Report - - Tolly Cobbold brewery, Ipswich, Suffolk - September 2014 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Tolly Cobbold brewery, Ipswich, Suffolk - September 2014


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Tolly Cobbold brewery


After a frustrating visit to St. Clement's I wandered down to this and spent a few hours here. I think the reason I didn't enjoy it so much was because I was annoyed I didn't get into St/ Clement's/

Don't get me wrong, it's a nice place. Just not quite as good as I was expecting!

The building itself looks awesome and hopefully it does get renovated, even if it's over priced flats, at least the building would be retained.

I'd been siting on these pics for a while, t'is about time I posted them up. Enjoy the essay! Pictures at the end as always.


The history of Tolly Cobbold starts with the original Cobbold brewery at Harwich founded around 1723 and ends (almost) in 2002 with the merger with Ridley's and closure of the Cliff Brewery at Ipswich. It should be noted, however, that Ridley's have retained the Tolly "brand" for versions of the Tolly Cobbold beers brewed by Ridley's. It should also be noted that the name Tolly Cobbold comes from the merger of two family brewers - the Tollemaches and the Cobbolds in 1957. The intervening events reveal the interesting story of a pioneering regional business in an ever-changing world.

Time line
  • 1723 Harwich Brewery Founded.
  • 1746 Cliff Brewery Founded.
  • 1752 Thomas Cobbold (maltster) dies.
  • 1754 Thomas Cobbold (brewer) opens the "Brewer's Baths" at Harwich.
  • 1767 Thomas Cobbold (brewer, born 1708) dies.
  • 1770 The Cobbold & Cox partnership is running the Harwich operation whilst John Cobbold is running the main company including the Cliff Brewery at Ipswich.
  • 1835 John Cobbold dies.
  • 1840 Thomas Cobbold (son of John) retires and the Harwich Brewery closes.
  • 1863 John Chevallier Cobbold acquires the new Harwich Brewery
  • 1876 New Harwich Brewery closes.
  • 1880 Tollemache brothers acquire the Ipswich Brewery from Cullingham & Co.
  • 1894-1896 Cliff Brewery Rebuilt.
  • 1920 The Tollemache family acquire the Essex Brewery at Walthamstowe and become incorporated as Tollemache Breweries Ltd.
  • 1923 Bi-centenary of Company. Cobbold acquires half of the Catchpole tied estate.
  • 1924 Company becomes incorporated as Cobbold & Co. Ltd.
  • 1930 Tollemache Breweries Ltd. acquire controlling share of the Star Brewery, Cambridge.
  • 1947 White Star Brewery becomes wholly owned by Tollemache Breweries Ltd.
  • 1957 Cobbold & Co. merge with Tollemache's Breweries Ltd. to become Tolly Cobbold.
  • 1961 Tollemache brewery at Upper Brook Street, Ipswich closes.
  • 1972 Star Brewery, Cambridge closes
  • 1973 New corporate image launched.
  • 1973 New bottling plant installed at Cliff Brewery.
  • 1977 Company taken over by Ellerman Shipping Group.
  • 1979 Tolly Original launched
  • 1983 Company sold to Barclay Brothers.
  • 1989 Brent Walker buy Company.
  • 1989 Cliff Brewery closes.
  • 1990 Management buyout saves Cliff Brewery.
  • 1991 Brewing starts again in Ipswich.
  • 1992 Brewery tours start at Cliff Brewery.
  • 2002 Ridley's acquire company and Cliff Brewery closes.

In 1746 they founded their powerbase at the Cliff Brewery in Ipswich. Their brewing ambitions had started at Harwich and although it is now known that the operation at Harwich wasn't abandoned when the Cliff Brewery came on line it was a leap to a much larger scale and was used as the springboard to greater things.

When we look at the Cliff Brewery now what we see is basically the brewery that was rebuilt and extended between 1894 and 1904. Large sections of the old brewery were demolished during this time and what original parts survived were pretty much erased during the 1904 expansion and adaptation.

The brewery finally changed shape again in the 1990s when production moved away from the Victorian apparatus and into, effectively, a modern microbrewery out the back. This left the old building free for brewery tours and gave the economy the modern business required. Everything, of course, changed again in 2002 when the brewery finally closed and it remains today, in a virtually mothballed state, protected by its Grade II listed status but slowly decaying in a poor state, re-development would cost a lot.

Moving back in time to 1746 it is easy to see why Thomas Cobbold set up where he did. He had been plagued by the troublesome water supply at Harwich for some time and although moving up-river disconnected him from some of his customers he could obtain good water and malt in Ipswich and use the Harwich operation as a staging post, this worked well, Ipswich was where the materials could easily get to, and Harwich was just down the river where it could be exported. In fact it is quite possible that the Cobbolds started off in Ipswich malting barley and decided to take over the Harwich Brewery - probably from George Rolfe - having previously supplied it with malt. Certainly there are stories of the Cobbolds supplying malt to brewers as far afield as London. Water transport was the only way this could happen so it is quite possible that having had good success at Harwich Thomas Cobbold decided to setup a new, larger brewery close to his maltings at Ipswich.

Old Maltings at the Cliff Brewery


The original Cliff Brewery was probably a good deal larger than the one at Harwich but we willmost likely never know its exact size. It is quite clear that, in common with many breweries, extensions and adaptations were added over the years until in the late 19th century the complex was not fit for purpose and the brewery simply had to be rebuilt after all the chopping and changing.

The old brewery before the 1984 rebuild and part of the old building left standing after the rebuild


That said the new brewery wasn't greatly larger, in terms of the ground it stood upon than the one it replaced. It was just that the old brewery had evolved bit-by-bit and the new one was designed to do exactly what it was supposed to do - brew beer in an age when the brewery process had been industrialised, it had adapted what it was to fit the modern demand and new products. To achieve that designs of the day made use of gravity - the so-called tower brewery - so the raw materials started at the top and made their way downwards, via the brewing process, to be matured and put in casks at the bottom. This method worked well and proved to be a more organised way of creating products to be sold.

So over this two year period from 1894 to 1896 a new brewery replaced what occupied the site before but it was a staged process and was probably carried out by Cobbold's own local people and workforce. Certainly the driving force behind the design was William Bradford & Sons, the eminent London brewery architects but we know that parts of the old brewery were retained after the 1896 rebuild was complete so in some ways the organic expansion of the brewery simply gathered pace in the late Victorian period as opposed to there being a defining moment when a complete new brewery suddenly appeared and analysis of old maps and photographs that have been documented support this idea that it is true.

The Cliff Brewery after 1904, OS Map from 1887 and OS Map from 1905


After this period of frenetic development it seems that the brewery underwent little change until it was closed in 1989. Of course equipment was modernised and adapted and capacity upped as the tied estate increased and the merger with Tollemache meant that beers once brewed at the brewery in Upper Brook Street now had to be brewed at Cliff Quay.

After the management buyout, a lot of things changed and with no large tied estate to guarantee sales the capacity offered at the Cliff Brewery was too much. The decision was therefore made to build a new, smaller brewery in buildings on the site and the old plant turned into a museum. Thus tourists could be staring into the old mash tuns whilst beer was being sparged out the back in the new ones. It was an interesting decision and one that worked well, But not for long, many items remain with plaques and things set up for when the museum was still open, but in a poor state covered in pigeon defecation and thick dust.

Unfortunately no business stands still and the 2002 merger with Ridley's meant that the Cliff Brewery was really surplus to requirements and cost the company more than it's worth. New rumours about potential redevelopment of the site quickly began to surface.

The 1989 closure, however, had prompted Ipswich Borough Council to list the brewery building and its contents and the proximity of the Vopak Terminal mean that scope for redevelopment is very limited, hence why it is still derelict.

Indeed the brewery buildings stand today pretty much as they were left in 2002 and 260 years after brewing started at the site and 100 years after the impressive Victorian expansion, the future for this imposing collection of buildings seems very uncertain as they are decaying slowly. To see them standing after 260 years is pretty impressive, but to see them in this state? I can't say they'd last too much longer.

History thanks to a mix of many sites but this one in particular was very helpful and great for further reading: http://www.tollycobbold.co.uk/


The future is still very uncertain, ideas and plans have been revealed and have crumbled or just not gone ahead.
One idea seems to look very good:


Pigeon Investment Management wants to turn the former Tolly Cobbold site into a mixture of flats, businesses and leisure use.

Part of the plan is to convert the listed building into an auditorium, commercial units and a museum space.

Outline planning permission was granted by Ipswich Borough Council and Pigeon said it hopes to begin work next year.

A proposal to turn the brewery building, which dates from the middle of the 18th Century, into 26 apartments and build a further 46 flats elsewhere on the site was turned down in 2004.

The latest project includes 27 flats and a supermarket on the six acre (2.5 hectare) site.

Clive Thompson, project co-ordinator, said: "It's very exciting as I've spent two years working on this project and we now have the support of the council to regenerate this part of the waterfront.

"The brewery building will provide an auditorium with wonderful light through the lantern roof, commercial units similar to Snape Maltings and a museum space reflecting the brewing history of the building.

The old Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich Tolly Cobbold brewed beer on the site in Ipswich for more than 200 years
"We can now beaver away to create detailed designs and consent for the prospective demand."

Pigeon said it was in discussions with the Ipswich Transport Museum and Suffolk Record Office about possible moves to the site.

Mike Cook, planning officer with the Ipswich Society preservation campaign group, said: "We're very pleased because the brewery building is leaking, it's on the buildings at-risk register and its contents have been ransacked apart from a valuable steam engine and copper vat which are still inside.

"I think this scheme is sympathetic in the way it will combine the Victorian history of the docks with modern design.

"It could become a real visitor hub if they can get all the attractions that they're talking to to move there."


The developers hope work can begin at the site in early 2014
A quote from Pigeon Investment Management in that report. So that being said, I doubt the plans will go ahead, which is a real shame as the building is really nice and I suspect it'll be victim to one of those "arson" attacks. :rolleyes:

Then 2 days ago this popped up: http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/gallery_do_you_remember_the_former_tolly_cobbold_brewery_share_your_memories_and_help_bring_ipswich_s_history_back_to_life_1_3845407

Now, project workers assisting with the redevelopment of the site, are looking for residents to share their memories, stories and pictures of the old brewery for a display, which will be on show at the orangery and stables next year.

Charlotte Bethel, a Heritage Management student at University Campus Suffolk who is working on the project with Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is about local history for local communities, and our aim is to bring information about the brewery to life with personal stories of people who worked at the Cobbold Brewery.

“The project will be displayed at Holywells as part of the £3.5 million Parks for People Heritage Lottery Fund award.â€

Work to create an education space and visitor centre is ongoing, with contractors expected to be finished on-site in December, with the developments completed for an Easter opening next year.

The Cobbold Brewery, which was located near the park from 1770 until 2002, was run by the Cobbold family, and became the Tolly Cobbold after a merger with the Tollemache family brewery in 1957.

Anthony Cobbold, 79, from Devon, is a descendant of the Cobbold family from Elizabeth, the second wife of the original Thomas Cobbold, who founded the brewery, and has been involved with the heritage of the site.

Mr Cobbold, founder and keeper of the Cobbold Family History Trust, said: “I have throughly enjoyed discovering my past, and it is certainly a great pride, I have loved every minute of it.

“To me it is more than just the brewery, it’s a story of social history. What is so good about the Holywells project is it’s a place where we can display these bits of social history.â€

For those wishing to share their memories and pictures, the project team can be contacted on 01473 433 541, or by emailing holywells.hlf@ipswich.gov.uk.

So who knows, maybe this will give them the kick up the arse they need to begin re-development!

The present site

The site as it stands now is in a very derelict condition. Floor boards are lowly rooting and you have to watch your step.
Machinery has slowly begun to oxidise and rot. Stairs have either, already broken, or are slowly falling apart.

A lot of equipment is left and there's a lot of labels, posters and mats that have been sat since closure of the short lived museum.

I did notice a few needles, some from the testing equipment, and some that clearly weren't from the testing equipment and so I kept a wide birth away from them.

Office equipment is still in situ but rotting slowly with the carpet I=on the floors slowly rising and bubbling. False ceilings slowly falling and the clear stench of rotting asbestos in some of the more modern extensions.

Pigeon defecation, deceased pigeons and scrawny pigeon nests litter every surface on the upper levels and fern bushes are slowly growing up the walls in some rooms.

Windows are smashed and there are gaping holes where old equipment has been removed. Partially open areas also show that some demolition has taken place, maybe older failed attempts to re-develop the site?

Many of the fittings etc. have been stolen for obvious reasons and much of it is now slowly rotting.

My explore

I spent a while circling the place trying to gain access without success, then I found it and was kicking myself.

I got really bored here if I'm honest, not much to see unless you like brewing. One bit that I did enjoy was going up the tower, nice views and cool breeze, had myself a drink up top as usual and wasn't to bad spending a little while up top.

No security on the place as far as I could see, however there is a brewery tap next to the site so you can't really make much noise, but then why would you want to it's nice and peaceful up there.

Hope you enjoy he pictures.


My DSLR was being a pain that day, so in the end I gave up with it and used my phone. Didn't fancy continually unpacking ad re-packing my tripod. Standing in the same place for too long is a bit dodgy in there.

A few externals, as you can see, externally the sites looks stunning



Few from the brewery tap



Partially demolished




Second floor storage


Nice decaying paint in the "blue" room




The "blue" room


The next room with the mixers etc.


Descending stairs


Big mixer things




Slowly rotting beams


Fire exit


Looking through the decay and destruction


Check list left on the window sill




Nice old thing




Big empty room with the hatch


The deceased


To be continued...​
Last edited:


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Re: Tolly Cobbold brewery, Ipswich, Essex - September 2014

Fire exit again


Chillin' on the sill


Out the fire exit


Out a window


More machinery


Dodgy stairs



Out another window




Control panel


Out across Ipswich


More decay




Out of the tower


An industrial landscape


Across the river


Old ladder


Blue machinery


remaining items from the museum


Engine downstairs


Modern room, smelt a bit nasty so I quickly departed from it




The fern room




And of course


One last room


Cheers for looking,

Definitely worth an hour of daylight if you're near, I hope it gets renovated soon and not left until it's too late.​


28DL Maverick
28DL Full Member
Re: Tolly Cobbold brewery, Ipswich, Essex - September 2014

Cool report as usual man cheers for sharing :thumb loving the dead bird shot that's one of the best i've seen, try to avoid putting them in my reports but i have a bit of a grim fascination with taking pictures of dead things :rolleyes:


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Re: Tolly Cobbold brewery, Ipswich, Essex - September 2014

Cool report as usual man cheers for sharing :thumb loving the dead bird shot that's one of the best i've seen, try to avoid putting them in my reports but i have a bit of a grim fascination with taking pictures of dead things :rolleyes:
Don't hold back, I wanna see them! :D

Cheers man

that does look a nice wander
Yeah it's alright I suppose, give it a mooch mate :thumb

The Wombat

Mr Wombat
28DL Full Member
Good report mate, as always :thumb
looks an interesting place


A life backwards
28DL Full Member
Very nice work.
Pigeon developments - what sort of name is that, must be shit :)


av u seen my marbels
28DL Full Member
Nice place there mate.. There was a caravan parked in with the 2 red vans last week, and what sounded like some rum old folk next to them too


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Does anyone know if this place is still accessible? been wanting to take a wander around there for a while
Cheers jay

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