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Days Gone By: The long and storied history of one of a dozen medieval churches in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 11:31 10 January 2019

St Clement's church in Ipswich Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

St Clement's church in Ipswich Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

David Kindred looks at the history behind Ipswich’s medieval church St Clement’s which is located between Fore Street and Star Lane.

A temporary roof was built over St Clements Church following the fire of September 1995. Picture: OWEN HINES 
A temporary roof was built over St Clements Church following the fire of September 1995. Picture: OWEN HINES

One of Ipswich’s 12 medieval churches, St Clement’s, has a main structure which dates from the late 14th and early 15th century.

Ipswich spread to the east during the late Saxon period when the wool and cloth trade saw merchants build houses along Fore Street, as quays spread along the waterfront.

By the 17th century, there was a large community in the area, close to the church.

The damaged interior of St Clements Church, Ipswich, following the fire in September 1995. The church was then being used as a prop store for the Wolsey Theatre. Picture: OWEN HINES   The damaged interior of St Clements Church, Ipswich, following the fire in September 1995. The church was then being used as a prop store for the Wolsey Theatre. Picture: OWEN HINES

The first census of 1801 shows 2,764 people in the parish in 755 houses.

By 1821, this had risen to 4452 in 916 houses – with hundreds of former agricultural workers moving into town to find work.

Much of the area featured poor housing, and during the 1930s many of the homes in the parish were demolished and residents moved to new council housing on the edge of town.

The Royal Arms of Charles II, and many other inscriptions and memorials were cleaned following the fire of September 1995.  Taken in June 1996. Picture: OWEN HINESThe Royal Arms of Charles II, and many other inscriptions and memorials were cleaned following the fire of September 1995. Taken in June 1996. Picture: OWEN HINES

In the late 1970s the church became one of six in the town centre to be declared redundant.

In September 1995, St Clement’s was badly damaged by fire but was restored by the Ipswich Historic Church Trust, who have cared for the building since 1981.

The church is now to be used as the Ipswich Arts Centre and Nicola Brand, the project manager, has written asking for your memories of this 
historic site.

A stained glass window at St Clements Church, Ipswich, after cleaning following the fire in the church in 1995. Taken in June 1996. Picture: OWEN HINESA stained glass window at St Clements Church, Ipswich, after cleaning following the fire in the church in 1995. Taken in June 1996. Picture: OWEN HINES

She wrote: “The Ipswich Arts Centre is running a Memories and Recollections project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“The aim of the project is to capture and preserve as many stories, photographs and documents of St Clement’s Church, Fore Street as possible, before it became redundant as a place of worship in the 1970s.

“On February 27, 2019, through to March 1, 2019, the recollections, documents and photographs will be collated into an exhibition at the University of Suffolk, accompanied by walking tours.

Part of the interior of St Clements Church, Ipswich, in June 1996 after restoration work by the Ipswich Historic Church Trust. Picture: OWEN HINES  

Part of the interior of St Clements Church, Ipswich, in June 1996 after restoration work by the Ipswich Historic Church Trust. Picture: OWEN HINES

“Therefore, we are gathering as many of the above-mentioned documents as possible for the exhibition, but we need help from readers.

“We have heard through the grapevine many stories of Rev. Tucker Harvey. We would dearly love to hear any anecdotes and see more photographs of him. “Do you have memories to share with us? Any stories, documents, photographs of St Clements Church and the surrounding area? You can contact the project manager Nicola by email here or text/call 07930 019823.”

The picture below shows the tower of St Clements Church, Ipswich, which is right of centre in this snow covered view from a silo at Ipswich dock in January 1963.

Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVEPicture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

In the right background is the Civic College, which was officially opened in 1961. Fore Street runs across the picture.

The chimney of the town’s waterworks in Waterworks Street is centre left.

Close to St Clements Church was The Chequers Inn in New Street it closed in the late 1920s.

Picture: THE TITSHALL BROTHERSPicture: THE TITSHALL BROTHERS

In the picture above is Jim Chenery with his lorry from Frank Freston and Company of Princes Street.

Jim’s parents were landlord and lady at the pub and he had delivered bread from Joseph Hunt’s bakery when this photograph was taken.

The picture below shows the tower of St Clements Church which is behind this row of houses in Waterworks Street in the 1930s.

Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVEPicture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

All of the houses have gone and this section of Waterworks Street is now part of Star Lane, Ipswich, where thousands of vehicles pass every day.

This photograph was taken in the 1930s.

The Tower of St Clements Church is in the background of this mid 1930s photograph below.

Picture: WILLIAM LOVELLPicture: WILLIAM LOVELL

The lane was then lined with tiny houses. Fore Street Baths is on the right, and the former Angel Inn on the left, which closed in 1900, was then the St Clements Coffee House.

The houses and the coffee house were demolished soon after this photograph was taken.

The wall and railings of St Clements Church, Ipswich, are on the left of this undated photograph from early in the twentieth century.

Picture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVEPicture: DAVID KINDRED ARCHIVE

This section of road was then part of Waterworks Street and is now part of Star Lane.

The last picture of the gallery shows Church Street, Ipswich, (now renamed Grimwade Street) in the 1930s, with New Street off to the left.

This is one of Ipswich’s busiest roads now. The first house in the row, at the corner of New Street, has been replaced with student accommodation “Number 75”. St Clements Church stands opposite these buildings.

Picture: WILLIAM LOVELLPicture: WILLIAM LOVELL

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