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Regeneration of St Mary at the Quay

The regeneration story of St Mary at the Quay 

St Mary at the Quay is a nationally important, Grade II* medieval building, a beautiful piece of architecture, an important landmark on the Ipswich waterfront. But for 50 years it stood largely empty and was the subject of planning blight and destruction of the environment all around it. Significant structural problems and decay meant that it faced a very uncertain future and a rising repair bill.

In the 20th century, the church was the victim of wartime bombing, and by 1948-9 it was closed for regular worship. Threatened with demolition in the 1950s, the church was saved by the Friends of Friendless Churches in 1959, and the building was used by the Ipswich Boys’ Brigade for many years.

The church was vested with the Churches Conservation Trust in 1973 who faced the difficulty of managing a building that was at risk of structural collapse, following years of neglect and issues caused by rising damp. Although activities such as those run by Key Arts helped keep the church in use, it was not until the regeneration of the quayside area of Ipswich from the 2000s that the opportunity came to develop a new future for the site. Following local consultation and an invitation to prospective partners, Suffolk Mind came together with The Churches Conservation Trust in 2008 to pursue a shared vision to conserve this important building and provide a valuable new resource for the local community.

Building work was conducted in two phases under the direction of Molyneux Kerr Architects. Phase 1 (April-Sept 2014) focused on repairs to the roof and parapet; Phase 2 (Jan 2015-Sept 2016) involved repairs to historical fabric and new build work within the church and the construction of the extension. Quay Place now stands as the result of a £5.1m scheme which has been eight years in the making: a testament to the commitment of all those involved.

Community participation was a key element of the project. During construction, the church was used as a living classroom, with technical days, work experience opportunities for students, and general open days with the contractors, Bakers of Danbury. The wonderful interpretation in the building – the rope and knot board, stunning café tables, beautiful A-Z books, the dock model and timetable – was the result of collaboration between school children, a local artist, craftspeople and volunteers, to tell the story of the building, its people and place in Ipswich’s history.

It is thanks to a large range of people, from The Churches Conservation Trust and Suffolk Mind project team, the design and construction team, to the creative craftsmen and residents of Ipswich that this extraordinary transformation has taken place.

To find out more about the work of the CCT and other regeneration projects, please visit their website  

You can see some of photos of the work that took place on our gallery, on our facebook page, and on the Churches Conservation Trust tumbler page. 

We hope you will also enjoy watching our videos which capture some of the key moments throughout the project.  It is fascinating to watch the way that the columns were secured and the way that the flint was crafted, the videos are a real testimony to the skills of the craftsmen that worked on the project.

On the 17th October 2016 an event was held to celebrate the completion of the work and to acknowledge those that had played a part in the regeneration of St Mary at the Quay.   Quay Place now moves into the next phase of its journey, opening its doors to the public on Tuesday 1st November 2016.  

We hope you will visit in the future to see the result of all the amazing work that has taken place and to enjoy all that the building now offers to the community of Ipswich.