The Leman memorial, St Stephen's church, Ipswich
The Leman memorial (1637), St Stephen's church, Ipswich

St Stephen is one of a dozen medieval churches in the historic town of Ipswich. Like several other town centre churches it was declared redundant in 1975 but has reemerged as a base for the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre, offering everything from guidebooks and maps to accommodation booking services.

Charles II coat of arms, 1661
Charles II coat of arms, 1661

History

There was a church of St Stephen recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 but the present building is a mix of Perpendicular Gothic and Tudor style, a product of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Archaeological excavations suggest that the base of the Norman tower is preserved within the south porch.

The church was built on St Stephen's Lane, which today is a narrow passageway, but in the early centuries of Ipswich's long history it was a major thoroughfare leading north from a ford across the River Orwell.

Though the interior of St Stephen's is filled with tourist information displays, a large number of interesting memorials have survived.

One of the finest is to Robert Leman and his wife Mary, who died on the same day in 1637. Leman was the nephew of Sir John Leman, Lord Mayor of London in 1616 and a wealthy member of the Fishmongers Guild. The worshipful Company of Fishmongers contributes to the cost of maintaining the Leman monument to this day, almost 400 years after his death. I've seen it written elsewhere that Robert Leman was himself Lord Mayor but this is a mistake, confusing the nephew and the uncle. Robert was, however, elected as Sheriff of London though he never took office.

The touching epitaph reads:

The church/TIC interior
The church/TIC interior

'The same sunne that closed
Her eyes in the morning
shutting up His in the evening'.

The monument was carved by John and Matthias Christmas, who served as carvers to the Royal Navy. It shows the couple kneeling, facing each other across a prayer desk, with their children ranged below. It is a superb example of an early 17th century wall monument.

A richly painted royal coat of arms to Charles II, dated 1661, is suspended over the nave. The reverse of the board on which the arms are painted carries the fleur-de-lys symbol of the Prince of Wales. Another feature is a series of 5 funeral hatchments on the wall above the door.

Visiting

It is easy to find st Stephen's church; just follow pedestrian signs for the tourist information centre. The church is open whenever the TIC is, which as of this writing is daily except Sunday during business hours.

It is perhaps a bit startling to see the spacious interior of this beautiful medieval church filled with souvenir stands and map displays but at least it is being used, like St Lawrence church a short distance away on the north side of Buttermarket, which is now a cafe, and St Peter's by the Waterfront further south, which acts as a heritage centre. Far better these wonderful historic buildings are adapted to modern usage than see them decay.

About Ipswich, St Stephen's Church
Address: St Stephen's Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk, England, IP1 1DP
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: On St Stephen's Lane, just south of Buttermarket and the Ancient House
Website: Ipswich, St Stephen's Church
Email: tourist@ipswich.gov.uk
Location map
OS: TM163444
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


HERITAGE

HeritageWe've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.

Historic Time Periods:

Medieval
Tudor

Find other attractions tagged with:

11th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - Charles II (Person) - Domesday Book (Historical Reference) - Medieval (Time Period) - Norman (Architecture) - Perpendicular (Architecture) - Tudor (Time Period) -


NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS

Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest

Ipswich, St Lawrence Church - 0.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Ancient House - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Ipswich, St Mary le Tower Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Pykenham's Gatehouse - 0.2 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Ipswich Unitarian Meeting House - 0.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Christchurch Mansion - 0.2 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Ipswich, St Mary at Quay Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

ipswich, St Peter by the Waterfront - 0.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating



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