The first station in Ipswich was not the one we know now. It was in the area where the old Ipswich Loco Works was eventually sited near Croft Street. It was designed by Ipswich architect, Frederick Barnes. The EUR mainline ran from Colchester to Ipswich and opened in June 1846. It was linked to Bishopsgate, the London terminus in those days, via the Eastern Counties Railways line. (Liverpool Street Station did not open until 1874.)

This was how a local journalist described the day of the grand opening of the EUR at Croft Street at the time:

‘On 11th June 1846 the directors held their ceremony, when at half-past ten o’clock in the morning a train consisting of thirteen open and closed carriages, drawn by two single wheeled engines named “Ipswich” and “Colchester” and built by the well-known firm of Sharp Brothers of Manchester, left Ipswich for Colchester.

[The front cover shows a painting by Ken Leighton of EUR locomotive, No. 2 ‘Ipswich’, exiting the south portal of Stoke Hill Tunnel, Ipswich (Painting by the late Ken Leighton by permission of Phyl Leighton)]

‘The engines were in [the] charge of Mr Peter Bruff, Resident Engineer, with Mr Taylor, “Foreman of Engines” driving the leading one; Mr Martin, Superintendent of the Line, was on the second which was driven by a trusted driver.

‘The passengers who accompanied the Chairman included the directors, the shareholders, a number of their friends and prominent townsmen, had a safe journey and arrived at their destination at 11.45. At Colchester they were met by a special train from London consisting of seven first-class carriages conveying Mr G Hudson MP, Mr J Locke, the Engineer, and a large number of friends and “supporters of the line.” The trains were quickly joined together and, worked by the two engines, reached Ipswich at 1.30.

‘En route they passed under triumphal arches decorated with flowers, evergreens and flags, to the cheers of the crowds, and at the terminus were received with “all sorts of joy.” The travellers were welcomed by a host of elegantly dressed ladies with bouquets who were seated in a handsome stand specially built. Guns were fired, bells were rung and all was “rejoicing at the advent of good friends.” The company then walked into the grounds of Mr C F Gower, bordering on the river, who most kindly lent them for the occasion.

‘A most excellent lunch was provided by the directors. The little steamer River Queen was moored alongside the garden and the party, including the two Chairmen, made a trip to Harwich and back. On their return some 200 gentlemen dined at the Assembly Rooms (This is now the site of the Easy Hotel in Northgate Street). This banquet, prepared by the host of the nearby Great White Horse Tavern, was “spread upon large tables having various highly flavoured viands crowned by iced champagne in sparkling profusion.” At the same time dinner was served to the junior officers of the railway at the Golden Lion, whilst the working men, numbering some 200, had theirs at the Railway Tavern, Stoke, and sub-contractors at the Coach and Horses [formerly situated at 41 Upper Brook Street – it opened in c.1732 and closed in 1975].’

[Drawing by Fred Russel of Croft Street Station on the day of the opening of the EUR with John Chevallier Cobbold (Chairman of the EUR) and Peter Bruff (the two figures facing each other in the foreground). Picture courtesy of Dr Doug Harper.]

At the right is a diagram taken from one found in Mr Bruff’s office and shows the layout of the station when first built.


To the south you can see the spur from Halifax Junction to Griffin Wharf to service the Orwell steamers. To the north-west of the diagram is the entrance to Stoke Hill tunnel (opened in November 1846) where the line continues to Bury St Edmunds.

It was planned as a temporary station until a more permanent structure, jointly owned by the EUR and the Ipswich and Bury Railway (I and BR), was built beyond the other end of Stoke Hill tunnel. In fact, nearly fifteen years passed before this happened.

Trains from London; came into the train shed, dropped off and picked up passengers, before backing out again to Halifax Junction. They then progressed forward, through the tunnel and on to their destination via the I and BR. This was how trains were worked from the end of 1846 until 1860 at which time Croft Street Station closed and the newly built station opened on the current site.

Croft Street Station train shed was used as a store by 1878 when it was damaged by fire. The building had disappeared by 1882, although the platforms were still visible until as late as 1950.

[Below: Croft Street Station, Ipswich Picture from the late Hugh Moffat (Modified by M R Russen)]

The old station has gone and the area where it was situated later became part of the locomotive shed and later still the carriage & wagon repair shops. All that too has now gone.

A fascinating part of the study of a townscape is how it changes. To that end, I include below two pictures taken from Luther Road/Belstead Avenue junction looking over the parapet above the southern portal of Stoke Hill Tunnel. The first picture was taken by Hugh Moffat, probably in the 1970s.

The line below curves away towards Halifax Junction. In the middle distance is the River Orwell and in the far distance lies the power station. The latter was commissioned in 1949, ceased work in 1985 and was demolished in 1994. On the left of the line are the carriage & wagon repair shops.

Above: a photograph I took in 2010 at roughly the same spot. Everything has changed including the design of the lamp post!

The line still curves away towards Manningtree but the carriage & wagon repair shops have gone having been replaced by a housing estate. In the distance over the river can be seen the Orwell Bridge: opened in 1982.

Merv Russen

[The report of the opening day of the EUR was taken from “The Eastern Union Railway 1846 to 1862” By H F Hilton (1946).]

Part two of this article will appear in our October issue.

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