There is a small plaque, part of the Ipswich Maritime Trail, on a building between Bistro on the Quay and Issacs on the Quay. It is currently the home of an architecture firm and estate agent. But 180 years ago, it was a coal warehouse for the company owned and run by John Christie (b.1798). John and his family would become leading coal merchants in the town during the 19th Century.
By 1839 Christie was bringing between 500-700 tons of coal a month from the coal fields of the North-East of England. These were brought into Ipswich and into the warehouse on Wherry Quay on five of his registered ships, including the Providence and Lady Middleton.
John’s son, Frank A Christie, was born in 1835 and started out as a draper’s assistant and then a clerk in Ipswich. When John died in 1866, Frank took over and the business expanded. Frank provided work for his two elder sons, Frank Herbert and Leonard Alexander; who were both clerks with Frank H also being the company accountant.
In 1894, Frank A had several premises on Salthouse Street. Which included a Coal Warehouse, a Salt Warehouse, Office and Timber Depot as well as Sawmills. Over the following 10 years the business developed becoming F.A Christie and Son, a Coal, Salt and Timber Merchants. The company office was based on Cliff Road with warehouses still operating on Salthouse Street and Wherry Quay.
Unfortunately, Frank H died in 1896 aged only 29. In 1907 Frank A Christie died to leaving the business to Leonard. In 1918 Leonard died and subsequent pressures on the business, both locally and nationally, forced the closer of the company. The decontrolment of coal as well as coal strikes and coal shortages during and following the First World War hastened the decline of Christie’s. Which was already under pressure from competitors. Following Leonard’s death, the company assets were sold off and acquired by local competitors.
A variety of Christie’s local competitors operated close by during the early 20th Century. These included Mellonie & Goulder Ltd which bought the coal aspects of Christie’s in 1924 and William Brown & Son Ltd who acquired the timber interests. Isaac Lord’s was also a close competitor, housed in the building complex right next door to Christie’s warehouses. Today this complex houses the bar and restaurant Isaac’s on the Quay.
Today all of these once busy industrial buildings sit quiet and unassuming on the modern waterfront, each with many stories to tell.