 to 1896 a new brewery
replaced what went before but it was a staged process and was probably
carried out by Cobbold's own people. Certainly the driving force behind
the design was William Bradford & Sons, the eminent London
architects (see also The Unicorn
but the development probably retained some parts while others were
For a view of the brewery complex from the river see the Outside the Wet Dock page.
– and at some distance – the weather
vane on the highest tower was noticed and the long range photograph
below reveals, at last, some lettering! The enhanced view to the right
has been reversed to make the date on the vane readable:
brewery was merged in 2002 with Ridley's and closed
for good. The buildings are Listed Grade II and remain, gently
decaying, more or less unchanged since 2002. The proximity of the Vopak
terminal (oil and chemicals) was always a barrier to development of the
brewery site until its closure in 2010. The Tolly Cobbold
brewery is a remarkable set of buidings in search of a new role in a
prime site overlooking the River Orwell. The latest news in March 2013
is for the whole complex to be refurbished and extended for an hotel,
apartments, a heritage centre (probably the excellent Ipswich Transport
Museum and possibly a revived Gippeswyc Centre holding the town's
extraordinary archives), a supermarket, possibly a new music
venue. It's a huge development along the quayside,
so let's hope it turns the old brewery buildings into something useful
Above: the Brewery (with 'The Cliff', the Brewery Tap
pub, in the foreground) in 1934 showing that it had liveried lorries
and a ship loading gantry similar to that on the R & W Paul silo on
St Peters Wharf shown on our Trinity House Buoy
From the river...
complete with rotting barge in foreground (2012 image)
And below, a companion image from The Ipswich Society's Flickr
collection (see Links) of the same view in
the 1960s when the company proudly proclaimed its identity:
Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
And finally, a piece of Tolly lettering you don't normally see. Spotted
at The Wheatsheaf – formerly the
offices of wine importers and
off-licence outlet, Barwell & Jones – in Fore Street.
From an era when well-made and well-lettered timber crates were
reused many times for delivery of full and removal of deposit
(re-usable) bottles to public houses, hotels and off licences, these
artifacts can fetch up to £70 on the nostalgia collectors' market,
[UPDATE 22.7.2018: 'My Grandfather,
Hugh Emerton Airey, was manager at the Cliff Brewery and when he left
in 1932 he was presented by the staff with a silver ink stand which I
still have. I have tried to photograph it, see attached.
The engraving reads:
Thought you may be interested to see it. Yours, Anthony Airey. Many thanks to Anthony for sending this
example of Cobbold brewery memorabilia.]
Mr H. E. Airey
by the staff of the Cliff Brewery 1932"
page for the
Tolly Brewery History website.
See also our Pubs &
page for more traces of Tolly Cobbold in our town and elsewhere.
For much, much more on the Cobbold family tree and its
remarkable characters see The Cobbold Family History Trust website (Links).
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