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The Church of St Mary Magdalen, Norwich Road, Ipswich


The Church of St Mary Magdalen, Ipswich circa 2008

St Mary Magdalen is the first Ipswich church that many visitors see, standing as it does on Norwich Road, the main way into town from the midlands and the north. Set back from the road, it has the presbytery beside it, a Madonna on its wall surrounded by roses.

It opened in 1956, to serve the rapidly expanding population of this area. Carved out of St Pancras parish, it retains the St Pancras Catholic primary school under its wing. This is a wide, mixed parish, from the pleasant well-to-do villages west of Ipswich, to challenging and deprived Whitton, Suffolk's poorest housing estate.

Despite the grandly herring-boned west end, it is the least architecturally significant of the five Catholic churches in Ipswich. But what it does have is a superb east end, with the finest coloured glass of any of them. In vivid reds, interspersed with contrasting panes, it represents the Sanctus of the Mass. A simple, beautiful crucifix hangs beneath.

Nearby, the foundation stone of the church records grandly in Latin that Leo, Bishop of Northampton, laid this stone to mark the beginning of the raising of the church dedicated to St Mary of Magdala on the 29th October 1955, when Pius XII was Pope. Latin does not ring around its walls as much as it did then, but this church remains a simple and beautiful place.

St Mary Magdalens church, 2014. A pen and ink sketch by Elliott Garbett.