River Orwell

The River Orwell flows through the county of Suffolk in England. Its source river[clarification needed], above the tidal limit at Stoke Bridge, is known as the River Gipping.[1] It broadens into an estuary at Ipswich, where the Ipswich dock has operated since the 7th century, and then flows into the North Sea at Felixstowe, the UK's largest container port, after joining the River Stour at Shotley forming Harwich harbour.

Bank of the River Orwell

The large Orwell Bridge carries the A14 trunk road over the estuary to the south of Ipswich.


In the name Orwell, Or- comes from an ancient river-name — probably pre-Celtic; but -well probably indicates an Anglo-Saxon naming.[2] In A tour through England and Wales, written in 1722, Daniel Defoe calls the river "Orwel" (though he does this inconsistently).[3] He also mentions that "a traveller will hardly understand me, especially a seaman, when I speak of the River Stour and the River Orwell at Harwich, for they know them by no other names than those of Maningtre-Water, and Ipswich-Water". The writer Eric Blair chose the pen name under which he would later become famous, "George Orwell", because of his love for the river.[4][5] A few miles north of the Orwell is another Suffolk river, the Ore, and Orfordness, the village port of Orford with its historic castle.


The Orwell provides a popular venue for sailing. Interest originally centred on the hamlet of Pin Mill (featured in two children's novels by Arthur Ransome: We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea and Secret Water), which is home to the Pin Mill Sailing Club and its Hard. Ransome had kept his yacht Selina King at the Pin Mill anchorage in 1937–39.

Since the 1970s marinas have opened at Levington (Suffolk Yacht Harbour, pictured), Woolverstone, Fox's (just outside Ipswich), and two marinas in the old Ipswich Wet Dock. Woolverstone is home to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club that was for many years host to the Swordfish 15-foot racing dinghy built by Fairey Marine, in addition to its 12-foot Firefly, a derivative of the National 12-foot dinghy, both designed by the sailor Uffa Fox. It now hosts a broad range of sailing events, such as the annual 'Junior Race Week'.

The Yangtse Incident

The 1957 film Yangtse Incident: The Story of HMS Amethyst was filmed on the river. The naval shore establishment at HMS Ganges also featured in the film being used as a site for Chinese gun batteries.[6]


  1. White, William (1844). History, gazetteer, and directory of Suffolk, and the towns near its borders. R. Leader. pp. 62–63.
  2. A D Mills: A dictionary of British place-names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-852758-6
  3. Daniel Defoe, A tour through England and Wales, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd, London (1959) Available online here
  4. "George Orwell Biography". Archived from the original on June 21, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-09.
  5. Lederer, Richard (1999). The Miracle of Language. Simon and Schuster. p. 134. ISBN 0-671-02811-1.
  6. "The Yangtse Incident:the story of HMS Amethyst". British Lion Films. British Lion Holdings Ltd. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.