Football of a sort had been played in and around the town for a number of years by the pupils of Ipswich School who adopted Association Football rules in 1874. The team we now know as Ipswich Town FC were founded following a meeting at the Town Hall, 16th of October 1878, at the instigation of T.C. Cobbold of the famed brewing family. However, they did not start life with this name. For the sake of clarity, the new club adopted the title of Ipswich Association FC to differentiate themselves from Ipswich FC, the local rugby club.
For their first home ground, Broom Hill was chosen, to the north of the town centre. This ground was adjacent to their second home, at Brook’s Hall where facilities were limited to a crude shed for players to change in. The 1887/88 season was to be the last at Brook’s Hall. During that summer serious talks were held with the rugby club regarding an amalgamation of the two bodies and this suggestion became reality. Portman Road became the permanent home venue for the newly named Ipswich Town FC. For those interested in such things, the football pitch of that time is the current training area.
Ipswich Town, inspired no doubt by their maritime association, were clad in blue and white striped shirts in their early days. In 1936 they turned professional and after winning the Southern League at the first attempt and finishing third the following season, they were elected to the Football League on May 30th, 1938. By this time they were wearing plain blue shirts, adding white sleeves only after the Second World War, a kit famously worn when they won their only League title under manager Alf Ramsey. All-blue shirts returned at the beginning of the Sixties while white sleeves were back in the Nineties. But the club has remained loyal to its original blue and white.
Ipswich Town’s first insignia was the coat of arms for Ipswich Borough Council. From the early days of the club up until 1972 the badge appeared in a number of different forms like with and without the ITFC lettering or with IFC lettering only. At times the full arms were worn but from the mid 60’s until 1972 only the shield was used.
The demi-lion in the crest holds a three-masted ship with sails. This ship appeared originally on a thirteenth-century town seal. Two sea-horses with fish tails, representing the maritime background, act as supporters for the shield, which shows three half-ships on a blue background each impaled with a gold lion passant of England on a red background.
The arms appear to have been based on the arms of the Cinque Ports, a medieval confederation of English Channel ports that the town of Ipswich was associated with, which was formed to furnish ships and men for the King’s services.
Until the 14th century the Cinque Ports provided the permanent nucleus of the royal fleet having probably been first associated in the reign of Edward the Confessor for the defence of the coast and cross-Channel passage. The common arms of the associated towns of the confederation were variations of the English lions with ship-hull tails.
The history of the present club badge is an interesting topic and the concept originated from a competition. From the hundreds of entries submitted the club eventually chose the design of Mr John Gammage. Mr Gammage, a former Postmaster and Treasurer of the Supporters Club, sadly passed away during the 1993/4 season. The club have retained all his original thoughts on the idea, as his words explain:
“It is quite a problem to conceive a new and original badge or crest. From the Royal Coat of Arms, the family crests of Earls and Dukes, to the badges of the smallest clubs, there are thousands of different designs. Basically these are constructed on a background of heraldic signs and symbols which narrows the margin of originality. Therefore one had to concentrate of a familiar object which is exclusive to our county. Buildings and animals dominate most heraldic designs so I immediately thought of the Suffolk Punch horse. To explore the suitability of using this animal, which has frequently been described as a cart horse, I discovered it to be a most noble and highly respected creature”.
“In the flamboyant days of the Ancient Pageant, with Kings and Noble Lords in attendance, Knights in shining armour changed and fought in the sporting area on their fiery steeds. And the Suffolk Punch reigned supreme. Its powerful shoulders and broad chest were ideally suited to carry the heavily armoured Knights to victory. King Richard I formed special studs for breeding the Suffolks and they continued to be the most popular sporting horses as late as the reign of Henry VIII who favoured them to carry his 18 stones”.
“I regarded the Suffolk Punch as a noble animal, well suited to dominate our design and represent the club. And to complete the badge I thought of the town of Ipswich which contains many historical buildings, including the Wolsey Gate, and is close to the sea with a large dock area. The turreting indicates the ancient buildings, the wavy lines represent the sea and as a final touch I decided to place a football under the horse’s foot. When I added the name of the club on a sharp looking shield the design was complete.”
For the 1995/6 season, the club badge was redesigned slightly, but the overall look of the badge remained much the same. The border colour was changed from pale yellow to a bold red. The club name was written in full, and the turrets were moved to the top of the badge.
The Blues is the official nickname for Ipswich Town, although they are commonly called the Town and occasionally the Superblues, inspired by the Robson era when the team were winning major trophies both at home and abroad. There does not appear to be a favourite nickname with the club’s fans with both the Town and the Blues being interchangeable.
However a new popular nickname has appeared over recent years; “The Tractor Boys”, a name which has been adopted by many of the fans themselves, possibly as a reaction to the rather banal alternatives of “Town” or “Blues”.