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Report - - British Sugar Ipswich - April 2009 Visit | Industrial Sites |

Report - British Sugar Ipswich - April 2009 Visit

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
After going through photos a few weeks ago, I came across some pictures from my first urban explore in April 2009 when my mate Heavymetalterrier and I visited the British Sugar site in Ipswich over the Easter holiday. Suddenly all the memories and emotions came flooding back from my childhood living near the factory and visiting this colossal site which has since been cleared of everything except the silos. Much of the site has been covered on 28dayslater before, but I wanted to add my pictures for prosperity.

The factory opened in the mid 1920s by a Dutch firm before being nationalised and engulfed into British Sugar Corporation following the 1936 Sugar Reorganisation Act. Two of the iconic silos were constructed around the 1950s, with the third constructed following modernisation and an increase in EEC sugar quotas in the 1970s. The biggest change would come in 1985 following Berisford International invested in modernising the Ipswich site, with the construction of a fourth silo, new administration offices and loading bays. By around the late 1990s, rationalisation had taken affect of the number of factories and sugar contracts with farmers were on the decline, but despite worry following the expansion of the Bury site, workers at Ipswich were constantly reassured that their jobs were secure.

This would change when EU sugar quotas were reduced in 2000, and it was decided that the factory will be closed, with production being moved to Bury St Edmunds - much to the anger of workers who received little warning had been promised a year before their jobs were secure as the factory was working at a profit. Sugar production ceased after but other activities continued on the site until 2004 before the partial demolition of the lime-kiln and beet-in area. British Sugar continued to own the site until 2010, with a few of the former factory workers acting as security. Plans to turn the site into a housing estate collapsed following the 2007 housing crash, and environmental concerns from high arsenic and heavy metals left in the soil from 70 years of beet mulch dumping - there was also reports of buried asbestos as building rubble was used to fill in remaining open pits in 2005. The site became victim to a number of arson attacks from 2009 - 2010, with even one of the petroleum tanks exploding, resulting in action to demolish the site instantly.

Demolition commenced around late 2009 first with the former animal feed building, followed by the rest of the site in the new year. Some parts of the factory's machinery were sold off to a contractor for reuse in India. By May 2010, the site was reduced to rubble and security had been replaced by an overzealous old woman who looks after horses on site. I returned to the site annually to record its decline, but the first visit in April 2009 was the best as the site was relatively intact and it was the starting point of my experience in urban exploration. Enough of the history and talking, and on with the pictures.

After a one hour walk along the river behind the site, we managed to find a way (making Heavymetalterrier climb a two meter high gate right after I noticed a hole in the fence - he was not pleased)

Once on the site, we made our plan "if we get caught by security, say we are looking at wildlife". At this point we heard the banging of metal nearby and we froze, thinking it was security attempting to scare us off site. Instead of running away, we decided to follow the sound...

...Until it lead us here. It was a particularly windy day and a strand of metal was blowing in the wind against the silo. After a few seconds to recover, we decided our first aim was to get inside the complex and work our way to the silos.

But there seemed no way in from the outside as the site was well secure, so we knew the silos would have to wait.

Instead we found our way into Silo No.3's bagging building, constructed in the 1970s before bulk sugar loading was favourable. Much of the machinery was locally built by Cranes and remained intact - with even a half-full sugar bag. This was common throughout the site, as though people had just decided to leave. It gave the site a particularly uncomfortable feel as though we were expecting workers to suddenly reappear.


We then returned to Silo 4, as we almost walked into security sitting in their car in front of Silo 1. We came across Silo 4's bulk loading bay, built in 1985. Interestingly, the bay had two rooms at the rear, one was a small office/laboratory with sugar samples dating as far back as 1995 for famous confectionery companies around the country, and another room which lead to the back of Silo 3 (but this was full of asbestos). The loading bay also contained a staircase which sadly didn't lead to the silos, only an overhead platform.

There were a couple of external substations which were added in 1985 by Playfords of Newmarket, who had several contracts with British Sugar around this time.

Around this point we almost found an entrance into Beet Processing Building No.1, but the door entrance was grilled and proven too challenging to get through, so we moved on. At this point we had already seen security driving around the site, so we stayed low and ate our lunch until the route was clear.


Disappointed by the failed entry, and a little nervous about security, we continued cautiously to the north side of the site, passing between Beet Processing Building No.1 and the Animal Feed building. Security had tried every effort to keep people out, with external doors even blocked by concrete rubble.


We did come across this cooling tower between the Topsoil and Trident Animal Feed building. The view from here was impressive, but we still aimed for the higher silos.

We were fortunate we got down from the tower when we did, as afterwards we continued to walk around the site until we noticed security driving towards the site up ahead, so we ran and hid into a few buddleia bushes behind the offices. It was fortunate as they lead us to a hidden path. A railway line once travelled through here, but after rail traffic was decommissioned in 1981, a new loading bay for lorries was constructed, connecting Beet Processing Building No.1 and No.2 together.


After a discussion about whether to continue with the explore (after seeing security three times) we decided one final attempt to find a way inside the offices, and this time we were fortunate. We ended up finding an open window into the kitchen area. After cutting a hand on class and falling from the window, we were in! But... We were blocked inside the kitchen as security had placed something up against the door to the canteen from the outside.

After several minutes pushing our way through, we were greeted with a room full of documents from British Sugar's Peterborough head quarters. Engineering plans, meeting minutes and factory data from Ipswich and York could be found. We spent an hour looking through the documents before Heavymetalterrier wondered off (Apologies for the poor picture quality, earlier that day I had dropped my camera and it was playing up).

After being told by Heavymetalterrier there were more offices, we continued to look around to find more offices full of documents and pictures. One room on the top floor contained the trophies from the British Sugar Ipswich Social Cub. It was fairly impressive walking around the offices, however some still had lights on along with recent signs of activity, so we were constantly cautious. We came across the main laboratory, but couldn't find the medical room (despite looking around the ground floor).

After spending three hours around the administration section (with no way into the main processing building) we decided to leave the way we came in. After a few pictures on the way back, we walked through the long grass towards the back gate. Being too distracted by a grass snake and a partridge nearby, we didn't realise security had seen us and were waiting for us by the gate. Stupidly, we ducked in the grass right after they shouted at us. Defeated, but pleased with our explore, we left the site escorted out by security. Coincidently, the security guard asked us about 28dayslater and hoped we got enough pictures so we wouldn't need to return - how wrong he was.

For a first explore, it was impressive in terms of what we saw and experienced. Its a shame it was demolished before we had the chance to return again. After a few failed attempts in August and October 2009, I next returned in January 2010 only to see the diggers already at work demolishing the site. Fortunately, an old security guard noticed me and invited me into his office. He was a former worker at the site and filled me in with some information and history - as well as stores from chasing urban explorers around the site. About a week later he was made redundant but his office remained locked up, full of memorabilia from the factory.

I haven't visited the site since February 2011 (after a fearsome confrontation with the new security guard after she caught us half way up the silos - so close but so far), so I don't know what is left, but the site was impressive when it was still intact. Although we never got the chance to climb the silos or see inside the beet processing buildings, we were able to see the site before it was too late. A great loss to Ipswich's industrial heritage.


P.S. Apologies for the picture-and-word-heavy retrospective thread, but hope this was worth your time :D


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thanks for posting, some great shots.

Went here a few weeks ago, and it has changed soooo much since 2009!


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Yeah it was a damn good place, wish I'd seen more of it really. Not seen any "silver spoon" donkey jackets in a while either!


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
One of the offices were full of old BSC blue overalls and hard hats, me and my mate were tempted to take some but I was too distracted looking through the documents. I really wish I paid more attention and took more pictures, but I was a young explorer


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
One of the offices were full of old BSC blue overalls and hard hats, me and my mate were tempted to take some but I was too distracted looking through the documents. I really wish I paid more attention and took more pictures, but I was a young explorer

Never mind, shame they are all gone now!


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Hahahaha he managed to get through the crack in the wall caused by the digger and climb from the inside? When I return to the UK next month I'll have to pay a visit to the site and check it out


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Hahahaha he managed to get through the crack in the wall caused by the digger and climb from the inside? When I return to the UK next month I'll have to pay a visit to the site and check it out

Nope, even easier than that!