At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Etheldreda, Ipswich

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


Hover to read captions, click to see enlarged images:

A shot from 'The Angry Silence' - St Etheldreda in the background, Ransomes workers as extras in Cowell Street.

Map of the Wherstead Road area, 1904. The church is circled in green near the bottom; St Mary Stoke is near the top.

Another shot of the site - these trees screened the church from the railway line.

The black bridge.

Cowell Street today.


Looking from Cowell Street towards the site of St Etheldreda.

As Ipswich expanded rapidly in the 19th century, several of the town centre churches found themselves with wedge-shaped parishes stretching out into the suburbs. Some of the parishes ended up being sub-divided; St Helen seeded itself into St John the Baptist, and St Clement into Holy Trinity and St Bartholomew. By the last years of the century, St Mary at Stoke felt a similar need to address the pastoral provision of its hinterland. It did this by building a mission church along the Wherstead road. It was dedicated to St Etheldreda, one of the patron Saints of East Anglia.

Here, tight-packed terraces surrounded the new factories along the dockside, the large scale engineering works of Ransome & Rapier and Reavells. Many of these terraces have been swept away over the last fifteen years, but it is still possible to get a feeling for what the parish was once like, by wandering down Wherstead Road and into Cowell Street.

With its crowded red-brick streets and towering factories, this part of Ipswich has very much the feel of a northern industrial town. So much so that in 1959 these streets, and those off of Foxhall Road, were used as the setting for the film The Angry Silence, starring Richard Attenborough. It was one of those gritty black and white industrial domestic dramas, about a maverick worker sent to Coventry for refusing to join a strike.

Alan Thurkettle, who has contributed many church photographs to this website, pointed out to me that the film includes a shot of St Etheldreda’s church. You view it from within Cowell Street, which was built after the 1904 OS map on the left. As the workers arrive at the factory, about two minutes into the film, the church stands behind them. You can see the triple lancet window at the east end, facing into Wherstead Road, and a bellcote at the west end beyond. The building isn't quite flush with the road. There's an image from the film in the left hand column.

Alan was a choirboy here in the 1950s, and recalls singing at two services each Sunday. He tells me that the church was similar in shape to a large Anderson shelter. He remembers it later being used as a cash and carry store, and then as a storage facility. According to the 1966 Kelly's Directory, this was for the British Railways Maintenance Department; the Ipswich to London railway line hems the site in, running directly behind where the west end of the church was. In addition, the dock spur crosses Wherstead Road about 50 metres south of the site, along what locals call the Black Bridge. The trees that screened the church from the railway line survive today.

Thirty years earlier, Kelly's had listed the working church and its minister, a Church Army evangelist called Alfred Green. Perhaps this suggests something about the liturgical complexion of the Parish at the time.

The church itself seems to have been demolished some time in the 1970s. For many years, the site lay under railway junk, but it was cleared in the late 1990s, and four new houses now sit on it.

I’m very keen to track down any photographs of this building during or after its life as a church. Plans were lodged at Lambeth Palace library in 1899, but they have now been lost.The Ordnance Survey map of 1904 suggests that it was more than a simple hut.

Briefly during the 20th century, the Parish had a second mission church a mile or so away on Burrell Road. It was dedicated to St Edmund, but it, too, has now gone.

You can find the site of St Ethedreda by following the directions above. Basically, it was on the west side of Wherstead Road, facing into Cowell Street.

Thanks to Doreen Jones for sending me the map.

You can buy The Angry Silence on DVD for 9.99 at

this site supported by commission from