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Ipswich

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The historic and busy Ipswich is Suffolk's county town and is located on the beautiful River Orwell. 

With its great position in East Anglia, modern-day Ipswich is a bustling town full of enterprise and culture and boasts a population of around 180,000 people. 

History of Ipswich

Ipswich is one of England’s oldest towns which originally started in Anglo-Saxon times around the area of the dock. Since the coastal states of north-western Europe arose following the collapse of the Roman Empire, important North Sea trade and communication between eastern Britain and the continent went through the old Roman ports of London and York.

‘Gipeswic’ then emerged as the equivalent of these ports that began serving the 'Kingdom of East Anglia'. The early imports date to the time of King Rædwald, who at the time was supreme rule of the English. The historic ship-burial and treasure at Sutton Hoo nearby is considered to be his grave. The Ipswich museum displays replicas of the Roman Mildenhall Treasure and the Sutton Hoo treasure, as well as a gallery devoted to the town’s origins such as Anglo-Saxon weapons, jewellery and various other artefacts.

The original 7th-century town was located near the quay and near 700 AD, Frisian potters from the Holland area started settling in Ipswich and created the first large-scale potteries in England since the Roman Times. Their wares were traded across most of England and the industry became unique to Ipswich for about 200 years. In 720 AD, due to growth, a large new chunk of the town was built in the Buttermarket area. At this point Ipswich had become a place of both national and international relevance.

It was in the next four centuries where the town made most of its wealth, mainly from trading Suffolk cloth with the Continent.

Ipswich today

Ipswich has been subject to some major rebuilds in recent years, mainly around the town’s waterfront. One such development was turning a former industrial dock into an emerging residential and commercial centre, which was in-fact being completed at the expense of much of the town’s industrial and maritime heritage, despite the efforts against it from the local civic group, The Ipswich Society.

One of the oldest buildings in the area is the Tolly Cobbold brewery, originally built in the 19th century then rebuilt 1894-1896. There was at one point a Cobbold brewery in the town from 1746 – 2002 until Ridley’s Breweries took Tolly Cobbold over.

The town centre contains the Willis Building, a glass-clad building that’s often called the “Willis-faber building” by locals, since the company Willis Coroon used to be called Willis Faber. The building dates back to 1974 and was designed by Norman Foster. It became the youngest Grade I listed building in Britain in 1991 and at the time one of only two buildings to be listed less than 30 years of age.

In September 1993, Ipswich and Arras, Nord Pas-de-Calais, France became twin towns. There is a square in the new Buttermarket development named Arras Square to mark the relationship. In 2007 the town was also awarded the cleanest town award. Despite a few attempts at becoming a city, Ipswich still remains under town status. It doesn’t have a cathedral, so the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is based at Bury St Edmunds instead, the former county town of West Suffolk.

The Ipswich docks area, commonly known as ‘The Waterfront’, is now mostly for leisure use and has been subject of large development recently, primarily the residential apartment blocks as well as the New University Campus. Spirit Yachts, Fairline Boats and a timber merchant all operate from the dock. Various other industrial works are scattered across the south of the wet dock and recently Waterfront Action was formed to help create a friendly and active community for the Ipswich Waterfront, with it being led by the waterfront Churches.

Ipswich has two museums – Ipswich Museum and the Ipswich Transport Museum. There is also a 67 acre public park called Holywells Park, located in Holywells, which is located near the docks. Alexandria Park is the closest park to the Northern Quay of the Ipswich Waterfront. Ipswich is home to various artists and has a fair few galleries, the most famous ones being at Christchurch Mansion, in Ancient House, the Town Hall and the Artists’ Gallery in Electric House.

The visual arts are backed by many sculptures at very accessible sites. The Borough Council are always promoting the creation of new public works of art and has been known to make it a condition of planning permission.

The Ipswich Arts Festival, as known as ‘lp-art’ is the town’s annual summer arts festival and has been since 2003. Its yearly programme has always been developing with its varied events like visual arts, performing arts, literature, film and music. Not forgetting the free music day in Christchurch Park, where in 2010 a young Ed Sheeran even performed. 

Getting around

Ipswich is close to both the A14 and A12 roads providing excellent routes into Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk. By rail the town is on the Great Eastern Main Line from London to Norwich, furthermore there's access to the East Suffolk Line to Lowestoft and the Felixstowe Branch Line with two railway stations (Ipswich and Derby Road). It’s also just an hour from Stansted Airport, and the Port of Felixstowe is a major container port 12 miles to the east. 

Education

There are a few state-funded secondary schools which include comprehensive schools such as Copleston and Northgate High Schools and academics like Ipswich Academy and Suffolk New Academy. Ipswich also has several independent schools, including Ipswich School, Royal Hospital School, Ipswich High School for girls and St Joseph’s College (Catholic, co-educational).

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