After spending a week in Bristol during November. I was surprised to realise
how similar the paths of that city and our county town have travelled
over the centuries. Both started as Anglo-Saxon settlements up a river a
fair distance from the sea. In the 1800s both established enclosed areas
of water for the purpose of improving continuous trade. Bristol with
its 'Floating Harbour' and Ipswich its lock-gated dock and both have
redeveloped their harbour areas calling them .The Waterfront'.
Centuries earlier both had spawned merchants who were great traders
and became rich men, sending their ships to far away ports in search
of trade. One big difference was that Bristol grew very wealthy on the
horrific slave trade and looked towards Africa and the Caribbean. From
the late 1700s onwards they both gave birth to many world renowned
companies. Bristol's name being on Fry's chocolate, ground breaking ship
building and, much later, Bristol aeroplanes. Meanwhile Ipswich was also
becoming famous for manufacturing, with Ransome Sims & Jefferies, Ransome
& Rapier, Fison's fertilisers, high class provisions from Burton Son &
Sanders and Pretty's produced corsets by the thousand.
The difference now is that Bristol has a large recently opened Museum
celebrating the amazing things that have happened during the life of the
city; it is on the Waterfront in an old quay shed called the M Shed.
Returning home, I can only dream that one day my town will have such
a museum where schoolchildren, tourists and locals can learn about the
equally amazing town that stands at the head of the Orwell before all the
artefacts and personal stories are lost. Such a museum would hopefully
complement our existing excellent museums but tell the continuous story
of the town and its achievements.
Editor: our Museum could have been The Gipeswic Centre, as Peter Underwood
originally envisaged it.