At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Felix, Felixstowe

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Felixstowe St Felix

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    St Felix sits just off busy Hamilton Road in this jolly Edwardian seaside town. Felixstowe is often ignored by explorers of Suffolk, which is a great pity, since it contains much of interest, including Betjeman's beloved St John the Baptist, Suffolk's finest 19th Century, and St Andrew, which in the 1920s was England's first reinforced concrete church, as well as a host of fascinating domestic architecture from the 1890s to the 1930s. St Felix does not stand out like those famous churches, but it has a quiet, dignified presence. The original church on this site was built in 1899, when Felixstowe was a far outpost of the Diocese of Northampton, a town which few parishioners here can ever have visited. Before that, Mass had been said upstairs in a tea room on the Orwell Road. The first church was where the presbytery is now, and it was a wooden hut, although later photographs show it covered, rather attractively, with ivy. The original plans for the new church were grand indeed, and incorporated a presbytery for three priests and two live-in servants! However, the current church was built in 1912, largely to the designs of Suffolk architect Francis Banham, in a restrained modernist mid-Gothic style. Banham's original design also included a grand mock-Tudor west end with a squat tower. It would have been the most expensive part of the project, and it must have become clear fairly early on that it would never be built. Instead, a porch was added in 1958. It replaced two large barn-like doors which opened directly into the nave, roughly where the inner doors are today.

You step through into a wide, squarish nave. The church has undergone a few changes in the last couple of years, the most memorable of which is the addition of glass by one of the best-known of all modern glass designers, Tom Denny. It was installed in 2008, and is set at the west end of each aisle above the processional way that leads beneath the stations of the cross. On one side of the church it depicts Christ the Divine Mercy of Lithuania, and on the other St Faustina of Lithuania in her monastery cell and the monastery garden. It was the gift of a parishioner, and only one other church in East Anglia has glass by Tom Denny, Stutton, on the Shotley Peninsula on the other side of the Orwell.

Christ the Divine Mercy of Lithuania (Tom Denny, 2018) St Faustina in her monastery cell and the monastery garden (Tom Denny, 2018)

Turning east, the sanctuary has been reordered with new furnishings, including a fine stone lectern whose sides have the symbols of the four evangelists. The windows above the sanctuary depict the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. As with almost all the other glass in the church with the exception of the Denny windows, it is the work of Hardman & Co, and this is the largest collection of that workshop's 20th Century output in all Suffolk. Indeed, St Felix has more coloured glass than any other Catholic church in the county. There are four main other windows. The lady chapel altar is backed by two lights depicting the Holy Family, including the young Christ at work in the carpenter's workshop. To the west of it, glass depicts St Bernadette's vision of Our Lady Immaculate at Lourdes. In the Blessed Sacrament chapel, a window depicts the Holy Trinity in the medieval arrangement of God Father seated holding the Crucified Son, while a dove of the Holy Spirit descends. They are flanked by the kneeling figures of St Thomas More and St John Fisher. On the other side of the church is a lovely depiction of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt.

St Felix of Burgundy is one of the patron saints of East Anglia. It's unlikely that the town of Felixstowe itself is named after him, but there is a local connection with St Felix. The former village of Walton is now an inner suburb of the town of Felixstowe, but long ago it contained the Roman sea fort known as Walton Castle, now half a mile out under the waves. This was probably the Dommoc where St Felix first came ashore to convert the heathen English, and the place where he established his See.


Simon Knott, December 2023

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sanctuary east window Felixstowe St Felix
lady chapel Blessed Sacrament chapel St Joseph chapel
lectern lectern Felixstowe St Felix Felixstowe St Felix
Flight into Egypt (Hardman & Co) Holy Trinity flanked by St Thomas More and St John Fisher (Hardman & Co) Immaculate Conception (Hardman & Co) Holy Trinity
St Joseph and the Christ child Christ child Our Lady of Felixstowe
Blessed Virgin spinning St Thomas More St John Fisher St Joseph
St Bernadette most sacred heart angel
St Gertrude immaculate Hardman


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