Mission accomplished? The Ipswich Historic Churches Trust may not be
quite ready to agree to that, with the future of St Clements nearly but
not yet finalized. However, remarkable progress has been achieved,
especially in recent months.
Five redundant medieval churches in the centre of town were handed over
by the Church of England to Ipswich Borough Council which then entrusted
them to the loving care of Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, founded in
1979. Whilst the fabric of the churches has been kept in good repair,
there have been frustrations for the Trust - tantalising but
disappointing negotiations with organisations which showed some interest
in using the buildings but then backed out.
First St Stephen's was found a new use as our award-winning Tourist
Information Centre. Then St Nicholas became the Diocesan Centre for
their own public use. The Society's last two Awards evenings were held
in this pleasant and comfortable setting.
Now, with very satisfying timing, both St Lawrence and St Peter's opened
for new uses during May. St Lawrence in Dial Lane had long been disused
and internally was in rather poor state. Thanks to funding from IBC and
a Government Growth Point grant it has been sympathetically restored and
becomes the St Lawrence Centre, a caf during the day run by Whitehouse
Enterprises and Genesis and available for hire at other times. Age
Concern seem happy with this new venue for their purposes.
St Peter's which Wolsey adapted and used as a chapel for his college,
had been partly kept alive by the efforts of Roger and Stella Wolfe who,
joined by Jill Freestone of the Over Stoke History Group, organised its
opening to the public once a week in the summer months. But now it is
St Peter's by the Waterfront a centre for music and the arts and home of
the Ipswich Hospital Band. Their admirable vision and persistence, with
help from Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, won major funding from the
Heritage Lottery Fund. Those of us who were there at the opening on 15
May and also enjoyed the Band's opening concert on 24 May can vouch for
the success of the refurbishment and its use as a concert hall. St
Peter's also houses very fine new display boards describing the history
of this important church, which is also the new home for the Ipswich
Charter Hangings. Our Society has contributed towards the cost of the
new guidebook to St Peter's. Dr John Blatchly, the fourth chairman of
the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, at the opening of both these
'retired' churches, spoke warmly about the churches themselves and all
who had contributed to these admirable and useful conversions. He spoke
like a man with a mission almost accomplished.