The Story of the New Cut

A large yellow crane has recently appeared on the Island Site in Ipswich. Which is not the most fascinating news you have heard from us. But if you have noticed it or heard it this week, you may wonder what it is doing. Well it is a piling crane making much needed repairs to the New Cut Wall, close to where the old lock into the Wet Dock was situated. ABP have committed significant funds to repair a 25-metre section of the historic wall, that was damaged and had collapsed into the New Cut.

Some of you may be wondering what the New Cut is, or not seen this often-forgotten part of the Maritime Ipswich before. The story of the New Cut goes right back to the creation of the Wet Dock in the 1830s and 1840s. Created during the construction of the Wet Dock, as the channel to carry the tidal river past the new enclosed dock.

The plans for the Wet Dock by Henry Palmer in 1836 show the specifications for the cutting of this new channel to take the water of the River Gipping as it flowed to join the tidal River Orwell. These plans also show the construction and erection of quays and roadways as well as a lock built halfway along the New Cut. Where the current repairs are taking place. The old lock was replaced in 1881 when bigger ships could no longer fit up the New Cut and turn into and out of the old lock. 

Today the New Cut and the roadways that surround it are quiet and forgotten as other parts of the Wet Dock and waterfront take advantage of being redeveloped and transformed. The building of residential housing along Stoke Quay, in the old maltings buildings as well as the new developments on Griffon Wharf are much welcomed development to the area known as New Cut West. Though this has not brought back the busy atmosphere experienced there 150 years ago when it was filled with steamers arriving and departing for Harwich and London, and taverns and inns open to the workers of the dock.

A view from the Old Lock on the New Cut facing downriver. This was taken probably where the current repairs are taking photo. IMT Image Archive.

Likewise, today on the other side of the New Cut, New Cut East is a private roadway used by ABP and other port operators. But for much of the 19th Century this area was occupied by the promenade, a unique green space in the centre of the working port, removed in the early 20th century to support port expansion. Access to this side of the Island today is restricted and has led to this area being forgotten or overlooked by many that visit the waterfront today.

As a forgotten part of Maritime Ipswich, the New Cut, no longer has the same draw as it did in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Despite its redevelopment, this area has so far not enjoyed the same success as the rest of the waterfront. Accessing it from the rest of the waterfront by foot is much harder and without leisure or entertainment activity close by, it remains a fairly quiet residential area.

But this area is a key part of the future redevelopment of the town and we are sure that the development on New Cut West will one day also be seen on New Cut East and the Island Site. Who knows maybe what will appear will be something similar to our 1982 Vision for the redevelopment of the waterfront, with a residential New Cut West and an entertainment/leisure/business filled New Cut East and Island Site.

If you are interested in the history of the development of the Wet Dock and New Cut over the last 180 years. Then we are sure you will be interested in our new exhibition, on the Development of the Dock, our 20th Window Museum display! Which we have recently installed, so keep an eye out for it on our website soon, as well as on our social media pages.

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