Catalogue description IPSWICH DOCK COMMISSION

This record is held by Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch

Details of EL1
Reference: EL1

Records of the Orwell River Commission and the Ipswich Dock Commission 18th century - 20th century


The records on deposit comprise the formal minutes of the Orwell River Commission, 1805-1837, and those of the Dock Commission (Commissioners; Committee of Management; Finance, General Purposes and Works Committee; sub-committees), 1837-1945. Other administrative records include extensive series of reports and correspondence covering the period from the construction of the dock to the 20th century. Certain series of Financial and Shipping records, especially accounting records after 1913, have been sampled on account of their bulk. There is a superb series of maps, plans and technical drawings covering most aspects of the port improvement from the abortive schemes of the 1790s onwards. Other records include property deeds from 1706 to 1928; legal papers (including those relating to the protracted dispute between the Dock Commissioners and David Thornbory, principal contractor for construction of the dock); contract papers; material on pilotage, navigation, dredging, ballasting and shipping; and papers relating to the various Dock Acts and to other parliamentary Bills in which the Commissioners had an interest.






1/1 Membership of Dock Commission and Committees


1/1/1 Election Records


1/1/2 Declaration Books


1/1/3 Membership Lists


1/1/4 Attendance Records


1/1/5 Resignations


1/2 Procedural Records


1/3 Minute Books (Commissioners)


1/4 Minute Books (General Committee of Management)


1/5 Minute Books (Finance, General Purposes and Works Committees)


1/6 Minute Books (Sub-Committees)


1/7 Miscellaneous Draft Minutes


1/8 Agendas of Commissioners' Meetings


1/9 Reports


1/9/1 Guard Books of Reports, Annual Accounts and Miscellanea


1/9/2 Annual Reports


General Committee of Management




Harbour Master


1/9/3 Routine Reports


Finance Committee


Standing Committee on Coal Dues




1/9/4 Reports on Proposed Port Improvements


1/9/5 'Particular Instance' Reports


Dock Commissioners


Standing Committees


General Committee of Management


Compensation Committee


Dredging and Ballasting Sub-Committee


Finance Committee


Parliamentary Sub-Committee


Rates and Duties Sub-Committee


Standing Coal Sub-Committee


Sub-Commissioners of Pilotage


Warehouses Sub-Committee


Works Sub-Committee


Ad Hoc Sub-Committees and Deputed Persons




Collector and Accountant






Harbour Master






1/9/6 Reports Commissioned from Outside Consultants


1/9/7 Reports Received from Outside Bodies


1/10 Letter Books


1/11 Correspondence


1/11/1 General Correspondence


1/11/2 Subject Files


1/11/3 Miscellaneous Correspondence


1/12 Bye-Laws and Notices


1/13 Appointments of Officials


1/14 Memorials by Merchants, Shipowners and Others


1/15 Newspaper Extracts


1/16 Volumes of Collected Papers on Port Improvement


1/17 Miscellaneous Papers of the Former River Commission




2/1 Balance Sheets etc.


2/2 Loans, Bonds and Debentures


2/3 Payments to Port Officials


2/4 Payments to Town Servants


2/5 Contractors' and Suppliers' Accounts


2/6 Engineer's Certificates for Payments to Contractors


2/7 Taxation


2/8 Miscellanea


2/9 Ledgers


2/10 Revenue Ledgers


2/11 Cash Journals ['Act of 1852']


2/12 Cash Journals ['Act of 1877']


2/13 Cash Books


2/14 Day Books


2/15 Capital Ledgers


2/16 Capital Expenditure Accounts


2/17 Equipment Depreciation Ledger






4/1 Papers relating to Dispute between David Thornbory of Kings Lynn and Commissioners, re his Contract for Construction of Wet Dock


4/2 Compensation Claims


4/3 Miscellaneous Legal Papers






6/1 Pilotage


6/2 Navigation and Dredging


6/3 Ballasting


6/4 Shipping


6/5 Coal Trade


6/6 Tonnage [and Goods] Duties Books


6/7 Coal [and Tonnage] Duties Books


6/8 Ipswich River Port Dues Books


6/9 Rates of Duties on Goods


6/10 Dock and Harbour Masters' Accounts


6/11 Arrivals and Clearance Books


6/12 Lock Gates Log Book


6/13 Registers of Shipping, Pin Mill


6/14 Export Statistics


6/15 Import Statistics


6/16 Shipping Statistics


6/17 Registers of Oil Imports




7/1 General Series


7/2 Parliamentary Plans


7/3 River Channel: Sections, Soundings, etc.


7/4 Stowmarket and Ipswich Navigation


7/5 Railways and Tramways


7/6 Buildings


7/7 Sewers and Drainage


7/8 Dredgers, Barges and other Vessels


7/9 Equipment


7/10 Conveyance Plans


7/11 Miscellaneous Plans


7/12 Drawings and Photographs




8/1 Papers relating to the First Ipswich Dock Act, 1837


8/2 Papers relating to the Ipswich Dock Act, 1841


8/3 Papers relating to the Ipswich Dock Act, 1843


8/4 Papers relating to the Ipswich Dock Act, 1877


8/5 Papers relating to Opposition to the Harwich Harbour Bill, 1862-1867


8/6 Miscellaneous Papers, 1843-1920







Date: 1706-1972
Related material:

see also HD 878


See also DC: Acc 264 (p. iii below)


See also HD 1471: 8809 for Harwick Harbour Conservancy Board Accounts, reports etc. 1890.


See also FS Ips 656 DAY H.J.R. "Register of Shipping Entering Docks" 2 vols 1842-1937

Held by: Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Ipswich Dock Commission, 1837-1973, Ipswich, Suffolk

Ipswich Port Authority, 1973-, Ipswich, Suffolk

Physical description: 70 Series
Access conditions:

Documents less than thirty years old may not be produced without the permission of the depositors.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received by Suffolk Record Office between 7 August 1959 and 12 September 1979 (Acc. nos. 2925, 3000, 3016, 3113, 3114, 4259, 4295 and 4871). Also on 1 November 1995 (Acc. no. 10550)

Unpublished finding aids:

Acts of Parliament


In addition to those contained in Section 8 of this catalogue, copies of the following Acts relating to the port of Ipswich may be found among the Ipswich Borough Records under the reference DC1:264/1.


30 George III, cap. lvii. An Act for making and maintaining a navigable communication between Stowmarket and Ipswich (1790)


45 George III, cap, ci. An Act for improving and rendering more commodious the port of Ipswich (10 July 1805)


1 Victoria, cap. lxxiv. An Act to amend an Act of the forty-fifth year of the reign of King George the Third, for improving and rendering more commodious the port of Ipswich, and for constructing a wet dock there (30 June 1837)


4 & 5 Victoria, cap. lii. An Act to enable the Ipswich Dock Commissioners to raise a further sum of money (21 June 1841)


6 Victoria, cap. xx. An Act to enlarge the powers of the Ipswich Dock Commissioners (9 May 1843)


15 & 16 Victoria, cap. cxvi. An Act to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to the Ipswich Dock, to allow certain drawbacks, and for other purposes (17 June 1852)


40 & 41 Victoria, cap. ccxvi. An Act to confer further powers on the Ipswich Dock Commissioners (10 August 1877)


61 & 62 Victoria, cap. cxciii. An Act to enable the Ipswich Dock Commissioners to make certain works in connection with their dock and to confer various further powers upon the Commissioners and for other purposes (2 August 1898)


4 Edward VII, cap. xvii. An Act to enable the Ipswich Dock Commissioners to construct certain works in connection with their docks, to make a tramway and tramroad, to raise additional money, and for other purposes (24 June 1904)


3 & 4 George V, cap. cvi. An Act to alter the constitution of and method of election to the Ipswich Dock Commission, to confer further powers on the Commissioners, to authorise them to construct works and acquire lands, to raise additional money and to create stock, and for other purposes (15 August 1913)


8 & 9 George V, cap. lvii. An Act to authorise the Ipswich Dock Commission to construct additional works, to alter the tonnage duties and the rates on goods which may be levied by them, and for other purposes (21 November 1918)


The Catalogue of Local Acts of Parliament, available in the Catalogue Room, lists further copies of the Acts of 1790 (ref. qS 346, no. 56), 1805 (qS 346, nos. 30 & 36), 1841 (qS 346, no. 76), and 1852-1918 (qS 346, nos. 77-82), together with copies of the following:


14 & 15 George VI, cap. xlv. An Act to confer further powers on the Ipswich Dock Commission, and for other purposes (28 July 1950; qS 346, no. 83)


4 & 5 Elizabeth II, cap. xliv. An Act to empower the Ipswich Dock Commission to increase their borrowing powers, and for other purposes (17 May 1956; qS 346, no. 84)


18 & 19 Elizabeth II, cap. xiv. An Act to authorise the Ipswich Dock Commission to construct further works, and for other purposes (30 March 1971; qS 346, no. 125).

Administrative / biographical background:

Palmer's scheme involved the embanking of the wide bend of the river to create the dock basin, and the construction of a New Cut, about 2,500 feet in length, on the opposite side of the river, to carry off the waters of the Gipping and allow for the free movement of the tidal water. Entrance to the dock was by a lock from the New Cut. The principal contractor for the works was David Thornbory of King's Lynn, subsequently a Whig parliamentary candidate for Ipswich. The foundation stone of the lock was laid with appropriate ceremony on 26 June 1839, and in January 1842 the lock gates were operated for the first time, giving access to a new line of quay 2,780 feet in length.


The membership of the Dock Commission as originally established comprised the Mayor, aldermen and town councillors, together with seventy-two of the principal inhabitants of the town and district who were elected for a three-year term, one-third going out of office annually. One-third of the seventy-two were elected chiefly by the owners and masters of vessels, and one-third by the burgesses; while every third year six were chosen by the burgesses of Ipswich, eight by the county magistrates, and two each by the towns of Bury St Edmunds, Eye, Stowmarket, Hadleigh and Diss.


During the course of the 19th century, further improvements were made to the port and river by the Commissioners. However, as the century progressed the size of vessels increased, and by the 1870s it was becoming clear that the entrance lock (140 feet long by 45 feet wide) was not only too small for likely future needs but was in the wrong place. Ships entering had to swing across the New Cut to get into the lock, and in some conditions this proved difficult. Accordingly, a new Ipswich Dock Act was passed in 1877 empowering the Commissioners to construct a new lock at the south-eastern end of the dock. The contract was taken for £45,000 by Messrs Henry Lee and Son, and the work was completed in 1881.


However, within thirty years this lock, too, was proving inadequate because of the size of the steamships now ousting sail from world trade. Large vessels had to discharge their cargoes into barges at moorings in Buttermans Bay below Pin Mill. Schemes to replace the 1881 lock by an even larger one were frustrated by the outbreak of World War I, and when the war was over an alternative solution to the problem was found in the construction of deep-water berths below the dock. The first 600 feet of the new Cliff Quay were completed in 1924 and a second stage was opened four years later. With the construction of a third 600-foot section in 1937, a further 1,450 feet in 1957, and the more recent building of a new shipping terminal on the Wherstead shore, much of the port's trade has moved outside the dock.


The Dock Commission was reconstituted in 1973 as the Ipswich Port Authority, with full responsibility for the operation and development of the port and the conservancy of the river Orwell. Its membership is renewed every three years by appointments made by the Secretary of State for the Environment.


The port includes the estuary of the Orwell and extends to its junction with the river Stour which is under the control of the Harwich Harbour Conservancy Board. The limits of the two authorities are indicated by an imaginary line drawn from Shotley Point to Fagborough Cliff. The upper limit of the jurisdiction of the Port Authority is Stoke Bridge.

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