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MARKET TOWNS OF SUFFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Ipswich in 1839

IPSWICH, a parliamentary borough and corporate town, capital of the county of Suffolk, and distant 69 miles north-east from London, is agreeably situated on the side of a hill near the junction of the rivers Orwell and Gipping According to Camden, this town was anciently called Gippeswich, which name was derived from that of the neighbouring river Gippen, or Gipping, and thence gradually became changed into Yppyswyche and Ipswich.

The town does not appear to be mentioned before the invasion of the Danes in 991, by whom it was pillaged, and the fortifications destroyed. In the Confessor's time, according to Domesday Book, 'Queen Ediva had two parts here, and earl Gwert a third, and there were 800 burgesses paying custom to the king.' The earliest charter conferred upon the town was granted by king John in the first year of his reign, and by it numerous privileges were acquired by the burgesses, of which privileges the chief were, that they should have a merchant's guild, with their own hanse ; that no person should be lodged within the borough without the consent of the burgesses ; that they should hold their lands and tenures according to the customs of free boroughs, &c. Henry III increased the privileges of the burgesses, but in the reign of Edward I the borough was seized by that monarch, on account of certain offences committed by the inhabitants, though it was afterwards restored to them with all its liberties.

In the reign of Edward III the municipal government appears to have been again taken away from the corporation, and committed to the sheriff of the county, by whom a keeper of the town was appointed, but the corporate government was soon restored, and the burghal privileges confirmed and extended by the subsequent charters of Richard II, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I. In the reign of Charles II this corporation, like many others, surrendered its charters and franchises to the king, but in the 36th year of his reign the borough was re-incorporated, with a new constitution, and by a charter of James II the corporate officers were released from the oaths.

The charters of John, Edward IV, Henry VIII, and 17 Charles II, as restored by the proclamation of James, are all considered as governing charters. By the 5 and 6 William IV, cap. 76, the council of the borough consists of a mayor, 10 aldermen, and 30 councillors. Ipswich has returned two members to parliament since the 25th year of Henry VI.

The revenue of the corporation, consisting of water rental, rents of lands, houses, mills, and other tenements, exceeds £2000 per annum. The expenditure in 1828 amounted to £1,529, 19 shillings and 1 penny, and the corporation property is charged with a debt of £14,300.

The streets of Ipswich, though well paved, and lighted with gas, are narrow and irregular, which is attributable to the remarkable circumstance that the town is not known ever to have suffered from fire, or even from the civil commotion’s which convulsed so many parts of the kingdom about the middle of the seventeenth century. There are many good buildings, and many extremely old, decorated with a profusion of curiously carved images. Most of the houses, even in the heart of the city, have convenient gardens adjoining them, which render it at once agreeable, airy, and salubrious. The water for the supply of the town rises from springs in certain lands which the corporation hold under long leases, and it is conveyed into the town by pipes laid down at their expense. The water rental, which forms a considerable part of the revenue of the corporation has been the source of much discontent among the inhabitants, as the former claim a monopoly of the supply, and the latter complain that they are ill supplied. In the Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations, 1835, the police of the town is described as being particularly inefficient.

The manufactures of the town consist chiefly in the spinning of woollen yarn, ship-building, sail-making, &c. Its commerce arises from the exportation of corn, malt, and other produce of the surrounding country. There is a harbour for light vessels formed by the estuary of the Orwell, which is navigable at high water up to the bridge, except for vessels of large burthen, which lie at Downham Reach.

The principal public buildings are the churches of Saints Clement, Helen, Lawrence, Margaret, Mary at Elms, Mary at Kay, Mary at Stoke, Mary at Tower, Matthew, Nicholas, Peter, and Stephen.

To the northward of the church St. Mary at Kay was formerly a house of Black Friars called the Priory of St. Peter's. The extensive site of this convent was purchased by the corporation, and confirmed to them in 1572 by the appellation of Christ's Hospital. Part of this edifice is now occupied as an hospital for poor boys, in which they are maintained, clothed, and educated, but the number during the five years preceding 1835 had never exceeded sixteen. The revenue of the hospital estimated at £400 a year. In another part of the monastery is a spacious room wherein is deposited the town library, the keys of which are kept by the master of the grammar-school, and out of which every freeman is privileged to take away any book upon giving a proper receipt.

In the spacious refectory of the same building, and on the south side, is now held the Free Grammar-school, the date of the first establishment of which is not known, though it was certainly prior to the year 1477. But in 1524 Cardinal Wolsey having intimated to the university of Oxford his design of founding a college (now Christ Church), the priory of St. Peter's was surrendered to him in 1527, whereon he founded a school as a nursery for his intended college at Oxford, and this school is said for a time to have rivalled those of Eton and Winchester. Queen Elizabeth, in the second and third years of her reign, granted two charters for the regulation of the Grammar-school and of Christ's Hospital. At the present time the master has a salary of £150 a year ; he is provided with a dwelling-house, and the appointment is for life. Since the Report of the Commissioners Charities a committee has been appointed to investigate the endowments of the Grammar-school. They state that the original endowment under the charter of Queen Elizabeth was £38, 13 shillings and 4 pence per annum, which with some subsequent bequests makes an aggregate annual income of £66, 6 shillings and 8 pence, but it does not appear from what source the additional funds are derived in order to liquidate the master's salary of £150 and to defray the other expenses of the establishment.

Ipswich is in the diocese of Norwich. The livings are three rectories, of the respective annual net values of £326, £337, and £82, and seven paid curacies of the net value of £175, £115, £80, £103, £150, £138, and £103. The borough is divided into fourteen parishes, the aggregate population of which in 1831 was 20,201 persons.