At the sign of the Barking lion...

The Ascension, Ipswich

At the sign of the Barking lion... - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


Hover to read captions, click to see enlarged images:

The Ascension, through rose-tinted glasses.

Awaiting repair.


A scruffy exterior hides a beating heart.

The vast expansion of Ipswich in the 1960s included clearing all the slums from the north and east of the town centre, and rehousing everybody on a new estate to the north of the bypass. This gives Whitton (and its slightly more affluent daughter, Castle Hill) a particularly urban character. It contrasts with Ipswich's other massive 1960s estate, Chantry, which was built for people moving in out of the countryside to work in the docks and factories. Chantry's families still have a rural edge to them, and I know which estate I prefer.

The Ascension is at the town end of the Whitton estate, and is therefore in the bit where it is safer to wander around at night. Come here in night or day, though, you'll find this church locked if it isn't in use; but this is largely because it has a dual role, being used as a public hall at other times.

It was built in the early 1970s, as a chapel of ease to the parish church at the far end of the estate. Seeing it from the outside, you might think that it is now disused. Part of the church name has fallen off the wall, there is brick rubble lying about, and the whole thing could do with a lick of paint. In fact, the Ascension is undergoing a refurbishment programme, and they started on the inside. It still hosts two Anglican eucharist services a week, as daughter church to St Mary and St Botolph.

Inside, the holy end is most striking. A wall of wood on wheels swings out for services, creating a devotional Anglo-catholic sanctuary. When not in use, it folds away, and the hall is suitable for more rowdy pursuits. If the outside is completed to the standard of the inside, this will be a fine building, suitable for use for many years to come.



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