Ipswich is a non-metropolitan district and the county town of Suffolk, England on the estuary of the River Orwell. Nearby towns are Felixstowe in Suffolk, Harwich in Essex and Colchester also in Essex. The town of the same name overspills the borough boundaries significantly, with only 85% of the town's population living within the borough at the time of the 2001 Census, when it was the third-largest settlement in the United Kingdom's East of England region, and the 38th largest urban area in England.
As of 2007, the borough of Ipswich is estimated to have a population of approximately 128,000 inhabitants.
Under the Roman empire, the area around Ipswich formed an important route inland to rural towns and settlements via the Orwell and Gipping. A large Roman fort, part of the coast defences of Britain, stood at Felixstowe (13 miles, 21 km), and the largest villa in Suffolk stood at Castle Hill (north-west Ipswich).
Ipswich is one of England's oldest towns, and took shape in Anglo-Saxon times as the main centre between York and London for North Sea trade to Scandinavia and the Rhine. It served the Kingdom of East Anglia, and began developing in the time of King Rædwald, supreme ruler of the English (616-624). The famous ship-burial and treasure at Sutton Hoo nearby (9 miles, 14.5 km) is probably his grave. The Ipswich Museum houses replicas of the Roman Mildenhall Treasure and the Sutton Hoo treasure. A gallery devoted to the town's origins includes Anglo-Saxon weapons, jewellery and other artefacts.
The seventh-century town, called 'Gippeswick' was centred near the quay. Towards 700 AD, Frisian potters from the Netherlands area 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 growing prosperity, in about 720 AD a large new part of the town was laid out in the Buttermarket area. Ipswich was becoming a place of national and international importance. Parts of the ancient road plan still survive in its modern streets. After the invasion of 869 Ipswich fell under Viking rule. The earth ramparts circling the town centre were probably raised by Vikings in Ipswich around 900 to prevent its recapture by the English. They were unsuccessful. 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, in about 1215. The abbreviation 'Gipes' appears on the coins.
King John granted the town its first charter in 1200, laying the mediaeval foundations of its modern civil government. In the next four centuries it made the most of its wealth, trading Suffolk cloth with the Continent. Five large religious houses, including two Augustinian Priories (St Peter and St Paul, and Holy Trinity, both mid-12th century), and those of the Greyfriars (Franciscans, before 1298), Ipswich Whitefriars (Carmelites founded 1278-79) and Blackfriars (Dominicans, before 1263), stood in mediaeval Ipswich. The last Carmelite Prior of Ipswich was the celebrated John Bale, author of the oldest English historical verse-drama (Kynge Johan, c.1538). There were also several hospitals, including the leper hospital of St Mary Magdalene, founded before 1199. During the Middle Ages the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Grace was a famous pilgrimage destination, and attracted many pilgrims including Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. At the Reformation the statue was taken away to London to be burned, though some claim that it survived and is preserved at Nettuno, Italy.
Around 1380, Geoffrey Chaucer satirised the merchants of Ipswich in the Canterbury Tales. Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, the son of a wealthy landowner, 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. He remains one of the town's most famed figures.
In the time of Queen Mary the Ipswich Martyrs were burnt at the stake on the Cornhill for their Protestant beliefs. A monument commemorating this event now stands in Christchurch Park. From 1611 to 1634 Ipswich was a major centre for emigration to New England. This was encouraged by the Town Lecturer, Samuel Ward. His brother Nathaniel Ward was first minister of Ipswich, Massachusetts, where a promontory was named 'Castle Hill' after the place of that name in north-west Ipswich, UK.
The painter Thomas Gainsborough lived and worked in Ipswich. In 1835, Charles Dickens stayed in Ipswich and used it as a setting for scenes in his novel The Pickwick Papers. The hotel where he resided first opened in 1518; it was then known as The Tavern and is now known as the Great White Horse Hotel. Dickens made the hotel famous in chapter XXI of The Pickwick Papers, vividly describing the hotel's meandering corridors and stairs.
In 1797 Lord and Lady Nelson moved to Ipswich, and in 1800 Lord Nelson was appointed High Steward of Ipswich.
The Tolly Cobbold brewery, built in the 19th century and rebuilt 1894–1896, is one of the finest Victorian breweries in the United Kingdom. There was a Cobbold brewery in the town from 1746 until 2002 when Ridley's Breweries took Tolly Cobbold over. Felix Thornley Cobbold presented Christchurch Mansion to the town in 1896.
The town centre contains the glass-clad building owned by Willis Limited, properly called the Willis Building but still often called the "Willis-Faber building" by locals, as the company Willis Corroon themselves used to be called Willis Faber. Designed by Norman Foster, the building dates from 1974. It became the youngest Grade I listed building in Britain in 1991 and at the time one of only two buildings to be listed and be under 30 years of age.
Ipswich is set to be the main hub for University Campus Suffolk, which will give Suffolk its first university, though it is essentially a collaborative project between Suffolk College and two other regional universities. It is hoped that within a decade, a University of Suffolk in its own right will become established out of UCS.
In September 1993 Ipswich and Arras, Nord Pas-de-Calais, France, became twin towns, and a square in the new Buttermarket development was named Arras Square to mark the relationship.
On 13 March 2007 Ipswich was awarded the cleanest town award.
Ipswich remains a 'town' despite a few attempts at winning 'city' status. It does not have a cathedral, so the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is based at Bury St Edmunds the former headquarters of West Suffolk.
Chantry is the name of a housing estate and park to the South-West of Ipswich. Its schools include Chantry High School and the Chantry Infant and Junior Schools which have merged, and been renamed 'The Oaks'. Another school that can be found in the outskirts of Chantry is St Joseph's College.
Other districts outside the town centre include Bixley Farm, Broke Hall, California, Castle Hill, The Dales, Gainsborough, Greenwich, Kesgrave, Maidenhall, Pinebrook, Priory Heath, Racecourse, Ravenswood, Rose Hill, Rushmere, Springvale, St Margarets, Stoke, Warren Heath, Whitehouse and Whitton.
To the east of the town is Trinity Park near Bucklesham the home of the annual Suffolk Show one of the County shows in United Kingdom. The 'Trinity' is the name given to the three animals native to the county of Suffolk, namely Red Poll cattle, the powerful Suffolk Punch horse and the black faced Suffolk Sheep.
Like many other similar towns, Ipswich is home to many artists, with galleries at Christchurch Mansion, the Town Hall, a gallery in the Ancient House and the Artists Gallery in Electric House being the more prominent. The visual arts are further supported with many sites of sculpture with easy accessibility. The Borough Council promotes creation of new public works of art and has been known to make this a condition of planning permission.
Performing arts are well represented with Ipswich being home to DanceEast which has the primary aim of advocating innovation and development of dance in the East of England. They are building new premises as part of the waterfront development. These will be the first custom built dance facilities in the East of England at a cost of around £8million.
The Eastern Angles theatre group are based at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich, named after the famous actor who lived in Felixstowe as a child.
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, which in 2006 had over 50 different acts performing over 7 stages.
Norwich remains the regional centre for TV broadcasting, but both BBC East and Anglia TV have presenters and offices in Ipswich. The town has three local radio stations, BBC Radio Suffolk covering the entire county, where the East Anglian Accent can be heard on its many phone-ins, the commercial SGR-FM which was founded in 1975 as Radio Orwell covering the A14 corridor in Suffolk and Town 102 which was founded in 2006 and is the first full time commercial station specific for Ipswich. The younger audience is catered for with Suffolk based Kiss 105-108. On 15 August 2007, Ipswich Community Radio launched full-time after successfully gaining a licence in early 2006.
There are several medieval Ipswich churches but the grandest is the Victorian St Mary le Tower.
Modern buildings include the new Suffolk County Hall in the area known as Ipswich Village close to Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium. The stadium has hosted England under 21, under 23 and full international matches in addition to an England hockey game.
On the north-west side of Ipswich lies Broomhill Pool, a Grade II listed Olympic-sized lido which opened in 1938 and closed in 2002, since which time a campaign to see it restored and re-opened has been run.
Ipswich is governed locally by a two-tier Council System. Ipswich Borough Council fulfils District Council functions such as refuse collection, housing and planning and Suffolk County Council provides the County Council services such as transport, education and social services.
The town is covered by two parliamentary constituencies – Ipswich, which covers about 75% and is represented by Labour MP Chris Mole, and Central Suffolk & North Ipswich, which covers the remaining 25% and is represented by Conservative MP Michael Lord.
In April 2006 the borough council initiated public discussions about the idea of turning the borough into a unitary authority (Ipswich had constituted a county borough from 1889 to 1974, independent of the administrative county of East Suffolk, and this status was not restored by the Banham/Cooksey Commission in the 1990s). Ipswich, Norwich, Exeter and Oxford united to campaign for unitary authority status for the four towns, hoping to use the window of opportunity presented by the October 2006 Local Government White Paper. In March 2007, it was announced that Ipswich was one of sixteen shortlisted councils and on the 2007-07-25, the Secretary of state announced that she was minded to implement the unitary proposal for Ipswich, but that there were 'a number of risks relating to the financial case set out in the proposal', on which she invited Ipswich to undertake further work before a final decision is taken. Early in December plans were thrown into doubt as the Government announced that it had 'delayed' the unitary bids for Ipswich and Exeter. In July 2008 the Boundary Committee announced their preferred option was for a unitary authority covering Ipswich and the south-eastern corner of Suffolk (including Felixstowe).
Industry around Ipswich has had a strong agricultural bias with Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Ltd, one of the most famous agricultural manufacturers, located in the town. It is notable that the world's first commercial motorised lawnmower was built by Ransomes in 1902. There was a sugar beet factory at Ipswich for many years; it was closed in 2001 as part of a rationalisation by British Sugar.
The British Telecom Research Laboratories were located to the east of the town in 1975 at Martlesham Heath. They are now a science park called Adastral Park. The area was originally RAF Martlesham Heath - a WW2 airfield from where Douglas Bader fought. However, some senior locals confirm that Douglas Bader never flew from Ipswich/Martlesham.
Ipswich is one of the Haven ports and is still a working port, handling several million tonnes of cargo each year. Prior to decommissioning, HMS Grafton was a regular visitor to the port which has special links with the town and the county of Suffolk. HMS Orwell, named after the river, is also closely linked with the town. With the rise in popularity of the town around the Neptune Marina and the Wet Dock a number of ship and boatbuilders have become established, in particular Fairline Yachts are a significant employer.
A Roman road originally known as Pye Road and part of which is now the [A140], linked Colchester with Caistor St. Edmund near Norwich. An old milestone in Ipswich shows London as and Gt Yarmouth north.
It is the last place in the area to have an independent bus company with the unusual practice of naming its buses .
The nearest international flights now are from Stansted Airport and Norwich International Airport, both approximately away. Other airports within a 2 hour drive are Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton Airport.
Ipswich also has a very successful Speedway team, the Ipswich Witches, who have ridden at their Foxhall Stadium home, on the outskirts of Ipswich, for over 50 years. Despite being one of the most successful teams in British Speedway history, crowds have dwindled to around 1,500 people per race meeting. The stadium is also regularly used for Stock car racing.
The town has representation in both codes of Rugby. It has two amateur Rugby Union teams, Ipswich RUFC who play in London 3 North East League, and Ipswich YM RUFC and an amateur rugby league side, Ipswich Rhinos, who play in the Rugby League Conference.
Ipswich had a racecourse which ran a mix of flat and National Hunt races from 1710 to 1911.
Ipswich is home to TeamIpswich Swimming (formally Ipswich Swimming Club)
Formed in 1884 the club is currently based at the towns 'Crown Pools' also using a number of local school pools and Forestreet swimming baths for it's successful Swim School. TeamIpswich Swimming have been the counties premier swimming club and County Champions for a number of years, in 2008 the club were County Champions, Regional Age Group Champions, Divisional Speedo league champions and 3rd overall in the national Speedo League final, the highest finish for a standalone swimming club. In 2006 the club finished 4th in the equivalent junior competition making them the first ever Southern team to finish in the top 4. Much of this success can be put down to the clubs Head Coach Dave Champion, who has coached at the highest level for British Swimming for a number of years.
TeamIpswich Swimming's most famous swimmer is Karen Pickering Karen Pickering was an outstanding member of the British swimming squad from 1986 to 2005 and has a collection of winning medals that include 8 World Swimming Championship medals (4 gold), 14 European Swimming Championship medals, 38 National Championship titles, and a Commonwealth Games medal haul of 13 including 4 Gold.
For her services to swimming Karen was awarded an MBE in the 1994 New Years Honours List. Since her retirement from international swimming in 2005, Karen has become regular member of the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary team and has taken on a number of roles. She is now Ambassador for Sport for Ipswich, is Vice-Chair of the British Athletes Commission, is on the executive boards of both the English Institute of Sport and British Olympic Association and is on Ipswich Town FC's Community Trust board
Steven Gerald James Wright, who had previously worked at the Port of Felixstowe, was arrested at his house in Ipswich on 19 December. On 21 December, Wright was formally charged with the murders of Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Tania Nicol, 19, Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29. He appeared in Ipswich Magistrates' Court on 22 December 2006 and was remanded in custody until 2 January 2007 to appear in Ipswich Crown Court where he was remanded in custody for a second court appearance, held on 1 May 2007. At that hearing he pleaded not guilty to all five murders. His trial began in Ipswich on 14 January 2008. The jury returned a guilty verdict on 21 February, and the next day, Wright was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mr Justice Gross, who recommended that he should never be released from prison, on the basis that the murders resulted from a "substantial degree of pre-meditation and planning".
Probably the most famous person born in the town is the Tudor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The artist Thomas Gainsborough and the cartoonist "Giles" worked here, Horatio, Lord Nelson became Steward of Ipswich, and Margaret Catchpole began her adventurous career here. Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson were both successful managers of Ipswich Town F.C.