Orwell, Gipping (or Rat)

The name of the river in parts of Ipswich is a matter of debate. Coming down stream, where does the Gipping end and the Orwell start? After looking at old maps, I can say that it is a debate with an illusive answer. 

Before the Gipping? Orwell? was diverted from it’s original course, there was what was called The Salt Water past Stoke Bridge and the river that followed it’s original course from Handford Mill, roughly along what is now Civic Drive was called The Gipping. From this, we can surmise that if it is tidal, it is called Orwell and if not it is called Gipping. Though some would insist that it is the Gipping all the way down to Stoke Bridge.

A confusing matter in this unanswerable debate created by the rerouting of the Orwell? Gipping? is the name of each ‘river’ where it splits in two between Yarmouth Road Bridge and West End Road Bridge. Some old maps call the river flowing under Handford Bridge Gipping while calling the river flowing under London Road Orwell. But other old maps call the river flowing under Handford Bridge Orwell and the river flowing under London Road, Gipping. So we can surmise that it is the Orwell up to it’s tidal limit at the wear in West End Road and the Gipping beyond Yarmouth Road and the name of each ‘river’ in between is debatable but it is actually more mind boggling than that.

According to Anglo/Saxon maps, it’s called Orwell up to Rattlesden. The section of the river that then was called Orwell that joins what is now called Gipping at Stowmarket is now called the Rattlesden River or, for short, the River Rat. It seems that what is now called Rat was considered part of the main river and called Orwell and the Gipping beyond Stowmarket was considered a tributary of the Orwell and because it’s source is near the hamlet of Gipping, was called the Gipping River and at some point the river from Rattlesden was renamed the Rattlesden River. From this we can surmise the origins of the river names Gipping and Rat.

It seems that the name Gipping spread as the name used for the Orwell? Gipping? through river commerce, (the river was once used as a canal) spread down stream to Ipswich where it became tidal, after which the river kept its original name which is from the Celtic ‘ore’ meaning ‘stream’ and the Anglo/Saxon ‘wella’ meaning ‘stream’ meaning that the name River Orwell means River River River. This would be because people involved in river commerce between Ipswich and Stowmarket would say that they have come down and are going up the Gipping, while those involved in trade to and from abroad would say they have come up and are going down the Orwell.

So Gyppeswyk (Saxons pronounced ‘G’ as a ‘G’ and Angles pronounced it as a ‘Y’, hence Yippeswyk to Ippeswyk and French speaking Norman’s not being able to pronounce the Anglo/Saxon gutteral leading to it being pronounced as Ipswich. From Anglo/Saxon ‘Gyppe’ meaning ‘Gap’ and ‘Wyk’ meaning ‘port’. So Ipswich means Port at the Gap. The gap being the estuary of the Orwell? Gipping?

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One Response to Orwell, Gipping (or Rat)

  1. Pingback: How did Ipswich come to this? | A Riverside View

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