A REGENERATION project, costing £5.1 million, has enabled a medieval church to reopen its doors this week as a heritage and “well-being” centre.
The scheme to reopen the church, St Mary at the Quay, Ipswich, has been carried out by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT)and a mental-health charity, Suffolk Mind.
St Mary at the Quay, once at the heart of the docks area of Ipswich, was sidelined in the 19th and 20th centuries, and seriously damaged by bombing in 1942. It was closed in 1948, and was scheduled for demolition in the 1950s. Thanks to a campaign by the Friends of Friendless Churches, however, it became a space used by the Ipswich Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade, until 1973, when it passed into the care of the CCT. By 2008, it was crumbling badly, owing to salt-water erosion, and needed substantial repairs.
The Heritage Lottery Fund gave £3.6 million to Suffolk Mind to transform the church into a well-being centre, offering complementary therapies, a café, and a community garden, as well as a space for interpretation of the church and the area’s heritage.
The regeneration manager at CCT, Rachel Barrett, said that the church centre — to be known as Quay Place — will offer “a wide range of complementary therapies, mind-body exercise classes, workplace well-being, heritage activities, healthy café, meeting rooms, and event space”. It will also offer a space for community activities.
The CCT’s chairman, Peter Ainsworth, said: “I am delighted to see Grade II* St Mary at the Quay repaired and returned to the community. Quay Place is a flagship project for the Churches Conservation Trust, an important example of how historic urban churches can be brought back to life. I hope it will encourage others to embark on bold, imaginative solutions to sustaining our historic environment for future generations.”
The church building remains in the hands of the CCT, but is leased by Suffolk Mind. All churches in the hands of the Trust remain consecrated, and are used for occasional worship.