St Margaret's Church, Soane Street IP4 2BE
St Margaret's Church has been described as the most spectacular church in Ipswich. We invite you to visit and explore the church, a Grade 1 listed building, and reflect on how it has served the people of the parish through the centuries. Guidebooks, including one for children, are available at the west end of the church.
The church has stood just outside the old town ramparts since the 14th century. St Margaret's was built in about 1300 by the Austin Canons of Holy Trinity Priory, which once stood on the present site of Christchurch Mansion. Beside it was the town green, a meeting place for locals. Nearby were the pits for dyeing wool cloth which was both foul smelling and profitable!
In the 15th century, as Ipswich became more prosperous, the height of the church roof was raised, thanks to the donations of wealthy merchants. Many of their initials and trademarks feature in the hammer beam roof. Most prominent of these were the Halle family, who were dyers, and their initials and trademark dominate the exterior flushwork (flint and stone in a decorative pattern) alongside the clerestory / upper nave windows.
In the 17th century,the interior of the church changed to reflect the rise of the Puritans during The Commonwealth period. The painted walls of the church were whitewashed over. The angels on the wooden roof beam ends were removed, and the decorations on the sides of the 15th century font were damaged.
In 1694 the panel paintings of the ceiling were commissioned to commemorate the accession of William and Mary. The combination of the medieval double hammer beam roof and the baroque ceiling panels provides the most spectacular and unique feature of the church.
In the 18th century, the tower clock, which required winding each week, was installed.
The 19th century saw the current pews installed, the top of the tower raised, and additional bells added to the existing 17th century peal, bringing the total to eight.
More recently, during the Second World War, a bomb exploded on St Margaret's Plain destroying the glass in many windows.
The medieval roof and painted panels were restored in 1994 and in 2017, a Heritage Lottery grant enabled the bells to be refurbished and lowered in the tower, an electric winding mechanism for the clock to be installed and a new ringing gallery, visible from the nave, to be built.
The recent COVID-19 restrictions meant that the church adapted once again to the prevailing conditions and regular services have been broadcast using YouTube and Zoom. As in the past, the church will continue to adapt how it interacts with its parishioners in the future by providing services that reflect their needs.
[Source: St Margaret's Church website.]