St Clement Congregational Church

This is a red brick Victorian church of a decent size which many people seem not to have noticed. Its neighbour across Back Hamlet, Holy Trinity Church is somewhat more prominent by dint of its tower. Standing on the corner of Back Hamlet and Long Street the Congregational church is named after the Potteries/dockland area of St Clement's, which in turn is named after the parish served by the Church of St Clement, the Mariners' Church on Star Lane.
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BORN AUG. 26. 1812, DIED NOV.25. 1886.


OCTOBER 26. 1887.


Simon's Suffolk Churches (see Links) tells us: "St Clement's Congregational church is associated with one of the most famous Ipswich names, Grimwade. The Grimwades were a prosperous retail family with a large department store on the Cornhill and their fingers in a number of other pies. As is common with the urban capitalist families of East Anglia, they were dissenters - the offices on the top floor of the store were given over to the National Protestant League, who had a proud signage on to the Cornhill. In the 1860s, the Grimwades built the hall on the corner of Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet, now converted to apartments as the GM Building, but known to an earlier generation of Gippeswykians as Grimwade Memorial Hall. It was used for assemblies of the congregation, but was soon too small for this purpose, and so in 1887 the grand church directly across the road was built, in the full confidence of late-Victorian non-conformism. The architect was William Eade, and the Hall was built as a memorial to Edward Grimwade, who had died the previous year."

Heritage Open Day, 20 September 2014
We were able to look inside this 'not-open-very-often' church, although it wasn't open for Heritage Open Day, rather for cyclists on the Round Suffolk Churches Ride.
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At the eastern exterior of the building a substantial and original boundary wall can be seen at the rear of houses on Back Hamlet. Facing it are the structural features shown below.
The church's organ stands on the other side of this east wall.
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The first thing which strikes the visitor is the large, impressive interior with a simple, Victorian version of a traditional double hammerbeam roof as seen inside St Mary-At-The-Key. The second thing is the 'The Bishop' occupying much of the east wall. This is a reference to the musical instrument built and installed by local organ builders Bishop & Son, who still trade from premises in Bolton Lane. This large church organ is well-known in certain circles – the church sells a CD of music played on it. When we visited we were told that rain had got into the church and on inspection of damage, it was discovered that the electric pump powering the instrument had been installed in a pit, perhaps to ensure minimum leakage of noise into the church. Rainwater had filled the pit and damaged the pump. Only two repairers could be found who could tackle the job and the pump was currently removed.
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At the opposite end of the church is a full-width gallery with raked seating. Access is via the left of the two doors seen on the front elevation, with a staircase in the pointed tower, ensuring that no seating is lost. The only time anyone goes up in the gallery these days is the twice-a-year seasonal adjustment of the clock attached to the decorative front. (Why do we British persist with this arcane activity?)

The congregation at the time of our visit was said to be ten people 'on a good day', but at least church members always occupy the same seats, as testified by the two named envelopes placed on the pews. The ground floor pews themselves seem to have been designed for
specific families as the vertical divisions between right and left pews are irregular. Brass fittings and troughs at the pew ends take the umbrellas, walking-sticks and (perhaps) swords of attendees before they take their seats.


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2004 Copyright throughout the Ipswich Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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