River Gipping

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The River Gipping is the source river for the River Orwell in the county of Suffolk in East Anglia, England, which gave its name to the former Gipping Rural District and the village of Gipping.

The river was altered with the addition of 15 locks between Ipswich and Stowmarket to form the Ipswich and Stowmarket Navigation, although this name has fallen out of use. The navigation was established by two Acts of Parliament in 1790 and 1793. Recently, the navigation has undergone restoration.



The source of the River Gipping is in the village of Mendlesham Green. It is formed from waters drained off the arable farmed fields.

Early use of the River Gipping

In the year 860 the Danes sailed up the river and established the village of Rattles-dane near the source of the River Rat. From this village now known as Rattlesden they attacked the Saxon stronghold of Haughley Castle. Stowmarket, a few miles South of Haughley, was of little significance then.

In 1065 Caen stone for Bury St. Edmunds Abbey was imported from Normandy and transported in flat-bottomed boats to Rattlesden. Stowmarket church bells were re-cast in the 17th century after being transported down-river.

The first proposal for the construction of the navigation was in 1719, but the traders of Ipswich objected, fearing loss of trade. It was not until 1789 that six local gentlemen (two of whom were vicars) with foresight realised that because of poor transport, due to badly-maintained turnpike roads, the population and industries were dwindling in the Stowmarket area. They engaged William Jessop, who employed Isaac Lenny as the surveyor and a Parliamentary Bill for the construction of the navigation was passed on 1 April 1790.[1] A Board of Trustees was appointed to manage the waterway, which was expected to cost £14,300.[2]

Construction of the Navigation

Work started that year at the Ipswich end but the contractors Dyson and Pinkerton were dismissed due to problems with trespass. A local contractor was employed to continue work at the Stowmarket end and in 1791 John Rennie was consulted. He reported that three turf and timber locks had been constructed between Stowmarket and Needham Market, the other main town on the waterway, advised that further lock structures should be of brick and stone and estimated costs to complete the works. This amount was raised by a Parliamentary Bill of 28 March 1793.[1] The final cost of construction was £26,263, which was nearly double the original estimate.[2]

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