Ipswich Sugar Factory

The sugar factory in Ipswich was built in 1925. It was closed by British Sugar 76 years later. There are plans to turn the entire site into a housing with nature reserve.

I visited the factory with Speed and we spent around six hours exploring the place. A lot of the doors were bolted up and ladders were cut off. This meant that we couldn’t climb the huge silos. Undeterred, we did find our way into some of the buildings and tried to get to the top of what we could..

Please note: I have no idea what most of the buildings or things we saw were. So I have guessed. If you can update, please leave a comment at the bottom – thanks.

The Silos

Ipswich has four of these giant concrete structures. They were used to store granulated sugar ready for onward movement/packaging etc. I can’t even begin to describe how high they were.

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Testing area

The first building that we managed to explore was some sort of testing area. There were two weighbridges in the main part, and some sugar samples in the office. One of the pieces of paper had “Certificate of Analysis” written on it, hence the “testing” assumption.

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Pipes

Outside was pretty much all pipes. Small pipes. Big pipes. Loads. They went everywhere.

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They probably went to this.

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Animal feed plant

This section of the factory was used to produce animal feed using molasses (an un-edible syrup from the crystallisation process).

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Surprisingly it was full of chairs, lockers, canteen trolleys, disco lights, record players, signs and stickers.

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Power generator

Processing sugar needs a huge amount of electricity to power the various machines. Because of this, there is a power station on site (I think).

If this wasn’t a power station, then I don’t know what it was. There was a huge boiler…

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Whatever it was, the top of it gave a damn good view of Ipswich.

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More factory used to be on this wasteland, but it has been demolished.

Panorama ipswaste

In the next room we went to there was the largest rotating thing I’ve ever seen. It was attatched to some sort of coal powered furnace.

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And in the same building was some sort of computer/control room. The room was totally sealed up – the table inside it looked as if people had just finished their lunch.. The room was also protected by some sort of halon fire extinguishing system.

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Locker Room

I forgot to mention a locker room we found. Some people had written “In Use 22/02/01” on them – some of the items in them looked brand new! Likewise, there was a tool room nearby and things looked as if they were put there yesterday. Spooky.

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Processing areas

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Some offices

We couldn’t get inside the main office blocks – they were fully locked up. But inside one of the production buildings there were a few offices.

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One had a rather impressive display of Silver Spoon, Weetabix, Ambrosia and Coca Cola products in some glass cabinets. I didn’t really fancy sampling them though – the best-before date of 1999 put me off (and some spiders).

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Various buildings

A few pictures of some of the buildings on site.

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Stuff

Considering how nice sugar tastes, the production of it stinks. Everywhere we went, something stunk. Random goop was no exception.

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Other things of interest

There were loads of other random things. Here are a few of them…

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Final Farewell

One of the final rooms we went into was some sort of rest room. It was covered with some rather poignant messages from the final workers there, and was finally vacated on 9 February 2001.

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12 Responses to Ipswich Sugar Factory

  1. Naive Steve says:

    Ipswich Sugar Factory ..Testing Area
    I used to work here during one “campaign” in the early 1970’s. One of the most bizarre jobs I’ve ever had.
    Visually grading mud on sugar beet giving a score from one to ten.I worked for the NFU double checking that British Sugar didn’t fiddle the farmers in terms of amount of mud in each load,sugar content etc.
    The mud grading took place in the weighbridge area ..cleaning & weighing samples & sugar content in the building where you took the photos.
    Also on the left near the entrance was an accomadation block for the Irish farmworkers who came over for the campaign.
    The place stank even more then esp. with hundreds of old diesel lorries passing through.
    Great site and a great concept …keep it up!

  2. Anon says:

    Hello..

    A few mysteries I can clear up: The ‘testing’ area was the bulk tanker loading where the chaps were ’empowered’ to do their own testing.
    All the chairs/lockers and stuff were moved from all the offices and it was intended that staff could ‘bid’ for any of the stuff. Not surprisingly, no one wanted it!
    Yep. On site power and steam generation, xcess sold to the grid.
    The coal fired furnace thing is where the wet pulp (after sugar removal) was dried. It was a Hot Gas Generator furnace.
    Where the sugar displays were was the central control room with computers everywhere.
    The room with the halon was the control room for the boiler / turbine / animal feed processes.

    Making sugar is very smelly and made ponds full of dirty water which had to be processed in the two tanks in the distance over the waste land.

    One other thing…. I have seen the ‘slicy – dicy’ machine in a couple of photos. It really is only a sugar dryer with the little ‘shelves’ lifting and dropping sugar as it turned. Its proper name is a granualtor but I prefer the slicy dicy.

  3. Tim says:

    Excellent concept.

    Very interesting. I am a bit sad to see all this great engineering heritage lost. I hope that England does not lose all its factories.

  4. barb says:

    Visited the site today.
    Had a friend who was an engineer there, Alvin who sadly passed away last year.
    Today, dark clouds and brilliant sun, wet ground, reflections, a visually stunning site .
    Great for some photography.
    Next time I will take my camera!

  5. josh brett says:

    hi there was a club at the suger beet factory where discos use to be because seven years ago when i was eight years old my nanny and grandad had there 40th anerversary party there and i want to know if the club is still standing could you take some pictures of the inside if you can get in thanks it will mean alot and put the pictures on this webpage

  6. Diane Keane says:

    Hi,

    Very interesting. I am currently researching the Irish who worked in the Sugar factories during the 70’s and into the 1980’s. Specifically those from the Connemara area ( West of Ireland) . I would love to talk to, hear from anyone with an interest in this subject. Best regards, Diane

  7. annelaure says:

    I am working an an interactive choreograhic installation and I would love to do a photo shoot at this old factory. Do you know if it’s free of entry or do I need to contact anybody??
    Thank you.

  8. john says:

    worked on site in 1988 insulating the new boiler for a firm called mc gills the boiler was an allborg boiler from sweden fond memories of this job recall it was a fantastic summer that year and we had lodgings in felixstowe for about 16 weeks lovely county suffolk with lots of nice people sadly best pal of thirty years who was with me on this job died in dec 2010 how i wish we could be back together on site

  9. Paul Matthews says:

    Hi,
    Great photo’s
    Do you have any of the little ‘gate house’ at the entrance to the site?

    I work in Ipswich as an Architectural Technician and did the drawings for it (Planning, building Reg and Construction plans). I was moon lighting for Brooks Associates who have the contact.
    That was several ‘careers’ ago, but have very good and hazy memories of Ipswich from my late teens/early 20’s, living away from home with some money to spend in the pubs; the weekend in Ipswich seem to start in Thursday evening.
    I’m now a Physiotherapist in Nottingham
    If I come across the

  10. matt smith says:

    great pictures.i always drive by every week and always look at the silos.i was told that they still have sugar in????.i have some pictures of spalding site when they blew the silos down,sad day and after when they took the machinery out.iconic landmarks gone for good!!.i dont know of anyone else who has as good detailed pict.ures.well done

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