'Magnificent' empty building in Ipswich could become arts venue

The bells at St Clements Church chimed to the tune of famous sea shanties 

St Clement's Church has been redundant for more than 40 years - but could be about to get a new lease of life - Credit: Charlotte Bond

One of Ipswich's most historic and important churches could be turned into an arts and music venue as part of plans to keep one of the town's leading landmarks alive.

The 15th century St Clement's Church, in Star Lane, has been empty and unused for 40 years - and was hit by a disastrous fire in the 1990s.

Yet the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust (IHCT) is "dedicated to not losing it", because of its historical significance as a landmark which remained while Ipswich changed around it.

John Field and Peter Brooks outside St Clement's Church

Architect John Field and Peter Brooks, chairman of Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, outside St Clement's Church - Credit: Ipswich Historic Churches Trustc

The Grade II Listed Building appeared to get a new lease of life in 2016, when plans to convert it into Ipswich Arts Centre were approved.

Yet the picturesque building, which boasts memorials to some of the town's leading past figures, has spent another five years unused after organisers could not attract funding.


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However, fresh plans for St Clement's Church to be turned into an arts venue for live music, exhibitions, community gatherings and conferences have been submitted.

If they are approved by Ipswich council's planning committee on Wednesday, IHCT chairman Peter Brooks is confident the organisation can fundraise to finally bring the church back to life.

This isn't the first time a planning application has been submitted to revamp St Clement's Church

St Clement's Church could become a popular venue for events - Credit: Ipswich Historic Churches Trust

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"It's now down to the trust itself to make some progress and take the church back into use," he said.

"We have this thriving Waterfront and St Clement's sits extremely close to the Waterfront.

"We have several people keen on using the church for events. It feels this is the way forward for the church."

One of those is a group looking to stage a theatrical production, he said.

"From the people we talk to, there's a great deal of excitement about what we're proposing," said Mr Brooks, who added that St Clement's has an "absolutely enormous" role in Ipswich's history.

"We can't keep it just as a monument. Keeping buildings alive just as monuments is extremely expensive and is not a long-term solution.

"The church needs to have a function. It is a magnificent building and it will be extremely good for this part of town.

"It would be a disaster to lose this church and we are dedicated to not losing it."

While council planners have recommended the plans are approved, they have insisted on strict noise limits due to the age of the building.

"The proposals would see the retention of this important Grade II Listed Building as a community facility," a planning committee report said. 

They believe the changes would "add significantly to the vitality and viability of the town centre".

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