An Exhibition to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Ipswich Maritime Trust
Following its Mayoral Opening on Tuesday 3 October, the Ipswich Maritime Trust held this exhibition, facilitated by The Ipswich Society, until Wednesday 11 October. The venue was the foyer of the Waterfront building of the University of Suffolk.
In 1982 the people who would form the Maritime Trust mounted an exhibition in R.&W. Paul's Home Warehouse (now restored as the offices of Ashtons Legal) to show what might be achieved to bring the then largely disused Wet Dock back to life.
Since those early days, the Trust's ‘Vision' plan, first revealed at that exhibition, has in large measure been achieved through the efforts of many organisations. That visualisation was on display at the 2017 exhibition and drew the attention of many visitors. Throughout that time the role of the Trust has been to use every means at its disposal to celebrate the town's wonderful maritime heritage, and to keep alive the unrestricted use of the dock for visiting historic vessels.
The exhibition drew on material from those early days together with historic photographs from the Trust's extensive Image Archive. More importantly still, however, the exhibition looked to the future and at the opportunities which exist to bring back to life the remaining under-used and under-appreciated parts of the town's waterfront. Of particular importance is the area around Stoke Bridge and St Peter's Dock: the Anglo-Saxon nucleus of Ipswich.
The Trust believes that redevelopment of the currently derelict buildings here through collaborative working between Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and landowners such as Associated British Ports is now possible, giving a great opportunity, once more, to bring back historic craft to this special area of unused tidal water and so complete the link between the waterfront and the town centre by way of St Peters Street. A further initiative could be to recreate something of the Victorian promenade which the townspeople once enjoyed, but which was necessarily terminated by closure of the Island site to the public for the past 100 years.
To this end, the Trust has commissioned from Ipswich artist Reg Snook a new ‘Vision' plan, to illustrate its ideas for the future use of this part of the historic dock, and so complete the restoration of the unique waterfront of England's oldest town.
Ipswich Maritime Trail 2017 launched
One of the exhibits at the Changing Waterfront exhibition was an unpainted set of the oval, Maritime Ipswich 1982 plaques which sparked the Society's thorough revision and republication of its Ipswich Maritime Trail, which was launched at the opening of the exhibition on the evening of Tuesday 3 October 2017. Long-standing IMT and Society member, Tony Hill, stored the duplicate set of plaques for thirty-five years and in 2017 the Society gifted them to the Ipswich Maritime Trust for their collection.
It took quite a while to establish that all of the original plaques were in situ on historic buildings - the one on Tooley's Almshouses is partially obscured by shrubbery - but we were then able to integrate the ten plaques into our reworked Maritime Trail booklet. In participating in part or all of the trail, visitors can spot the plaques as they go around the historic Wet Dock and environs. We are pleased to announce that the booklet has been very well-received and sales are healthy. The Ipswich Society gratefully acknowledges generous financial support for the publication from The Ipswich Institute and from Suffolk County Councillor Mandy Gaylard. Copies are available for £2 each from the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre in the Church of St Stephen, Ipswich.
And while we're on matters maritime and knotty…
Having welcomed the Mayor and distinguished guests, IMT Chairman Geoffrey Dyball introduced the speakers at the exhibition opening. For the Trust, Des Pawson spoke with admiration of the extraordinary achievements of those energetic forerunners of the Trust who made the original 1982 Maritime Festival such a success for the town.
Des and Liz Pawson are well-known both in Ipswich and far beyond for their tireless work in collecting and promoting rope-making and the craft of knot-tying. Their remarkable collection is housed in a rather upmarket Ipswich garden shed and this edifice was featured on a recent Channel 4 series celebrating all things shed with a competition to find the Amazing Spaces: Shed Of The Year. Entered into the ‘Historic' category, the programme featured a visit to Des's domain by one of the presenters showing some of the extraordinary exhibits including a section of rope which had lain on the seabed for over three hundred years on the wreck of a named vessel - the odour of tar on the rope which ensured its preservation could still be smelt.