St Helen - Ipswich, Suffolk
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member SMacB
N 52° 03.398 E 001° 09.901
31U E 374191 N 5768925
Quick Description: The church was rebuilt on the site of its medieval predecessor in several goes between 1830 and 1870, although the 15th century porch of the former was retained.
Location: Eastern England, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 2/10/2015 1:40:33 PM
Waymark Code: WMNC2K
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Marine Biologist
Views: 1

Long Description:

"St. Helen's was one of the ancient churches of Ipswich to be built outside the mediaeval town walls, and so it was situated in what was one of the suburbs, serving the people who lived around the road to Woodbridge. Very little remains of the mediaeval church, but from what few pictures and documentary evidence exist, it is possible to get some idea of what the building was like before it was altered so drastically in the 1800's. It was a small and humble structure, which had few of the airs and graces of the more magnificent Ipswich churches, but yet was a building of considerable interest, character and antiquity.The square western tower was reckoned to be the smallest of all the Ipswich towers, being 44 feet high and 15 feet square externally. There were no buttresses only stone quoins at its corners, and on the south side, at the level of the ringing chamber, was a small blocked window, which was clearly of Norman origin, dating from the 11th or 12th centuries. The belfry stage had double 14th century windows, and the tower was capped by an embattled parapet. The short nave (about 32 feet by 23 feet), which had a shallowly pitched lead roof, was lit on the south side by the two (now restored) southern windows which we see today. Clearly the earlier nave had been much altered in the 15th century, when this pair of large triple windows were inserted and it received its base course of flint and stone flush work, To the south of the nave was the present 15th century porch, now rather weathered and battered but still a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, with its fine doorway and canopied niche above it. In the 1600's or 1700's the sundial was added to i ts southern gable. It appears that the former north doorway also had a fine 15th century arch, with roses set in its inner mouldings.

When Davy visited St. Helen's in 1811, the interior was equipped with box pews, which he described as "neat" and painted white. In one of these enclosures on the north side of the nave stood the font not one of our splendid mediaeval fonts, but made of brick, which had been plastered over. On the walls hung two hatchments to the Canning and Phillipson families. The pulpit was made of carved oak and was probably one of the 17th century pulpits which still grace so many of our Suffolk churches. Two morehatchments (for the Parish family) faced each other across the chancel. At the east end, raised upon one step, stood the Communion Table, within its three sided rails and on the east wall above it were wooden compartments, inscribed with the Lord's Prayer, Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments.

Changes and Developments in the 19th and 20th Centuries

St. Helen's has undergone more alterations during the past 190 years than most of Ipswich?s ancient churches, The evolution of the small mediaeval building into the church that we see today happened in the following main stages :


In this year David Elisha Davy revisited the church and reported that the chancel had recently been entirely rebuilt with red brick, also that a "new and neat" gallery had been erected at the west end of the church.


The chancel was further restored and the north and south transepts were added. Henry Davy's etching, made in 1841, shows the new south transept, lit by a three light window with intersecting tracery. During this operation, the mediaeval chancel arch was taken down and the remains of the rood loft stairway in the north wall nearby were removed. This work was done at the instigation of the Revd John T. Nottidge, who was Rector of St. Clement's and St. Helen's (the two parishes had been held together since 1752) from 1824-1847, having previously been Rector of Old Newton.


Because of the great increase in the population of the parish, it was decided to drastically enlarge the church, and so most of the building was taken down and rebuilt. Only the tower, porch and south nave wall remained and by September 1848 the rest of the church had been flattened and the foundations laid for a much wider and longer building. The Rector, the Revd Walter Woodhouse, gave £100 towards the work and the parish raised £150. Mr. Woodhouse was Rector of the two parishes from 1847-65 and later served at Pakefield, Matlock, Bath and Sandown, Isle of Wight. The enlarged church was reopened on Wednesday May 26th 1849 and the special preachers were the Revd W. Champneys, Rector of Whitechapel and the Revd F. Storr of Acton, Cheshire. The collections at the afternoon and evening services raised £65- a considerable sum in those days. The architect was William Pattisson of Woodbridge, who also enlarged Little Bealings Church and designed several Suffolk rectories. The building was designed to seat 700 people (the old church only seated 300) of which half of the seats were to be free of pew rents. The alterations produced a broad and commodious church, 36 feet without structural divisions between nave and chancel and with wide transepts each side of the chancel to accommodate more people. The perpendicular style of the two mediaeval windows was reproduced exactly in the other nave windows and was modified in the chancel and transept windows. The walls were faced with flints to match the old work, although many of the corners had quoins of white brick rather than stone. St Helen?s people had got what they required a large preaching auditorium which would accommodate a large number of people who came to hear the Gospel. The building was not one which would appeal to the architectural and liturgical purists of the day, and newspaper writers at the time were not always complimentary about the work done. The Ipswich Journal stated that “its architectural faults are not redeem ed by one single feature that we can commend” adding that “it could not be called an ornament to the town”. Its roof was "very ordinary" its east window misproportioned and its benches had "finials more hideous than were made in the most barbarous days of architectural decline". The writer did however commend the new pulpit - the work of Henry Ringham of Ipswich, whose superb woodcarving may be seen in several Ipswich and Suffolk churches. The Suffolk Chronicle was a little more kind. Their report er did recognise that the building was "devoid of much pretence to elegance" and that the benches occupied "every foot of ground', but he called the east window a handsome piece of work, commenting that its mullions and tracery were thought to be copies of a window in Merton College Oxford.


On Wednesday April 10th, a new organ was opened. It had been built (according to the newspaper report) by Mr. T.C. Clarke of St. Helen's. The preacher at the special service was the Revd J.C. Ryle of Helmingham - later to become Bishop of Liverpool and famous for his Protestant and Evangelical preaching and writing.


This year the church was closed for some time for renovation. The interior received a thorough redecoration, the tower was repaired and a new window was added at the west end. More seats were added for use by the poor, aged and children. The architect was Frederick Barnes, whose designs may be seen in several Ipswich and Suffolk churches, and in the railway stations at Needham Market and Stowmarket. The builders were Messrs Firman Bros. The preacher at the reopening on September 24th was the Revd J. Haselgrove of St. Peter's Islington


The organ, which had been repaired and enlarged in 1859 by Messrs Stidolph was replaced by another instrument by Bryceson, with a French polished mahogany case, two manuals and pedals. It was erected in the north transept and the site of the old organ (opposite the main entrance) was filled with more benches. It was opened on April 29th, the preachers being the Revd J. Richardson of St. Mary's Bury St, Edmunds and the Revd C.H. Wainwright of Christ Church Blackpool.


In February there was a small dispute amongst St. Helen's folk about alterations to the churchyard, which had involved the removal of some soil and the construction of iron palisades. By September, however, a far more serious problem had arisen and a meeting was called to discuss the very dangerous condition of the tower. This was chaired by the Rector, the Revd RobertWhiteway, who was here from 1866-72 and at St. Clement's until 1877, when he moved to Eynsford, Kent. It was decided that, under the direction of Frederick Barnes, the belfry stage and tower parapet should be removed before the winter set in.


The Revd William Horne (Rector 1872-7) was the first incumbent of St. Helen's after its separation from St. Clements. He came here from Roxeth, near Harrow, and was later at Silloth, Thundridge Herts, Christ Church St. Albans and Clapton in Gordano, Somerset. It seems that his very effective ministry here, also the growing population, had made it necessary to further increase the seating accommodation at St. Helen's. Also the truncated tower had become more and more dangerous and needed to be totally rebuilt. It was decided that the old western tower should be demolished and the nave extended westwards, covering the area where it had stood - thus accommodating 70 more worshippers. The new tower was erected to the south of this extension beside the porch and a very pleasing and elegant structure it turnedout to be, with its octagonal belfry, pierced parapet and stone spire, One newspaper called it "as pretty a small tower as we have seen in Suffolk". Other improvements included the handsome new west window, given in memory of Mr. Charles Deane, a doorway in the south transept and the shortening of the window above it, the cleaning of the internal walls, the addition of new benches at the west end, also the removal of the plaster ceiling and the boarding of the roof. The architect was Frederick Barnes and the contractors (Messrs J.B. & F.Bennett) used the services of Messrs Chinnock (masons) and Messrs Steam (stonework) The cost was about £1,300. This addition made the church into a very long rectangle, with transepts each side, under a continuous roof and with no chancel arch. The Suffolk Chronicle noted that there was nothing to excite lovers of architecture, nor anything to suggest to the High Church mind the superior holiness of the eastern end but noted that the church "being neatly and comfortably furnished, with an earnest, faithful minister in the pulpit and a large and attentive Congregation, will nonetheless be a centre of great Christian usefulness". This, of course, was an accurate appraisal of St.Helen's, which was firmly rooted in the Evangelical tradition. The foundations tone of the tower was laid by the Rector on November 17th 1874 and at there opening service on June 30th 1875, the Revd G.F. Head of St. Mark's, Tollington Park, London, preached, the hymns were taken from "Mr. Sankey's Sacred Songs" and the collection amounted to almost £40.


On June 25th, several improvements to the church were dedicated, in memory of the Revd Edwin Oakley (Rector from 1878-1904) These included a brass eagle lectern, a pair of oak clergy stalls, the choir vestry, formed by dividing the clergy vestry, the lowering of the benches and the tiling of the aisle floors. The Revd W.H. Williamson of Holy Trinity Church preached at the Dedication Service.


The two ancient bells were taken from the tower and placed in the church (they are now stored in the belfry again). The little tower became too weak to allow them to be rung safely. The larger bell is 15th century, made at Bury St. Edmunds and inscribed "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis" the other was cast at Colchester by Miles Graye in 1621. These bells were replaced by a set of eight tubular bells, given in memory of Mr. R. Howard Bantoft.


The tower, spire, west wall and the porch, with its sundial, were carefully restored at a cost of £600 raised, as the plaque in the porch reminds us, entirely through prayer and not by fund raising events.


In the mid 1970's the cloud of possible redundancy hung over St. Helen's and its future was uncertain. In 1975, the Revd Adrian Leighton, curate of St. Margaret's, was appointed Priest in Charge here. Under his ministry an active and expanding congregation was built up and he was made Rector of the parish in 1982, leaving for Holbrook, Freston and Woolverstone in 1988. It was largely due to his vision and enthusiasm, together with Mr. David Capey and others, that St. Helen's has been transformed into the versatile, homely and useful complex that we see today. The work has been carried out by stages over the past eight or so years, mostly by St. Helen's people and especially by Mr. Dick Curtis and Mr. Frederick Hood, with a little help from the Y.T.S. and from other "professionals” St. Helen's folk worked out their vision for the layout of the building and Hooper?s, the architects, drew up the plans. The partition and gallery of plaster covered brickwork was erected and the studwork partition above it. The south transept was converted into cloakrooms, with a small chapel above; the north transept into a vestry, with library above, and the former vestry into a kitchen. The chancel, east of the partition, provides a homely hall and meeting place, whilst the nave is now a versatile yet devotional worship centre."

SOURCE - (Visit Link)

Date the Church was built, dedicated or cornerstone laid: 11/17/1874

Age of Church building determined by?: Other reliable source

Street address of Church:
St Helen
St Helen's Street
Ipswich, Suffolk England

Primary website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]

If denomination of Church is not part of the name, please provide it here: Not listed

If Church is open to the public, please indicate hours: Not listed

If Church holds a weekly worship service and "all are welcome", please give the day of the week: Not listed

Indicate the time that the primary worship service is held. List only one: Not Listed

Secondary Website for Church or Historic Church Building: Not listed

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