River port and administrative headquarters of Suffolk, eastern England, on the Orwell estuary, 111 km/69 mi northeast of London; population (2001) 138,700. An important wool port in the 16th century, it now provides financial and distribution services, and is the location of British Telecom's laboratories. Other industries include engineering, and the manufacture of computer software, machinery, beer, flour, fibre optics, videotape and multi-media products, building materials, plastics, and electrical goods.
Shipping services encompass port support, freight forwarding, and other distribution. Engineering products include grass cutting machinery for golf courses, water control equipment for large-scale irrigation schemes, roller mills, grain driers, air compressors, refrigerating plant, and central heating equipment. Automotive components, audio speakers, plywood, wall boards, garden furniture, yeast, and fertilizers are also manufactured. Part of the University of East Anglia is sited here.
History Originally the site of a small Roman settlement, Gyppeswyk prospered as a port and agricultural centre throughout the Saxon period. The Danes were defeated at sea off the mouth of the Orwell in 885 by King Alfred, but in 991 and 1010 they invaded the town and set fire to it. In 1200 King John granted Ipswich its first charter. During the reign of Edward III weavers and wool workers from the Netherlands settled in the area and the Suffolk woollen industry grew rapidly. In 1518 Henry VIII granted a charter confirming the corporation's jurisdiction over the Orwell estuary as far as what is now the port of Harwich.
Features Much of the centre of Ipswich has been rebuilt and many modern buildings have been constructed around the medieval core of the town. The centre is Cornhill, formerly the site of the Saxon market. In the Butter Market is the Ancient House (1567), or Sparrowe's House, which includes a fine example of pargeting (ornamental carving of the plasterwork on its facade). To the north of the centre is Christchurch Mansion (1548–50), which now houses a museum and gallery including paintings by the Suffolk artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. Wolsey's Gateway (1528) is the only remaining fragment of Cardinal Wolsey's plan to found a college in Ipswich. Ipswich Museum includes geological and archaeological exhibits. The Great White Horse Inn features in the Pickwick Papers of Charles Dickens. The library was built in 1924, and is an important repository for Suffolk records. Ipswich School (now a private school) was established in 1477 or earlier in the precincts of the Blackfriars monastery; it moved to its present site in 1851.
Churches The town has many medieval churches. St Margaret's dates from the early 13th century; the Perpendicular St Peter's was renovated and extended in 1878 under Gilbert Scott; and the church of St Nicholas has a 14th-century nave and aisles. Other churches include St Mary-le-Tower, where King John's charter was received in 1200 by the bailiffs and burgesses; the 15th-century St Mary-at-the-Quay; and St Lawrence, a lofty Perpendicular church, with an embattled tower and five medieval bells.
Famous people Ipswich was the birthplace of Cardinal Wolsey in about 1475, and the home of the painter Thomas Gainsborough.
Ipswich Borough Council