Ipswich is one of England’s oldest towns, it began as a small trading settlement in the 7th century. Due to its position near the coast it was used for trade especially with Germany. However, this closeness to the coastline also had its disadvantages which was demonstrated when it was captured by the Vikings who occupied the town from 869 until 917. After the English had regained control of the Town they retained it until the Norman Conquest.
From the year 1200 onwards most of the town’s income was through the production and trading of cloth. During the Middle Ages the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Grace (a statue of the virgin Mary) was a famous pilgrimage destination, even attracting King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon to come and visit it. However when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church the statue was immediately removed.
In 1475 one of the most famous inhabitants of Ipswich Thomas Wolsey was born. He later went on to become the Archbishop of York as well as King Henry VIII’s almoner (person in charge of distributing money to the poor). Unfortunately for him he fell out of favour with the king and died on his way to London to face charges of treason. During the reign of Queen “Bloody Mary” people were burnt at the Cornhill for having Protestant beliefs.
During the 17th century Ipswich became a place of mass emigration to America and more specifically New England. This was encouraged as the town’s lecturer Samuel Ward’s brother was the first minister of Ipswich Massachusetts (which is in New England).
Another famous individual to have lived in Ipswich was the painter Thomas Gainsborough; who was known mostly for his outstanding portrait and landscape works of art. Lord Horatio Nelson didn’t live in the town but he did buy a house on the outskirts of Ipswich intending to retire there, however this did not materialise. Although Nelson was still appointed as High Steward of Ipswich. Unbeknown to many legendary author Charles Dickens stayed in the town for a while and used it as settings for scenes in his novel ‘The Pickwick Papers’.
Ipswich was subject to bombing by the Germans during World War I but the greatest damage by far occurred during the Nazi raids of World War II in which the town was heavily targeted by Hitler’s men. The area in and around the docks was especially devastated.
The most notable change to the Town that has occurred in the 21st century is the renovation of the Waterfront area. Interestingly in the year of 2007 Ipswich was awarded with the cleanest town award.