St Clement Church
The Sailor's Church

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement Ogilby map 1674Courtesy Stephen Govier, Suffolk historian
The engraving above is from John Ogilby's map of Ipswich, 1674.
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 172016 images

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 8   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 9
Although St Clement Church doesn't appear at first to have much to offer the lettering-hunter, it does have historic texts connected to it. The church was declared redundant in the early 1970s. Immediately outside the west door of the church is a stone obelisk, apparently erected in 1996 after the refurbishments following a disastrous fire which badly damaged the interior and the 1880s roof. In 2016 the church in slow, steady transformation into Ipswich Arts Centre.
Ipswich Historic Letering: Slade plaque 1   Ipswich Historic Letering: Slade plaque 2
See our Plaques page for the full text.
Have a look at our Street furniture (Waterworks) page for  an 1881 map which includes  the church.

The church tower behind the above obelisk features two of the signature anchors of St Clement on one face. Among many traditions of St. Clement there is a fascinating one. St. Clement was exiled to the Crimea and was condemned to work in the marble quarries there (he is, amongst other things the patron saint of stone-cutters). He was subsequently martyred in AD98 by being thrown into the Black Sea with an anchor tied round his neck. His friends were grieved that they could not recover his body, so they begged God to tell them how it could be found. Their prayers were answered, for the sea retired and when they followed the receding waters they found his body enshrined in a beautiful temple built by angelic hands. The anchor is now St. Clement’s symbol. He is sometimes represented with a fountain near him, which is said to have sprung up when he and his fellow workers were dying of thirst in a desert place among the quarries where he was condemned to work.
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements tower 1   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clents tower 2   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clents tower 32014 images
These notes on the church, initialled 'kw 2013' (presumably Keith Wade) give us more information on the importance of St Clement.
"St Clement's is one of our twelve surviving medieval churches (only York and Norwich have more) and of the half of these that have been declared redundant it is, sadly, the only one for which a use has not been found*. It is therefore cared for by the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust [see Links]. Although the church now looks a little folorn it is still very impressive – certainly from the outside and the interior  perhaps even more so. It is the only St Clement's in Suffolk.
The main structure dates from the late 14th and early 15th centuries, although the upper part of the tower is Tudor [1485-1603] and the chancel was rebuilt in 1860 to the design of Frederick Barnes. It is one of our three dockside churches and was long known as The Sailor's Church; many interesting monuments attest to this association. The circumnavigator Thomas Eldred and Thomas Slade the designer of Nelson's 'Victory' are the two most famous burials here.
The tower holds six bells by John Darbie of Ipswich and the clock has a carillon (now in need of repair) from which every three hours during the day, hymn tunes once rang out. This was a notable local feature and was for many years celebrated by a nearby inn called 'The Musical Clock'.
Two small monumental brasses, one missing a figure, are to be seen at the east end of the nave and in the south aisle there are indications that a third one has been lost.
The 15th century font depicts the four evangelists along with shields and lions but at the base, strangely but not unusually, there are wild, hairy men bearing clubs.
The carved and painted royal arms survive from 1661when Charles II of England, Scotland & Ireland was crowned in Westminster Abbey, for the second time; the arms feature, unusually, images of Adam and Eve at the based. The organ now welcomes parishioners in Selworthy, Somerset.
There are three good Victorian stained glass windows and a very impressive east window of modern glass that commemorates those of the parish who fell in the Second World War. Below it the fine reredos is a reminder of that earlier conflict."

[*This sheet was handed out at an event in May 2014 at the church (when the photographs, below, of the interior were taken) when the late Dr John Blatchly, Chair of the I.H.C.T., spoke eloquently and plans were laid for conversion of the church into Ipswich Arts Centre, similar to those in churches in Norwich and Colchester.
Interestingly, there once was St Clement's Chapel in Harkstead Parish, last recorded in a 16th century will. Its cemetery was named as a boundary later in the same cetury. Its site is close to the shore of the RIver Stour, on the south of the Shtloey peninsula. The dedication to St Clement has Danish links and points to the trans-North Sea connections established after the conquest by Cnut (1016). (Information from Laverton, S. see Reading list.)
The St Clement font is tucked away in a corner,
perhaps moved and possibly plastered over to avoid the destructive attentions of puritans in the century following the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541) and establishment of the Church of England. The Earl of Manchester gave Parliamentary commander William Dowsing (1596–1668) the brief of enforcing the August 1643 ordinance against religious images, seen as idolatry, in the eastern counties during the English Civil War (1642–1651). Dowsing conducted a campaign of iconoclastic reformation on a scale that does not appear to have been undertaken anywhere else in the country, including London. Over 250 churches in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk were 'purged'. This is why so many Suffolk church fonts, sculptures and figurines have their faces knocked off or obliterated.]

Inside the church
Looking towards the tower and belfry, we find serpentine scrolls painted on the plaster on either side of the carved, painted coat of arms with the legends:
in you the Hope of
Which hope
we have as an
Anchor of the Soul'
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 2   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 32014 images
Simon's Suffolk Churches (see Links) tells us that: "The royal arms, which fortunately survived the fire, are probably the best example of Ipswich's familiar Charles II sets - these are different to the others in that they are carved and gilded rather than being painted on boards or canvas."
There are a number of memorials in the church including several relating to the famous Cobbold family of the Tolly Cobbold brewery.

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 5   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 6
A variety of memorials in a group and a square tablet mounted diagonally (see also the tablet dedicated to Rev. George Routh below):
'To the
Glory of God
and in
loving remembrance
of His faithful Servant

-1837-   -1917-
this memorial is
placed by her children'

St Clement, as well as being known as 'The Sailor's Church', can also be thought of as 'The Cobbold Church', as we shall see.
Looking towards the chancel, there is further lettering high up and difficult to capture:

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 7
Below left:
'Here Lyeth the Body
of Mary the Wife of
Late of this Parrish

This Stone never to
be Removed and to
Disanall the will of
ye Dead is not Good
Presumably the word 'Disanall' means 'disobey'; this amounts almost to the threat of a curse on anyone who removes the stone. The double-'r' in 'Parrish' is somehow satisfying.
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 8   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 9
Above right:
'In Memory of
late a Captain
in his Majeftie's
Royal Navy
dies 19th. Janry. 1773
Aged 59 Years.

And of REBECCA his Wife
who died 10th. May 1797
Aged 85 Years'
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 10
Above: a disconnected radiator (with scrolled decoration at the top) indicates that the church did once have a heating system of sorts.
Below: the east window, partially obscured by the reredos, features several lettered passages. The largest of these is the assymetrical:

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 11   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clement 11a
Below: some of the decorative floor tiling.
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 12   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 13
Set into the floor in front of the chancel:
'The Vault of the
late Rector of
this Parish,
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clements 15
A refurbished memorial stone to Thomas Cobbold which has been mounted on the wall near to the font:
'To the Memory
Common Brewer,
who departed this life
April the 21st. 1767,
In the 59th. year
of his Age.'

Boundary markers
Boundary markers can be found for St Clements parish which stretches all the way from the Wet Dock to St Clements Hospital in Foxhall Road. Such things happen, no doubt when you have three large parish churches within about a mile along the northern edge of the Wet Dock (including St Mary-at-Quay and St Peter's Church). You can see the parish marker on our Old Hospitals page. See our Boundary marker gallery for further examples.
These images show two stone block markers built into the walls of the Jewish Cemetery, lying between Star Lane and Salthouse Street. On the outer wall, clost to the gate:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements marker 1
The marker inside the Jewish Cemetery wall is better defined, but almost impossible to capture when the gates are locked...
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements marker 2
See our Boundary markers gallery for better images.

St Clements Church Hall
The nearby St Clements Church Hall which fronts Grimwade Street once bore incised lettering below the left hand window. See the 1983 photograph below:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements Hall 1983Photograph courtesy The Ipswich Society
We assume that this large name tablet was covered with cement (photographs below) when the church sold the hall for commercial use. In 2013 it is a private gymnasium.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements Hall 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements Hall 22013 images
[UPDATE 19.12.2013: "The talk you gave at Museum Street Church on Wednesday evening was a rewarding demonstration of how one can so easily miss enjoyable details of the local area. Thank you for that.
I have been a resident of Ipswich for all of my seventy-four years and thus soon found my way to your very interesting website, of which, so far, I have not had time to examine in depth. However, I believe the two attached pictures, that I took, in the pre-digital age of – I think the mid nineteen-eighties – might actually be a small improvement on the relevant ones you already have. Please use them as you wish.
Seeing Anthony Cobbold in the audience on Wednesday, for obvious reasons, I have also sent the pictures to him. Best Wishes, John Bulow-Osborne." Many thanks to John for the excellent photographs and comments. He also contributes much of our Lost trade signs gallery.]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements Hall 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements Hall 4Images courtesy John Bulow-Osborne
At last we can read the nicely chiselled lettering below the east window of the hall and can't help speculating why someone has bothered to cover it up with cement. The Cobbold Family History Trust (always an invaluable resource for all things 'Cobbold': see Links) tells us that John Murray Cobbold (1897-1944) was an '8th generation Brewer. Founder of Ipswich Town Football Club'.
"The sixth John Cobbold, grandson of the Earl of Dunmore, must have vexed his parents for he was nicknamed 'Ivan the terrible.' It stuck and he was known as Ivan for the rest of his life. He joined the Scots Guards in 1915, was injured but not seriously in France and left the army at the end of the war. He was a keen sportsman and as one of the best shots in the country it was a pursuit he shared with King George VI. He joined the family brewing business and was present at the 200th anniversary celebrations on 30th July 1923 at Holywells succeeding to the chairmanship on his father's death in 1929. Following a chance meeting with Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, Chairman of Arsenal and a visit to Highbury 'Capt.' Ivan (as he then was) put up the money necessary for Ipswich Town Football Club to turn professional. The amateur club had been founded in 1878 by the boys of Ipswich School under the presidency of Thomas Clement Cobbold MP (1833-1883) his great uncle, with a distinctive Corinthian culture which survives to this day. WWII saw him back in uniform now with the rank of Colonel only to be tragically killed when a doodlebug hit the Guards Chapel during Sunday morning service on 18th June 1944. Ironically it was in that same chapel that he had married Lady Blanche, daughter of the 11th Duke of Devonshire. They had just celebrated their Silver Wedding."

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The following text is taken from The History & Description of the Town and Borough of Ipswich including the Villages and Country Seats in its Vicinity more particularly those situated on the Banks of the Orwell by G.R. Clarke, 1830 (see Reading List for an online version). Modern historians of Ipswich often cite or quote from G.R. Clarke, so it is instructive to look at the original 1830 book. The language and plethora of punctuation make this passage difficult to unpick, but we have reference to Wykes Bishop and Wykes Ufford hamlets (see our Ransomes page) and it finishes with a brief description of St Clement's Church. Pages 300-302:-

‘In ancient times, the banks on this side [the north and east of what we today know as the Wet Dock] of the river were inhabited by the principle people of the town: and it is certain that many of their houses have been converted into malt-offices; several of which are still objects of curiosity, and their origins worthy of research. We can remember, in our time, when the most eminent merchants in the place occupied the many capital mansions near this spot, which are now empty, and going to decay; as it is, at present, the fashion for them to remove from the confinement  and bustle of business, to their elegant rural retreats in the suburbs: in the consequence of which, the vicinity of Ipswich has been very much improved.

St. Clement’s Church was early and wholly impropriated to the Priory of St. Peter, without any vicarage created: and its being thus impropriated, when the last value was made, it was not valued in the king’s books. It was granted, in the seventh year of Edward VI. [?: reigned 1547-1553] to Webb and Breton; but it afterwards came to Robert Broke and William Bloise; who presented a clerk to the rectory, in 1606, and thereby restored the rector to all his rights and dues. This church is now consolidated with St Helen’s. “King Richard gave Wykes, a member of Ipswich, to John Oxenford, bishop of Norwich; which shall answer to Ipswich for 10, and the bishop of Norwich holdeth it, but it is not known by what service.” It appears by Ipswich Domesday, that, in the time of Richard I., the town used to pay 10 per annum, to the bishop of Norwich, – to be deducted out of the fee-farm rent. The hamlet and manor of Wykes Bishop, was, afterwards confirmed to John le Gray, bishop of Norwich by King John; and it belonged to the bishops of Norwich, till it was given to King Henry VIII., by act of parliament, in 1535; who granted it, 1545, to Sir John Jermie, Knight. John Cobbold, esq., is, at present, lord of the manor. While the bishops of Norwich had it, they used, frequently, to reside at their house, situated near the south side of the road leading towards Nacton, from Bishops’ Hill; which is, now, a square field, that appears to have been, formerly, moated round. Many institutions, &c. are said, in the books at Norwich, to have been granted at this place. The church of Wykes is sometimes mentioned in old writings; but it is not known where it stood, and, possibly, it might be no more than a chapel, for the use of the bishop and his family.

Within this parish lieth, also, part of the hamlet of Wykes Ufford, though the greater part of it is in the parishes of Rushmere and Westerfield: it was so called from the family of De Ufford, who were earls of Suffolk, to whom it was granted. In the tenth year of Edward II. 1316, Robert de Ufford held, on the day of his death, a certain soke, in Wyke junta, Gippiwic, with view of frank pledge, and other appurtenances, to the said soke, belonging to the King in Capite, by the service of one knight’s fee, and 4 : 13 : 4 rent of the profits of the toll of the town of Ipswich, of the K. of C. by the service aforesaid, and a tenement called Kettleber-west-heath, in soccage, by the service of one pair of gilded spurs, annually; and, also, of the K. in C. the manor of Ufford, by the service of one knight’s fee. The Willoughbys had it, afterwards, by descent, from Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk; in Queen Elizabeth’s time, Sir John Brewes; then Sir Edmund Witypoll, and it has gone with the Christ Church state ever since; but the advowson is now vested in the Rev. J.T. Nottidge, A.M.

Beyond St Clement’s street, between the two hamlets, stood St. James’s Chapel; which probably belonged to St. James’s Hospital, situated on a piece of ground abutting on the Rope-ground, about half an acre, more or less; which is glebe belonging to St Helen’s rectory. From hence, and from the fair which King John, in 1199, granted to the lepers of St. Mary Magdalene, in Ipswich, to be held on the morrow of St. James’ Hospital and the leprous-house of St. Mary Magdalene; which stood somewhere near St. Helen’s church.

It is not known at what period St. Clement’s church was built, as it is not mentioned in Doomsday. It was, probably, erected instead of the dilapidated church of Osterbolt, which stood near where the stepples formerly were, at the Bull’s Head corner, and took its name from the east-gate that was near this spot. The antiquated church of Osterbolt is mentioned in the twenty-first year of Edward III. 1348; therefore, the present church must have been built since that time., for it appears to be not very ancient.

The present church has three aisles; the middle one is narrow, but lofty, and lighted by twelve windows on each side; the north and south aisles are low, and the pews very irregular. The altar-piece is modern, handsomely panelled, with mouldings, in mahogany; in the centre, a circular glory is painted; on the north side is a painting of the Salutation of the Virgin Mary, and on the other side, the Agony of Our Saviour, very well executed, by Mr. J. Smart. The handsome brass chandelier was presented, as the inscription implies, by “Master Mileson Edgar, to St. Clement’s Parish, Anno Domini, 1700.” '

St Clements Church Lane
To the left of the Parochial Church Hall is a very old thoroughfare, now a shadow of its former self: St Clements Church Lane. At the Grimwade Street end is a pair of bollards to prevent vehicular access beneath an attractive iron arch with central hanging lamp. We believe that The Ipswich Society (see Links)  lobbied for the lamp to be made live and lit at night.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements nameplate 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements nameplate 2
Some conflict between the two street nameplates: on the church hall side it is merely 'ST. CLEMENTS' (interesting to see the unnecessary full stop here); on the opposite wall a nameplate with coat of arms reads 'ST. CLEMENTS CHURCH LANE'. As is common with street nameplates, there is no possessive apostrophe. One wonders why the pasageway warrants two nameplates when some larger thoroughfares have one or none, also why they differ. An 1881 map detail of the area can be viewed on our Street furniture page (relating to the Ipswich Corporation Water Works); it shows the western end of 'ST. CLEMENT'S CHURCH LANE', opposite the present site of Fore Street Baths, (opened 1894) the houses stand shoulder-to shoulder down to the junction with Angel Lane and Fore Street. Angel Lane in modern times is a mere entrance to a car park.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements nameplate 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements nameplate 42014 images
[UPDATE 10.12.2014: "There's a very simple explanation for this one actually. If you look at your picture of the 'St Clements' only side, you can see six giveaway screw holes. The 'Church Lane' part was on a second plate, subsequently removed. I have no idea when it was taken away, but I can certainly remember it being there! -Nigel" We clearly didn’t look closely enough. It poses one further question: why did they split the nameplates?]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements 222016 images
A few steps along the lane is the side door into the St Clement Rectory with two ancient headstones cut into the brickwork. The smaller of the two is inscribed:
'B + H
and the larger, more difficult to decipher, is dated '1771'. Other headstones, no doubt moved from their original places in the churchyard, stand along the lane.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements 23   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Clements 24

The view from St Clements Church Lane

Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 152016 images

Here is the south elevation of St Clement, the tower bearing a smart clock with gold characters.
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 19   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 18
Facing the south door is a good example of reclamation and refurbishment of an old building for a new use: residential. The oval plaque reads:
Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 20   Ipswich Historic Letering: St Clement 21
Further down St Clements Church lane, at the north-east corner of the Fore Street Baths building is a rear entrance and passageway down to the back of The Lord Nelson public house (fronting 81 Fore Street). The wrought iron gate with its pleasant metal arch and central lamp, is nicely lettered and painted. An earlier public house here (c. 1750-1807) was called The Noah's Ark. It could have been renamed The Lord Nelson when the great sailor was appointed High Sheriff of Ipswich in 1801. It retained two bars and a separate restaurant room until 1995 when major internal alterations were undertaken [information from Suffolk CAMRA, see Links]. The original, older pub building is to the west; The Lord Nelson is Listed Grade II: "A C17 timber-framed and plastered building with a jettied upper storey to the west half of the block, with exposed timber-framing and exposed joists. 2 storeys and attics. The 1st storey windows are 3, 4 and 5-light mullioned casements with leaded lights. The ground storey is in C20 brick and has continuous windows along the front. Roof tiled, with 3 gabled dormers."

See also St Clement Congregational Church, Back Hamlet for a Victorian non-conformist place of worship in this parish.

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