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Floods, plagues, bombs and criminals - nine things you didn't know about Quay Place in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 15:06 16 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:06 16 February 2017

Old St Mary Quay Place

Old St Mary Quay Place

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Plagues, bombs, criminals, floods and storms - St Mary's Church in Ipswich has seen its fair share of drama in its 700 year history.

Quay Place Wellbeing and Heritage Centre in Ipswich is now open to the public.Quay Place Wellbeing and Heritage Centre in Ipswich is now open to the public.

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:

The renovated Quay Place wellbeing and heritage centreThe renovated Quay Place wellbeing and heritage centre

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.

The columns mid-renovation at Quay Place. Picture: Lucy TaylorThe columns mid-renovation at Quay Place. Picture: Lucy Taylor

Bolt out of the blue calls time on original clock

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.

The clock at Quay Place. Picture: Andy AbbottThe clock at Quay Place. Picture: Andy Abbott

Time bomb

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.

The bomb damaged silo from WW2 was opposite the church. The church lost all its stained glass windows in the blast.The bomb damaged silo from WW2 was opposite the church. The church lost all its stained glass windows in the blast.

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.

Quay Place, formerly St Mary at the Quay during its renovation. Picture: Simon ParkerQuay Place, formerly St Mary at the Quay during its renovation. Picture: Simon Parker

Pioneering ceiling carvings

The hammerbeam ceiling and roof features 96 carvings and in 1455 was the first complete double hammerbeam roof in the world.

The hammerbeam roof at Quay Place. Picture: Lucy TaylorThe hammerbeam roof at Quay Place. Picture: Lucy Taylor

Park provides a pew

The churchyard benches are made from a 200-year-old oak tree already felled in Holywells Park.

One of the Quay Place benches made from a 200-year-old oak tree which had already been felled from Holywells ParkOne of the Quay Place benches made from a 200-year-old oak tree which had already been felled from 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.

Old St Mary Quay PlaceOld St Mary Quay Place

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.

St Mary at the Quay, Ipswich, in the 1950s, when the church was at risk of demolition.St Mary at the Quay, Ipswich, in the 1950s, when the church was at risk of demolition.

Safe haven from the law

The sanctuary ring on the inner south porch door was used by people on the run from the law.

The sanctuary ring at Quay Place in IpswichThe sanctuary ring at Quay Place in Ipswich

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.

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