At the sign of the Barking lion...

Old Cemetery chapels, Ipswich

At the sign of the Barking lion...

home index e-mail what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk

Anglican chapel non-conformist chapel

chapel and angels chapel chapel
Anglican chapel non-conformist chapel Anglican chapel

Follow these journeys as they happen at Last Of England Twitter.


One of the glories of the Borough of Ipswich is the Old Cemetery, a rolling landscape of 25 hectares that cuts right in towards the centre of town and sprawls out towards the 1930s ring road. It was laid out in the 1850s as a result of a series of Burials Acts that decade which closed all urban churchyards for future burials. The name is something of a misnomer, because although a New Cemetery with a crematorium was added to the northern tip in the 1920s, and is now full, and in more recent years the Ipswich Millennium Cemetery has opened on Tuddenham Road, the Old Cemetery is still in use for burials and, indeed, has plenty of room. An afternoon spent wandering around it is never wasted, because it is beautiful and there is always something interesting to discover.

Eventually, you will happen upon two little chapels, dwarfed by the immense spruce tree between them. They appear identical, except that the western chapel has a fat little copper spire while the eastern one doesn't. There are a few other distinguishing details. To cross the fifty metres or so between them, you go round by the circular carriage drive. They were built together for the opening of the cemetery by Cooper and Peck, in 1855. The one with the spire was for Anglican use, the one without for the non-conformists. Catholics would have continued to use the nearby churches of St Mary or St Pancras for their funeral Masses before interment here.

High Gothic in appearance, traditionally East Anglian in their use of buttressed flint, they are really rather splendid. Inside, encaustic tiles and coloured glass typify their age. The non-conformist chapel is now used for storage, while the other is retained as the Cemetery church. On all sides of this plateau, as though falling away from the drama of the spruce tree, the huge cemetery sprawls, a jungle of secret shaded corners and lichened grey stone, a favourite place of many, including me. Over the years I've taken about five hundred photographs in the Old Cemetery, mostly of indvidual headstones and inscriptions, and you can see them all by clicking on the photograph below.


Simon Knott, January 2021

the Ipswich dead


The Churches of East Anglia websites are non-profit-making, in fact they are run at a loss. But if you enjoy using them and find them useful, a small contribution towards the costs of web space, train fares and the like would be most gratefully received. You can donate via Paypal.