Church of St Margaret

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Ogilby map St MargaretCourtesy Stephen Govier, Suffolk historian
Above: the engraving of St Margaret from Ogilvy's 1674 map of Ipswich.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margarets 82015 image
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 or near the site of the nearby Christchurch Mansion) as a Chapel of Ease to accommodate the worshippers from the town's growing population who 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 the parishioners. 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.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 2
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 of 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 portcullis. The buttress at the east (chancel) end of the church is clearly of great age; it has been patched up with red bricks, below. It is quite likely that this 'T' stands for 'Trinity', after the Priory for which it was built. The Lombardic alphabet is named after Lombardy in northern Italy; the first trace of its use is in the 9th century. Its use contines round the corner on the north wall of the church.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margarets Lombardic lettersLombardic characters
Further along this path, another buttress with a
mongram, Rather than being a Lombardic 'M' for "Margaret', tempting though that is, it reappears on other church exteriors, notably on the west exterior wall of St Lawrence Church (see that page for fuller information). 'AMR' is the conventional monogram for the Blessed Virgin Mary; it stands for Ave Maria Regina. This weather-worn stone feature, seems to belong to the original 13th century church fabric.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margarets 11   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margarets 122015 images
Round at the front (south elevation) of the church on the tower is a fine blue clock face which has obviously been restored. It features the wording in gold, running round the central ring:
The clock face sits on a small, curved bracket which has the numerals '1737' carved into it and coloured blue. It is likely that, for some reason, a replacement clock face was provided in 1737.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 3
The west tower was first built in about 1400. Between 1737 and 1738 a classical frame was made on the tower to form a space for a clock face. The current clock was built by 'Moore of Ipswich' and is dated 1st January 1778. It is an unusual iron-framed clock and is one of the oldest surviving public clocks in Ipswich. It was wound by hand until automated in 2017. In 1871 the top of the tower was, typically in the Victorian era, rebuilt in a grander style than before and raised by 3.4 metres (11ft); it now stands 26.5 metres (87ft) high.
The Ipswich Branch of The Horological Institute did a Turret Clock tour in 2009 ( Ian Coote writes:-
‘The setting dial of the clock bears the inscription Moore/Jan 1/1778/Ipswich suggesting that it was supplied by Edward and Hatley Moore of Ipswich, following the death of their father, Thomas, in 1762. The book on Suffolk clocks by Haggar and Miller comments that; ‘this is a very interesting clock ... because of its rather uncommon method of construction and its small size’ and they note the similarity of this clock to the one at Lavenham. In fact there are many more examples of this style of frame around East Anglia…’
See our page on Public clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the church frontage and its clock.


Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 9a   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 9b
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 of the 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 on 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.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 10a Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 10b
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 Hall family initialled features
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 13
The close-set windows of the clerestory are surrounded with carved stone panels bearing, on shields, the initials of the Hall family: ‘JH’ on the north side and ‘KH’ on the south and their merchant’s mark (a dyer’s posser and tongs). This merchant's mark is repeated several times in the interior. John Hall (died 1503) and Katherine Hall (died 1506) and William Hall, their son, (woddyers – dyers and woad merchants) were the major benefactors of the Church of St Margaret. John Hall, in his will, asked to be buried in front of the altar, the most prestigious place in the church.

St Margaret has a painted royal arms of Charles II inside the church. It features, below the royal crest, two small figures who reappear in the arms on The Ancient House, the Church of St Stephen and the Church of St Clement. For more discussion on this, see our Church of St Clement page under 'The royal arms of Charles II: who are these people?'.

The bricked-up entrance.
Below: 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 had been dissolved – partial or whole demolition followed. There is a story to be told about today's Mansion and its relation to the original Priory buildings.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church 4   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church archway
The tall church tower of St Margaret seen over the wall.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Margaret's Church tower   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Withypoll memorial stone small 
See our page on the Withypoll memorials stone
which is sited some yards from the arch.  

See more about Boundary markers.

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