Last Updated on 27 July 2012
Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk, is often overlooked by visitors despite its many attractive restaurants and bars, medieval churches, Tudor buildings, beautiful parks, museums, theatres, galleries and sporting venues including the Portman Road Stadium, home of Ipswich Town FC, Foxhall Stadium which hosts speedway and stockcar racing and the Ipswich Gymnastics Centre. It boasts modern shopping centres and a revitalised Wet Dock quayside, which is now home to the stylish campus of Suffolk University.
Arts and Music
Ipswich is home to many artists, with galleries at Christchurch Mansion, the Town Hall, a gallery in Ancient House and the Artists' Gallery in Electric House.
The visual arts are further supported with many sculptures round the town.
Performing arts are well represented with Ipswich being home to many cultural hubs. The Regent Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre and Corn Exchange all offer live entertainment and performances.
Since 1991, there has been an annual arts festival called Ip-Art which brings together many events across art disciplines and different venues, notably a free music day in Christchurch Park. This has recently been complemented by the Switch Fringe Festival which partially overlaps with Ip-Art. offers a range of events by local and alternative artists and performers.
The New Wolsey hosts the Pulse Fringe Festival that takes place in May/June each year (overlapping with the Ip-Art Festival), bringing new and emerging work at various stages of development, from both national and international companies, to different venues in the town (like a mini Edinburgh Festival). There are videos about all 3 of these festivals and some of the events under a number of our video categories.
DanceEast, which has the primary aim of advocating innovation and development of dance in the East of England is now resident in new premises as part of the waterfront development.
The Eastern Angles theatre group are based at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich.
Key Arts is an artists run space using the St Mary at the Quay Church on the waterfront.
New music thrives in a number of venues.
Do you know of any other references to Ipswich?
- In the original version of Monty Python's famous Dead Parrot sketch Michael Palin's character claims that Ipswich is the palindrome of Bolton.
- Ipswich is mentioned in a children's television show watched by the character Stewie Griffin in Family Guy.
- Ipswich was the base of operations for Russian "illegal" agent Valeri Petrofsky in the Frederick Forsyth novel, The Fourth Protocol (and the later film based on the novel).
- Michael Palin's 1987 comedy about provincial English seaside holidays in the 1950s was entitled East of Ipswich.
- In 2006 The Jarvis Cocker Record contained the track From Auschwitz to Ipswich written and performed by Jarvis.
- In Stardust, starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Sienna Miller and Robert De Niro, Ipswich is mentioned at the beginning of the movie when Sienna Miller as Victoria says of her fiancé, "I can't exactly say no, after he's gone all the way to Ipswich!".
- In the Doctor Who episode "The End of the World" after the Doctor tells her to stay where she is, Rose Tyler says "where am I gonna go, Ipswich?"
- In the Pilot episode of Queer as Folk, after Nathan asks Stuart if he could meet him later that night, Stuart answers "God knows where I'll be tonight, you know, I could be anywhere. I could be in Ipswich!"
- Matthew Freeman from Anthony Horowitz's novels The Power of Five is sent to Ipswich after the death of his parents
Some interesting facts
Tell us if you know better
- Ipswich was where Enid Blyton trained as a Kindergarten teacher
- It is said that the 'Little Boy Blue' and 'Humpty Dumpty' nursery rhymes were based on the life of Cardinal Wolsey from Ipswich
- Sir Henry Rider Haggard, who wrote 'King Solomon's Mines', was educated in Ipswich
- David Garrick the actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer made his debut as a professional actor in Ipswich in 1741
- Mrs Wallis Simpson was divorced in Ipswich before marrying Edward VIII
- John Gosnold III, MP for Ipswich, had to advise on the legality of Lady Jane Grey's succession
- Ian Smith, who later became Prime Minister of Rhodesia, once flew from RAF Martlesham
- Cardinal Wolsey who was charged with arranging the divorce of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was the son of an Ipswich butcher
- The Ipswich based company Ransomes and Rapier built the first railway in China
- The world’s first commercially marketed powered lawnmower was built by Ransomes in Ipswich in 1902
- HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship, was designed by Thomas Slade, who is buried in Ipswich
- John Simpson, the BBC foreign correspondent, spent much of his childhood in Ipswich and Dunwich
- When a young Cary Grant ran away to join an acrobatic troupe, his father found him in Ipswich
- June Brown, (Dot Cotton in 'EastEnders') was educated in Ipswich
A bit of history
Under Roman rule, the area around Ipswich formed an important route inland to rural towns and settlements via the rivers Orwell and Gipping. The largest Roman villa in Suffolk (possibly an administrative complex) stood at Castle Hill (north-west Ipswich).
The name Ipswich is derived from the medieval name 'Gippeswic', probably taken from the River Gipping which is the non-tidal section of the River Orwell.
Ipswich is one of England's oldest towns, and took shape in Anglo-Saxon times (in the 7th–8th centuries) around Ipswich dock.
Towards 700 AD, potters from the Netherlands settled in Ipswich and set up the first large-scale potteries in England since Roman times. Their wares were traded far across England, and the industry was unique to Ipswich for 200 years. With the resulting prosperity the town expanded to the Buttermarket area. Parts of the ancient road plan still survive.
After the invasion of 869 Ipswich fell under Viking rule. The town operated a Mint under royal licence from King Edgar in the 970s, which continued through the Norman Conquest until the time of King John who granted the town its first charter in 1200.
In the next four centuries it made the most of its wealth, trading Suffolk cloth with the Continent. Five large religious houses stood in medieval Ipswich.
Around 1380, Geoffrey Chaucer satirised the merchants of Ipswich in the Canterbury Tales. Thomas Wolsey, the future cardinal, was born in Ipswich about 1475. One of Henry VIII’s closest political allies, he founded a college in the town in 1528, which was for its brief duration one of the homes of the Ipswich School.
In the time of Queen Mary the Ipswich Martyrs were burnt at the stake on the Cornhill for their Protestant beliefs. From 1611 to 1634 Ipswich was a major centre for emigration from East Anglia to New England in what has become known as the Great Migration.
The painter Thomas Gainsborough lived and worked in Ipswich. In 1835, Charles Dickens stayed in Ipswich at what became the Great White Horse Hotel and used it as a setting for scenes in his novel The Pickwick Papers.
In 1824, Dr George Birkbeck, with support from several local businessmen, founded one of the first Mechanics' Institutes which survives to this day as the independent Ipswich Institute Reading Room and Library.
In 1797 Lord and Lady Nelson moved to Ipswich, and in 1800 Lord Nelson was appointed High Steward of Ipswich.
In the mid-19th century Coprolite (fossilized animal dung) was discovered, the material was mined and then dissolved in acid, the resulting mixture forming the basis of Fisons fertilizer business.
Ipswich was subject to bombing by German Zeppelins during the First World War but the greatest damage by far occurred during the German bombing raids of World War II. The area in and around the docks were especially devastated. The last bombs to fall on Ipswich landed on Seymour Street in March 1945.