Ipswich Libraries

From Limestone to Ipswich

Panorama of Ipswich looking down Brisbane Street from Queen's Park, 1887 (Photo courtesy of Picture Ipswich)

Panorama of Ipswich looking down Brisbane Street from Queen’s Park, 1887 – Image courtesy of Picture Ipswich

We recently had a query from Ipswich, England asking how our city was named and whether we were connected directly with their town. I found an answer for them on the Ipswich City Council website, listed under their history section, ‘suburbs and place names’.

“The first name for Ipswich was ‘The Limestone Hills’ or ‘The Limestone Station’, the name used in convict days when lime was quarried here. This name was shortened to simply ‘Limestone’ and was the name used by the first free settlers in 1842. It appeared on the first maps of the town and was used in the newspaper reports in the ‘Moreton Bay Courier’.

The name Ipswich was given by Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales. Gipps visited the site of the new town just before the free settlers arrived, while surveyors were still working to draw up a plan for the town.

Governor Gipps interfered with the surveyor’s work. He said the streets had to be narrow and he told the surveyor that Limestone did not need a town square. He also decided to change the name. If you look at the first plan drawn by the surveyor Henry Wade in 1842, it bears the words ‘Proposed Plan of the Town of Limestone, by Henry Wade Surveyor’.

Above that in smaller letters added later is ‘To be called IPSWICH’.

Why did Governor Gipps choose the name Ipswich? One possibility is that he remembered what Harry Rous had said when he visited Moreton Bay about 10 years earlier. Harry Rous was captain of the ship ‘Rainbow’ and he was also the second oldest son of Viscount Dunwich, Earl of Stradbroke – this is where the names Dunwich and Stradbroke Island came from.

Harry Rous must also have visited the country near Limestone because he is supposed to have said that it reminded him of the town of Ipswich which was near his home at Stradbroke in England.

Maybe Governor Gipps remembered this and picked Ipswich when he wanted a new name instead of a convict name. Governor Gipps might also have liked jokes with words. Ipswich in England is a very old town and it used to be spelled ‘Gippeswic’ which means Gippi’s Wic or Gippi’s Village.

So Ipswich was Gippi’s Village. In other words, Governor Gipps might have named the town after himself. We don’t really know.”

I would love to travel back in time to the fateful February day and ask Governor Gipps why he chose Ipswich for the name of our town. I personally hope it was the second possibility listed above.

Information taken from the Ipswich City Council website (http://www.ipswich.qld.gov.au/about_ipswich/history/suburb_place_names/)


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