Ransomes' Orwell Works site, The Promenade

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:
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' (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 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 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 (see also below). '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 south dam – the site of the future south lock – and extending, on the line of today's Ship Launch Road, to 'Clifton Road' (today's Cliff Road). Members of the public were accustomed to promenading from just south of the western lock – the western lock gates provided footbridges – 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. Not visible here is the treed Stoke Quay promenade along New Cut West, which once ran from Dock Street, in front of the St Peter's Workhouse grounds, past the Steamboat Tavern and Felaw Street and all the way down to the (long-disappeared) Bright Street. This is shown on the 1884 map.
Ipswich Historic lettering: Ransome Orwell Works map 18671867 map
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 Ransomes page.

The Promenade

Ipswich Historic lettering:  Promenade 19091909 image
The postcard view above shows the leafy, well-ordered and spacious Promenade on the Island site in 1909. A valued amenity for generations of Ipswich residents, the Promenade was laid out in the 1840s as part of the Wet Dock project. The Promenade stretched from the original western lock, which opened into New Cut, down to the lower dam where a cottage stood for 'the keeper of the Promenade', a large statue of a winged horse and a shelter – whose shape gave it the vernacular name of 'The Umbrella'. Particularly at weekends, people strolled between the avenues of trees to view the ships in the dock and, at the southern end, there were views over the wider reaches of the River Orwell, Cliff Quay and 'Hog Highland' on the east bank. In 1912 the Dock Commission planned to end the public right-of-way along the Promenade; although the war in 1914 meant that those plans were not carried into effect, the Promenade was eventually industrialised and it disappeared under hard surfaces and tramway lines which led down, and over, the swing-bridge to enable freight access to Cliff Quay and beyond. Nobody appears to have complained when the Dock Commission applied for the Act of Parliament which gave them powers to close the Promenade, but its loss has been the subject of public regret ever since. In around 2013 a public inquiry was held into the matter, but New Cut East is still barriered off to the public as far as the swing-bridge over the lock. [Based on information from Malster: Ipswich, an A-Z of local history, see Reading list.]

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'.
See also our Lettered castings index page.

Related pages:
The Question Mark
Christies warehouse
Bridge Street
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's

College Street
Coprolite Street
Cranfield's Flour Mill

Custom House
Trinity House buoy
Edward Fison Ltd
Ipswich Whaling Station?
Isaac Lord

Neptune Inn clock, garden and interior
Isaac Lord 2
The Island
John Good and Sons
Merchant seamen's memorial
The Mill

Nova Scotia House
New Cut East
Quay nameplates

R&W Paul malting company
Steam Packet Hotel
Stoke Bridge(s)
Waterfront Regeneration Scheme
Wolsey's Gate
A chance to compare
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps

Davy's illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone, 1839
Outside the Wet Dock
Maritime Ipswich '82 festival

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