HMS Victory model presented to church where ship's designer is buried

Victory model

John Norman from the Ipswich Society with Peter Brooks at the unveiling of the HMS Victory model. - Credit: Stuart Grimwade/Ipswich Sociey

Ipswich's St Clement's Church has become home to a model of HMS Victory - the finest work of the most illustrious occupant of its churchyard. 

Naval architect Sir Thomas Slade was born in Ipswich and trained at Harwich dockyard before going on to become one of England's most important shipbuilders.

In the 1750s he designed what was to become the Royal Navy's best-known ship of all time. He saw it launched in 1765 but he died in 1771 before it entered service. He is buried in St Clement's churchyard.

Now a model of HMS Victory made by Henry Tomkins has been given to the church which is being restored as a new arts centre and performance space.

Victory model

The model of HMS Victory took Henry Tomkins five years to complete. - Credit: David Vincent

Mr Tomkins made the model after retiring to Suffolk in 1987. Before then he was an engineer and lecturer in London - and he made the Victory while caring for his wife during his retirement.

He died earlier this year at the age of 94 and his family presented the model to the church.

His daughter Sandra Reynolds said: “He would work on his models in the evening, while mum was watching TV.

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"He was always meticulous. The model of the Victory took five years and it was very detailed. There are hundreds of pieces. He was very obsessive about getting things right.

“He really did love making things, models and dolls houses for the grandchildren. He came from an engineering background and for many years he worked at University College London where he was a departmental supervisor.

“I think he would be pleased that it is somewhere where people will be able to see it. As a family we are happy it is somewhere where people can enjoy it.”

The model was unveiled by Peter Brooks, chairman of the Historic Churches Trust during the Ipswich Society Garden Party which took place inside St Clement’s last week.

Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, which cares for the church, said that donations are always welcome, helping to bring this fine medieval building back into regular use.

The model can be seen by the public when the church is open for the Heritage Open Day weekend on September 10 and 11.

St Clement's Church in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

St Clements church is now an arts and performance venue. - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile the team raising funds for the church and hoping to install new toilets and a kitchen at the church think they have identified the actual site of Sir Thomas Slade's grave.

He is believed to have been buried in the middle of the churchyard - but during the Victorian era part of the graveyard was taken for new buildings, including Fore Street Baths.

But now it is thought Sir Thomas' grave is next to some other family members near the churchyard's edge.