Church History

Welcome to St Margaret's Church.

History of St Margaret’s Church


St Margaret's as it stands today was largely built in two stages. The oldest parts of the Church are the tower and crypt dating from the mid to late 14th Century,


The Tower

The tower is constructed in the early decorated style (1300 - 1370), with the copper spire put up in 1954 to replace the original lead-on-timber spire erected in 1483.

The spire is surmounted by a gilded weather-cock, once the highest point in Lowestoft (now surpassed only by the sails of Gulliver, the giant turbine). Being the highest point in the most easterly town in the British Isles, the weather-cock is one of the first things touched by the light of the sun each morning.

The belfry arch appears far too small when compared with the height of the nave. This is because the present nave replaces a somewhat earlier and shorter nave, although of the same length.

The tower houses a fine ring of eight bells cast by Taylor's of Loughborough in 1920.


The Crypt

The crypt is contemporary with the tower, dating from the mid to late 14th Century. There are two crypts like this in Lowestoft, the other being in the High Street. There is a rumour that the two crypts are linked by a secret tunnel, however there is no evidence to support this.



The Nave

To the right of the belfry arch is a banner stave locker, one of only two in existence, the other being in Barnby Parish Church (and still has it's original door). This locker would have once been used for storage of processional banners and crosses.

To the right of the banner stave locker is a larger wooden panel listing the incumbents of St Margarets since 1308. The entry for 1478 is Thomas Epis Dromorensis, thought to have become a bishop. His grave is at the chancel step.

Also surrounding the belfry there are six churchwardens' leads. Five of these date from the 18th Century when various repairs were made to the church roof. The leads were from surplus roofing lead. The sixth lead is modern, and dedicated to Norman Hudd.

At the west end of the centre aisle stands the very fine 15th Century font. It's cover was designed by Sir Ninnian Comper in 1940.


The North Aisle

The North Aisle is dominated by the Fishermen's' Memorial, occupying most of the lower half of the north wall. The memorial records the names of Lowestoft fishermen who lost their lives at sea from 1896 until 1923, when the memorial was considered full, and a continuing record moved to The Lowestoft Fisherman's and Sailor's Bethel.For list of names go to Fishermen's Memorial

The glass in the North Aisle is all late 19th century or newer.

"The first stained glass window in this aisle is to the memory of William Youngman, churchwarden of this parish for 40 years, and was dedicated on Trinity Sunday, 1906. The following account of this service taken from the Lowestoft Journal runs:

"On Sunday morning, the Ven. Archdeacon Lawrence dedicated the beautiful window which has been placed in the north aisle of St. Margaret's Church, Lowestoft by Mrs. Walton, in memory of her father, Alderman Wm. Youngman, J.P who was for many years churchwarden of the parish, and twice mayor of Lowestoft. The window, rich in colouring, is a choice work of art. It has been executed by Messrs. Heaton, Butler and Bayne, of Garrick Street, London, and consists of three lights and tracery. It shows the dawn of the first Easter morn. The background is richly and effectively treated, and depicts the first flush of the 'roseate hues'. The Holy women are seen bringing their spices to the sepulchre, before which is seated the angel, who greets them with the significant words of Resurrection,
'He is not here; He is risen!' "
Taken from Chronicles of a Suffolk Parish Church, by H. Lees

The other windows in this aisle include a modern piece, made in Noriwich in 1965, which depicts Saint Andrew and was designed by Mrs. Laurel Cooper.
The first window in this aisle, and the two west windows were moved from St. Peter's, the daughter church of St. Margaret's, which was demolished in 1975.


The North aisle also houses “The ark” - this is our uniquely designed play area for younger children, and is very popular during services.


The Memorial Chapel

This chapel was re-ordered and chairs placed in it a few years ago, to give us more opportunity for differing styles of worship. Our Thursday morning service takes place here, as does our Taize worship on the fifth Sunday of each month. Morning prayer, said at 08.30 and Evening Prayer, at 4pm, are said daily in this chapel.

The three elements of the chapel which pre-date this reordering are the east window, which is late 19th Century, the screen, designed by Sir Ninian Comper in 1923, (intended to span the width of the church, but never completed), and the war memorial itself. The North wall of the chapel lists the names of some 723 Lowestoft men who lost their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918.

Just to the west of the screen, set into the North wall is a stairway. This would have afforded access to the rood screen and loft which existed from medieval times until around 1710. Unfortunately, this stairway is now too dangerous to use.




The Chancel and Sanctuary

Set into the doorway between the memorial chapel and the chancel, is an aumbry. It was moved from St. Peter's at its demolition in 1975, and is used to keep the oils used in Baptism, Confirmation and the anointing of the sick. On the chancel side of the doorway, there are several very finely carved Tudor Roses. It is interesting to note that on the opposing doorway (on the south side of the chancel) the blocks intended for similar decorations remain uncarved.

Memorials at St Margaret's follow the old custom of burying the richest people at the East end of the church within the building, whilst poorer people were buried farther from the building. Within the chancel there are two particular memorials of note. On the south wall, above the external door, is the Ritson Memorial. Carved in white marble, it remembers Revd Bartholomew Ritson. Ritson is also remembered by a cup, known as the Ritson Cup. The Ritson family tomb lies just outside the North wall of the chancel.

Buried just west of the sanctuary step are several members of the Pacy Family. The most famous of these was Samuel Pacy, a merchant who died in 1680. Samuel Pacy was well known as a dissenter, and in 1663 had Rose Cullender and Amy Duny charged with bewitching his daughters.

The main east window was dedicated in 1891, and depicts verses of the Te Deum and Benedicite. At the north end of the communion rail is a framed letter and diagram explaining the details of each part of the window.

Also in the sanctuary is the Lowestoft Pottery Window. This was put into the tracery of the south sanctuary window in 1891. Before this, the glass formed parts of the east window. Parts of the window were broken during its movement, including an image of the Arms of Rev. Lockwood, and the Arms of England. The window had originally been painted and installed as the east window in 1819, making this the oldest glass in the church.
The high altar setting is by Sir Ninnian Comper, and was installed in 1905.

From the sanctuary step, one can best appreciate the overall shape of St. Margaret's. There is no break between chancel and nave, a feature virtually unseen outside East Anglia. This position also affords excellent views of the crossbeam roof of the church, it is decorated in three different styles, one for the nave, one for the chancel and one for the sanctuary. Each roof decoration is more intricate than the last. Also of note at roof level are the fine carved angels at the base of each cross beam, and the wooden eagle at the west end of the roof.


The South Aisle

At the east end of the south aisle, is St. Peter's Chapel. This chapel serves as a memorial of St. Margaret's old chapel of ease, demolished in 1975. In the floor of the aisle (as well as the centre aisle) are many memorials. Some of these still bear brasses. Most, however, were removed by Francis Jessope on 12th June 1644 on the orders of the Earl of Manchester. They were sold to Mr. Josiah Wilde for five shillings, and were used to cast the curfew bell for the town hall. Jessope was also responsible for defacing the carvings on the font.


The Lectern

The lectern in St Margaret's Church is one of very few (perhaps 9) remaining pre-Reformation lecterns. It was made around 1500, and was buried for protection during the puritan regime. This is not the only time that the lectern has required protection. In 1941, the Diocesan Committee for the Care of Churches recommended that the lectern be moved to a place of safety. It was moved to the crypt, where it remained until Whitsunday 1945, when the lesson was read from it once more.

This movement turned out to be wise, as on the night of 18th March, 1943, the surrounding area was bombed, one incendiary bomb falling on the south aisle. Had it not been for the swift action of the fire watch that night, much damage may have been caused to St Margaret's.




The Exterior

St Margaret's is a typical example of 'Best side forward'. The South side of the church is handsomely decorated with traditional flint flushwork, a prominent feature of many East Anglian Churches. The North side of the church, however is comparatively unadorned, perhaps through lack of funds during building.

A particularly richly decorated part of the church is the south porch. Above the doorway are three niches. The figures which originally occupied these niches were destroyed by Francis Jessope. The present figures, all modern, were installed in 1897. The central figure is Saint Margaret of Antioch, the church's patron. In the western niche of the porch is a figure of Saint Felix, the first Bishop of East Anglia (founding the see of Dunwich). In the Eastern niche is Bishop Losinga, who transferred the see to Norwich in 1091. He holds a model of the present Cathedral in his arms. Below the figure of Losinga is a "Wheel" sundial, carved into the stone work. Above the porch is a small room, known locally as the Maid's Chamber. It is so called after the two old ladies who reputedly lived up there for some years before the reformation.


Although the nave is mainly 15th century, the south wall is not. In 1871, the structure was considered to be unsafe, and so the wall was patiently reconstructed, retaining the original buttresses. The stone work on this side of the church is especially fine. Of particular note are the gargoyles on the East and West of the porch, the string course, running around the top of the wall, and the carved detail on the buttresses (mainly shields and Tudor roses).



Length: 182 feet
Breadth: 62 feet
Height (to ride of nave): 43 feet
Height (to top of tower): 70 feet
Height (to top of spire: 120 feet


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