May 20th was a beautiful evening when about forty Ipswich Society members met in front of the Old Custom House, with new and old buildings, ongoing construction and a full marina, anticipating an informative and pleasant evening. We were not to be disappointed. Our leaders were Lois and Chris Terry. We were split into two groups - one to look at 'Today and Tomorrow' west of the Custom House with Chris and the other to look at 'Today and Yesterday' with Lois to the east. The groups changed at 'halftime'.
With 'Today and Tomorrow' we were shown the new development replacing and also incorporating the old dockside buildings. The remaining cast iron columns and Victorian brickwork were familiar friends to older Ipswichians amongst us; some still referred to 'the dock' rather than 'the Waterfront'. Two new throughways between the Waterfront and College Street! Key Street allowed us to see the open-air area next to Cranfield's flour mill (sorry, Dance East) and also the new display window and case for the Maritime Trust. Dance East studios have concrete floors sitting on springs to give 'acoustic insulation', but it was the 'car stacker' parking system that Chris described which sounded the most futuristic.
With 'Today and Yesterday' we started at the great favourite, the Custom House, with its bricks imitating stone. Then we had a detailed look at the wonderful Isaac lord complex, also learning about wherries in Wherry Lane. The backs of the buildings and the Old Neptune Inn in Fore Street are surely one of the tourist sights of Ipswich, but oh, the traffic! At least we stopped the two lanes of traffic when we crossed the road! (How about a car-free day once a month?)
Passing by University Campus Suffolk we stopped in Coprolite Street, learning of the old artificial fertiliser factory and the part the Rev John Stevens Henslow (tutor of Charles Darwin) played in discovering the raw phosphate material. We were also told about the first railway in China, between Woosung and Shanghai - the train had been made at Ransomes and Rapier on the other side of the dock here in Ipswich!
The evening was still not over. We then had tea/coffee, cake and biscuits at Isaac Lord's, together with an exploration of the building. Excellent evening. Thank you, Lois and Chris.