LISTEN: Hear amazing snippets of history from key Ipswich landmark
- Credit: Darren Meitner-Harvey
It is one of Ipswich’s most important and iconic landmarks - but for many, its illustrious past had become little more than a distant memory.
But now a group of dedicated historians have brought the heritage of a former church back to life in a series of stunning audio recordings recalling memories of its amazing past.
The 20-strong team of volunteers for the St Clement’s Memories and Recollections Project had a tough job finding people to help, given that the Fore Street site ceased being a church in 1973 and many of the homes surrounding it were demolished in the 1930s.
But after much perseverance they found people who shared fascinating memories of the place of worship which is being turned into Ipswich Arts Centre, including how it was once a prominent site for bell-ringing and the devastating fire which ripped through the building in 1995.
In her recording, resident Phyllis Scoffield talked about the “beautiful” sounds which rang out from the bells across Ipswich and the “hundreds and hundreds” of old houses which have since been demolished.
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The volunteers’ work, community leaders said at the launch of the exhibition at the University of Suffolk’s Waterfront Building, has been “vitally important” - because it has preserved a history of St Clement’s Church that might otherwise have been lost.
Mandy Gaylard, chairman of Ipswich Arts Centre, said the personal, human stories of how people related to the building had made the project unique.
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“What has come through isn’t just the heritage of the building and where it sits in history,” she said.
“The memories recorded here are not the sort of things you would read in a history book.
“It has been quite an honour to listen to people and hear their memories.”
Nick Black - a second year University of Suffolk history student who worked on the project, which was funded by a £9,900 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant - said: “This is a different way of looking at history. It is looking at people’s experiences of history and more how people have interacted with a historical place.”
Dr Harvey Osborne, head of the history department at the University of Suffolk, said: “Clearly this project couldn’t have worked without the community coming forward and sharing their memories.
“A lot of emphasis has gone in to understanding how people experienced and interacted with the church in the decades before its closure in 1973.
“Church history can be a little dull - but this project isn’t and is doing something different, looking at the experiences we otherwise wouldn’t know about.
“It does what good community history should do, which is involve the community in its own story.”
Organisers now hope to find a home for the exhibition or take it on tour around the town.