Clement Congregational Church
This is a red brick Victorian church of a decent size which many
people seem not to have noticed. Its neighbour across Back Hamlet, Holy
Trinity Church is somewhat more prominent by dint of its tower.
Standing on the corner of Back Hamlet and Long Street the
Congregational church is named after the Potteries/dockland area of St
Clement's, which in turn is named after the parish served by the Church
of St Clement, the Mariners' Church on Star Lane.
Scroll down for a painted portrait of Edward Grimwade.
EDWARD GRIMWADE . J.P.
BORN AUG. 26. 1812, DIED NOV.25. 1886.
THIS STONE WAS LAID BY
E.W. GRIMWADE, OF CROYDON,
OCTOBER 26. 1887.
WILLIAM EADE. ARCHITECT.
F. BENNETT. BUILDER.
Simon's Suffolk Churches (see Links)
tells us: "St Clement's Congregational church is associated with one of
the most famous Ipswich names, Grimwade. The Grimwades were a
prosperous retail family with a large department store on the Cornhill and their fingers in a number of
other pies. As is common with the urban capitalist families of East
Anglia, they were dissenters - the offices on the top floor of the
store were given over to the National Protestant League, who had a
proud signage on to the Cornhill. In the 1860s, the Grimwades built the
hall on the corner of Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet, now converted to
apartments as the GM Building, but known to an earlier generation of
Gippeswykians as Grimwade Memorial Hall.
It was used for assemblies of the congregation, but was soon too small
for this purpose, and so in 1887 the grand church directly across the
road was built, in the full confidence of late-Victorian
non-conformism. The architect was William Eade, and the Hall was built
as a memorial to Edward Grimwade, who had died the previous year."
Heritage Open Day, 20 September 2014
We were able to look inside this 'not-open-very-often' church,
although it wasn't open for Heritage Open Day, rather for cyclists on
the Round Suffolk Churches Ride.
At the eastern exterior of the building a substantial and original
boundary wall can be seen at the rear of houses on Back Hamlet. Facing
it are the structural features shown below. The
church's organ stands on the other side of this east wall.
The first thing which strikes the visitor is the large,
impressive interior with a simple, Victorian version of a traditional
double hammerbeam roof as seen inside St
Mary-At-The-Key. The second thing is the 'The
Bishop' occupying much of the east wall.
This is a reference to the musical instrument built and installed by
local organ builders Bishop & Son, who still trade from premises in
This large church organ is well-known in certain circles – the church
sells a CD of music played on it. When we visited we were told that
rain had got into the church and on inspection of damage, it was
discovered that the electric pump powering the instrument had been
installed in a pit, perhaps to ensure minimum leakage of noise into the
church. Rainwater had filled the pit and damaged the pump. Only two
repairers could be found who could tackle the job and the pump was
In 2017 we learnt that the original intention was for there to
be no organ at all, the human voice being sufficient. This is why the
wall features beneath the circular window do not fit in with the shape
of the organ pipes. The magnificent woodwork below, including the wide
seating was installed at the same time. Being a Congregational church,
there is no altar.
At the opposite end of the church is a full-width gallery with
raked seating. Access is via the left of the two doors seen on the
front elevation, with a staircase in the pointed tower, ensuring that
no seating is lost. The only time anyone goes up in the gallery these
days is the twice-a-year seasonal adjustment of the clock attached to
the decorative front. (Why do we British persist with this arcane
activity?) By 2017, the clock had been removed to the body of the
church to avoid any accidents in this procedure.
The congregation at the time of our visit was said to be ten people 'on
a good day', but at least church members always occupy the same seats,
as testified by the two named envelopes placed on the pews. The ground
floor pews themselves seem to have been designed for specific
families as the vertical divisions between right and left pews are
irregular. Brass fittings and troughs at the pew ends take the
umbrellas, walking-sticks and (perhaps) swords of attendees before they
take their seats.
There are only two memorial plaques on the walls of the
interior. The first is brass with features picked out in black
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Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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