A prominent Ipswich church will be redesignated by the bishop as a Minster, the Church of England in Suffolk announced today (May 9).

The church of St Mary le Tower in Ipswich town centre will become a Minster next year, coinciding with the 825th anniversary of Ipswich being granted its Royal Charter by King John.

The Minster designation recognises St Mary le Tower, which has been at the heart of Ipswich for more than 1,000 years, as a church of key significance to the town and reflects its spiritual and community role.

Ipswich Star: St Mary Le Tower is to become Ipswich MinsterSt Mary Le Tower is to become Ipswich Minster (Image: Paul Nixon)

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, made the announcement following months of consultation to assess whether St Mary le Tower should receive this designation, which is rarely granted.  

Ipswich Star: Rev Tom Mumford is delighted by the newsRev Tom Mumford is delighted by the news (Image: Paul Nixon)

In the last three decades, only 15 churches in the Church of England have become minsters and there are just 31 across the country.

The decision now sets in motion a development plan to strengthen St Mary le Tower’s response to the needs of people living in and visiting central Ipswich and prepare the celebrations in Ipswich for next year.

Ipswich Star: St Mary Le Tower is a big part of the communitySt Mary Le Tower is a big part of the community (Image: Paul Nixon)

The church, lit blue at the weekend in support of Ipswich Town’s successful promotion push, is recognised as the civic church for the town, hosting important services for civic duties.

Bishop Martin said: ‘‘I am hugely grateful to all those from across Ipswich and the wider county for the many considered contributions I have received to assist me in this decision.

‘‘There was a clear sense of the growing vocation of St Mary le Tower to serve the civic and community life of the town and respond to the spiritual and social needs of those living and working in the town centre, as well as those visiting central Ipswich. 

“In conferring this additional designation, my hope is that their vision will be energised.

‘‘I know we all share a growing aspiration for Ipswich as we seek to build up our common life together."

The term Ipswich Minster is an honorific title for churches within a town centre and with a key civic role and does not change the relationship between St Mary le Tower and neighbouring churches.

Ipswich Star: Tom Mumford with parisioners Photo: Paul NixonTom Mumford with parisioners Photo: Paul Nixon (Image: Paul Nixon)

The Revd Tom Mumford, vicar of St Mary le Tower, who will also be moving to a new home closer to the church, said: ‘‘We are delighted that civic leaders made this request and that Bishop Martin granted approval.

‘‘Our mission is to be a welcoming, inclusive and open church offering peace and sanctuary to the people of Ipswich.

“We want to be a place that the people of Ipswich know as their home, a place of care and support. 

“We also want to be a place that people come to Ipswich to visit, to enjoy the beautiful and historic building, as well as the remarkable town in which it is set." 

Ipswich Star: Ipswich Mayor Lynne Mortimer welcomed the newsIpswich Mayor Lynne Mortimer welcomed the news (Image: Paul Geater)

Many in the town were supportive of the news.

Councillor Lynne Mortimer, Mayor of Ipswich, said: “This recognition is a testament both to the rich heritage and the spiritual significance of St Mary le Tower to the town.

“This designation not only honours our past but also brightens our future.”

Professor Helen Langton Vice-Chancellor and CEO University of Suffolk said: “This is an important moment, signalling further ambition and aspiration for our town and its community."

Lady Clare, countess of Euston, said: “So wonderful to hear that blessings continue to arrive for Ipswich from on high! 

“Now, in addition to celebrating the exceptional performance of our team in blue and white, Ipswich will now have a Minster that truly befits the rich cultural heritage of our county town and the many centuries of dedicated worship and community support that St Mary le Tower has and will continue to deliver for local people long into the future.’’   

Ipswich Star: Youngsters enjoying the church's musical mission Photo Paul NixonYoungsters enjoying the church's musical mission Photo Paul Nixon (Image: Paul Nixon)

St Mary le Tower is one of the churches that offers the community a top up shop on Wednesdays where people fill a bag of groceries for £2. It also offers lunchtime recitals.

Thousands of visitors every year also enjoy the Christmas Tree Festival (Trees @ the Tower) where the trees are bought or sponsored by a business, charity, community group or charity from Ipswich.