History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Roman Catholic Church of St Felix

A Grade II Listed Building in Felixstowe, Suffolk

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 51.965 / 51°57'54"N

Longitude: 1.3531 / 1°21'11"E

OS Eastings: 630444

OS Northings: 234930

OS Grid: TM304349

Mapcode National: GBR WRS.LYK

Mapcode Global: VHLC9.DVPZ

Plus Code: 9F33X983+26

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of St Felix

Listing Date: 8 November 2022

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1479297

ID on this website: 101479297

Location: St Felix Roman Catholic Church, Felixstowe, East Suffolk, IP11

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Felixstowe

Built-Up Area: Felixstowe

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk


Roman Catholic parish church, built in 1911-1912 to a design by FE Banham of Beccles, with the Lady Chapel, side chapels and sacristy added in 1931-32, and the west end completed in 1957 by RA Boxall of Chelmsford.

The link block between the church and presbytery is included in the listing but the presbytery is excluded.


Roman Catholic parish church, built in 1911-1912 to a design by FE Banham of Beccles, with the Lady Chapel, side chapels and sacristy added in 1931-32, and the west end completed in 1957 by RA Boxall of Chelmsford.

The link block between the church and presbytery is included in the listing but the presbytery is excluded.

MATERIALS: of Weldon stone with Bath stone dressings and plain tile roofs. The walls to the 1911-1912 and 1957 phases are of squared rubble built to courses while the 1931-32 additions are of squared-snecked rubble.

PLAN: the church is orientated north to south but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation i.e. as if the altar is located at the 'east' end. It comprises a four-bay nave with north and south passage aisles, a single-bay narthex with choir loft, a two-bay chancel with single-bay side chapels and a single-bay Lady Chapel on the south side. A sacristy and porch give off on the north side and west end respectively.

EXTERIOR: the church is largely of a Perpendicular Gothic design but the treatment of the gabled west front of 1957 is more restrained than the early-C20 work.

The west end has flat clasping buttresses to the corners and a projecting and gabled porch with three-panelled double doors beneath a three-light fanlight flanked by two-light mullioned and transomed sidelights, all within a shallow arched opening. The arch bears the inscription HAEC EST DOMUS DOMINI (This is the House of the Lord) and a niche at the centre of the gable contains a statue of St Felix. Above the porch is a segmental-pointed king mullion window of seven cusped lights. The returns of the 1957 range are of a single bay and have identical segmental-pointed Perpendicular windows of three cusped lights on the upper floors of which the heads and lower lights beneath a transom have sunken panels of blind tracery. The ground-floor of the right-hand return has a segmental-headed three-light window while the left-hand return is blind. All the windows in the 1957 phase are plain glazed with diamond-shaped quarries set within a diagonal lead lattice.

The north and south aisles are set back and mark the original building line of the west end when the church opened in 1912. The west ends of the aisles are both identical with their ground floors comprising three-panelled wooden doors set within moulded architraves with cambered heads. Above the doors are double lancet windows in segmental-pointed surrounds. The four-bay north and south sides consist of round-headed recesses with segmental-pointed Perpendicular windows of three cusped lights placed above a continuous sill band. All the windows are plain glazed with diamond-shaped quarries set within a diagonal lead lattice. Projecting from the easternmost bay on the south side is a Lady Chapel of 1931-32 date. It has two trefoil-headed lancets on its south side, the two windows separated by an offset buttress, a triplet of trefoil-headed lancets on its west side and a blind east wall. The lower section of the north aisle (below the sill band) is obscured by the Presbytery link which has a Portland stone façade with a 12-panelled door within a segmental-headed chamfered architrave, flanked to the right by a small, metal-framed window with square-pane leaded lights.

The east-end chancel, which is narrower than the nave and also with a lower ridge line, has off-set angle buttresses to the corners, an off-set buttress to the centre and a seven-light Perpendicular window of which the centre three trefoil-headed lights are raised while the flanking lights have trefoil-headed lower lights and dagger tracery above, all within a pointed arch with a label-stopped hoodmould.

The chancel is flanked by side chapels built in 1931-32 to replace temporary chapels. Both have blind east walls, which are formed of canted bays to accommodate internal altars, above which are stepped parapets with sunken panels that contain blind dagger tracery and are surmounted by Celtic crosses. The return walls have two windows of three cusped lights with trefoils to the heads.

INTERIOR: except where stated, all the stained glass described below is by the workshop John Hardman and Company of Birmingham, and is believed to be the largest collection of the workshop's output in East Anglia.

The west porch leads into a narthex over which is a western choir gallery, all added in 1957 and subdivided from the main body of the church by a glazed screen with double doors at the centre; it originally housed a baptistery on the south side, but the font has now been moved to the west end of the nave.

The nave has a four-bay arcade of pointed double-chamfered arches carried on octagonal columns and responds. Engaged half columns with polygonal capitals in the bay divisions continue as ribs marking the bays in a pointed barrel-vault ceiling. The narrow passage aisles have transverse walls with pointed and chamfered arches at the bay divisions above which are former segmental-pointed pierced openings that now contain high-relief, polychrome, Stations of the Cross (given in 1912 and reset in the late C20). On the north side is an Arts and Crafts-style confessional door with a six-light diamond-mullioned top panel set within a chamfered quoined surround with a flat head. At the west end is the church's original octagonal stone font, with a deep drum incorporating a watery motif and the Holy Spirit descending. The windows above the doors at the west end of the aisles contain stained glass on the theme of the Divine Mercy, installed in 2018 by Thomas Denny.

The two-bay chancel is elevated three steps up from the nave and has a pointed and chamfered arch with the upper level framed by blind tracery comprised of trefoil-headed lancets with two daggers to the apex. On each side of the chancel there are paired pointed and chamfered arches with continuous hoodmoulds with foliated stops and fluted corbelled brackets support the rib marking the bay divisions in the pointed barrel-vault ceiling. The stained glass in the seven-light east window depicts the Mysteries of the Rosary, reset in the 1980s. The appearance of the sanctuary’s east wall, in which the three centre lights of the east window are raised, suggests that it was meant to have been equipped with a tall reredos, but this was never provided. The sanctuary furnishings all date from the early-C21 (post 2014) and include an altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth of matching stone by Abbeygate Masonry, Bury St Edmunds. The stonework reflects the original architectural detailing and the ambo incorporates carved symbols of the evangelists from the former pulpit.

The southern side chapel, to the right of the sanctuary, which is dedicated to the Sacred Heart, has three pointed and chamfered arches on its west side, of which the centre arch is taller and wider. It has a stone altar of around 1935 date and stained glass windows in its south wall depicting the Crucified Christ (attended to by St Tomas More and St John Fisher) and the Risen Christ (attended to by St Margaret Mary and St Gertrude).

The northern side chapel, to the left of the sanctuary, which is dedicated to St Joseph, has a tall entrance arch flanked smaller and narrower arch on its west side, both pointed and chamfered. It has a stone altar of around 1935 date and a gothic-traceried stone reredos with a central niche containing a statue of St Joseph. Stained glass windows on the north side depict Joseph and Mary's Flight into Egypt. On the west wall is an alabaster, mosaic and mother-of-pearl wall monument to Mark Anthony MacDonnell (1852-1906), in whose memory his widow gave the east window and Stations of the Cross in 1912.

The Lady Chapel is accessed through a pointed and chamfered arch from the easternmost bay of the south aisle. It has a stone altar of around 1935 date on its south side, stencil decorated walls and a square-panelled ceiling. Above the altar is a three-light window of which the two outer lights are trefoil-headed lancets (as seen from the outside) which contain stained glass depicting Mary with a spinning wheel (left-hand side) and Joseph instructing Jesus at carpentry (right-hand side). The cinquefoil-headed centre light is blind and contains a statue of Our Lady holding the infant Jesus, signed by Mayer of Munich. On the west side is a three-light trefoil-headed window containing stained glass titled 'I Am The Immaculate Conception'.

The sacristy and the internal link to the presbytery is accessed from the easternmost bay of the north aisle through six-panelled double-doors recessed within a chamfered quoined architrave with a moulded segmental head. The sacristy retains a 1930s wooden vestment cabinet while the south wall of the church (within the link) has double stable doors with three-light diamond-mullioned top lights to the confessional.


Until the mid-1830s Felixstowe was little more than a scattered group of fishermen’s cottages at the end of a minor road from Ipswich. The mid-C19 growth of the town, the combined result of the relatively new fashion for sea bathing, the medicinal qualities of its salt water spa, and the building of a commercial dock to rival Harwich, saw the establishment of Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches along Orwell Road. In 1894, Father William Cooper (1869-1927) arrived in Felixstowe from Bedford with, in his own words, "two bags and the Bishop’s blessing", to serve the town's Catholic community. His first Mass, with a congregation numbering just six, was said on 9 July in Pictro Teani’s refreshment rooms on Orwell Road. In 1899, after acquiring a plot of land on the less fashionable Gainsborough Road, he built, not without some local opposition, a temporary wooden church. By September of the following year, being eager to build a permanent church, Father Cooper engaged the services of the London-based architect John Henry Eastwood (1843-1913) to prepare plans for a new church and presbytery. However, Bishop Arthur Riddell, the Bishop of Northampton from 1880 to 1907, was less than enthusiastic, particularly as no funds were available, and the scheme was subsequently abandoned.

In September 1905, by which time Felixstowe’s rapidly growing Catholic community had outgrown the temporary wooden church, Bishop Riddell finally instructed Father Cooper to provide a permanent church. However, after much discussion, which included the possibility of abandoning the Gainsborough Road site in favour of a new one on Orwell Road, it was not until 1910 that Francis (Frederick) Easto Banham, a Catholic architect from Beccles, was asked to prepare plans for a new church and presbytery. Banham’s proposal for the church comprised a four-bay nave with narrow passage aisles along with a chancel, two side chapels, Lady Chapel, sacristy and an elaborate west front based on that of Thorney Abbey, Cambridgeshire, with the addition of a tall, offset tower with an octagonal upper state and spirelet. The design, however, was slightly modified between the completion of the first phase in 1912 and its eventual completion in 1958 on account of the church having to be built in stages as and when money became available. An article published in the Nottingham and Midland Catholic Herald on 18 February 1911, reporting on the laying of the foundation stone ten days earlier, recorded that “only a small part of the new church is now being built, owing to want of funds, and at present it will consist only of the sanctuary and two bays of the nave. It is hoped that at least another bay may be added, for this is much needed, for the greater convenience and accommodation of the people”. Fortunately, however, Bishop Frederick Keating, who replaced Bishop Riddell as Bishop of Northampton in February 1908, arranged for his bank to advance £800 towards the building cost at 3½% interest, to be repaid at £100 per annum. Consequently, a contract was signed on 10 November 1911 with the builder JW Cross of Felixstowe to complete all four bays of the nave to Banham’s design by 6 April 1912.

The church was officially opened on 31 July 1912, with King Manuel II of Portugal being present at the ceremony. At this time only the sanctuary and four bays of the nave had been built at a cost of around £3,000, leaving the Lady Chapel, side chapels, sacristy and bell tower to be added later at a further cost of some £4,000, however temporary side chapels were provided as an interim measure. The stained glass in the east window, which depicts the Mysteries of the Rosary, was designed by John Hardman and Company of Birmingham and given by Mary Frances MacDonnell, the widow of Mark Antony MacDonnell (1854-1906), an Irish nationalist politician, who also gave the Stations of the Cross. Economies meant that the presbytery was built to a simplified design in brick rather than stone, whether by Banham or another architect is not clear.

In 1931-2, the sacristy, Lady Chapel and two side chapels were finally built, broadly following Banham’s design intentions, although the architect had died in 1924, with the work undertaken by WF Cross of Langer Road, Felixstowe.

Between 1945 and 1961, Father Cyril Banham, FE Banham’s son, served as parish priest and set about the task of completing his father’s design. In 1957, he oversaw the completion of the west front of the nave, including an additional bay to accommodate a narthex and choir loft, which was built to a simplified Gothic design, but in complementary materials, by RA Boxall of Chelmsford.

In 1963, the sanctuary was refurbished by Father John Reffitt, who had been appointed parish priest two years earlier. The original wooden altar was replaced with an altar made from Portland stone and Sicilian marble, oak altar rails were installed and the wooden floor was replaced with a stone-tiled floor.

The church has undergone liturgical reordering at least twice since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, including the loss of the altar and communion rails installed in 1963 along with the nave pulpit, which took place sometime between 1967 and 1975 when Father Augustine Berrell was parish priest. Early-C21 reordering (post 2014) has seen a new sanctuary floor, altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth, a collaborative design by architect Neil Birdsall and Father John Barnes. In 2018, two stained glass windows by the artist Thomas Denny and stained-glass conservator Elizabeth Hippisley-Cox, on the theme of the Divine Mercy, were installed at the west end of the nave.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of St Felix, built in 1911-1912 to the designs of FE Banham, with the side chapels added in 1931-2, and the west end completed in 1957 to a design by RA Boxall, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a confident and well-realised example of the work of FE Banham, a well-respected Catholic architect, with notable listed buildings to his name, including Beccles Minster (Grade II*) and Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, Gillingham (Grade II);

* its Arts and Crafts-influenced Perpendicular Gothic design reflects contemporary trends in church design, it being in the mainstream of the late-C19/early-C20 phase of the Gothic Revival, when the ecclesiological model was abandoned in favour of a freer and more artistic interpretation of Gothic forms, illustrating a return to a purer and simpler form of worship;

* the interior remains little altered and retains a significant number of furnishings of note, including the original stone font of 1911-1912 and the original stone altars to the Lady chapel and side chapels, all of around 1931-2 date;

* for the collection of early-C20 stained glass by Hardman and Company, believed to be the largest collection of the workshop's output in East Anglia, and the early-C21 stained glass by Thomas Denny, with the Divine Mercy west window being an excellent representation of his distinctive artistic individuality.

Historic interest:

* as an early-C20 Roman Catholic church constructed as a local response to meet the needs of a growing local congregation, replacing an earlier mission church.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.