St Mary at the Elms Church, Elm Street IP1 2EF
The early history of the church is confusing. There was a church dedicated to St Saviour near this site in the 11th century. However, St Mary at the Elms (to distinguish it from the other St Marys in the town) was first mentioned in 1204, when both it and St Saviour's were listed among the possessions of the Augustinian priory of Holy Trinity, Ipswich.
St Saviour's disappeared, probably before the end of the 13th century. The present church building was probably in existence by the early 12th century, the date of the south door, and was known as St Mary at the Elms by the 14th century.
The south porch was added in the 14th century, and the transepts date from the same time, but may be earlier. A brick north aisle was added in the late 15th century and the tower was built in the early 16th century. The south transept was demolished at an unknown, probably post- medieval, date.
The south porch was repaired in 1848, and there was further restoration in 1860. In 1883 the east end of the church was demolished and greatly extended to designs by E.F. Bisshopp, an Ipswich-based church architect, with the area of the former chancel being taken into the nave. A new chancel with organ chamber was built, and the north aisle extended. The north vestry and organ chamber were added a few years later.
The interior is largely plastered and painted, except for the 19th century parts of the north arcade and the chancel arch. extension. The blocked chancel east window has a large crucifix hanging against it which dominates the interior view from the west.
On the nave south wall, a niche formed from the former priest's door holds a copy of a late medieval English devotional image arranged as a shrine. The nave has an 18th century plaster ceiling, probably concealing a late medieval roof. The 19th century chancel roof stands on carved corbels and the south door and its ironwork are late 11th or early 12th century.
The church boasts a good Victorian gothic font, made in the 1870s, by Mr Ireland of Princes Street, carved with scenes of the gospel and figures of the evangelists on the stem. St Mary’s is full of wonders from across the centuries.
[Source: Mr John Roper, Historic England Archive]
St Mary at the Elms is featured in the Ipswich Tourist Guides virtual guided tour video of the town.
The photograph below was taken by David Stainer from the top of Civic Centre, the day before Ipswich Borough Council vacated it.