Floods, plagues, bombs and criminals – nine things you didn’t know about Quay Place in Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
Plagues, bombs, criminals, floods and storms – St Mary’s Church in Ipswich has seen its fair share of drama in its 700 year history.
But following a successful £3.4million renovation completed in October, the re-opened Grade II-listed church now known as Quay Place, is enjoying a fresh chapter as a health and wellbeing centre by Suffolk Mind.
Here are nine things you may not know about the historic space:
Columns in rubble
Special Caen limestone to repair the water-damaged columns was sourced from the same quarry in France as the original stone – and had to be inserted piece by piece. Keyholders during the early 2000s even had to bag and weigh the amount of rubble fallen from each pillar with geologists to ensure the right amount of stone was replaced.
Bolt out of the blue calls time on original clock
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The current clock was installed in 1877 by J A Haskell of Tavern Street in Ipswich – it replaced the original 17th Century clock after the cupola and clock tower were destroyed by lighting.
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The church was blessed with surviving bombing around the docks during the Second World War. On July 8 1940 a 100kg bomb pierced the roof and became embedded in the stone floor – but fortunately for the church (and Ipswich) neither that bomb or the other six released on the quay that night exploded. Unfortunately, Quay Place couldn’t escape damage in 1942 when a bomb shattered the glass windows and caused enough damage for its closure by 1948.
Reek from the river
A violent storm in 1843 caused the entire church to be flooded. The ground beneath the church is the original bank of the river and flooding vaults caused a terrible smell to engulf the church.
Pioneering ceiling carvings
The hammerbeam ceiling and roof features 96 carvings and in 1455 was the first complete double hammerbeam roof in the world.
Park provides a pew
The churchyard benches are made from a 200-year-old oak tree already felled in Holywells Park.
Prayer for the plague
After the plague arrived in Ipswich around April 1665, a common prayer was read at the church every Wednesday during the epidemic.
Saved by the friends
The church was almost set for demolition in 1959 until the Friends of Friendless Churches intervened – the Ipswich battalion of the Boys’ Brigade invested around £12,000 for improvements and used the building until 1973.
Safe haven from the law
The sanctuary ring on the inner south porch door was used by people on the run from the law.
Those fleeing the hands of the law could claim the rights of sanctuary from the authorities as long as they could get to the ring, but had to remain in the church.
Among its visitors was John Bryd in 1338 who sought sanctuary after the dead body of Adam Baldry was found near Ipswich.