While I was halfway through writing my last post I realised that what was called for in this situation was a bit of historical detective work. What if I went and got those Victorian photo-books, then found the places where the original photographs were taken and took a comparative modern-day photo? To cut a long story short, that’s what I did.

Because photography was still in its infancy in the second half of the 19th century, and it was still the preserve of the rich gentleman who fancied himself something of an artist, it is down only to a few men that any photographs of Ipswich of the period survive at all. So we should take a moment to thank in particular William Vick (1833-1911), Robert Burrows (1810-1883) and Richard Dykes Alexander (1788-1865), who together seem to have taken the majority of the surviving Victorian Photographs of the town. The remaining early photos examined here were taken in the first decade of the 20th century by someone commissioned to produce a series of views for publication in the increasingly popular form of picture post-cards. Unfortunately their name has not survived on record, but it is almost entirely thanks to their efforts that well shot Edwardian pictures of the town exist.

What follows is the result of my afternoon of looking silly, taking photos of ordinary streets and shops in the town centre.

Ancient House – The original photograph was taken in 1858. Ancient House itself was built during the 16th century.

The Buttermarket, further down the road from Ancient House. The exact date of the original photograph is not known, however it is likely to be around the turn of the century due to the lack of tram lines, which were introduced after 1900.

This photo was taken standing on Carr Street looking over to Tavern Street. The original was taken in the early 1900s. The Great White Horse, which featured in Charles Dicken’s The Pickwick Papers, stands to the right of the picture.

A little further back from the previous photo, still in Carr Street, taken in 1906. New shops replace the old timber-framed ones.

A well known shop-front in Victorian Ipswich – Arthur Cross the draper selling all the latest fashionable gear, next to The Great White Horse in Tavern Street. Today the building houses both a T Mobile and 3 store.

Majors Corner in 1908. The street has taken a slightly different form now but you can still see the Co-operative building in the background, which was built in 1884.

Martin and Newby, Established in 1873. It used to be one of the main hardware stores in Ipswich. Now some of the shop-front survives, but the store itself closed down in June 2004.

Looking down Tacket Street, taken from Upper Orwell Street in 1906. The Unicorn is still there in the background.

St Helen’s Street in 1907. Note the tram-lines that ran throughout the town. The numer 23 tram here, which went to Lattice Barn or Derby Road – coincidently my bus route home from town now.

St Nicholas Street 1885. If you look carefully you can see the top of the Town Hall in the background of both photos.

St Peters Street in 1906. Little has changed aside from the addition of some new shops and the removal of the tram-lines.

Stoke Bridge – original taken in the 1880s. An iron bridge replaces the old one and thanks to the renewed regeneration of the docks the scene has changed significantly. In the background of the modern-day photograph you can see the new university building and new apartments including The Mill development.

Upper Orwell Street around 1904. Largely unchanged, the houses and church on the right hand side of the picture remain largely the same today.

Here, I have included a map showing where in the town centre each of these photos were taken.

Anyway, I hope you found that at least vaguely interesting – I did.


  1. What a great post! I find old pictures of Ipswich fascinating. I’ve collected quite a few through my trawls of the internet and I’m always excited to find more. You are so right in that so much of Ipswich’s history has been reduced to rubble over the years. At least the Victorians generally replaced what they destroyed with buildings of archiectural merit. Sadly the same can’t be said for the 60’s planners who decimated much and built eyesores in their place. Take the old Eastgate Centre in Carr Street. What were they thinking?? At least there is a photographic record of some of what was lost.

    1. Hi Kevin, Thanks very much for your interest and comment! Unfortunately I’ve not been keeping the blog updated for the past few months and am only now getting back to it. If you have any interesting photos of Ipswich old or new I would love to add them to the blogs picture page. Please get in contact or send send any photos if you wish

  2. Hi, do you have – or have you considered taking – any pictures from The Maypole pub on Old Norwich Rd?
    The pub is still there as are most of the surrounding houses that used to form the original Whitton village in about 1900 before the town grew and enveloped it to be part of the town.
    If you do have some original pictures from about the 1900’s I’d be interested in seeing them as I live in one of those houses and would make a nice picture to hang on the wall.


    1. Hi, unfortunately I haven’t come across any old photos of the Maypole, unfortunately those kind of photos are quite rare to come across. Unless the pub hosted an event that might of been captured by a photographer. If you really want to get your hands on a victorian photograph of it your best bet is the Suffolk Records Office.

    2. do you remember the big house that stood derelict in the fifties and maybe the early 60s? it was next to the lane that ran along the park

      1. Sorry, no this was on Norwich Road, now known as Old Norwich Road, it was opposite the Maypole public house

  3. Buttermarket: the lack of tram lines is caused by there never having been trams using Buttermarket as a route. The dress would suggest (in the left pic) between 1890 and 1900 – lack of cars and the perambulator too – and you are aware the Thorofare and The Walk are 1930’s twee fakery? Fab blog.

    1. Hi Harry, thanks for your comment. Yes, I am aware that The Walk is reasonably modern – I think my great-grandfather was one of the carpenters that did some of the carvings for it. Glad you like the blog.

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