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- A description of Ipswich transcribed from Stephen Whatley's "Gazetteer of England" (1750) provided by Mel Lockie © 2011.
"IPSWICH, (Suffolk) 55 cm. 68 mm. (sic) from London, is an ancient, neat, well-built, populous T. 1 m. long, but broader, forming a sort of half-moon on the bank of the r. Orwell, over which it has a stone-bridge, leading to its suburb Stoke- Hamlet. Mr. Camden called it the eye of this Co. It has a harbour, which was more commodious formerly than now; and the number of its ships, as well as its trace by sea, is thereby considerably lessened, as well as its Chs. which were 21, and now but 12; though there are 2 chapels in the corp. liberty, besides meeting-houses. It had charters and a mint, so early as the R. of K. John; but the last charter was from K. Cha. II. 'Tis incorporated by the name of 2 bailiffs, a recorder, 12 portmen, of whom the bailiffs are 2, a T.-clerk, 2 chamberlains, 2 coroners, and 24 C.C. The bailiffs and 4 of the portmen are justices of the peace. 'Twas plundered, in 991, by the Danes, who demolished the ditch and rampart of the T. and forced the inh. to pay 10,000 l. They plundered it again, 9 years after. And K. Stephen demolished the castle itself, which had been built by Will. the Conq. Cardinal Wolsey, who was a native of this place, and the son of a butcher, began to erect a college on the ruins of one of its mons. which, though he did not finish, bears his name. Here were 6 other religious houses, the ruins of which are still to be seen. One of them is converted into a mansion-house, lately the seat of Viscount Hereford, and now of Mr. Claude Fonnereau, with a park and bowling-green in it, which are a great addition to the pleasantness of Ipswich. At another, the quarter-sessions are held, and part of it is a gaol. This T. enjoys several considerable privileges; as the passing fines and recoveries, trying causes both criminal and capital, and even crown causes among themselves. They appoint the assize of bread, wine, beer, &c. No freeman can be obliged, against his consent, to serve on juries out of the T. or bear any office for the K. sheriffs for the Co. excepted; nor are they obliged to pay any tithes, or duties, in any other part of the Km. They are entitled to all waifs, strays, and all goods cast on shore, within their admiralty jurisdiction, which extends, on the Essex-coast, beyond Harwich, and on both sides the Suffolk- coast; and the bailiffs even hold their admiralty court beyond Landguard-Fort, &c. In the R. of Edw. III. it was determined, at a trial, that the bailiffs and burgesses had the sole right to take the custom duties, for goods coming into the port of Harwich. Here is a convenient key and custom-house; and no place in Britain is so well situate for the Greenland-trade, because, besides its conveniency for boiling the blubber, and erecting store-houses, &c. the same wind, which carries them out of the mouth of the harbour, will carry them to the very seas of Greenland. Ships of 500 tons have been built here. The tide rises generally 12 foot, and brings great ships, within a small distance of it, but flows a very little way higher. At low water the harbour is almost dry; which made the D. of Buckingham say to Cha. II. " that here was a r. " without water." And, as for the T. he added, " that here were streets " without names, and the asses wore " boots." The meaning of the 2 last is, that the T. is divided into 4 wards, and called by their names, instead of streets; and that the bowling-green, above-mentioned, used to be rolled by asses in boots, that their, hoofs might not make an impression on the green. Here are a T.-hall, council-chamber, a shire-hall for the Co. sessions; a palace for the Bp. of Norwich; a fr. sc. a good library, adjoining to a work-house, or hos. for poor lunaticks, where rogues, vagabonds, &c. are kept to hard labour; and a noble foundation, by Mr. Tooley, in 1556, for poor old men and women. Here are other almshs. 3 ch. scs. in 2 of which are 70 boys, and in the 3d 40 girls; and an excellent charity was begun here, in 1704, for the relief of poor clergy's widows and orphans of this Co. by a subscription which is risen to near 5000 l. Tho' Ipswich is thought to be one of the cheapest places in England to live at, because of easy house-rent, the best of inns, plenty of all manner of provisions, and easy passage, either by water or land, the coach going through to London in a day; yet a late author compares it to a noble old house, which has stood long untenanted, and out of repair, the houses being built in the antique fashion, the streets large, and few people to be seen in them. 'Tis certain, however, that here are more gentry, than in any other T. in the Co. except St. Edmundsbury. It has Mts. on Tu. and Th. for small meat; on W. and Fr. for fish; and on S. for provisions of all kinds. In the midst of the Mt.-place is a fine cross. It has a great Cattle-Fair Aug. 11 and 12, and one on Sept. 14 for butter and cheese, besides other Fairs on Good-F. Apr. 23, May 7 and 8, and July 25. It gives title of Visc. as well as Thetford does, to the D. of Grafton. The adjacent country is cultivated chiefly for corn; of which a great quantity is continually shipp'd off for London, and sometimes it is exported to Holland. This part of the Co. also abounds so much with timber, that, since its trade of ship-building is abated, they send great quantities to the K's.-yards, at Chatham; to which they often run, from the mouth of Harwich r. in one tide. The r. here is best known by the name of Ipswich-Water; and the passage by it to Harwich is about 12 m. There is Lavington-Creek in it, where are prodigious shoals of muscles (sic) to be seen at low water; and near it was a fine seat and manor of Sir Sam. Barnardiston, now divided into many branches. The French refugees attempted formerly to erect a linen mf. here, but it did not answer; however, the poor people are employed in spinning wool for other places, where the mf. is settled."
"Ipswich, parl. and mun. bor., seaport, and co. town, Suffolk, 12 miles from the sea, 24 miles SE. of Bury St Edmunds, and 68 miles NE. of London, 8192 ac., pop. 50,546; 3 Banks, 5 newspapers. Market-day, Tuesday. Ipswich is a quaint and ancient town, its name being a corruption of the old English Gypeswic or Gippeswic, meaning a city on the Gipping. It is on the left bank of that river, which here enters the estuary of the Orwell. The town has extensive docks, supported by a large shipping traffic. ...
...Shipbuilding is carried on to some extent, but the principal trade is in corn, agricultural implements, and artificial manures. Nearly all the public buildings are of modern date, but in the old town there are some curious specimens of ancient domestic architecture notably Sparrowes' House (1567), Archdeacon's Place (1471), and Wolsey's Gateway (1528). The bor. returns 2 members to Parliament."
[From John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]
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Map of Ipswich from H.M.S.O. Boundary Commision Report, 1868.
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