Old Custom House

Listed Buildings in Ipswich: No 12 Old Custom House

Today the Old Custom House looks out over what has become the ‘ritzy’ part of town, namely the Ipswich Waterfront, which boasts new restaurants, a hotel, costly apartments and a marina full of rather expensive looking yachts, but how different it would all have looked when the Old Custom House was first opened in 1845.

At the time the Wet Dock was the largest in England and Ipswich was one of the countries most significant ports. It was a flourishing one way back in the 7th century, when Ipswich was one of the largest settlements in Northern Europe, became a leading shipping building centre, ventured in to Whaling during the 18th Century and, River Thames aside, was one of just a handful of shipyards in the country that built East Indiamen, the largest merchant ships in the British Empire. Many of these ships returning home from India, via Cape Horn, would call in at Ipswich to unload their cargos.

Between 1824 and 1935 a mightily impressive 795 vessels were registered at the port. Today, with Felixstowe downstream at the estuary of the River Orwell, it’s a very different matter. Now occupied by the Port of Ipswich Authority the Old Custom House remains, despite all of the development that has gone on, and continues to go on, around it, one of the most attractive, and imposing, buildings along the docks.

[Reference: Hugh Moffat, Ships and Shipyards of Ipswich 1700-1970 (Malthouse Press, Suffolk 2002)]


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