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  • 1341

    Original Church on the site – St Mary de Caye - Nicholas Sowebrand, murderer, flees to the church to claim sanctuary

  • 1443


    – Building of the present Church, St Mary at the Quay, began after a donation of 20 shillings to construct the tower was left in a will. The church was known as ‘Stella Maris - Our Lady, Star of the Sea’.

    The tower of St Mary at the Quay rises to a height of 22 metres. A will of 1443 bequeathed the sum of twenty shillings ‘to the fabric’ of the tower, so it is believed building works began around that time.

    By 1806, the tower was in need of drastic restoration, and the upper sections were rebuilt. Records show that at least twelve tons of stone were used, and the work cost over £1,200 – a fortune at the time.

  • 1448

    The building we see today owes much of its construction to the will of Ipswich merchant Richard Gouty, who in 1448 bequeathed the funds for ‘sufficient Calyon stone for the whole church to be built’, instructing that his body be buried in the churchyard.

    Calyon is a flint or pebble stone used in the construction of many East Anglian churches.

  • 1455


    The 15th century roof at St Mary’s was the first complete double hammerbeam roof in the world, constructed around 1455. The roof has a span of more than six metres, with shorter timbers used to create nine principal sections forming eight bays over the windows.

    Carefully reconstructed around 1900, the roof is thought to have kept its original form. Some of the wall posts have carved wood brackets on which saints stand under canopied niches.

    These figures have been defaced, and it may be these to which Puritan Inspector William Dowsing referred when he visited the church and boasted ‘I brake down six superstitious pictures’.

    It was in the higher spots that carpenters were free to express their skills in images not dictated by the clergy. There are ninety-six carvings in all, including a variety of foliage, as well as pomegranates and artichokes, fools and jesters, and shields with letters and crosses.

  • 1499


    Merchant Henry Tooley listed as a member of this parish living in Key Steet.

    Henry Tooley was once one of the richest merchants in Ipswich. He traded cloth, fish, wine, and grain. He lived with his wife Allicia in a large house and trading hall on St Mary’s Quay.

    As a teenager, Tooley was apprenticed to a member of the Merchant Adventurers Company, at a time when the cloth trade was flourishing. By 1516, he is recorded as trading 260 baled of cloth between Southampton and Ipswich.

  • 1506

    Merchant adventurer Thomas Pounder sailed from Ipswich to Iceland with mixed cargo for barter with the islanders, returning with stock, fish and blubber.

    Thomas Pounder was a successful merchant adventurer who served as bailiff of Ipswich and town coroner. His ships covered many thousands of miles, and in 1506 he sailed from Ipswich to Iceland to barter, returning with fish and blubber. 

  • 1513

    Thomas Pounder first held borough office as a Chamberlain with Richard Humphrey.

  • 1514

    Merchant William Gyles left the vicar two shillings in his will to ‘pray for my soul every Sunday the whole year’.

  • 1516

    Thomas Pounder exported cloth to the Low Countries, returning with madder, yarn and ropes.

  • 1525


    Thomas Pounder commissioned his memorial brass, completed after his death on 7th November

    At the time St Mary’s was built, monumental brasses were popular in East Anglia as a way to remember important members of the congregation. It was easier to shape brass than stone, so brasses could carry more elaborate memorial details.

    The Pounder Brass is one of the finest Flemish brasses in England. It was made in Flanders, in what we now call Belgium, and though the original is now in the care of the Ipswich Museum, a replica is found at Quay Place.

    The rectangular brass measures 114cm by 71cm and is a superb piece of craftsmanship. At its centre stand the figures of Thomas Pounder, merchant, one time bailiff, and coroner of Ipswich, and his wife Emme, with their two sons and six daughters.

    The brass also features Thomas Pounder’s Merchant Mark which would have appeared on goods that he was importing or exporting. The arms of the Merchant Adventurers Company are on one side of Thomas and on the other side is the arms of Ipswich.

  • 1526

    Merchant Henry Tooley dispatched his ship the Mary Walsingham to Iceland.

  • 1528

    Henry VIII gave the bed of the River Orwell to the people of Ipswich.

    Cardinal Wolsey wanted the site of the dismantled Priory of St Peter and St Paul next to the church for his new ‘Cardinal College’ school.

    After Wolsey’s disgrace and the failure of the college, William Sabyn, churchwarden at St Mary’s purchased it.

    Dame Elizabeth Gelget’s will paid for the roof of the Priory to be acquired and used at St Mary’s.

  • 1530


    Wolsey’s Cardinal College demolished, leaving only the water gate in Key Street.

    Emme Pounder carried on her husband’s business, sending three vessels to the Low Countries. Her ship exported cloth, iron, nails, oil, soap, woad, alum and thread.

  • 1538

    Nearby, Blackfriars Monastery dissolved and Henry VIII sold the building for £24 to merchant and St Mary at the Quay church warden, William Sabyne.

  • 1539

    William Sabyne was listed as a Member of Parliament for Ipswich.

    William Sabyne was a local ship owner and churchwarden of St Mary’s who served as a naval officer to Henry VIII. Sabyne led English ships at the Battle of Leith, and as captain of his own boat, the ‘Sabyne’, patrolled the straits of Dover to keep them free of enemy shipping. Henry VIII described him as a ‘well beloved servant’, whilst others have referenced his ‘combining commerce with piracy and fighting the French’.

    Sabyne became a Freeman of Ipswich in 1519, and worked with various local merchants, including Henry Tooley with whom he collaborated on ventures to Bordeaux, the Baltic and Iceland. When Cardinal Wolsey’s college – immediately north west of the church – on the site of the former Priory of St Peter and St Paul failed, it was William Sabyne who purchased it.

    The south aisle at St Mary’s is also thought to have been built – or completed – by Saybne. He died in 1543.

  • 1547


    London merchant Edmund Withypoll began building Christchurch Mansion.

  • 1547 - 1553

    During the reign of King Edward VI, churchwardens sold items from the church to pay off a debt for the ‘byldyng of ther churche and for ledying, plastering and pavyng’.

  • 1551


    Wealthy Ipswich merchant Henry Tooley died.

    When Tooley died in 1551, he had no children and left much of his wealth to the people of Ipswich. His tomb and brasses, built following his wife’s death in 1567, are located in the north transept and reflect his power and wealth.

    However, Tooley’s tomb and brasses in the north aisle are not the only way this prosperous 16th century merchant ensured he was remembered by the people of Ipswich. He also left the bulk of his fortune to a charitable foundation for the building of almshouses on nearby Foundation Street for ex-servicemen. Residents received firewood, medical care and clothes in the Tooley livery.

    Though the original houses were rebuilt in the 19th century, they still stand in Tooley’s name further up the street.

  • 1556

    Alice Tooley, Emme Pounder and her daughter Joan Barber joined the parish of St Clement’s.

  • 1561


    Queen Elizabeth reported to have visited Ipswich.

    Thomas Eldred, famous navigator, baptized at St Mary at the Quay on 8th November.

  • 1564

    Emme Pounder died on 17th June and was buried in St Clement’s churchyard on 19th June.

  • 1565

    Alice Tooley died.

  • 1579

    Queen Elizabeth conducts her second visit to Ipswich.

  • 1586 - 88

    Thomas Eldred attended Ipswich Grammar School with the English adventurer Sir Thomas Cavendish, and they sailed together on board Cavendish’s flagship ‘Desire’ on the second English circumnavigation of the globe between 1586 and 1588.

  • 1588

    Eldred became a portman, town treasurer, and Bailiff of Ipswich.

    Ipswich shipbuilding yards built, manned, and fitted out two merchantman ships with guns to sail against the Spanish Armada.

  • 1600s


    The population of Ipswich reached 4,000.

    During the 1600s it is probable that the pitch of the chancel roof was lowered and its timber framework took its present shape. The clock face was also probably installed.

    The chancel is found at the east end of the church, raised up from the nave by steps. It is from here that services are conducted.

    The chancel’s hammerbeam roof is much lower than the lofty nave and may have been brought from the former Blackfriars Priory.

  • 1610

    George Parkhurst married Phebe Lette in St Mary at the Quay.

    Born in 1588 in Key Parish, Parkhurst later sailed to Massachusetts in the United States, possibly arriving in 1637. He did return to England (sometime after 13th June 1655) and died in 1675 and is buried in St Lawrence’s Churchyard, as ‘Old George Pankhurst’.

  • 1620

    John Allen was vicar of St Mary at the Quay. By 1637 he had emigrated to America, helping to found the town of Dedham in Massachusetts.

  • 1633


    Memorial in the north transept featuring  carved stone skull and coat of arms given by John Bret, principal clerk to ‘the King’s palace of Westminster,’ in memory of his parents Thomas and Mary.

  • 1640

    On the 27 October, John Blomfield, the elder of this parish, died aged 81 years. There was an inscription around the border of the stone adjoining Pounder’s on the south in memory of him.

  • 1640s

    Around the 1640s the medieval glass was destroyed, the font bowl defaced, and angels taken down from the roof of the nave.

    The octagonal font was delicately carved by 15th century stonemasons. The bowl bears the angel of St Matthew, the winged lion of St Mark, the ox of St Luke, and the eagle of St John, alongside four angels holding shields. Lions stand proudly supporting the stem and above them is a band of flowers and angels with outstretched wings.

    By 1874, this intricate decoration had been covered with plaster and Victorian workmen spent a week removing it. More recently, the font was boxed up and placed in storage to protect it during building works, and has now been re-instated in the west end of the north aisle.

  • 1643


     Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Inspector, William Dowsing, visited the church on 29th January, destroying angels, pictures, and other artefacts.

  • 1650

    Puritan Stephen Marshall was the vicar of St Mary at the Quay until 1681, also serving as Town Preacher from 1653.

  • 1660 c.

     A cupola was built on the tower to house the clock bell, which is now in the chancel.

    This lead covered cupola had probably crowned the tower giving it a very distinctive appearance on the Ipswich skyline.

  • 1665

    The first Ipswich plague death is reported to have happened in the parish of St Mary at the Quay on 21st April.

    In 1665 the plague returned to England, killing tens of thousands in London. The exact date of its arrival in Ipswich is unknown, but it first appeared in the parish of St Mary, where the Common Quay saw many ships arriving from the capital. The first likely reference in the parish register is on 21st April 1665, when ‘a sick man died from Master Goodman’s’, and by July that year a ‘form of Common Prayer’ has been prescribed to be read every Wednesday during the epidemic. Pigs, dogs, cats and tame pigeons were not allowed to pass up and down the streets in infected places.

  • 1668


    King Charles II visited Christchurch Mansion on 5th October.

  • 1669

    Sir Emmanuel (Manuel) Sorrell died, leaving money to distribute coal yearly to the poor of the parish. He was a Bailiff of Ipswich between 1642 and 1667 and knighted by King Charles II in 1660.

  • 1670 c.

    1670 c.

    Gold painted key weathervane in place, which sailors would have seen from the river.

    The ornate weathervane on the tower is topped off with a gold-painted key. Before tall building sprung up between St Mary’s and the dockside, the weathervane was useful to departing sailors to calculate the wind direction.

    Records show the weathervane was in place by the 1670s, when the docks were the thriving commercial centre of Ipswich. The key reflects the local tradition of referring to St Mary’s at the ‘Key Church’, and probably references ‘Kay’, an earlier form of the word Quay.

  • 1674

    John Ogilby appointed His Majesty’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer and produced the first large, detailed scale plan of Ipswich.

  • 1680

    Ipswich had a population of 7,500.

  • 1695

    Robert Stephenson MA, Master of the Grammar School, died aged 61. His marble ledger stone is in the north transept.

  • 1708

    John Reycroft/ Roycroft, gave in his will £10 to buy real estate settled in trust for the poor of the parish.

    The property representing the trust consisted of a freehold premises in Lower Orwell Street (also known as ‘the Wash’) and used as the workhouse of the said parish. Twelve pennyworth of bread was left on a shelf by the tower every Sunday for the poor. These loaves were left on a bread shelf to the left of the tower arch.

  • 1720


    Ipswich had its first newspaper, The Ipswich Journal, which went to press in August.

  • 1758

    As Surveyor of the Navy, Thomas Slade of Ipswich designed HMS Victory, which would later serve as Lord Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar.

  • 1781

    John, son of Solomon, a child brought from the East Indies was baptized on 26th January at the age of 11 or 12 at SMAQ.

  • 1783

    On 11th June, the cupola on the clock tower was set on fire by lightning.

    The current clock was installed in 1877 by J.A. Haskell of Tavern Street, Ipswich. The clock tower was originally crowned with a cupola, dated 1660, which was later struck by lightning and destroyed. The Victorian clock replaced the original 17th century clock and has been overhauled as part of our regeneration project.

  • 1793 - 1815

     During the Napoleonic War shipbuilding flourished – 19 Men of War and 53 East Indiamen were built in Ipswich.

  • 1796

     Charles Jobson married Ann Ramsey in St Mary at the Quay, both signing their marriage certificate with a cross. They lived at the Smack Inn, on the site of the Premier Inn.

  • 1800

    Vice Admiral Lord Nelson appointed High Steward of Ipswich until 1805.

  • 1800 c.

    Ipswich had a population of about 11,000, with flourishing shipbuilding, leather, malting and brewing industries, and a booming port.

    The population of the parish of St Mary at the Quay was 1,082 people.

  • 1800s

    The cupola underwent restoration.

  • 1802

    The tower was refaced and almost entirely rebuilt.

  • 1805

    An act of Parliament was passed for improving the port, establishing The Orwell River Commissioners.

  • 1806 - 1808

    Upper parts of church tower underwent drastic restoration using 12 tons of stone which arrived by water.

  • 1808

    A bill was paid for the raising of the bells after being reframed.

    There are six bells in the bell tower, which stands at the western end of the church. The treble bell was cast by Thomas Gardiner of Sudbury in Suffolk in 1739, and the second, third, and tenor bells were made at the Ipswich foundry of John Darbie in the 1660’s. The fifth was cast by Miles Graye I in Colchester in 1613, and the sixth by Packs and Chapman at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1775.

  • 1815

    St Mary at the Quay embraced the principles of the Evangelical movement and became the second Ipswich church to begin a Sunday school.

    Ipswich sea captains offered the first paddle steamer service to London.

  • 1817

    Ipswich was one of the first towns to have gas lighting.

  • 1824

    Ipswich Steam Navigation founded, with twice-weekly sailings to London.

  • 1832

    In August, Charles Jobson died, having become a water bailiff, regulating and supervising the port.

     The burial index states that he was buried on 28th August and that he was 59 years old. His coffin plate was discovered during an archaeological dig. Archaeologists working in the south churchyard uncovered copper alloy coffin plates for several tombs in 2014. Charles Jobson (1773-1832), was a third generation Freeman of Ipswich, who owned a number of smacks and briggs transporting corn up and down the coast.

    Jobson also held the position of water bailiff, as his father William and his grandfather George had done continuously from 1753 to 1790. Water bailiffs were part of the lower tier of government, and made sure that the correct taxes were paid on boats whilst regulating and supervising the port.

  • 1837

    The Dock Commission was established by Act of Parliament.

  • 1839

    River excavated to create a Wet Dock, the cost of which was estimated at £58,000.

  • 1842

    The building of the Wet Dock was completed, then the largest area of enclosed water of its kind in England.

  • 1843

    A violent storm flooded the vaults beneath the nave of St Mary at the Quay and resulted in a disagreeable odour throughout the building, which was officially closed for three years whilst repairs took place.

    By now, the parish was no longer home to wealthy merchants, and had become one of the smallest and poorest in the town.

  • 1845

    The new ‘Hall of Commerce’ replaced the 14th century Customs House on Common Quay.

  • 1848

    The parish had 988 inhabitants. The population of Ipswich was almost 33,000.

  • 1851

    Reverend William Harbur, vicar for more than 20 years, died aged 53. He is commemorated on a white marble tablet on the chancel wall.

  • 1859

    A visitor writes about being ‘shown into a high-backed and cushioned pew – one of those comfortable dosing-places which our forefathers delighted in’.

  • 1870

    Architect and County Surveyor Henry Medgett Eyton was the driving force behind a campaign to restore the church in stages.

  • 1872

    One of the prime movers of the Church of England Evangelical Revival, the Simeon’s Trustees, bought the ‘patronage of the living’ for £1,070.

  • 1874

    First stage of the restoration carried out, including repair of the east window, removal of large box pews in the chancel, moving the font, and dismantling lower two decks of the pulpit.

  • 1876

    Reverend George Lovely became vicar, the first Simeon’s Trustees appointment.

    During second stage of repairs, the door from the old Grammar School in Foundation Street was installed in the south porch, and the chancel wall was lined with encaustic tiles.

  • 1877

    A new clock was placed in the tower by J. A. Haskell of Tavern Street.

    Ipswich Dock Act empowered the Dock Commission to build a new lock at the south eastern end of the docks, opening in 1881.

  • 1879

    Reverend George Lovely conducted the reopening services of the church after the third stage of repairs, which cost £500.

    An anonymous donation of a new organ by Godball of Ipswich was placed in the south transept.

    The south aisle windows were restored and filled with tinted glass – the gift of Captain and Miss Billingsley who are memorialised in the church.

  • 1895

    Reverend George Lovely, popular vicar for 19 years, died on 1st February. A white marble slab was erected by the congregation in the north transept.

  • 1898

    The church officially closed, having been declared unsafe and insanitary.

    Edward Fearnley Bisshopp, the Ipswich architect, and Diocesan Surveyor, reported that the nave roof was liable to fall in at any time, the north clerestory was in a critical state, the porch was in use as a coal store and its stonework and others on the south side were dilapidated.

  • 1898 - 1901

    Reverend W Stewart Walford appealed for £3,000 to save St Mary at the Quay, describing it as ‘once the church of the rich, but now the church of the poor’.

  • 1901

    After three years of restoration, the church was saved from closure. Southern churchyard wall rebuilt, new gates erected and the south porch became the main entrance.

  • 1907

    Francis Hamilton Nicholls became vicar.

  • 1919

    War Memorial, commemorating those killed during the First World War, erected on west wall of the nave on 9th November, including Douglas Nicholls, son of the vicar.

  • 1922

    Heated protests from parishioners at the suggestion of merging with St Peter’s. A Commission of Enquiry was held and the scheme was abandoned.

  • 1934

    The population of the parish was 930.

  • 1940

    On 8th July a 220lb bomb pierced the chancel roof, but did not explode. It was dug out of the floor and rendered harmless.

    During WW2, the Ipswich docks were an important target for German bombing raids aiming to disrupt key industries.

    St Mary’s had a lucky escape on 8th July 1940 when a 220lb bomb pierced the roof of the church and became embedded in the stone floor of the chancel. Luckily, it did not explode and the church was spared. In fact, on that night none of the seven bombs released along a quarter of a mile of the quay exploded.

  • 1942

    Another bomb fell to the east of the church, destroying windows and causing considerable damage.

    The register records the church ‘closed because of enemy action’ on 18th October. No more services were held and the congregation united with nearby St Peter’s.

  • 1948

    St Mary’s was officially closed by the Diocese.

  • 1949


    The church was cleared of most of its furnishings. The pulpit went to St Peter’s Church Elmsett. Monumental brasses were taken for safekeeping to Ipswich Museum where they were to be stored until the church was in a fit state for them to be returned.

  • 1959

    By 1959, the church was scheduled for demolition, and was saved by the Friends of Friendless Churches, who adapted it for the use of the Ipswich Battalion of the Boys Brigade.

    Chairman Ivor Bulmer Thomas raised £12,000 to restore and adapt it for use as the Headquarters of the Boys Brigade. The Boys Brigade continued to use the church until 1973, and an oral history of this time is still being gathered.

  • 1961

    Lord Maclay, Brigade President, opened the Headquarters of the Boys’ Brigade in St Mary at the Quay.

  • 1962

    The font was returned from Brantham Church where it was taken in 1959 after three years of protest from local residents.

  • 1973

    The Boys Brigade vacated the building and St Mary at the Quay was vested into what is now The Churches Conservation Trust (originally the Redundant Churches Fund).

  • 1981

    The Churches Conservation Trust repaired and replaced the chancel roof, removed the vestry and carried out other repairs.

    On a brick above the east window the restorers commemorated the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

  • 1991

    Extensive work was carried out to the north aisle roof and the porch.

  • 2001

    Major repairs were carried out on the tower.

  • 2008

    Arts organization Key Arts took over the church and provided art installations, solo and group exhibitions, and masked balls.

  • 2010


    Suffolk Mind began a partnership with The Churches Conservation Trust to restore the building and convert it into a heritage and wellbeing centre.

  • 2014

    Molyneux Kerr architects produced first plans to renovate the church and create a seven room extension.

    Population of Ipswich 135,000.

  • 2016


    The church was fully restored and officially opened as Quay Place by the High Sheriff of Suffolk on 17th October.