St Lawrence Church, Dial Ln, Ipswich IP1 1DJ
St Lawrence Church in Dial Lane, Ipswich is a Grade II* listed church which is now used as a community café, St Lawrence Centre. Dial Lane takes its name from the large clock which once projected from the church above the heads of passers-by.
Until the mid-19th century the mainly timber-framed shops and houses in this part of the town centre were overlooked by a typical 15th century Suffolk church tower. The Victorians, as so often, had different intentions for this tower.
‘In 1882, Frederick Barnes was commissioned to rebuild the upper part of the tower of St Lawrence's church. He produced one of the most extraordinary confections to grace any Suffolk church, more noticeably so because of the rarity of Victorian towers in Ipswich in particular and Suffolk in general. The angels holding Instruments of the Passion preside over geometric flintwork designs set out in different colours. The tower was cleaned of more than a century of coal smoke dirt in 1996, and the variety of materials used became apparent, from brilliant whites and soft pinks to the creamy gold of the stonework and iron grey of the flint. St Lawrence has a more enclosed site than any other Ipswich church, perhaps more so than any other church in Suffolk, and, as a consequence this wonderful tower constantly disappears and reappears from behind buildings as you walk around Ipswich town centre. Each side of the tower is different; each view and each perspective has something new to offer.’ (Suffolk churches website)
This is a classic case of advising visitors and residents alike to ‘look up’ when they are passing through this area, although the crowded buildings surrounding it do often obscure the church. When the sun hits the tower, the colours and patterns are quite dazzling – best seen from either end of Dial Lane, depending on the time of day.
By the early 1970s there was virtually no one left residing in the tiny parish of St Lawrence. The church was closed, declared redundant, and entrusted to the care of the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. However, such a large building in central location surely had a future. In 2006, after decades of steady decay, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council jointly developed St Lawrence as a community resource. The work required was more extensive than anticipated, but was achieved fully funded from the public purse – a major achievement. Since 2008 St Lawrence has become a popular stop-off for refreshments or a light lunch.
If that wasn’t enough, in 2009 the bells of St Lawrence were returned to their tower for the first time in a quarter of a century. This 15th century church has the oldest ring of five church bells in the world. If you hear the bells of St Lawrence on high days and holidays today, you are hearing the same peal that that young Ipswich lad. Thomas Wolsey, would have heard.
[Source: Suffolk churches website]