[St Helen’s Church, St. Helen's St, Ipswich IP4 2LS

St Helen’s parish can be found to the north east of the town centre. From medieval times it was a largely industrial area outside the town wall. By the 19th century the tightly packed streets and small factories, made this one of the towns poorest areas. 

The parish church of St Helen is often dismissed as being of no interest, and perhaps the stubby little Victorian spire, since rebuilt, isn’t that inspiring when compared to its bigger brothers across the town 

The current church was built on the site of its medieval predecessor, in stages, between the 1830s and the 1870s. The final part being a rebuilding of the nave in a Perpendicular style. There is a memorial stone, commemorating the rebuilding of the nave at the south-west corner, facing St Helens Street. 

The 15th century porch of the former church was retained, although not one of the best examples of its kind; the angels holding scrolls in the spandrels and lions flanking the doorway are a reminder of the glories of the medieval church, and add a nice touch of continuity.

The church has been completely modernised, in a most unusual way. A huge gallery has been built over what was the chancel arch. Today it is used as storage space but may have been intended as an organ gallery. Visitors step beneath it, through into a large, modern space: the former chancel. This room is used regularly for meetings, playgroups etc. 

The 19th century east window survives. Beyond, the nave is carpeted, and a small table altar has been set towards the north wall, turning the orientation of the church 90 degrees anti-clockwise, and doing away with the eastwards position. 

These days the church is sadly kept locked and has not, historically, been considered significant enough to take part in Heritage Open Days. However, this is a church worth seeing inside if you can. 

[Source: Suffolk Churches website[

Links: Suffolk Churches website; Ipswich Historic Lettering website