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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

    The building of the present Church, St Mary at the Quay, is thought to have begun building works around this time 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’.

    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.

  • 1499


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

  • 1506

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

  • 1507


    In 1507, serving under Henry VII Wolsey was appointed Royal Chaplain. Later, as Chancellor to the young Henry VIII, he assigned Brian Tuke, a court official working in Calais to run the King's Posts.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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. 

  • 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.

    Records show that by the 1670s, the ornate weathervane on the tower which is topped off with a gold-painted key, was in place. 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.

    Before tall building sprung up between St Mary’s and the dockside, the weathervane was useful to departing sailors to calculate the wind direction.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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. It was dug out of the floor and rendered harmless.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.