Fore Street: '1620'& The Steam Packet Inn
Offord's Newsagents stands at 132-4 Fore Street: an old building
seemingly being swallowed up by the new UCS
building behind it. The sign above
the shop reads: 'OFFORD'S OFF LICENCE, news, tobacco, confectionery'.
buildings at 132-38 Fore Street are Listed Grade II. We
half-noticed in passing the date on the bressumer above this shop in
the past, but
it was not until April 2013 that it was included on this website.
is picked out rather crudely in white paint on the black-painted
carving (just below the dreaded 'The
Suspicions about the very crisp '1620' carved date on a similar
beam in Old Cattle Market are not
duplicated here. The close-ups shown below of the decoration, not to
decayed end-grain, indicate a very old piece of timber.
The official Listing: 'A C17 timber-framed and plastered
building with it jettied upper storey on the whole front with exposed
timber-framing and a carved bressumer bearing the date 1620. 2 storeys
and attics. 8 window range, casements. The ground storey has small C20
shops. Roofs tiled, with 3 gabled dormers with heavy moulded pediments,
There is a heavy carved projecting eaves board with the same motifs as
the bressumer. The building is weatherboarded at the west end.'
A look at the back of the building shows that, despite
modernisations, the gable and rooflines bear the mark of age.
The comparitive photographs below show (a) the buildings
photographed in the late 19th century (see it on the
1881 map at the foot of this page), (b) the buildings in
the 1960s [?] showing exposed beams (which don't look very old) and
four individual shops with Offords newsagent's
trading at this time, the entrance behind the bicycle; also (c and d)
the view in 2013 from a
position to (a). These cottages have been referred to
as "Ropemakers' Cottages"; Des Pawson of the Museum of Knots &
Sailors Ropework (see Links) notes that, if
true, the ropemakers living there would probably have worked on the
ropewalk at the bottom of Back Hamlet or further round towards what is
now the Tolly Cobbold brewery – both
shown as ropeyards on Olgiby’s 1674 map of
Ipswich – rather than in the area we know today as 'Rope Walk',
roughly parallel with St Helens Street.
19th C. 1960s
The period view (a) shows, in the foreground, the
original line of the street before the demolition of ancient
encroachments.; the houses were originally occupied by rope-workers.
The woman with the white
apron would be standing approximately in the doorway to Offords
newsagent's. This remarkable photograph was found in
Grace, F.: Rags and bones
(see Reading list), as was the image of The
Packet Tap. The windows, doors and chimneys of The Steam Packet have
altered over the
years, but it's reasonably certain that this is the only structure
standing in the period photograph (although the small newsagent's shop
between the Loch Fynne restaurant and the Travelodge, called at one
'Bargain Booze' – nice – could be original).
The second contemporary photograph (below) shows a slightly
different angle with more depth showing in Duke Street. The Dutch gable
end brickwork to the left of the 1620 building has clearly been
reshaped and the chimney stack shortened (just behind it there is a
glipse of the edge of
the modern 'Neptune Marina' building with its projecting roof). This
matches the roof-edge showing on the period photograph.
See it on the
1881 map below.
Here is a period photograph, perhaps 1950s, showing the '1620'
cottages to the left and their position relative to the Social
Settlement across the road. This fine building was demolished as part
of the clear-up of the Fore Street prior to the Queen's visit to
Ipswich (to open the Civic College) in July 1961. The advertising
hoardings in the right foreground indicate that demolition of the
cottages on this site had already taken place. The absence of traffic
in Fore Street is notable. The gap left by the demolition of the
Settlement can be seen in 2015 because it forms part of the University
Campus Suffolk car park opposite the Waterfront Building.
A similar view looking west down Fore Street can be seen on our Social Settlement page.
The Steam Packet Tap
At the end of Coprolite Street, opposite the Packard Manure
Factory, once stood The Steam Packet Tap described as 'a small
insalubrious beerhouse usually frequented by seamen, dock porters and
'STEAM PACKET TAP
on the 1881 map below.
was painted in rather grand
drop-shadow capitals on the brickwork just below the eaves.
The Steam Packet Tap would have stood approximately where the
south-western corner of the 21st century University Campus Suffolk
building on Neptune Quay now stands. How times change.
2-4 Duke Street: The Steam
It is worth peeping round the corner from Offords newsagent's at
the former Steam Packet
Hotel at 2-4 Duke Street. There is a
'typical' corner public house entrance with decorative fanlights and
decorations are repeated on the front entrance. The
smaller white brick building across the lane looks contemporary and to
be part of the Steam Packet Inn, but this is
immediate neighbour on Duke Street (left) is the modern-build
Countrylife wood burner and stove shop; this bears a tablet: 'This
building was designed and built by Mr & Mrs Read, completed in
1998'. In the background, the University College
Suffolk block to the right and the Neptune Marina apartments to the
on the 1881 map below.
The period photograph above right (perhaps early 20th century?)
of the well-signed The Steam Packet Inn shows very little change from
today's view (one chimney stack removed, a couple of windows yet to be
cut into the gable end) with 'COBBOLD' on the canopy supported by the
columns on Duke Street and 'ALES ... COBBOLD ... STOUT in the lane at
the side. The terrace of houses further down Duke Street includes a
small shop (newsagent/tobacconist, perhaps), but it is long gone.
This pub closed on September 18th 1960 and the last owner was
Cobbold's brewery. The sign-board between the first and second
storeys which interestingly has not been removed, is currently
painted black. A similar blank sign can be found at the rear of the
building (see below). It is now used for student accommodation. The
from the early 19th century, though there has been an inn on the site
since at least 1765. The pub is shown on a 1778 map as "The Compass";
some time in the early 19th century it had become "the Compasses"; it
is marked as such on plans understood to date from about the time the Wet Dock was opened in 1842.
This may have earlier been known as the Carpenter's Arms; the rate list
for 1754-1755 lists 'Danl Christmas' at the Carpenter's Arms and the
same man in 1755-1756 at the Steam Packet. Either the inn was renamed
or the landlord moved. (Information from the Suffolk
CAMRA website, see Links.)
Above left: the rear of the building with painted out sign;
above right: the side of The Steam Packet. In the
background: Grimwade Hall.
What a difference in 1921. This aerial photograph reveals a
typical Victorian industrial townscape where housing, churches,
factories and foundries are packed around the nort-east quays of the
Wet Dock. The captioned version below indicates some points
of interest. Images from Britain
from above (see Links).
Just to prove that the rear elevation of The Steam Packet Inn
carried its white-on black-lettering in 1921, note the detail at lower
centre. Other lettering noted here: 'GARAGE' in white
capitals along the top of the facade (building at the lower left next
to the Social Settlement) in Fore
Street. Behind the factories (the site largely occupied today by the
University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College blocks) the almost clear
'Brickmakers Wood' scarps, created by the digging of clay for the brick
and tile works in 'The Potteries' rise
up to the sparsely treed
Alexandra Park behind it.
For an aerial view from the opposite direction
of the same date, see our page on Alexandra Park.
[UPDATE 19.8.2017: 'I
just happened to be crossing Duke Street junction when I noticed...
déja vu. John Norman. Many thanks to
John for spotting the restoration of this sign – or replacement with a
image courtesy John Norman
Below, the fully refurbished frontage of the Steam packet Inn with its
new sign, September 2017. The right-hand photograph illustrates the
difficulty of avoiding the street furniture for this shot.
The 1881 map of the area below shows an almost unrecognisable mass of
courts, yards, dense housing, large industrial buildings (notably the
'Manure Manufactory' with its section overhanging the dock and tramway
to meet the wharf), maltings etc. The '1620 building' (marked in red)
which is in 2013 at the head of Fore Street was once in the first
narrow part of Fore Hamlet because of the elongated row of buildings
which extended westwards from the 'Congregational Chapel' (presumably
now called Grimwade Hall which stands at
the present-day junction of Back Hamlet, Fore Hamlet and Fore Street).
Across the lane from the '1620 building' is The Steam Packet Inn and,
at the Wet Dock end of Coprolite Street, is The Steam Packet Tap.
Ransome's Orwell Works occupied a
huge site to the south and east of this map detail.
The Question Mark
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's
Ground-level dockside furniture
island', the northern quays
John Good and Sons
New Cut East
R&W Paul malting company
A chance to
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps
illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone,
the Wet Dock
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