Church of St Peter

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church 22011 image   Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church 1 Flushwork 'P' 
St Peter is one of twelve medieval churches in Ipswich town centre, and was built in Romanesque style as the church of the Augustinian Black Canons of the Priory of St Peter and St Paul. The existing aisles were added in 1400 and the west tower in 1470. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey confiscated and refurbished the church in 1528 to serve as the chapel of his short-lived Cardinal College of St Mary. Ten years later, through the good offices of Thomas Cromwell, St Peter became an ordinary parish church, returned to its congregation. Strange to think that, if Wolsey hadn't poured so much of his money into Oxford University and if he hadn't fallen out with Henry VIII, this area could now be the centre of a large public school designed to feed students to Oxford University. The 'watergate' to what would have been the College - the Wolsey Gate in College Street next to the church - features (partly) in our photographs of the disappearing 'Burtons' sign. As one of the most important historic buildings in Ipswich, it's easy to miss the flushwork (knapped flint and stone) lettering flanking the west door gateway (see note 1. below) and the crowned initial 'P' either side of the College Street entrance (see note 2. below). A lottery grant in 2006 enabled restoration of the run-down church as 'St Peters's on the the Waterfront': a home for the Ipswich Hospital Band and an excellent performance venue.
Wolsey's Gate is only a few yards down College Street from here.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church 42013 images  
See our page on Public clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the tower and its clock.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church 3
Ipswich's resident expert on all things architecturally ecclesiastical, Simon Knott opines:
1. "These are both examples of the so-called 'sacred monogram', the letters 'IHC', the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus IHCOYC. The bar across the top shows that it is an abbreviation (and, incidentally, forms a cross). It is more usually found in its Latin form IHS, although the Greek form was popular among 19th century church restorers because Greek was considered less 'popish' than Latin.
The monograms may date from George Gilbert Scott's restoration of 1878 - but in fact I think that they are probably later, perhaps 1890s. Having them on the gates would have been considered quite demonstrative in the 1870s."
2. "...I recall that it is a monogram of SP for Sanctus Petrus, the Holy Rock, that is to say Saint Peter, a 19th century restoration of what may, or may not, have been there before..."
Thanks to Simon.

Inside the church: Ledger slabs
This website doesn't usually tiptoe into the realm of the inscriptions within churches, but a meeting with Roger and Stella Wolfe, long-time members of The Ipswich Society, drew our attention to the importance of the collection of large floor stone memorials within St Peter. We are most grateful to Roger and Roy Tricker for unearthing the transcriptions and are pleased to include a PDF of The Ledger slabs of St Peter document and these two photographs to give a flavour of the carved lettering.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church Ledger slab 1Photographs courtesy Roger Wolfe
Ipswich Historic Lettering: St Peters Church Ledger slab 2
[UPDATE 24.6.2021: Jill Freestone informs us that the ledger stone leaflet is still in print and available to visitors to the church so, pandemic permitting, the public should be able to pick up a copy.]
[UPDATE: 25.6.2021: 'Lovely to get your email and your informative page. When researching the church guide, I scoured newspaper reports and parish documents to trace Scott Jr's restoration, which took place in three phases. The first, in 1874, was the rebuilding of the south porch. The second, in 1877, was far more intense, and definitely involved the south gates and their flanking flushwork 'P' panels. The report however stated that the western gates and their surrounding flintwork, although planned, were still to be erected. Maybe this was during the third phase, in 1879-80 or, as you suggest later, although I didn't trace any mention of them in later developments at the church. I do agree that this workmanship is rather adventurous, particularly in a church which had an unashamedly Evangelical tradition! Roy Tricker.']

St Peter's Hall, which we assume is the Victorian red brick hall related to the church, is sited in St Peter's Street. And if you ever wondered where St Peter's Vicarage was, until c.1925 it was to be found in Over Stoke. Note also the Vernon Street Mission Room which started life as an extension of St Peter.
For an aerial view of the area see our Trinity House buoy page.
See our Links page for Simon's famous Suffolk Churches website.

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