Stephen Govier, Suffolk historian
Above: the engraving of St Margaret from Ogilvy's
1674 map of Ipswich.
The oldest part of St. Margaret Church dates back to the end
of the 13th century, and was built by the priors of Holy Trinity Priory (which once stood on
the site of the nearby Christchurch Mansion)
to house the growing town population which could no longer be
accommodated in the nave of the Priory Church which stood nearby.
The Priory Church was then used by the priors and St Margaret used for
congregation. The nave arcades,
doorways and the windows in the north aisle are all that is left of
that first church. About 1450 the nave walls were cut away to put in
the clerestory windows, and the double hammer-beam roof was
constructed. The roof panels were painted towards the end of the
17th century and were restored some years ago. The decorative
scheme in this roof is unparalleled and therefore of national
importance. In 1800 twisted iron stays were introduced to prevent the
walls from splaying out under the weight of the roof. The south
elevation and the rebuilt, higher tower are Victorian alterations and
additions. It is regarded as the finest church in Ipswich.
This buttress can be found on the path from the Bolton Lane entrance to the churchyard. It
features a rather battered Lombardic letter 'T' reminiscent
that found on a buttress doorway into Sir Thomas Rush's chapel at St
Stephen Church. The shapes beneath suggest that another carved
feature might have been removed. Above can be seen a carved stone
Further along this path, another buttress with mongram:
Round at the front of the church on the tower is
a fine blue
clock face which has obviously been restored. It features the wording
'MOORE IPSWICH 1778'
The clock face sits on a small, curved bracket which
has the numerals '1737' carved into it and coloured blue.
See our page on Public
clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the church frontage and its
The south porch boasts "Lion stops to the hoodmould dated 1993,
part of a programme of repairs to the church by Nicholas Jacob
Architects completed in 1996... The chancel arch [within] has crowns,
fleurons and shields on the responds. Splendid double-hammerbeam roof
late C15. Figures against the wall-posts. Decorated wall-plate.
Initials and merchant's marks
of donors both here and on the stonework of the clerestory. PAINTINGS
the panels between the main timbers of the nave roof. Executed in
1694-5, some on plaster, others on boards. They form a tribute to
William and Mary, with loyal texts and allegorical paintings, and in
one panel the normally carefree putti are replaced by ones mourning the
death of Queen Mary at the end of 1694. Signatures of various craftsmen
have been found, including William
Artis (joiner carpenter and painter), Thomas Artis and 'WK', perhaps William Kersey (house carpenter),
but the finer painting is thought to be the work of William Carpenter or Thomas Steward,
both working in Ipswich at the time. Shields added in 1700, the
tie-rods in 1803... FONT Damaged Perp bowl originally with eight
angels. One holds a scroll inscribed 'Sal et Saliva'. – ROYAL ARMS. Of
Charles II. Oil on canvas, very large, in an elaborate frame..."
Quotations from Bettley: Suffolk
East- Pevsner (see Reading list). We
may try to include images of some of the internal lettering here.
N.B.: Simon's Suffolk churches (see Links)
tells us more about the font: "In front of the tower arch, there is the
fine font. Now, this is heavily circumscribed, either in the 16th
century by Anglicans or the 17th century by Puritans. The angels hold
scrolls, and the writing on the scrolls has been defaced - except on
one. This carries the words Sal et Saliva ('salt and saliva'). This
refers to two of the elements of sacramental Baptism. Why did it
survive? Perhaps the font had been moved against a pillar during the
16th century post-Reformation reordering, and so this panel was hidden
from those who destroyed the others. Perhaps the others carried words
illustrative of the other six sacraments, with something else for the
eighth scroll. The most badly vandalised angel has been recut into a
simple cross, presumably in the 19th century, but it is rather odd."
The bricked-up entrance.
the famous Christchurch Mansion front elevation looks out on a wide
lawn with the
churchyard wall of St Margaret and a bricked in archway to the right.
The ground level on the church side of the wall is much higher, but
presumably the two levels were similar at some time, perhaps with some
stone steps within the arch. This entry was probably the one used by
the Withipolls (the family which bought the remains of the Priory after
dissolution) and the later Fonnereaus on their way to Divine Service.
It may even be old enough to be the one used by the Friars themselves,
however the crude romanesque-style arch is formed from odd-shaped
blocks of stone. This suggests that the opening could have been formed
from waste stone blocks remaining after the building of the Holy
Trinity Priory, or (more likely) from the ruins once the Priory has
been dissolved – partial or whole demolition followed. There is a story
to be told about today's Mansion and its relation to the original
The tall church tower of St Margaret seen over the wall.
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the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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