Building » Ipswich – St Mary Magdalen

Ipswich – St Mary Magdalen

Norwich Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 6JS

A modest church of the 1950s, not adventurous in its design but well detailed, and notable for some good dalle de verre glass of 1978 at the east end.

The church was built to serve new housing in the post-war western expansion of Ipswich. The presbytery (468 Norwich Road) was acquired first, in 1954; a side extension known as the Guild Room was used as a chapel. In 1955 the adjoining corner plot was acquired and designs for a church seating 250 were drawn up by Wearing & Hastings of Norwich. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Parker of Northampton on 29 October 1955, and the bishop returned to bless the completed church on 1 June 1956. Originally the sacristy and confessionals were housed in timber-clad ‘pods’ (now removed) on either side of the sanctuary, connected by an external corridor (which survives). The original intention (never implemented) was to extend the building with a separate chancel to the east, leaving the present building to serve as the nave only.

In 1963 a parish hall was built and a car park laid out on the other side of Highfield Approach.

In 1978 the church was reordered. The original sacristy and confessional were removed, a stone forward altar and lectern introduced, and dalle de verre glass installed in the east window. A narthex and gallery were formed at the liturgical west end, with a sacristy and confessional giving off the narthex. There have been further minor adaptations and alterations since then.


The church is orientated north-south, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east.

The church is a single cell design, consisting of a nave and sanctuary under one roof, with a later narthex and gallery at the west end. Doors giving off the sanctuary at the east end lead to an external cedar-clad corridor (intended as temporary but still in place). The church is of steel portal frame construction with cavity brick walls faced with patterned Primrose bricks from Marks Tey, Essex. The roof is clad with red clay pantiles. The main entrance has a flat canopy over, and piers on either side frame a central rose window. A stone cross is placed on the apex of the gable. The windows at the sides are paired metal framed rectangular lancets with opaque glazing, while at the east end there are three stepped lancets.

Entered via the later vestibule, the interior space is a single volume with slender round steel columns defining the narrow perimeter circulation aisles. The floor is finished in Granwood, a composite woodblock, and the ceiling and walls are plastered and painted (the east wall in papal yellow), apart from the dado, which are of fair-faced brick to sill height, and the window surrounds (of creased tiles). A foundation stone is set into the wall on the north side, partially hidden by an imported Gothic timber altar with a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. The church appears to retain its original bench seating in the nave. The three lancet windows at the east end have dalle de verre glass on a Eucharistic theme, installed as part of the 1978 reordering (artist/maker not established).

Internal image credit: Parish website

Heritage Details

Architect: Wearing & Hastings

Original Date: 1956

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed