A major repairs programme for St Margaret’s Church has taken another step forward this week after the bells were removed and shipped to Holland for restoration. Here Shaun Soanes talks through the involvement of Nicholas Jacob Architects in the conservation of this beautiful ecclesiastical building in the heart of Ipswich.
In 1995 we began work on a £420,000 project to clean and repair the parapet and tie rods of St Margaret’s Church. It was an honour to be involved. After all, this is regarded as the finest church in Ipswich, the oldest part of which dates back to the end of the 13th century. This section was built to house the growing town population which could no longer be accommodated in the nave of the Priory Church which stood nearby. The south elevation and the tower are Victorian alterations and additions.
The restoration of St Margaret’s Church has been an ongoing process – and this week the bells in the Grade I-listed building were pulled down and shipped to Holland for refurbishment. When the eight bells, some of which date back to 1630, return to St Margaret’s Church in November they will be re-hung three metres lower to relieve pressure on the tower, which was at risk of becoming damaged. It’s 100 years since some work was done on the bells and they needed urgent attention. The church, in Soane Street, recently received a £163,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition, it has been fundraising and all money collected is now going towards the creation of a new, lower ringing gallery so visitors will be able to see the bell-ringers in action. A new teaching facility will be installed to inspire others to get involved.
And there’s more…
The church will also get a new website and guidebook, as well as fresh lighting and a mirrored table to show off the ancient ceiling. The tower clock will be refurbished with an electronic winder, and a monitored CCTV system will be installed so the church can open to the public throughout the week. Lucy Drake, one of the leaders of the project, said the church had experienced problems in the past with drug dealing, rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour. Leaders hope the changes, which should all be complete by Christmas, will attract more visitors. Mrs Drake told The East Anglian Daily Times: “It’s about putting St Margaret’s back as the heart of the parish.”
We have been thrilled to have been involved in making this happen.