Building » Lowestoft (Pakefield) – St Nicholas

Lowestoft (Pakefield) – St Nicholas

Morton Road, Pakefield, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 0JQ

An Arts and Crafts-style church, built for Congregational use in 1902-3 by the father and son architects George Baines and R. Palmer Baines of London. Of red brick with much inventive use of Costessey terracotta decoration externally, the building is of high townscape value. The broad single space interior has a prominent post-medieval style roof and good coloured glass.

The church was built as the South Cliff Congregational Chapel by John Ashby, contractor of Lowestoft, to designs by George Baines FRIBA and his son, R. Palmer Baines, architects of Clements Inn, London. All these names were added to stones at the base of the tower, but without any dates: the written start date has been given as both 1902 and 1900. The variation in dates may be due to a modification to a previous design, though the ‘suggested elevation’ is not dated either. This shows a larger church with a square southwest tower and entry with a main west door. The apparently unaisled nave has a double gable to the northeast corner suggesting a T-shaped internal space.

In fact the foundation stone was laid 8 May 1902 and the church opened the following year. J. Colman of Norwich was a benefactor and is commemorated on one of the weathered tablets below the west window.

A hall was added across the east end in 1949, of red brick and cast concrete details (it is currently used by a school and playgroup). After amalgamation into the United Reformed Church, the congregation gradually declined until moving to nearby Kirkley (whose centre is actually closer than Pakefield proper to the south). After being empty for a while, the church was bought by the Diocese of East Anglia in 1995 and dedicated to St Nicholas at the opening service on 11 August 1995. It replaced a former billiard hall that had served as the chapel-of-ease to Our Lady Star of the Sea, Lowestoft since 1955.


St Nicholas is a typical product of the Baines practice: late Gothic style in red brick with terracotta dressings (here from the Norwich Costessey terracotta ware company). However, the south porch and tapering northwest tower –particularly its capping – show the adoption of Arts and Crafts or Free Gothic motifs. Bettley draws parallels with Leonard Stokes, Baillie Scott and for the tower, Voysey.

Adaptation to use as a Catholic church has involved the introduction of a simple modern altar and the removal of a large wooden pulpit. Otherwise, there has been little change. There is a large brass memorial beneath the west window to Claud Castleton, died July 1916, Lowestoft’s only recipient of the Victoria Cross.

The list description (below) has the essential features, though there are a number of errors and omissions:

  • The dates are 1902-03, the architects George Baines and R. Palmer Baines (collectively George Baines and Son on one contemporary engraving).
  • Red brick and white terracotta (Costessey ware) dressings. The roof cresting (not flashings) is of red terracotta.
  • There is nothing ‘ritual’ about the southwest tower, which has one bell. There is a northeast sacristy and a southeast organ chamber each with their own low transverse gables.
  • The seven-light west window is flanked with thin polygonal buttresses rising from foliate corbels at cill level to break into miniature pinnacles above the west gable. The window jambs are separate.
  • The northwest stair turret is small, rather than ‘minature’ (sic).
  • The northwest tower tapers quite dramatically and the ‘inset spirelet’ is better described as a lead spike.
  • The nave has short three-light windows, the paired gable windows are taller and of four lights.
  • The flèche on the nave roof has a timber octagonal open base with wide eaves with a lead spike above.
  • The interior is not arcaded, but a broad space with timber posts each side supporting the valley gutter between the two gabled windows.
  • The broad roof is not of false hammerbeam type, though the size of the timbers and the use of pendants suggest it is looking to post-medieval exemplars. It relies on original elaborate iron ties to keep it up. The underside is plastered (not boarded) with large cast-iron ventilator panels.
  • The four-centred sanctuary (not ‘transept’) arch rises from green marble shafts with foliate corbels and capitals (the latter perhaps of stone).
  • The dado panelling and benches are original, as is the excellent coloured glass in Arts and Crafts style.

List description


Formerly known as: South Cliff Congregational Church PAKEFIELD ROAD. Church. 1900-3, with extension of 1949. By G.Baines. Red brick with stone dressings and slate roof with terracotta flashings. Arts and Crafts style. Nave, chancel and small ritual south-west tower. Windows in Perpendicular style with hoodmoulds. West end has 7-light window with jambs rising above gable as small pinnacles. Minature octagonal tower to left has ogee roof with finial. 3-stage tower to right has diagonal buttresses, single-light windows, bell chamber openings, ornamental parapet and inset spirelet. Nave sides are both similar with the addition of elaborate porch to north. 3- and 4-light windows, the latter in paired transept-like gables. Roof has octagonal lantern and fleche. Extensions to east. INTERIOR: arcades formed by tapering posts. False hammerbeam roof and boarded ceiling. Naturalistic foliage corbels to transept arch.

Listing NGR: TM5407591128

Heritage Details

Architect: George and R. Palmer Baines

Original Date: 1903

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II