Planet Ipswich : A bridge between the Ipswiches of the world

Ipswich Water (River Orwell), England

Although the name of the river on Englands east coast that flows from Harwich to Ipswich has been known as the Orwell since at least Saxon times, the alternative name of Ipswich Water was in use, colloquially at least, for many centuries. In 1722, Daniel Defoe in his A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journeys, vol.1 wrote that:    

‘A traveller will hardly understand me, especially a seaman, when I speak of the River Stour and the River Orwell at Harwich, for they know them by no other names than those of Manningtree water and Ipswich water; so while I am on salt water, I must speak as those who use the sea may understand me, and when I am up in the country among the inland towns again, I shall call them out of their names no more’

Exactly when the name Ipswich Water fell into disuse is unclear.

(See also River Orwell & River Gipping section on the Ipswich, England page)

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The Village of Westerfield - Formerly within the Borough of Ipswich, England

The small village of Westerfield, two miles to the north of Ipswich town centre, once had the distinction of being the only village (partly) within the Borough of Ipswich. In the early 1980s the Boundary Commission recommended that the boundary should be changed to bring unification of the village within the administrative control of Suffolk Coastal District Council. This was implemented in 1985, with the boundary being moved further south, & Ipswich losing its only outlying village (see The Boundaries and Expansion of Ipswich on Ipswich, England page).

The vicinity of Westerfield has been inhabited since at least the Late Stone Age, with flint axe heads & tools being discovered in the area. Roman coins have also been found close by. The name is a mixture of Norse (vestri meaning ‘more to the west’) and Saxon (feld meaning ‘field’), hence ‘the field further to the west’.  In 1086 the Domesday Book had the settlement as “Westrefelda”, and even at that early date the valuation of the manor was included in Ipswich.  The larger landowners favoured incorporation in Ipswich since they were invariably also burgesses of that town and they, therefore, accepted a boundary that included their lands in Ipswich.  

The boundary actually ran down the middle of the village street, leaving houses on opposite sides of the road in different jurisdictions.  From 1894 to 1903 a separate parish of Westerfield-in-Ipswich was created within the county borough, and from 1903 to 1985 this was wholly integrated as a part of Ipswich.  The urban spread of Ipswich northward never actually reached Westerfield, and there remained a couple of miles of agricultural land between the two.  This made it even more illogical that a town boundary should run through the middle of a village, and after the reorganisation of county administration in 1974, it once again came up for discussion.  

The village was the birthplace of the Victorian novelist, essayist, and poet Matilda Betham-Edwards (1836 - 1919).

From Ipswich, Westerfield can be reached by Westerfield Road (B1077).

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Orwell Haven (Orwell Estuary) - Formerly within the Borough of Ipswich, England

Since “time immemorial” it had been essential for Ipswich to control the approaches to its port, i.e. the tidal part of the River Orwell.  This included the estuary (Orwell Haven) where there later developed an anchorage known as the “Port of Orwell”.  In the 13th century this control was challenged by the newly established port of Harwich.  In 1340 and 1378 it was finally determined that the estuary and its shoreline were within the boundaries of Ipswich.  This remained the position until 1863 when Ipswich lost these waters to Harwich.  The maritime boundary of Ipswich was then established, as it is today, on an imaginary line from Shotley Point to Fagbury Cliff in Trimley.  (For full story see The Lost Port of Orwell on Ipswich, England, page.) 

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Ipswich Canada 1735 - 1764 (Now Winchendon, Massachusetts)

42° 41 10 N  72° 02 40 W

Not in Canada, but another Ipswich in Massachusetts; this one in Worcester County near the border with New Hampshire & only 20 miles from New Ipswich. The name, however, comes from Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts.

Although the region had been explored in the 1720s the area remained a wilderness until 1735, when the first settlements (known as plantations) were granted. These were given to veterans of the expeditions to Quebec in 1690, hence the names Dorchester Canada, Salem Canada & Ipswich Canada.

Ipswich Canada was allotted to a contingent of 52 people from Ipswich, Essex County, led by Lt. Abraham Tilton. Settlement, however, didn't begin until 1752; the first house being built by Thomas Brown.

In 1764, the town was incorporated as Winchendon, the name being given by the then Governor of Massachusetts, Francis Bernard, after his home town of Nether Winchendon, Buckinghamshire, England.

In 2010, the population of Winchendon was estimated to be around 10,300. The town covers an area of approximately 44 square miles.

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Ipswich Hamlet 1638 - 1793 (Now Hamilton, Massachusetts)

42° 37 11 N  70° 51 17 W

The town of Hamilton, in Essex County, Massachusetts, USA lies approximately four miles south of Ipswich. It was first settled by Matthew Whipple, originally from Bocking, Essex, England in 1638, and was known as Ipswich Hamlet.  The distance from the Ipswich Meeting House was too far for the inhabitants, so they began to use Wenham for their services.  Because of this, the General Court authorised that Ipswich Hamlet should become a separate parish in October 1713, although it remained legally part of Ipswich Township.  As the parish assumed further responsibilities agitation began to become a separate town, and this took place when it became incorporated as Hamilton on 21 June 1793.  It was named after Alexander Hamilton, who was the first US Secretary of State.

Today, the town of Hamilton covers an area of 14.9 square miles. The population in 2010 was 7,764.
    

 

                                                                                                                                            Church at Ipswich Hamlet 1787                                                                                                                                                                                 

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The Town of Essex - Formerly part of Ipswich, Massachusetts

42° 37 55 N  70° 47 00 W

The town of Essex, Massachusetts, was previously in the southeastern-most part of the town of Ipswich.  William White and Goodman Bradstreet were the first settlers granted land at the location, then known as Chebacco, in 1634.  The name Chebacco is Agawam in origin and refers to a large lake whose waters extended into neighbouring Hamilton.

Early on, the residents lobbied for status as an independent town, asking for permission to build a meeting house which would indicate their separate existence. This was denied to them. Popular legend has it that the actual edict stated that “no man shall raise a meeting house”, so the women of the settlement, led by a Mrs Varney, constructed a meeting house in March 1679 while the men looked on. (It is known for certain that two men and three women were prosecuted for this action in May 1679.)  The settlement was recognised as a separate parish in 1683 when it was then called Chebacco Parish, still within the Town of Ipswich.  Essex was finally incorporated as a separate town on 15th February 1819, taking its name from the county in which it was located.  

Today, the town of Essex covers an area of 15.9 square miles. The population in 2010 was 3,504.

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The Town of Topsfield - Formerly part of Ipswich, Massachusetts

42° 38’ 15” N  70° 37’ 00” W

The town of Topsfield lies southwest of Ipswich with the Ipswich River running through the southern portion of the town.  In September 1639 the land “near to the Ipswich River” was granted to Salem by the General Court at Boston as the “Newe Medowes”, and began to be settled in 1641.  However, since most of the settlers came from Ipswich, in October 1643 the General Court agreed that New Meadows should belong to that town.  The name “Topsfield” was already in existence unofficially since it is recorded in a land grant of March 1642 to Henry Parks. The name is derived from the village of Toppesfield in north Essex, England where Samuel Symonds, the deputy governor of the time, came from.  In 1645 it was freed from the ministerial and taxation control of Ipswich, but remained legally part of that town.  On 27 October 1648 the General Court agreed to the name change to Topsfield, and on 18 October 1650 it was incorporated as a separate town independent from Ipswich.

The boundary with Ipswich was not established until 1694.  In 1728 Topsfield lost its southwestern part that was east of the Ipswich River to Middleton.  In 1774 it gained a part of Ipswich east of the Ipswich River from Ipswich Hamlet.      

Today, the town of Topsfield covers an area of 12.8 square miles. The population in 2010 was 6,085.

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Little Ipswich, Syosset, Nassau County, Long Island, New York

40° 49 21 N 73° 28 28 W

Located on the Syosset to Woodbury Road, Little Ipswich was the name of a house and a 29 acre estate, also known as the Chalmers Wood Estate.  The one storey house was designed by William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich in the neo-classical style, and was built in 1927-28.  It was built for Chalmers Wood, a wealthy New York stockbroker, and his second wife Ruby Ross Wood, a prominent interior decorator, also from New York.

Although born in New Jersey, the boyhood home of Chalmers Wood was Ipswich, Massachusetts.  His father came from a New York family but had married Harriette Appleton, who belonged to one of the earliest families in Ipswich (see Appleton Farms on Ipswich, Massachusetts, page) and the family lived at that town during his youth.  Chalmers Wood’s profession took him to New York, but he was very proud of this ancestry, and thus he named his house and estate Little Ipswich.  The name became attached to the surrounding neighbourhood.

Ruby Ross Wood died in 1950 and Chalmers Wood in 1952.  The estate was then bought by Count Giorgio Uzielli, a member of the New York Stock Exchange, from a wealthy Florentine family of bankers and financiers, connected by marriage to the Rothschild family.  The house was renamed “Lake House”, although the estate continued to be referred to as “Little Ipswich”, mainly because the family only stayed there in the summer months and did not have the same impact on the community as had the previous occupants.  After the death of Giorgio Uzielli in 1984, the house was left empty.  It was vandalised and the estate neglected.  Since his son Gianni Uzielli had married the daughter of Henry Ford II of the Ford Motor Company, there was not a shortage of available accommodation.

Finally, in 1995, the house was demolished and the 29 acre estate sold to make way for a development of 21 homes known as Pironi Estates.
Apparently, Little Ipswich was, at least until recently, still listed by the post office on zip code 11791.

Syosset is classed as a hamlet & census designated place in the northeastern section of the town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County, near the North Shore of Long Island. The population at the 2010 census was 18,829. 

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Little Ipswich, Queensland 1842 - 1860 (Now West Ipswich)

The first name given to this area was One Mile Creek because it was that distance west from the fledgling town of Ipswich, where there was a ford to cross the Bremer River.  It was first settled before October 1842 by Donald Campbell, a blacksmith, with his wife, three sons and a daughter.  Soon after in 1843 William McTaggart Dorsey, the first doctor to practise in Queensland, bought one of the allotments there, and established a small cottage hospital.  Within a year it was referred to as Little Ipswich since a separate community rapidly developed there.  A hostelry called the One Mile Hotel became the place where bullock teams from the Darling Downs, laden with bales of wool, would camp.  Little Ipswich thus became a busy centre in its own right from that of Ipswich.  Nevertheless, it was included in Ipswich when the municipality was incorporated in 1860, becoming one of its early suburbs.  It was renamed West Ipswich in 1877.

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The Shire of Ipswich, Queensland 1916 - 1917 (Became the Shire of Moreton before merging with the City of Ipswich)

The Shire of Ipswich existed from 1916 to 1917 as an administrative unit of Queensland.

The Shire of Ipswich comprised parts of the former Shires of Brassall, Bundanba, Purga and Walloon.  The boundaries were defined on 13th October 1916, and basically surrounded the City of Ipswich.  On 28th July 1917 the name was changed to the Shire of Moreton.  On 9th June 1949 Moreton Shire Council began holding its council meetings in Ipswich after its amalgamation with the Shires of Normanby and Rosewood.  Council meetings were held in Ipswich until 1959, when a move was made to have the Council headquarters relocated to one area within the Shire of Moreton.  The new offices were officially opened at Yamanto, just south of Churchill and the Ipswich Boundary, on 4th March 1961.  On 11th March 1995 the Shire of Moreton was merged with the City of Ipswich to form the present local government unit.

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City of Ipswich, Queensland - Land Lost to Other Jurisdictions

The following suburbs were originally part of the Shire of Moreton, and on its merger with Ipswich in 1995 these suburbs were brought into the City of Ipswich.  Some of them had more in common with neighbouring jurisdictions than with Ipswich, and subsequent transfers were made in later years.

Kholo, Mount Crosby, Karana Downs, & the northern part of Chuwar 1995-2000: Kholo, Mount Crosby and Karana Downs were the only parts of Ipswich north of the River Brisbane, and throughout the 20th century the residents and infrastructure had become more aligned with the City of Brisbane because of the ease of communications in that direction.  In the 1990s residents lobbied to be integrated into Brisbane City Council, and in 1998 the suburbs were re-zoned to Brisbane, and officially transferred in April 2000.

The first Europeans to enter the Mount Crosby region were John Oxley and Allan Cunningham in 1824.  It was not until 1852 that the area was opened up for settlement when George Colledge and Robert Bland made the first selection of land north of the Brisbane River in what is now Karana Downs.  At that time all areas bordering the north side of the Brisbane River, including today’s Lake Manchester, Kholo, Mount Crosby and Karana Downs, were known as the Parish of Kholo.  This is an old place name, but its origin is unknown.  Kholo was the centre of activity north of the river for the first thirty years, mainly because the stony ridges on this side of the River Brisbane were unsuitable for agriculture, and the first settlers took up available fertile land nearer to Ipswich on the Kholo peninsula in a loop of the river.  In 1879 the first pumped water supply in Queensland was established at Kholo.

The area to the east of Kholo became known as Mount Crosby about 1881 when a post office opened there.  The name
was given to the local peak, but the origin of the name is undecided.  Several of the original settlers are said to have come from the Scottish village of Crosbie-on-Eden, but the name is more likely to have come from a gold prospector, George Crosby.  Since the soil was poor the prospects for the Mount Crosby area were bleak.  However, by the mid-1880s Brisbane’s urban growth was outstripping its existing water supplies.  The Water Board then decided to pump water from the Brisbane River to a reservoir at Mount Crosby.  In 1890 a company town was built, and the Mount Crosby Pumping Station began operations in 1892.  The influx of works personnel soon reduced Kholo to a backwater, and Mount Crosby became the main centre north of the river. 



Pumping engine at the Mount Crosby waterworks, 1892

The pumping station became the main employer for a hundred years, and by the 1970s there was little farming being practised.  In 1986 a new water treatment plant was opened at Chuwar on the other bank of the river, and this led to the Mount Crosby waterworks closing in 1992.  Most of the company houses were offered for freehold sale.  By this date the mobility of commuters made living at Mount Crosby a practical proposition, and in the 1990s it became an attractive rural residential suburb for Brisbane.  

The area east of Colleges Crossing remained part of Mount Crosby.  In 1973 this land was released for residential development, and was named Karana at the suggestion of a real estate developer.  This is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘Pretty place beside the water’.  In 1975 the new locality was separated from Mount Crosby and officially renamed Karana Downs.  It became a semi-rural, leafy suburb for commuters from Brisbane.  The Karana Downs Country Club and 18 hole golf course (later renamed the Brisbane International Golf Centre) became a major attraction of this development.

Chuwar extends north into a horseshoe bend of the Brisbane River but is entirely south of the river.  However, in 2000 Chuwar was divided along Blackwall Road and the northern part was transferred to the city of Brisbane.  Since the major installations of the Westbank water treatment plant and the Blackwall electricity substation were located there in the 1980s to meet the increasing demands of Brisbane, it was felt that this area should come under the administration of that city, despite being south of the River Brisbane.  

Warrill View, Mutdapilly, Mount Walker, Coleyville, Rosevale, & parts of Harrisville 1995-2000: After the merger with the Shire of Moreton in 1995, the southernmost part of the City of Ipswich now contained a large agricultural area of isolated homesteads in the headwater valleys of the River Bremer tributaries of Western Creek and Warrill Creek.  This area had more in common with the adjacent Shire of Boonah to its south than with the farming settlements and urban areas to the north around Ipswich.  Moreover, the two adjacent districts had once been united, but were divided in 1949.  In 1879 these communities were part of the Mutdapilly Division and from 1904 they became part of Normanby Shire.  In 1949 the latter shire was divided between the Shire of Moreton and Shire of Boonah.  In 1995 Moreton was merged with the City of Ipswich, but in March 2000 these communities were transferred to the Shire of Boonah (now the Scenic Rim Region), thus reuniting this area of isolated farmsteads within the one shire.

Capt. Patrick Logan, the commandant of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony, was the first European to explore this region in 1827.  The Aboriginal name for the main river was retained by the incoming Europeans: Warrill, meaning “water” in the Yuggera language.  The land either side of Warrill Creek was first settled by pastoralists during the “Rosebrook run” of the 1840s.  George Edmondstone, later mayor of Brisbane, who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, took up Warrill Creek Station near present-day Warrill View on the Cunningham Highway in 1840.  He sold out early in 1842 to Donald Macintyre who built a homestead there.  This was sold in turn to George Thorn, the “Father of Ipswich” (see Ipswich, Queensland page), in 1845.   The present six-bedroom homestead overlooking Warroolaba Creek was built by Thorn in 1867, and it was later named Normanby by George Thorn, probably as a compliment to the second Marquess of Normanby, who was Governor of Queensland from 1871 to 1874.  It is now a Heritage site as one of Queensland’s earliest pastoral farms.
 
In 1860 the Crown surveyed 11,000 acres to be set aside for farming settlement and gave it the official name of the Ipswich Agricultural Reserve.  The main purpose of the Reserve at the time was to make the most of the world wide shortage of cotton during the American Civil War.  In the 1860s the Ipswich Agricultural Reserve around the Warrill Creek was subdivided for farms.  The small settlement that developed at Warrill Creek in the 1870s took the name Normanby from the nearby homestead, and the surrounding area became known as Normanby Plains.  In 1879 the Divisional structure of local government was established in Queensland and the Ipswich Agricultural Reserve was formally ended, and the area became part of the Mutdapilly Division.  In 1890 a further rearrangement of local government established Normanby Division, later Normanby Shire, and until 1904 its administrative centre was at Mutdapilly.  As a consequence of being the early centre of the shire, this latter settlement was often unofficially also referred to as Normanby.  To avoid confusion in having two nearby places using the same name, the Queensland government changed the name of the earlier Normanby to Warrill View in August 1931.

Mutdapilly is a rural village on the Cunningham Highway 12 miles (20 km) south of Ipswich.  The name was first recorded in 1827 by Capt. Logan and derives from an Aboriginal expression describing a sticky or muddy gully.  The locality was subdivided for farms in the late 1860s and many German Lutherans settled west of Mutdapilly, as evidenced by the names of a number of local roads (Goebels, Hartwigs, Gimpels, Koskies, Kruger, and Hendricks).  The population has declined from 1,500 in 1881 to around 600 in 2006.
 
In 1874 the Normanby Plains primary school was opened at Mutdapilly, and from 1879 the village was the centre for the newly formed Mutdapilly Division.  In 1890 this Division was divided and Normanby Division came into being, but the offices of that administrative division remained in Mutdapilly village until 1904, hence the village was unofficially referred to as Normanby.  In 1904 another reorganisation created a larger Normanby Shire which included the village and most of Mutdapilly Division, with Harrisville becoming the new administrative centre.  Next year (1905) what remained of Mutdapilly Division was united to Rosewood to become Rosewood Shire.  The Mutdapilly Division’s original area was 269 sq miles (697 sq km), but by the time it was merged with Rosewood Shire its area had been almost halved.  The village had lost its status as the centre for administration, and the loss of its northern parts to Rosewood made this area more inclined towards the pastoral Shire of Boonah in the south.   

Mount Walker is a peak and an isolated community of homesteads to the west of Warrill View along the Warrill View-Rosewood Road.  In 1824 Oxley named it Mount Forbes, after the Chief Justice of New South Wales.  It was renamed after a shepherd named Walker, who was employed by Henry Mort of Franklyn Vale.  The area became populated after 1862.  From 1884 it became the focal point for the German Baptist churches, although the German communities later moved further south to Engelsburg (now Kalbar).  The reorganisation of the administrative units in 1904-05 saw the loss of much of the territory to the new Rosewood Shire (where Lower Mount Walker and Mount Walker West still remain in the City of Ipswich), while Mount Walker itself stayed with Normanby Shire.

Coleyville, just to the west of Warrill View, was named after early settlers Philomen and Sylvia Coley who came from Halesowen, England, in 1866.

Rosevale is a rural village 25 miles (40 km) south-west of Ipswich and 15 miles (25 km) north-west of Boonah on the Western Creek tributary of the Bremer River.  It was originally called Rossvale after a pastoralist named Ross who grazed stock there between 1847 and 1853.  Situated in a relatively remote valley in the foothills south of Grandchester, Rosevale was the furthermost part of the City of Ipswich.  It was settled for farm purposes at an early date, mainly for dairy products.     

The rest of Harrisville & Peak Crossing 1995-2008: When the southernmost communities of Ipswich were transferred in 2000, the townships of Harrisville and Peak Crossing, in the eastern portion, remained with the City of Ipswich.  In 2007 the Local Government Reform Commission identified a rural community of common interest, and recommended that a new local government area, known as the Scenic Rim Region, be established from the Shire of Boonah, the southern rural part of the Shire of Beaudesert, and Harrisville with Peak Crossing from the City of Ipswich.  This new authority was officially established in March 2008.  

Harrisville is a rural town of about 400 people, 15 miles (25 km) south of Ipswich, located on the Warrill Creek.  The original land use by Europeans in this area was for sheep farming, and about 1851 the Mount Flinders Sheep Station was established in the vicinity of present-day Harrisville.  In 1860 the Ipswich Agricultural Reserve was established, and in 1863 Robert Dunn selected a block of land on the former sheep station, and this was the real beginnings of today’s settlement.  A short time later the brothers George and John Harris, shipping merchants in Brisbane, set up a cotton gin (a machine to separate seed from cotton) on the corner of John Dunn’s land.  George Harris had married the daughter of George Thorn, the “Father of Ipswich”, so he was well connected.  Other businesses established themselves near to the Harris gin and, at the suggestion of Robert Dunn’s daughter, the embryonic settlement was named Harristown.  Since there was already a Harristown near Toowoomba, this was changed to Harrisville.  

With the end of the American Civil War in 1865 the demand for Australian cotton collapsed and the gin closed, but a small amount of business continued around the site.  A permanent urban settlement developed after a hotel was built in 1875, and the opening of a branch railway line from Ipswich in 1882 placed the surrounding farm community in contact with its markets.  Harrisville now became the main centre for this part of Queensland, and in 1904 it became the administrative centre of Normanby Shire.  The Harris brothers had also given their name to another settlement built around one of their cotton stores.  This was Harrisborough in the Brisbane Valley to the north of Marburg.  To avoid confusion between the two places, Harrisborough changed its name to Fernvale in 1879.  This latter area would remain associated with Ipswich as part of the Shire of Moreton until 1995, when it was transferred to the Shire of Esk.   

Like many other rural localities, Harrisville has seen services disappear with the closure of the railway, hospital and other facilities, and there has been a decline in its population.  Nevertheless, the small town still retains a strong sense of identity as the centre of this agricultural community.

Peak Crossing is a rural village 12 miles (20 km) south of Ipswich, and just to the north of Harrisville.  In 1799 the explorer Matthew Flinders marked a peak on his map which he called High Peak.  When John Oxley came this way in 1824 he renamed it Flinders Peak.  However, it was referred to locally as Peak Mountain.  The present village is 5 miles (9 km) west of Flinders Peak.  The first property held by Europeans in the area was known as Peak Mountain Sheep Station.  This was held by W.Wilson and later by William Winks from 1859.  In 1863 this area was turned over for cotton production and a settlement grew up at a crossing point over the Purga Creek.  This at first took the same name (Purga Creek), but it was renamed Peak Mountain in 1879 and Peak Crossing in 1929.  In 1931 it was declared a town.

In 1882 the railway to Harrisville was opened with a stop at Peak Mountain.  This enabled the agricultural produce to be transported rapidly to Ipswich and Brisbane.  To the south of Peak Crossing a limestone outcrop was discovered in the early 1890s; mining soon followed, and continues today.  The mining village of Limestone Ridges was established nearby in the late 1890s.  Just outside Peak Crossing the Flinders Dolomite Mine was opened in 1962, and is still a major contributor to the local economy.  However, Peak Crossing remains substantially the hub of prime agricultural land, and the farming community felt that it had little in common with the larger communities to the north, hence its wish to become part of the new local government area.

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What Might Have Been: The Proposal for a Greater Ipswich, England in the 1960s

This section is not concerned with a place formerly called Ipswich, but is more of a ‘what if?’ situation, inasmuch as it deals with the proposed, but ultimately aborted, plans to develop Ipswich, England into a far larger urban centre than the town we know today.  

During the early 1960s, proposals were made to considerably expand Ipswich’s population, & therefore its size, to form a ‘Greater Ipswich’ with city status. The scheme, which was put forward by the British government of the day, recognized Ipswich’s economic development potential & its importance as a port, as well as envisaging  the town being part of a wider project to provide extra housing requirements for the London overspill population. If the proposals had come to fruition, Ipswich’s population would have risen to 250,000 by the mid 1980s, with further developments doubling this figure to half a million by the year 2000.

Two contrasting plans for the layout of this new ‘Greater Ipswich’ were proposed. The first, mooted in L G Vincent’s theoretical study of 1961, envisaged what was called a ‘linear city’; an unbroken urban corridor stretching from Hadleigh in the west to Felixstowe in the east (a distance of over 20 miles). This proposal was superseded in 1965, however, when the planners Shankland, Cox & Associates, who had been appointed by the Ministry of Housing & Local Government, put forward their proposal to increase the size of Ipswich from 16 to 36 square miles. Unlike the first proposal, this would have seen a more circular expansion, with several villages to the west of Ipswich being incorporated into the borough. This would have created two new urban areas; a northerly one around the villages of Bramford & Sproughton, with the other, to the south, stretching from Copdock to Wherstead via Belstead. Each of these new urban centres were envisaged to eventually provide housing for over 50,000 people, with a further 30,000 also being housed in new developments within the existing borough. (The area to the east of Ipswich was not included in the scheme, as it was felt that this area of mainly heathland stretching to the coast should be spared for recreational activities & conservational reasons). Further afield, the areas to the northwest of Ipswich around Needham Market & Stowmarket were also earmarked for expansion, with developments for up to another 100,000 inhabitants being suggested. As well as housing, the planner’s proposals included; new motorways running from Felixstowe, via Ipswich, to London, the Midlands & the North of England; the expansion of Ipswich Airport; a bridge over the Orwell estuary linking Felixstowe with Harwich;  a barrage on the estuary to create a freshwater lake; & the complete rebuilding of the town centre (work on this last project did commence, with the building of Civic Drive & the concrete monstrosity that was the Greyfriars complex).

This proposal was met with enthusiasm in some quarters, & with dismay, anger & protestation in others. Ipswich Borough Council was in favour, as were the majority of the population of Ipswich (who took part in a special opinion poll). East Suffolk County Council also initially supported the scheme. The main opposition came from the rural District Councils that would have been affected by the plans, together with the local farming community. These protests eventually saw East Suffolk County Council withdrawing its support. Discussions & deliberations on how the project was to be funded dragged on into 1968, with Ipswich Borough Council being unhappy about how much of the financial cost they would have to meet. Finally, in July 1969, the government announced its decision not to proceed with the expansion, much to the delight of the rural lobby.

A missed opportunity or a lucky escape?  Now, as then, opinions are divided, & we will never know conclusively one way or the other.  The economic growth, not to mention the added prestige that comes with city status, suggests that Ipswich may have missed out. On the other side of the coin, the soul-less nature of other so called London overspill ‘new towns’, together with the social problems endemic to larger urban centres, are not things to be envied.

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