I have just returned from a wonderful day at the Maritime Festival, wallowing in nostalgia as I stood on South West Quay by the lock, looking across to what had been the shipyard.
I gather there are possible plans to restore the Harbourmaster’s House and Lock Keepers' Cottages at South West Quay. The Lock Keepers’ Cottages were, in the 1960s and 1970s, the SW Quay Office of HM Customs (my Dad was Surveyor B, Ipswich, at the time). Here is a sketch in pencil (done in pen-and-ink twelve years later), looking towards Dock Head and beyond towards Cliff Quay and the power station, which I drew seated at his office window way back in 1965 when I was 12. This shows the quayside before the flood wall was built and when New Cut East was still lit by gas lamp. The EARAT roadstone works was clearly in full, and dusty, cry according to my sketch.
In addition to the two houses mentioned above, there was another house of contemporaneous vintage nearby, which was the home of Mr Albert Proctor who was, I believe, Dockyard Foreman. Does this house still exist? I couldn’t seem to locate it today, but the scene is so changed it is sometimes hard to get one’s bearings. Incidentally, I recall that the courtyard of Customs SW Quay office boasted a rather fine grape vine; I wonder whether it’s still flourishing, though I doubt it.
The dockside, New Cut East, and the buildings are, I believe, a reasonably accurate representation of the scene, although the distant countryside appears to be somewhat hillier than it is really. HM Customs Dock Head Office, seen in the distance, beyond the EARAT works, was the Office for the Preventive Officers and ‘Rummage Crews’, and used to have a rather fine coat-of-arms (the portcullis with flying chains) over the front door. I wonder what became of it? What remains of Dock Head Office now presents a sorry sight.
My art teacher at school was Roger Finch, who knew a thing or two about the River Orwell. He was very encouraging although he found me exasperating at times!
Incidentally, my Mum was very proud of being ‘a direct descendent of Robert Ransome’. I must look into that…
Raymond T. Wheeler