At the sign of the Barking lion...

Old Cemetery chapels, 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 east chapel from the west, through the spruce tree.

Now you see it... (west chapel) you don't (east chapel)

from the plateau, the sweep of a great Victorian cemetery.


The west chapel, from the south east.

One of the glories of the Borough of Ipswich is the Old Cemetery. A vast, rolling landscape of mainly Victorian graves and buildings, it cuts right in towards the centre of town, and stretches out to the 1930s ring road. An afternoon spent wandering around it is never wasted - there is always something extraordinary 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; 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 used the nearby church of St Mary for their funeral Masses before interment here. These chapels are not to be confused with the early 20th century crematorium chapel up by the ring road.

High Gothic in appearance, traditionally Suffolk 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 - it isn't clear when this happened. And, although the Anglican chapel is still used occasionally, there is now a vast new Millennium Cemetery, opened in 2000, to the north of the Borough. Although the old cemetery is still used occasionally, mostly the people here can rest in peace.

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.

Hundreds of the headstones in the Ipswich Cemetery are available to view on-line.


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