A cornerstone of Hope

History

1908 – 1928

On the 24th May 1908 the present church hall was dedicated as a temporary Mission Room and in 1911 a Building Fund was started in a small way in the hope of one day being able to build a permanent church.

In 1914 a small church hall (the iron Hall) was built.

The years that followed saw more houses built and the need to create a separate parish for the locality became apparent, so that on the 11th April 1924 the Revd. Kendrick W. Sibley was instituted as the first Vicar of the new parish of St. Paul’s. His Vicarage was at No.1 Shakespeare Terrace E 12. He revived interest in the Building Fund by Savings Boxes, etc., but the growth of the fund was slow.

The Revd. Reginald P. Wernham was instituted Vicar of the parish on 16th October 1928. He was a curate from St. John’s, Stratford. He was given the special task of getting the new church built and he set about the job with great enthusiasm.

He seems to have had the rare gift of obtaining handsome donations from outside the parish and he set in motion many schemes within the parish. One scheme was the Farthing Fund (in 1928, 1000 were collected. In 1929, one child collected 300), another was the Brick Fund – £5 for a brick with your initials on it.

Of this scheme the Vicar wrote:

An artist signs his picture, an architect places a stone on the exterior of his work. We are simply
‘signing’ our work to remind future generations how we worked and saved to build a church for them.

(Note the words ‘for them’ – that includes YOU)

1929 – 1950s

In January 1931 the Fund stood at £2437 19 shillings and 10 pence. The Diocese agreed the building may commence, the Building Committee was appointed, the detailed plans were passed in April 1931 and, on the 19th November 1932 the Foundation Stone was laid by Miss Beatrice Powell, President of the Girls Friendly Society. You will find it supporting a column near the organ.

The Vicarage cost £1266, of which Rev Wernham provided £1066, and the parish paid the balance with a long-term loan. It is recorded that when he moved from St. Paul’s to Lee Park (London SE3) on 1936, Rev Wernham said he was “worn out financially and physically”.

(On the occasion of St. Paul’s 40th Anniversary, four church members visited Rev. Wernham and his wife at their home in Andover, Hampshire, with a formal invitation to the celebrations, and to convey the deep appreciation of St. Paul’s for his tireless efforts in enabling the church to be built.)

The Builders were Hammond & Miles of Ilford. The building cost £8485. The Furniture was provided by the Girls Friendly Society, the bells came from a dismantled church at Wendon Lofts, Essex. The stone font and the Processional Cross came from the Mission Church. The two bishops Chairs were made by Mr. Cox, a churchwarden, and the carving on the Communion Table was done by Canon Whitehouse.

The Organ, which had been used in the Mission Hall for the last 22 years, (and hired for £9 per annum) was finally purchased for £50 in 1931, and later installed in the new church.

A pair of brass candlesticks and an alms dish were presented by two parishoners in 1932, and these are still in regular use.

The Church was consecrated on Saturday the 30th September 1933.

The remaining ‘church’ furniture from the mission hall was given to a mission church in Beckton, to the south of East Ham.

The Building Fund Debt was cleared in October 1938 to much rejoicing in the Lord.

In addition to the building of the Church. the Revd Wernham caused the present Vicarage to be built in 1930. Of this the Architect said:

Long after the present generation has passed from St. Paul’s, the Vicarage will remain as a monument to the present
Vicar (Mr Wernham) to whom the thanks of the parish is due for having caused it to be built and finding the money
to erect it.

The Vicarage was transferred to the Church Commissioners in 1975

Bringing the record up to date

In about 1959 six lock-up garages were erected on land at the rear of the Vestry, with the aim of providing income towards church maintenance costs. In 1964 planning consent was obtained to erect meeting rooms at the front of the church hall, but the project was abandoned in 1967 when an offer of a timber framed building was made by a bank. It was erected at the bottom of the Vicarage garden and completed in 1969 at a cost of £900. It was called the Garden Hall. This served a very useful purpose for twenty years.

However, the need for better facilities in all our church buildings was becoming more urgent; so in 1987 a new Screen was built creating a lounge at the back of the church. A year later a complete new Heating System was installed. These have made a tremendous difference to our worship.

It was around this time however, that a far greater and more radical vision for our buildings was being sown, one that would challenge the very nature of our church life. It’s this vision that inspired the PCC to go for a complete new development: one that would see the removal of the old stage area, toilets and kitchen in the hall, and their replacement with meeting rooms, storerooms, stairways, a small office and nice new toilets! In what was a garden area between the hall and the Church, the creation of a new entrance/reception area, complete with coffee bar and new kitchen facilities. From the new reception area, new doorways would need to be created through to the Church and Hall. Financially, it would involve selling the Garage land, selling the Curate’s house (at 204 Clements Road), seeking help from grant bodies and raising over £40,000 ourselves. Spiritually, it would mean opening up the church to the community in which it is placed, with all the risks and demands that involves.
We decided to press ahead, as being the way God was leading us.

It was not until April 1988 that we were able to inspect the deeds concerning the Garage Land. Eventually planning consent to the erection of six one bedroom flats was obtained and, after some tortuous negotiations, the land was sold in May 1991.

The Garden Hall was given to Stambridge Parish Church near Rochford, Essex, together with all its fittings. They had no hall or toilets near the church. The dismantling and transportation of the building was an ‘event’ to recall for years to come! Their recently instituted Vicar, Revd. Fred Kenny was a great character.

In the meantime, various plans were being discussed at length by the church council for the new Development. Eventually, one was agreed and in May 1991 it was put to the whole church for their vote. Over 70 voted totally FOR it, 5 partially FOR it, but only 4 AGAINST.

Meanwhile there had been the on-going task of seeking funds, to which our Vicar Martin Lowles applied himself with great energy and inspiration.
In March 1993, 204 Clements Road (formerly our curate’s house) was sold and by November, the Church had raised £26,000 of the £40,000 (direct giving) target. (The total cost of the redevelopment being £262,500.)

The development work commenced in April 1993 and the result of the very high standard of craftsmanship by the contractors, Hossier & Dickinson of Watford, is there for all to appreciate.
The design for the new hall development was by Raymond Hall, People & Places Architects, Lewisham, London SE13
The redeveloped centre was dedicated by the Rev. Gavin Read, Bishop of Maidstone (and a former curate of St. Paul’s), on Sunday the 7th November 1993. A fitting celebration for the 60th anniversary of the building of the church; for which a commemorative plaque was placed by the coffee bar.
The redeveloped centre has been extremely useful, both to the Church Family, and the greater community. Who knows what changes will be required in the years to come, as we adapt to the needs of both our Church Family and those of the local community . . . ?

Adapting the church building . . .

By the year 2000, it was becoming clear that our lighting system was quite inadequate and that the associated wiring was in need of replacement. Before we could consider new lighting for the church building, we needed to decide exactly what we wanted to put in it’s place. This resulted in a series of consultations concerning how we used the building, and what we wanted from it. After much deliberation, the PCC felt convinced that we needed to take a more radical approach, and re-order the chancel at the same time.

Needless to say that much heart-searching was involved, and many consultations (and two AGMs) held before we finally instructed the architects to prepare plans for the removal of the pulpit and choir pews, and the construction of a new chancel platform, together with a new lighting scheme, and a complete internal redecoration of the church building. At the same time, repairs to the roof and gutters would be undertaken.

Work finally began in May 2002, again with architect Raymond Hall, of People & Places Architects, Lewisham, London SE13; in association with Lighting Design by Simon Calder Brown of CB Associates, Hove, East Sussex. The Prime Contractors were TradeMaster Building Services, New Eltham, London SE9; with the lighting installation by Design & Plan Lighting, Bexley, Kent and the redecoration by Ashworth Interiors, Eltham, London SE9. The work was completed in September 2002. (See our Development News pages for details and photographs.)

2005

Newham is formally acknowledged as the most cosmopolitan borough in London, and London the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Clearly the old saying “all roads lead to Rome” now needs some serious correction, as all roads now seem to lead here!

2008

We celebrated 100 years of Christian witness in this place. Our thanks to everyone who lent pictures and momentoes for the exhibition held in the church, and to those who attended the Celebration Service on Sunday the 25th May. It was a great pleasure to have the Rt. Rev. David Hawking (Bishop of Barking) to celebrate communion with us, and also to welcome back so many friends and former worshippers of St. Paul’s. (I won’t say former members: once a member of our family – always a member! As testified to by the number of people who described coming back to visit as ‘coming home’.) (Based on an article written by William Fenn for the 1993 dedication service booklet, with additional text by Graham Field.)

Our thanks to Alec Hamilton, for sharing some of his research into Charles Sydney Spooner FRIBA [1862 - 1938], the designer of our 1932 church building.

Anyone seeking further information on old East Ham, would find the British History Online website helpful, particularly The Beacontree Hundred page.

Previous clergy and parish workers:

Vicars:

1924 – Rev. K. W. Sibley

1928 – Rev. Reginald P. Wernham

1936 – Rev. I. Whitehouse

1941 – Rev. G. M. Laurence

1948 – Rev. G. W. (Peter) Hawes

1956 – Rev. Richard G. C. Browning

1966 – Rev. Geoffrey Raggett

1972 – Rev. William S. Dodd

1978 – Rev. Bruce T. Lyons

1985 – Rev. Martin J. Lowles

1996 – Rev. Jeremy Allcock

2005 – Rev. Merrin L. Playle

Curates:

1938 – Rev. H. G. H. Holbeche

1940 – Rev. L. Woodcock

1950 – Rev. J. K. King

1954 – Rev. Ernest Excell

1958 – Rev. Eric Vevers

1960 – Rev. Gavin Reid

1963 – Rev. Roy Akerman

1967 – Rev. Simon Beresford

1970 – Rev. Ken Sargent

1975 – Rev. Philip Meader

1979 – Rev. Richard Le Rossignol

1983 – Rev. James Ashley-Roberts

2000 – Rev. John Oliver

2003 – Rev. Alicia Baker

2007 – Rev. John-Princely Croos

2010 – Rev. Christine (Chris) Chambers

2014 – Rev. Adeola (Ade) Eleyae

2015 – Rev. Elis Matthews

Volunteer Youth Workers:

1997 – Laura Burton – Ellesmere Port, UK
1998 – Jennifer Hill – Minnisota, USA
1999 – Anke Schuster – Veitsbrann, Germany
2000 – Emily Brown – USA
2001 – Ulrike Nestler – Sehmatal-Neudorf, Germany
2002 – Susanne Schwanenberg – Hechingen, Germany
2003 – Anna Karlsson – Tidaholm, Sweden
2004 – Hannah Benkemoun – Lille, France

Youth Workers:

2003-4 – Saskia Cole
2006-7 – Beth (Jay) Johnson

Volunteer Parish Assistants:

2009 – Yoon Chung Choi – Suwon, South Korea
2009/10 – Orsholya (Orshi) Orosi – Korathelmec, Ukraine
2010/11 – Márta Kovács – Bekecs, Hungary
2011/12 – Antonia Birkeneder – Ampfing, Bavaria, Germany
2012/13 – Virag Somogyi – Budapest, Hungary