Eastern Union Railway
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 on Station
Street (note the cast iron street sign in good
fettle with its superior 't') close to the corner with the
southernmost part of Rectory
'IPSWICH LOCO MEN'S
Serif'd italic capitals are picked out in black paint
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
CLUB & INSTITUTE'
This site is only a few yards away from the Nethaniah Home For The Aged and at the other end of Rectory Road, 'Norfolk
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.
excellent Suffolk Real Ale Guide (see Links)
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
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
15 June 1846 from an end-on junction with the Eastern Counties Railway
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
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's first station
This is thought to be the earliest tunnel in
the country to be built on a sharp continous
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
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
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
images 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.
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
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 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
Peter Bruff went on to design and oversee the construction of the
sewage system for Ipswich and the master planning of Clacton on Sea."
See a few more comments on the railway relating to Arch
Cottage on our Bourne
Please email any comments
and contributions by clicking here.
throughout the Ipswich Signs and
Lettering sites: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without