St Mary-at-the-Quay
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay hop. 1aIpswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay farthing
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay vane2014 image
Approaching the church of St Mary-at-the-Quay – the middle of the three medieval dockland churches – from St Clement, the weather vane is still in place, the key forming the vane at the top. The gold-painted key vane was in place by the 1670s, but what we see today is a more recent replacement, albeit with a broken 'N'. The word 'key' is said to be a version of the word 'quay', as the church is a matter of yards from the Wet Dock. In 1306 the quay was known as the 'Kay', from its Danish equivalent 'Kaai' and the Middle English 'Caie'.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay 22013 images
Although there is little noticeable lettering on the fabric of the building, the wrought iron gates include a monogram with the key symbol linking the 'S' and 'M'. In 2013 this is picked out in red paint.
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The south door is the main entrance to the church and we understand that in 1876 the door from the old Grammar School was placed here; presumably it is the one we see today. The plaque above the south door is almost unreadable, so we include the text here, with its odd lack of full stops:
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay 4
'ST MARY . QUAY . IPSWICH
This ancient church is maintained by the
REDUNDANT CHURCHES FUND
St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, Queen Victoria St.
London EC1V 5DE with monies provided by Parliament
by the Church of England and by the gifts of the public
Though no longer required for regular worship
it remains consecrated to the service of God
Please respect it accordingly
FOR THE KEY PLEASE SEE
SEPARATE NOTICE'

Built on the site of an earlier place of worship the main period of construction of St Mary-at-the-Quay was 1443-1543, supported by rich merchants who lived in the area, notably Henry Tooley, whose tomb can be found in the north transept. The hammer beam roof is considered to be second most important in the county and is a tribute to the timber shipbuilders of the late medieval period. The roof of the extended chancel of the nearby St Peter's Church (as used by the monks of St Peter & St Paul monastery) was probably dismantled after the dissolution and re-erected at the chancel end of St Mary-at-the-Quay. Another candidate might have been the refectory of the monastery, but St Peter's Church is most likely.
The tower used to have a 17th century lead cupola on top which housed the bell connected to the newly-installed clock. This was still visible in the 1950s. The roof and interior are in a sorry state, a concrete floor and parquet layer caused the inherent dampness of this formerly marshy ground to migrate to the walls and cause rendering and plaster to crumble. The stone pillars have acted as wicks to draw up the contaminated water and attack the limestone quite dramatically. The planned refurbishment in 2013 by a charity, will save the church from steady decline.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay hop. 1Southern elevation
The nave, transepts and chancel are capped by parapets, the south nave parapet still retaining the light coloured gault bricks with which it was restored in the 18th or early 19th century. Of special note are the hopper-heads above the downpipes which drain the rainwater from the nave roof. These have little cartouche decorations with initials (possibly of the churchwardens: 'NA' and 'CS' alternately) and the date '1741'. Such pieces of 18th century metalwork are a rare survival.
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And in 2015, following refurbishment...
NA, 1741    ...    CS, 1741    ...   
NA, 1741    ...    CS, 1741
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay hop. 2015
For other examples of dated hopper-heads, see our Plaques page (The Walk), Gatacre Road School, Tooley's Almshouses and Arcade Street (dated buildings examples).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay hop. 11Northern elevation
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 It looks as though one of the hopper-heads on the northern side reads: 'NA', '1900'.

Archaeology
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[UPDATE 14.2.2014: St Mary-at-the-Quay Church in the pouring rain. Prior to its conversion into a ‘Wellbeing Heritage Centre’ by Suffolk MIND and partners an archaeological dig is underway, due to finish in April 2014. The open day coincided with a full peal of the church’s bells lasting over two hours. The ringers were probably the only warm people in the church, but there was plenty to see in the extraordinary exposed burials, accessed through the small priest’s doorway at the side of the chancel, a table of finds and a child’s skeleton laid out on Henry Tooley’s tomb. Des Pawson’s (see Links) rope-making display drew attention to the maritime nature of the church – the clue is in the title – which originally stood close to the early dockside. It was built on the site of a previous church over the hundred years from 1443. As their work progresses, who knows what the archaeologists will find further down at Anglo-Saxon or even earlier layers?]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay arc. 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay arc. 72014 images
Intact, fully-articulated skeletons have been exposed, including the surprisingly tall individual shown above. However, previous burials in the very small remaining graveyard have been disturbed in sinking new graves and brick-built tombs, so the jumbled remnants were thrown into a charnel pit (below): a rather disturbing mass of the remnants of humanity. On a board on the tomb of the noted merchant and benefactor to the town, Henry Tooley, are laid out the almost complete bones of a child exhumed during the dig.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay arc. 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay arc. 9
Below, the finds table with a colourful diplay of ceramic shards from a variety of eras. Of note is the grey jar lip seen at lower right which is Ipswich ware. 'Ipswich ware' (Middle Saxon, 700-850 AD) is the name given to plain sandy greyware which was made in two main fabrics - smooth and gritty. Vessels were generally small, medium and large jars with plain upright rims. Hanging vessels with upright pierced lugs were also made, and there were some rarer forms such as decorated bottles. Jar bases are characteristically very thick, and upper bodies are often 'girth-grooved' by finger-rilling. The ware is thought to have been made on a hand-turned 'slow-wheel', as opposed to the fast kick-wheel used by Roman and Late Saxon potters. Used locally, the pots were also traded and remains have been found over quite a wide area of the country.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay arc. 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay farthing a
And, for our historic lettering website, it was good to see several coins found during the first stages of the dig including this strikingly-lettered example with a fine use of the indefinite article:
'AN
IPSWICH
FARTHING
1670'

Restoration 2014
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay restore 12014 images
27.3.2014. These photographs from Star Lane and (below) from College Street/Key Street from the 27 March 2014 show the huge scaffolding structure under construction which cover, but does not rest upon the delicate roof.  Within a few weeks the whole was covered in sheeting.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay restore 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay restore 3

23.5.2014. Here's a fascinating panorama – probably an unrepeatable view – of Star Lane, Key Street, the bus depot, the Premier Inn and other
Wet Dock developments (some completed, some static) and the clock tower of the Custom House just visible behind the blue 'Regatta Quay' hoarding. The view is from the scaffolding surrounding the east wall of St Mary-at-the-Quay during restoration – the upper platform to the right of the photograph (above right) – with the camera poked through a slit in the plastic sheeting: montage of two shots. The only way of getting a better view would have been to stand atop the St Mary church tower.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay panoramaMay 2014 images
Meanwhile, inside the church, next to the altar table, a mass of clear plastic sacks was noticed. They were full of people.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 1
Eye sockets of skulls peer eerily over the tops of the sacks.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 2   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 3
Through the tiny priest's door, and we see an updated view of the archeological dig on the site to be occupied by the new building. Although there had been heavy rain in early 2014, it became clear that the charnel pit was flooded due to ground water coming up into the trenches. Such are the problems faced by those exploring our history in the soil and proof that St Mary-at-the-Quay was definitely built on marshy land: the source of many of its structural problems. All the surrounding springs seem to converge here.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 5
Climbing the scaffolding (with permission and safety gear) we viewed the methods used to examine and repair main roof timbers. That shown below is being supported by strapping attached to the outer skeleton of scaffolding. The lower part is currently sitting on fresh air until sections can be replaced; the adze marks on the upper face of the beam show the hand-worked finish. The surrounding close-boarding probably dates to the last, partial refurbishment of the roof in the 1960s. The flint flushwork integrated into two elaborately-cut stone elements (note the mason's pencilled 'FACE' lettering indicating the smooth, dressed outer surface). These are topped off by a greased steel tie-bar, awaiting its bolt, which runs right across the width of the church roof to stabilise the structure.
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Below: two carved spandrels, in rather good condition, lay on the scaffolding platform, high up in the roof space.
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Carved wooden saints, their faces chopped off by Reformation puritan zealots, on the uprights of the hammer-beam supports.
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Below: the view from the chancel of the scaffolding structure within the nave and, right, the view across an upper level showing the position of the carved saints between the clerestory windows.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay renovation 13
Below: details of spandrel brackets showing, to the left, the arrangement of the double hammer beam support for the roof.  The exposed tenons indicate the places where the missing carved angels were located.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay spandrel 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay spandrel 1Photographs courtesy John Norman
A selection of smaller images of St Mary-at-the-Quay during restoration, May 2014.
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An ancient oak beam displays insect damage.
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Half-round rods with sand-cast lead sheeting laying on boards.
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Knapped flints and mortar in situ.
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Flints and masonry: work in progress.

Nearing completion 2016
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay 28   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay 272016 images
Above: the return of the wrought iron 'S', 'M' and key motif above the resored gates with the new wing in the background.
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A newly-placed plaque near to the south door in stainless steel (the old circular plaque shown at the top of this page is still in place) interestingly names the church 'St Mary, Ipswich'. Give that there are three other Marion churches in Ipswich (St Mary-at-Elms, St Mary-Le-Tower, St Mary Stoke), This church really ought be given its correct name: 'St Mary-at-the Key' by The Churches Conservation Trust. Also, above right, the restored and cleaned west door, the spandrel shields are particularly striking.

Grand Opening, October 2016
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 22016 images
Below: one of the finest double hammerbeam church roofs in Suffolk, post-restoration.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 3   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 4
The simple table altar partially obscures the ceramic tile lettering on the decorative east wall. Below (the second panel damaged):
'I am the
Lilly of the
Valleys'

'I am the
Rose of
Sharon'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 6   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 5  
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 7b   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 7c2017 images

Centrally, in black and red gothic lettering on a gold background:
'This do in Remembrance of ME'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 72016
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 7a2017 images
The close-ups reveal that this lettering is painted onto a boards, which are fixed to the wall.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 7e   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 7d

The churchyard dig unearthed these metal coffin plates, the lettering engraved on them still remarkably readable:
'CHARLES JOBSON
DIED
23rd Augst.
1832,
aged 59 years'

'ANN JOBSON
DIED
30th Augst.
30th Augst.'
Researchers on the restoration project have found some fascinating information about Mr Jobson and his life:-
Charles Jobson was born c.1773 in Ipswich. We know from a record of Freemen of Ipswich that his father was William Jobson. Charles married Ann Ramsey at St Mary-at-the-Quay Church on 29 May 1796; both signed their names with an ‘X’. Charles’ father was buried at St Mary-at-the-Quay on 8 March 1809 (the document is held at Suffolk Record Office).
On 30 August 1831 Charles’ wife Ann died at the age of 56 and was buried at St Mary-at-the-Quay. On 12 June 1832 Charles married Jemima Hamblin, a widow of the parish of St Peter. Jemima carried on Charles’ business at the Smack Inn after his death.
Charles died on 28 August 1832, aged 59 (just two-and-a-half months since his remarriage), and was buried in the tomb where he was found in 2014 in the graveyard of St Mary-at-the-Quay.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 8   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 9
Old bottles dating from 1872 to 1956 found in tomb backfill in the churchyard excavations. For information about Talbot's mineral waters which were sold in some of the examples shown here , see our page about The Unicorn.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 10
The font has been relocated to a space next to the north door (which is used as the main entrance), protected by a glass screen.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Mary at Quay opening 12



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