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Newsletter, July 2011 (Issue 184)

Editorial: A Great Past

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'Made in Ipswich' was the title of the Town Lecture given by Brian Dyes on 12 May. It was a masterly survey of manufacturing in Ipswich from Saxon times to the present day. With less than an hour to cover a huge amount of material, he chose to concentrate almost exclusively on the remarkable achievements of the two Ransomes firms. That meant short shrift for medieval shipbuilding and for distinguished companies like E R & F Turner, Cocksedge's, Reavell's and Crane's, omissions which might have disappointed former employees of those firms. But the result was that Mr Dyes could revel in describing the design and production of Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies' ploughs, lawn mowers, threshing machines, tractors, forklift trucks, trolley buses, aircraft and combine harvesters - and Ransome and Rapier's whole range of railway products, concrete mixers, sluice gates and cranes, culminating in the gigantic walking dragline.

Like many Ipswich Society members, I already knew some of this but by no means all. However, I came away with two persistent general impressions. One was the knowledge that this work was not merely routine mass production but in several cases world class pioneering invention which depended on some brilliant engineers backed up by first class apprentice training. The other realisation was that these companies were not running down but perhaps at their peak when I came to live in Ipswich in 1957. And yet to me, living in N W Ipswich and quite close to the town centre, what was going on around the docks and in the east of the town was not very noticeable, almost part of another world.

So even in the 1950s there was little obvious synergy between the docks and the town centre to many residents like me. (It wouldn't have been the case in previous centuries of course when people lived close to their places of work.) But that 'division' is still apparent today - probably more so. Hence the Master Plan which I referred to in my April Editorial- the joint effort by Ipswich Central and IBC to promote an ambitious vision of linking up Ipswich's unique potential attraction, the Waterfront, with the town centre. Your Executive Committee was pleased to learn more about this at a meeting with Mr Richard Turner, Property Surveyor for Ipswich Central. How much of this possible development of shops, houses, public spaces and a new comprehensive bus station could take place in the foreseeable future is anybody's guess. But the strategy has much to commend it - and Ipswich has seldom stood still!

Other articles in this Newsletter show the variety of activities and achievements in Ipswich at present, as well as concerns being expressed by our members about problems actual and potential. I hope you will read on and find much to mull over.

Please let me have contributions to the next issue by 20 August. More and more members are responding to this ever-open invitation. I think it makes the Newsletter a vehicle for the whole Society and perhaps less predictable.


    Front cover of issue 184 Cover, issue 184

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