The Eastern Union Railway

Station Street
The street nameplate at the junction with Wherstead Road.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Station St sign 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Station St sign 22014 images
The story of the EUR is, perhaps, not well enough known and examples of lettering in Station Street and Croft Street are the visible vestiges of the original Ipswich terminus. The most obvious is on the concrete plinth which is
further up Station Street (note the cast iron street sign above in good fettle with its superior 't') close to the corner with the southernmost part of Rectory Road:
Serif'd italic capitals are picked out in black paint against a white-painted background: kept in very good condition by the club, no doubt. A short way along Rectory Road is the attractive frontage of the Locomotive Social Club replete with illuminated black and white steam train sign.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 1 Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 2z
This site is only a few yards away from the Nethaniah Home For The Aged and at the other end of Rectory Road, 'Norfolk House'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 1a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 1b2014 images

Croft Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Croft St sign2014 image
Above: decaying street sign at the top of Croft Street sign nameplate.
Follow that part of Rectory Road round a right angle and Croft Street slopes down the hill and near the bottom we find two adjacent buildings on opposite corners of Webb Street. Both were busy public houses in the heyday of the railway and West Bank dockland area.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 3
CAMRA's excellent Suffolk Real Ale Guide (see Links) is invaluable for tracking not just current real ale pubs, 'fizz-only' pubs and former pubs, but also some putative old pubs. (There are often period photographs of the pubs when they were open for business.) There is no doubting these two buildings, though: they have the look of public houses with their 45 degree angle corner entrances facing one another over Webb Street.

The Great Eastern (ironically the smaller of the two), 42-44 Croft Street, alternatively known as GER was closed in 1996.
The EUR (alternatively known as the Eastern Union Railway, Railway Hotel) at 36-38 Croft St opened around 1850 and was closed in 2005. A stylish circular monogram: 'EUR' interlaces the three characters in a most satisfactory emblem, forming part of the ceramic-faced lower part of the pub's frontage. This monogram appears twice on this face of the building.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 4
So why did this quiet Ipswich back street boast two sizeable public houses? The answer is in the coming of the railway to this part of Stoke and with it employment, earth movement, civil and heavy engineering and increasing road traffic. The Eastern Union Railway was opened for public passenger traffic on 11 July 1846 from an end-on junction with the Eastern Counties Railway at Colchester to the first terminus station at Croft Street, Ipswich which later became engine sheds and sidings once a new Ipswich station opened. The tunnel opened on 26 November 1846 with a trial train to Bury St Edmunds, and fully opened to passengers on 7 December 1846. Ipswich Station on its present site opposite the top of Railway Station Road (later an extension of Princes Street) was opened in1860. The GER was formed in 1862 by amalgamation of the Eastern Counties Railway with smaller railways: the Norfolk Railway, the Eastern Union Railway, the Newmarket and Chesterford Railway, the East Norfolk Railway, the Harwich Railway, the East Anglian Railway and the East Suffolk Railway among others.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Old stationIpswich's first station
This is thought to be the earliest tunnel
in the country to be built on a sharp continous curve, excavations for which unearthed from deep in Stoke hill: fossilised woolly elephant, lion and rhinocerous dating from before the great Ice Age. 'Stoke Bone Beds' the source is apparently called. Stories of roof collapses and a myriad of problems including complaints from houses in the roads around Belstead Avenue that their wells had run dry because all the spring water now drained into the tunnel below were finally overcome. Improvements in the 1970s finally drained the waters fully away via conduits and the whole tunnel track-bed had to be lowered in the 2004 so that larger container trains to and from Felixstowe docks could be accomodated. Walking above the overgrown Belstead Avenue/Luther Road area above the tunnel entrance today you would barely know that a main line railway was operating in the deep cutting way below thundering into and out of Stoke hill. See the article below about Peter Schuyler Bruff, 'The Brunel of the Eastern Counties', and the tunnel. There is a little more on Peter Bruff on our V.A. Marriott page; Bruff is commemorated by a street name, see Street name derivations.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR GER periodimages from late 1970s
Ah, Watney's Red Barrel hanging over the Great Eastern... It's clear that the EUR boasted frosted glass windows with decoration and the name of the establishment. These have been removed now that it's a residence.
[UPDATE 27.12.2013: John Bulow-Osborne writes:
"Hello Again, Borin,
Further inspection of your website reminded me that I have the attached images relating to the EUR pub in Croft Street. Some might just be of use to you.
Mr 'Bogie' Willson*, seen leaning on the spare wheel of the charabanc, was, at the time:
(a) The landlord of the EUR.
(b) 'Master' of the Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes. Note their initials over the door of the pub.
(c) My maternal great-grandfather.
In the other picture he is decked out in his official regalia.
(*Not a typo, there were two 'L's)
The remaining two pictures I took, before and after the EUR closed. Sadly, I have no date for the earlier ones but, to judge from the vehicle, it must have been sometime in the late nineteen twenties or early thirties."]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR Bogey 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR Bogey 2
The rather wonderful period photograph of the charabanc outing outside the EUR includes several pieces of lettering:
the charabanc is called 'MARGUERITE' in a decorative font,
1. the (partial) circular sign on the window at right probably reads: 'JOHN HOPKINS[?] & Co,  OLD MULL  SCOTCH WHISKY';
2. the blind window to the right of the pub sign carries the lettering: '[COBBOLDS?] ALES AND SPIRITS' in drop-shadow capitals – interestingly there is a clear entrance door below this which certainly is not in evidence in later photographs; this suggests that it was taken at a time before the monogrammed ceramics were added;
3. 'THE EUR HOTEL' in drop-shadow capitals on the projecting pub sign (the wrought iron sign bracket is still there on the 2011 photograph;
4. 'RAOB' (
Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes) above the door, as noted by John;
5. pub sign painted on the blind corner window of The Great Eastern in the background (speculative): 'THE GREAT EASTERN FOR ... & ALES, STOUTS & PORTER, WINES & SPIRITS'.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 2007<2007  Ipswich Historic Lettering: EUR 2011<2011

We're delighted to include here the text of a 2013 article by John Norman, Chair of the Ipswich Society.

"Ipswich Railway Tunnel
Perhaps not the best way to start a new appointment but Peter Bruff had just been sacked from the Eastern Counties Railway for the poor management of the contractor employed to build the embankment at Stanway when he was appointed by the Directors of the Eastern Union Railway. The year was 1842 and railway mania was sweeping the county, new companies were being set up, Acts of Parliament passed and new communication routes created.

The Eastern Union Railway was formed because the ECR had run out of money, having built a line from London to Colchester the ECR couldn’t raise further funds to complete the route to Ipswich (or, as was originally planned, Norwich).

The EUR was a company formed by John Cobbold and his Ipswich friends, financed by money raised in the town (as opposed to London for the ECR) and the railway was an essential component in the creation of Ipswich’s Wet Dock (without a railway for onward transportation the Wet Dock would not reach its full potential).

Thus Bruff, the experienced Engineer surveyed, designed and oversaw the construction of the line from Colchester to Croft Street where Ipswich’s first railway station was built.  The line couldn’t progress any further, the wide and shallow Orwell with numerous tall ships was in the way and following the west bank was nigh impossible as the 100 feet high Stoke Hill dropped steeply into the river at Stoke Bridge.  The windmills and St Mary’s Church obstructed the possibility of a cutting.

If the railway was to progress to Bury St Edmunds and Norwich however the problem of the obstruction of Stoke Hill needed to be solved.  It is suspected that Bruff had always intended to tunnel under the hill, some of his original plans indicate a tunnel almost 600 yards long but an innovative solution reduced the actual length built to 360 yards.

The tunnel was constructed on a sharp continuous curve, possibly the first railway tunnel anywhere in the world to be so built.  It was dug through crag and sand, materials that literally ran with water; progress was slow and occupied much of Bruff’s time.  During the excavation of the tunnel both rhinoceros and woolly mammoth fossils were discovered (now in Ipswich Museum), the site was named ‘Stoke Stone Beds’ and contributed to the understanding of climate change during the Ice Age.

In 1860 a new station north of the tunnel was opened and a new access road and bridge (Princes Street) led directly to the town centre.  John Cobbold and his fellow directors continued to finance railway construction with a line to Bury St Edmunds with a junction at Haughley and a line due north to Norwich Victoria.

The Great Eastern main line was electrified to Norwich in 1986 and the track bed through the tunnel lowered to accommodate 9’ 6” high containers in 2004.  Today the tunnel under the hill at Stoke carries the Great Eastern Main Line and is busy with both passenger and freight traffic.

Peter Bruff went on to design and oversee the construction of the sewage system for Ipswich and the master planning of Clacton on Sea."

Steam ship services to Ipswich
The Ipswich Steam Navigation Company was formed in 1824-1825 during a period of  'steamship mania'. It started a steamer service between Ipswich and London calling at Walton-on-the-Naze.

The Woolwich Steam Packet Company, later the London Steamship Company, operated an excursion steamer service between Ipswich and London from before 1871 until 1887; in 1878 one of their ships, the SS Princess Alice sank with the loss of some 700 lives while on an excursion in the Thames estuary. Following the collapse of the London Steamship Company in 1887 the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamboat Company was formed offering services between London and Clacton; an additional service to Ipswich started in about 1893. The Woolwich Belle acted as a feeder service between Ipswich and Clacton from where the London service operated. After two changes of ownership and ambitious development of both steamer and on-land leisure facilities offering attractions and services at Walton-on-the-Naze, Felixstowe, Southwold and Great Yarmouth the company was wound up in 1905.

From1895 to 1930 the Great Eastern Railway Company ran three paddle steamers to Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich New Cut: the Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. Passengers embarked at the Steamboat Tavern end of Felaw Street and the booking office was in Purplett Street [information from Twinch, C. Ipswich street by street, see Reading list].

At a time when 'joined up' is a phrase applied
(but seldom achieved) to today's government and public services, perhaps we can look at a drawing together of the means of transport methods in the late 19th century. Regular steamship services to New Cut, or Stoke Quay, were linked to public transport into the town; trams ran from Stoke Bridge round to Burrell Road and the railway station, with an additional short spur from Wherstead Road down Bath Street to Griffin Wharf on the west bank of the Orwell intended to convey passengers between the railway station and the quay where Great Eastern Railway paddle steamers embarked for trips down the River Orwell to Felixstowe and elsewhere. Until 1860, Ipswich Station was a walk away in Croft Street.

See a few more comments on the railway relating to Arch Cottage on our Bourne Park page.


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