of St Mary-At Stoke
At last we add the Church of St Mary-at-Stoke to this website.
Its absence was due to the fact that we couldn't find much lettering on
the exterior of the church. On visiting during Heritage Open Days in
2014 we met John Barbrook, who was acting as guide and historian and he
contributes to this page. Our thanks to John.
The Railway Church
'A lifetime – but long departed – member of our congregation at St
Mary’s was a man called Arnold Stiff... [who] lived in
a Waterworks house in Park
Road next to the water tower/reservoir where he was Chief Maintenance
Engineer and Pumping Superintendent. Amongst his
many attributes were superb engineering skills. As a member of the
Ipswich Model Engineering Society, one
of his masterpieces was a working scale
model of a locomotive which was exhibited in several of their
exhibitions held in St Matthews Baths Hall. He named
the loco Olive after his
wife. Interestingly, he also
presented to St Mary’s a superb copy of the GER armorial, now
fixed to the north wall of the old aisle.... [it is]
believed to be a plaster cast from the original (wherever that might
now be) but he painted it in its original colours.'
Photograph courtesy John Barbrook
'GREAT EASTERN RAILWAY'
'St Mary’s was – as you are probably aware – always known as The
Railway Church. That is why we have got [the armorial]. I have a
programme of a sort of Industrial
Sunday service which was held annually until the 1970s – with
all sorts of engineered items loaned for display, including model
walking dragline, milling equipment, mini tractor, plough, and even a
load of items I borrowed from Cranes. The programme had a steam loco
picture on the front cover. John Barbrook.'
The armorial is encircled by the Order of the Garter with a George
Cross at the centre.
'The parish church of St Mary occupies a site on a dramatic bluff
overlooking the river, across which it faces St Peter, a couple of hundred
metres away. St Mary-at Stoke-is the only one of the twelve medieval
town centre churches to stand south of the River Orwell. As recently as
1801, the population of the parish was just 385. The impact of [the
railways] coming upon a town like Ipswich, which was already a
burgeoning industrial port, should not be underestimated. By 1871, the
population of the parish had grown to more than 3,000, a ten-fold
increase in less than a lifetime, unmatched almost anywhere else in
East Anglia. This development needs to be borne in mind when exploring
St Mary at Stoke parish church. From the south, you see a large,
blockish Victorian building with flushwork on the porch and transept, a
little characterless otherwise. The focus is all to the south, the
graveyard dropping away quickly on the other three sides, as if
reminding us of the long tradition here of independence from Ipswich
over the water. However, walking around to east or west you discover
that behind it there is another church, medieval this time and rural in
feel. The tower is at the west end of the older church, and the two are
joined as if non-identical Siamese twins. When you go in, there is
again the impression of two churches joined together, the near one
Victorian and wide, the far one narrower and older.' [Selected notes
from Simon's Suffolk Churches; see Links.]
See also our pages about Stoke Hall and
its tunnels, including the Hall's relationship to the church, and the
Eastern Union Railway (EUR) about the arrival of
the railway in Over
Stoke and the first station there.
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©2004 Copyright throughout
the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
No reproduction of text or images without express written permission