A property adjacent to the church, known as 'Onley Lodge', was purchased in 1904 by Mr William Pipe on behalf of the church, with ownership being transferred the following year.  A new church was opened in 1907 on the site of 'Onley Lodge'.  At this time the original chapel building became the Church Hall.

A small mission church and Sunday School was formed by the minister and members of St Nicholas Congregational Church, Ipswich, sometime during 1853.

This was at a time when the area was being developed by the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society (FLS).  The Society still exists today as Ipswich Building Society.

In October 1850 FLS purchased just over 98 acres of the Cauldwell Hall Estate, for a total cost of £4992.  This is now regarded as close to the town centre, however, in 1850 it was part of an outlying farm, well outside the town.  The land was divided into 282 allotments, or plots, which were allocated to the  Society members by ballot.

Soon after the ballot the new landowners were seen wending their way towards their new freeholds, many of whom carried pickaxes and spades.  The scene was likened to the California Gold Rush in America and this area of Ipswich has been known as California ever since.

St Nicholas Congregational Church, Ipswich

The original California Chapel building was started in 1854 and the first service was held on Whit Sunday 1855.

The building proved inadequate from the start and was extended several times before eventually becoming the Church Hall.

History of St John’s URC Church

The denominational Year Book for 1907 gives the following description of the new building -

"IPSWICH, St JOHN'S.  Minister Rev T Devine.  The church which is now being erected is intended to meet the needs of the rapidly growing district of St John's

For several years past the church has felt the pressing need for school accommodation.  Two years ago it was decided to build a new church and convert the present one into a Sunday School, &c.  The generous offer of £1000 towards this scheme by Mr Councillor W Pipe (who has since added to his gift), encouraged the people to take this step.

The new building adjoins the old one at the junction of Spring Road and Cowper Street and consists of a nave, Chancel, west transept and ministers and choir vestries.

It is of Gothic design and is carried out in red brick with moulded brick and stone dressings and has a seating accommodation for 500.

The open timber roof, the arcading and the seating are of pitch-pine; and the windows are glazed with rich leaded lights.

The building is ventilated by a Boyle's air pump extractor and a number of air inlets; and the heating is by low pressure hot-water system.  The entire cost, including the site amounts to about £3200.

The architect is Mr E H Coller of Ipswich."

The house next to the new (1907) church was purchased in 1928 for use as a Manse and in 1930 another School Hall was built in part of the garden.

Present church building - 1989  All buildings on the site were demolished in 1987 to make way for the construction of our present multi-purpose premises.


To mark the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the church the Rev Rees Tyrer, a former minister, wrote a 38 page history of the church entitled, 'These Hundred Years! The Story of California Chapel 1854-1954'.  The book is out of print but photocopy reproductions can be purchased at the church,  £1.00 per copy.  Orders by post should be in writing to the church and should include a cheque for £2.00, this includes p&p within the UK.  Orders from outside the UK please enquire about postage cost.

(Church address is on the 'Contacts' page).

A 42 page illustrated sequel to the above, entitled 'The Next Fifty Years', was published in October 2009.  This records the events between the centenary in 1954 and the 150th Anniversary celebrations in 2004 and is available at the church, £1.50 per copy.  Orders by post should be in writing to the church and should include a cheque for £2.50, this includes p&p within the UK.  Orders from outside the UK please enquire about postage cost.

(Church address on 'Contacts' page.)


All archives for our church, except working documents, are deposited at the Ipswich Branch of Suffolk Record Office.  Detailed information about the archive.

New church erected in 1907

The Past Ministers & Church Secretaries 

© St John’s URC Ipswich

St John's is a friendly, welcoming Christian church offering worship for all and facilities for the local community.

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St John’s United Reformed Church