New life for old church

IPSWICH'S Age Concern tearooms are to move to a temporary home in the old Gatsby's bar at the Corn Exchange early next year while their new permanent home is prepared.

IPSWICH'S Age Concern tearooms are to move to a temporary home in the old Gatsby's bar at the Corn Exchange early next year while their new permanent home is prepared.

Work to convert St Lawrence Church, in Dial Lane, into a new drop-in centre and café for the charity is due to start in January.

That is the same time that work on Town Hall, which will convert it into the council's customer service centre, is due to get underway.

That means that the current café and drop-in centre will have to close – forcing the move into the Corn Exchange.

Age Concern's Suffolk chief executive, Daphne Savage said: "We are very much looking forward to moving to our new home next August.

"The borough council is carrying out the major restoration and making the necessary structural changes – but we shall have to complete the fitting out and furnish it all out.

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"It will cost us about £100,000 and we're already looking at ways of raising the money."

The church would be a great improvement on Age Concern's current premises in the basement of the town hall.

"We are very fond of our tearoom, but the ceilings are quite low and one of the rooms has no natural light.

"St Lawrence's will be a great improvement on that – we are really looking forward to moving in," Mrs Savage said.

The church was last used as a place of worship in 1974 and was officially declared redundant in 1980.

It was transferred to the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust and occasionally used for special events until dry rot was discovered in the floor in the 1990s, forcing it to be removed.

Since then the church has been shut up waiting for a new use – although the impressive tower with some of the oldest bells in the town was restored in the late 1990s.

"We are hoping that we can officially open on August 10, that's the feast day of St Lawrence and it would be very appropriate," said Mrs Savage.

Alongside this move, the borough council is preparing for its move to new offices in Russell Road.

The planning application for the new offices – to be built opposite Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House headquarters – is to be discussed by borough planners in December.

Work on that project is due to start early in the new year, and it is due to be open for business by Easter 2006.

What do you think of the new use for St Lawrence church? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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