The Church Building, The Parish and Town
St Mark's Church was dedicated and officially opened on 29th July 1884. At that time it was the Chapel-of-Ease of St Peter's, Carlton Colville. St Mark's became a church in its own right in November 1931. Continued development resulted in the opening of our daughter church, St Luke's, in 1960.
The parish has a population of some 16,000 and contains a very broad social mix which is almost entirely white and with a fairly high proportion of retired people. St Mark's is located on the North Western edge of the Parish, and St Luke's is near the geographical centre. Housing reflects the diversity of the Parish including old terraces, mid 20th century semi-detached, one council estate and two private housing estates including a large number of bungalows.
There is a range of small industries, seasonal leisure employment and shops within the Parish. However Lowestoft has experienced relatively high unemployment compared to Suffolk as a whole. There are three Primary Schools (5-9), one Middle School (9-13), and one Special School in the Parish, the High School being just outside.
Oulton Broad has become a popular centre for leisure and sports activities and for the holiday and tourist industry. The Yacht Club and Motorboat Club also bring in visitors for local, national and international racing. Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Carlton Marshes is a popular attraction along with Pet's Corner, opposite St Mark's, for school trips and younger visitors. Oulton Broad Enterprise has recently been formed with the objective of improving the area and encouraging visitors. The Church has participated in this and has a member attending the meetings.
The Vicarage is a late Victorian family house next door to St Mark's. The house was extensively modernised in the mid 1980's, has five bedrooms including the attic, and is gas centrally heated with secondary double glazing. There is a large garden to the rear. There is an attached garage and additional car parking space in the front drive. It is exceptionally well situated for local shops, schools and leisure facilities with a good view of Oulton Broad and its environs.
The congregation is mainly communal there being no other mainstream churches in the parish. There is a Gospel Hall next door and included within the parish boundaries are a Free Presbyterian church and a Seventh Day Adventist.
Lowestoft, a seaside town with a population of some 64,000, has the most easterly point of the British Isles within its boundary. Situated close to the Norfolk boundary the nearby towns of Gorleston (8 miles) and Great Yarmouth (10 miles) lie in Norfolk to the north. Ipswich is 44 miles to the south and Norwich is 26 miles to the northwest. The town is divided in two by the harbour which links Oulton Broad to the sea via a lock. It is popular with holiday makers who enjoy the easy access to the sea, the Broads and countryside.
In the past the town was known for its fishing industry but during the past thirty years this has steadily decreased and in 2004 the last trawlers ceased to operate from the port. At the same time the town has lost a number of industries which include Eastern Coachworks, two shipyards, a canning factory, a distribution centre and the Shell operations centre for North Sea Gas.
It retains as major employers the Birds Eye Walls factory, a large cold storage unit operated by Christian Salvesen, Sanyo, and Hoseasons Holiday booking operation. In addition a company manufacturing modules for oil and gas rigs together with wind turbines, one of which is situated at the east point, has been very successful. Lowestoft is slowly recovering from its recession. There are many changes taking place as old sites are redeveloped but the trend is for new employers to be in the retail and service industries.
Development in the harbour area will produce two new yacht marinas and new business and retail parks. Rail services are quite good with through trains to London each day via Ipswich and regular trains to Norwich. Road links with Ipswich and Norwich are not as good and this tends to discourage new companies from coming to the area. However, the Sunrise (development) Scheme is now being implemented producing improvements to the town and seafront thus encouraging tourism and greatly improving the appearance of the town.
In the future it is hoped that the redeveloped town will also attract more people to live here.
The Church Buildings
During 1994, a major rebuilding project took place. The existing building was re-roofed and externally cleaned. A new centre, comprising a hall, meeting room, office, kitchen and toilets, was built adjacent to the church and is permanently linked. This development provided considerable car parking space and transformed St Mark's.
Recently re-ordering has taken place inside the church. The choir stalls have been removed together with several of the front rows of pews. This, together with additional staging, has opened up the chancel and the front of the nave allowing greater flexibility of use.
St Luke's was built in the 1960's through the enthusiasm and dedication of a few people who wanted a church within their area. It is a brick building with flat and low pitched roofs. When built it was in the middle of green fields, but over the years the area has been built up and is now surrounded on all sides by housing. St Luke's is on the border between private housing and what was originally all social housing. Like most areas of social housing, a lot of it is now privately owned, but even so it is known as an area of considerable social deprivation.
Within the last few years we have tried to improve the original building with new PVC entrance doors and some windows, repainting internally and sealing the floor. At present the building is in a fairly good state of repair. We are having to come to terms with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, and are in the process of applying to various organizations for grants to pay for the work. This is now starting to produce results and at the time of preparing this profile we have received notice that we have been awarded two grants. Architects plans have been drawn up, planning permission and building regulation approval obtained and it is hoped to start work in January 2006.
Regular inspections at both Churches are carried out by the appropriate authorities to ensure that statutory requirements are met.