Ipswich Myths Debunked: East Anglia's Waterfront Town

Discussion in 'Central Ipswich' started by dan5, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. dan5

    dan5Founder MemberStaff Member

    Ipswich Myth 2: "East Anglia's Waterfront Town"

    Ipswich is a town. It has a partially regenerated wet dock area known as the Ipswich Waterfront. We are the county town of Suffolk which is part of East Anglia.

    Are we a waterfront town?

    What is a waterfront?

    So by definition, every seaside and town which has a river going through it or next to it (or a lake) has a waterfront. Clue is in the name...

    So for East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire) including cities...
    • Cambridgeshire: Cambridge,Peterborough, Wisbech etc.
    • Norfolk: Norwich,Theftford,Great Yarmouth,Diss,Cromer,Kings Lynn,Sheringham,Hunstanton etc
    • Suffolk: Ipswich, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Southwold, Needham Market,Framlingham,Aldeburgh,Lowestoft,Bury St Edmunds,Stowmarket,Mildenhall,Beccles etc.
    So it is just a cheeky way of getting one over on 20+ other settlements (hundreds if you Google Mapped it) of being the whatever. Woodbridge could for example come out with a similar title of say "Suffolk's Waterfront Town" and Kings Lynn could say "East of England's Premier Waterfront".

    Are we a waterfront?

    What is the wet dock in respect to a waterfront? Some may argue it isn't part of the River Orwell and isn't a lake. Either way this doesn't particularly matter. Food for though :D

    Can Ipswich really be described as an waterfront town?

    I think it is more the case of a town with a waterfront (including a pleasure marina) which as highlighted above isn't special. All major settlements and many minor settlements are next to a river or the sea. Many more that don't naturally have such have had artificial canals built to achieve similar.

    I reject a "waterfront town" as unlike a seaside town or a settlement popular with some form of sea or river activity (sports, yachts, sea fishing etc) the people of Ipswich isn't naturally attracted to the area. For example, many residents cannot swim, something more common for those who live by the sea. Very few residents own (in whole or part) a yacht situated in the marina.

    Although there was an "waterfront promenade" row of trees on the island site in the past that would have attracted a few, people avoided the dirty industrial working wet dock. Not just for the high pollution you could expect from a dock but nearby named street "coprolite street" is a clue. People have only started going towards that area since the new millennium. For the Oldest English Town, 17 years isn't long in our history and the waterfront has only started pulling in people over the last 5 years.

    Even with the marketing there is still a big percentage of the town who has never been to the waterfront and have no intention to either. Big crowds only drawn for major events like the Ipswich Maritime Festival. For many this event happening this month will be the only time they go there (once in every 2 years), Restaurants, pubs and coffee shops can be found elsewhere in the town centre and other parts of the town.

    The second part of this point I am making is Ipswich is a typical "doughnut" town... in respect that the settlement is a very historic town centre with all the modern housing built out on estates (20th century) around that "town centre". Talking of the town as a very old settlement (the town centre bit)... despite the important trade routes utilising the River Orwell and a couple of churches close to it, housing was further north deeper into the heart of the town centre. The waterfront isn't part of that town centre... it is just below it.

    This is why Star Lane gyratory (1980s) was built between the town centre and the wet dock, as it is the natural thing to do with infrastructure planning is to build a ring round around the town to handle traffic in and out - and to bypass needing to go directly into the town. At that stage they weren't in the advance stages of planning for the wet dock regeneration as the town struggled to compete with other ports.

    Conclusion: Ipswich is NOT a waterfront town!

    The River Orwell has been an important feature of the settlement - both the earlier Ipswich Village (near the football ground) and the better known Anglo-Saxon town (around todays main shopping streets in particular Tavern Street) but as suggested the settlements weren't exactly right on the river (Ipswich Village was near marshland) but it highly probable it is how they arrived.

    As a 7th century port the river was highly used along with a dock for trade. It didn't define the people. For hundreds of years the Cornhill has been the centre of activity in one form or another... market trading predates our 1200AD Royal Charter. Until most recent years, you would have only went to the wet dock if you worked there.

    Important routes existed in the area... it is well known Ipswich had an upside down U shape configuration... surrounded by a wall or dyke except for the river at the bottom. 3 main gates existed... East Gate (now Majors Corner in the bottom of Carr Street), North Gate (Northgate Street named after it... to the north outside it was a meeting area) and West Gate (Westgate Street named after it, top end) each had a road to various parts of the country. So although the port to the south of the settlement was very significant it wasn't the major centre of activity.

    Just a poor attempt at marketing from some people who have no clue... you will find two types of people in marketing... marketing geniuses and people who think they get marketing but don't. It is sad to get a town marketing slogan before the area even has an tourist attraction, transport hub and completed regeneration. Visit Ipswich because we have great heritage... if you want a nice waterfront area... any seaside pretty much, Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, Chatham, Canary Wharf/One London etc, Leith, etc. Spoilt for choice and I am sure I am missing some decent ones after my quick brainstorm!

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