Ipswich: Waterfront church restoration moving ahead as scaffolding goes up at St Mary at the Quay

St Mary at The Quay, Ipswich

St Mary at The Quay, Ipswich

Restoration work at one of Ipswich’s most historic churches has stepped up a gear as it has been surrounded by scaffolding.

St Mary at the Quay near the Waterfront is being restored by Suffolk MIND to be a new wellbeing and heritage centre for the town.

The multi-million pound project has received a £3.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Contractors began the restoration of the church at the start of the year and scaffolding has already gone up inside the building.

The project is due to be completed in September next year – from when it should become a major facility for the whole community.

Once completed the building will have a flexible community space open to all. It will offer wellbeing and heritage activities, a centre for local events, complementary therapy as well as a café.

The restoration of the church will mean that five of the historic redundant churches in Ipswich town centre and Waterfront area will have been converted into new uses over the last 20 years – only St Clement’s has still to find a permanent new use.

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Carole Thain from Suffolk MIND said everyone at the organisation was enthusiastic about the work – and was keen to show off what was happening to the community.

There was an open event at the church in February, and the charity is planning an official “ground breaking” ceremony next month to show off the progress.

She said: “It is tremendously exciting to see the scaffolding up. There is a lot of work to be done on the roof and on the columns in the church. Now we can really see things happening.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer is a keen supporter of the project and backed Suffolk MIND’s lottery bid.

He said: “It is great news that the scaffolding has gone up and people in Ipswich can see something is happening at the church.

“The project is very important on three counts: It is going to provide a vital new and urgently-needed facility for the town, it’s going to provide a new use for an historic building, and it’s helping to provide a link between the town centre and the Waterfront.”

St Mary at the Quay was built between 1450 and 1550 at which time it would have stood right on the quayside of the River Orwell.

It has a well-preserved hammer-beam roof which is one of the earliest examples of its type. The restoration of the roof is a key part of the overall work at the church.

The church was partially restored in the 1870s, but during the first half of the 20th century much of its congregation moved out of the town centre to new estates like Chantry, Whitton and Gainsborough.

In 1943 it was damaged by a bomb that fell near the docks and blew out many of its windows. It was not used regularly as a church after then.

At one stage it was used by the Boys Brigade as a hall and over recent years it has been used for theatre productions.

The restoration will give it a new permanent use for the first time in nearly three quarters of a century.