This display is rather different to previous exhibitions, in that it consists mainly of images with just two ornate carved timber beams from the Original Old Custom House and a few small items to indicate some of the activities that took place around the quays at the time that Edward Caley made his survey.
Caley in 1837 was in his early twenties when he was commissioned to prepare detailed plans and drawings in preparation for an incredibly large Victorian engineering project. In those days, ship movements to and from the old wooden quays were restricted by the river emptying and filling with the tide each day, and the bold decision was taken to create an entirely new dock for the town. Caley was then appointed assistant-engineer under Mr. Henry Palmer, and given sole responsibility for the construction of the Wet Dock. When it opened in 1843 the Wet Dock in Ipswich was the largest area of impounded water in Europe covering 25 acres.
Today these beautifully detailed Caley drawings and plans are preserved as four coloured panels in the Suffolk Record Office (refs: EL1/7/12/1 & 2 and EL1/7/12/3,4,5,6). A couple of years ago we arranged these panels to be photographed and digitised and, in this exhibition, replicate them so that everyone can have an opportunity to appreciate them. With the four Caley panels, for comparison, we show a panoramic view of the same area of today’s waterfront as Mr Caley depicted in his coloured illustrations. This present-day photographic equivalent of Edward Caley’s drawings was created by Lawrence Woolston from the University of Suffolk, and we are grateful for their help and support during the creation of this display.
In 1837 Edward Caley prepared detailed plans and drawings of all of Ipswich’s quays, wharves, warehouses, shipyards, maritime businesses and factories from Stoke Bridge as far down river as the then newly constructed gasworks (where Patteson Road is today). He created a fantastic and iconic panoramic view of Ipswich’s docks in the 1830s that we celebrate in this display.
On the back wall, are six enlarged sections from the coloured elevations, together with Caley’s preliminary pencil sketches of the same buildings, a period photograph from our Image Archive of the same area, and at the top, the same scene today.