Church is in Vera's heart
SHE may hold the keys to her church but it is the church which holds the key to Vera Webb's heart.And from polishing the font to raising money for repairs, she has done everything in her power to protect Ipswich's St Mary-at-Quay church since it was bombed in 1943.
SHE may hold the keys to her church but it is the church which holds the key to Vera Webb's heart.
And from polishing the font to raising money for repairs, she has done everything in her power to protect Ipswich's St Mary-at-Quay church since it was bombed in 1943.
Now the 96-year-old is to be honoured when the Churches Conservation Trust visits the Key Street place of worship next Wednesday to thank her for her dedication.
Mrs Webb, who first attended the waterfront church in the 1930s after moving to nearby Foundation Street where she still lives, said: “I used to go to the church with my husband and children, it was my church.
“When it was bombed I decided I was going to save it.
“I fought for it for a long while and made sure no one could touch it or knock it down. I wrote letters and campaigned to make sure.
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“It is a wonderful church.”
Mrs Webb, a great-great-grandmother whose first husband, Albert Longhurst, died in the last days of the Second World War, said it was important for her to keep the history of the church alive.
She added: “They are putting up lots of high-rise buildings now but Ipswich is a historic town and it is nice to keep the history alive.
“At one point they tried to take the font from the church to another church but I went to court to get it back.
“I would do nearly anything to save it and am pleased that by working so hard I helped to keep it going.”
Mrs Webb, who worked in the catering trade while volunteering for the church and raising ten children, said she had organised bring and buy sales and sung to the elderly in order to raise money for repairs to the building.
But she added that she had lost count long ago of how much money she had collected in total.
In fact, Mrs Webb did so much for the church that it was opened especially for her around 30 years ago so her grandson, Mark, could be christened - the first christening since the bombing.
And when she dies, Mrs Webb even plans to have her ashes scattered in the church.
Chloe Cockerill, from The Churches Conservation Trust, said the charity, which supports the church providing it with a secure future, was thrilled to be celebrating Mrs Webb's achievements.
She added: “She is fantastic and we are very lucky to have volunteers like her.
“She's done everything in her time. She's really dedicated to the church, she loves it.”
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St Mary-at-Quay church
The church was built in the 1450s and was restored in the 1870s.
It is built on marshy soil and as a result water used to flood the vaults and make the church smelly.
In 1898 the church closed and the vaults were dug out and filled in to try and address the problem but it recurred, causing frequent closures.
In 1943 German bombs fell beside the church destroying the windows and causing other major structural damage and it has not been used for worship ever since.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, the church was used as a hall by Ipswich Boys Brigade.
It is now used for plays and art displays and is open to the public thanks to the keyholder - Vera Webb.
SOURCE: Suffolk Churches