The Story of F.A. Christie and Son

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.

Christie’s Warehouse on Wherry Quay – May 2020

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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Colin Kinghorn says

    Very interesting. Spent a lot of time around the wet dock in the 80s and 90s when my gaff ketch Marjie was based there. Would like to have known more details like this.

    • ALLAN BOOTH says

      I dived on the wreck of the Fearless near Deal, Kent. The ketch formerly owned by Frank A Christie from 1876 until his death in 1907. New owner Walter Waugh, London had the vessel until its sinking in 1923. All timber work has since gone but the cargo of Belgian bricks are still evident.

  2. peter christie says

    I am a direct descendant of the Ipswich Christie’s and have traced the family history back to their arrival in the town – but some new facts here so thank you

    • Jill Hyams says

      Hello Peter. I’m a direct descendent of John Christie (1772-1825) of Ipswich, father of the above-mentioned John Christie. I’d be interested to know when the family arrived in Ipswich – the earliest details I have are of John senior’s father, William Christie (c.1740-1800), marrying Abigail Howes in Ipswich in 1769. Any further info gratefully received. Jill

  3. Mark says

    I have discovered that my wife is a descendant of the Christie’s as Frank A. Christie’s daughter married a Charles W. Sutton.

    They are all buried quite close together in the Cemetery in Ipswich

  4. Mark says

    So I have been up to the Cemetery today and have noticed that 2 of Frank Alexander Christies sons, Frank Herbert and Eustace James died on exactlt the same day – 12th April 1896.

    I am making an assumption that they must have both died in some sort of incident? Is anybody aware of anything that happened on that day?

Leave A Reply