St. Hilda’s, Crofton Park – the first 100 years
Welcome to this archive of the Church of St. Hilda Crofton Park. Please select the time period of interest from the menu – or click below to begin from 1900 – 1919.
During the past one hundred years, the three main structures on the site (The Church, the Parish Hall and the Vicarage) have seen many changes.
As part of the Millennium celebrations, this picturial and documentary chronology has been created, describing the site from the early plans in 1899, through the 20th century and up to the new Millennium.
This history was first compiled for the Golden Jubilee of the Church in 1958. This was celebrated by the placing of the Tester (a kind of hanging ceiling) over the High Altar. The hangings and carpeting of the Sanctuary were also renewed. In the last five years, coloured hangings which change with the mood of the Church’s seasons have been made to augment the red and gold hangings of 1958.
Although existing as a separate parish for only just over one hundred years, St. Hilda is closely linked to over a thousand years of Lewisham Church History.
The church of St. Mary, Lewisham, out of whose parish that of St. Hilda was formed, has a history dating back to the year AD 918, when Elfrida, daughter of King Alfred the Great, bequeathed the Manor of Lewisham, inherited by her from her father, to the Abbot of Ghent who, it is assumed, built the first Church of St. Mary in Lewisham.
Originally Lewisham parish shared the same boundaries as the present Borough, except for the ancient parish of Lee, and so it remained for many centuries, with St. Mary’s the only church to serve that whole area. But the 19th century brought rapid and great changes here as elsewhere, and by the late 1880’s we find the ancient parish of Lewisham subdivided into sixteen separate constituted parishes, to meet the needs of the evergrowing population.
Even so, St. Mary’s parish was still very extensive, although a large proportion of its acreage consisted of farmlands and private residences each with its own fairly large grounds. Such was all the area of Hither Green, Southend, Bellingham and Downham. Such, too, in the main, was Brockley, of which Crofton Park is a part – for it was not until the railway station had been built and called Crofton Park that the district became known by that name.
But now this part, too, of Lewisham parish was fast becoming thickly populated; new houses were rising rapidly, and the whole character of the district was changing. In the early 1890’s it became evident that provision must be made for the spiritual needs of these new residents, and The Reverend Mr.Samuel Bickersteth who had become Vicar of Lewisham in 1891 embarked with characteristic energy on the task of providing the district with a church of its own.
That this was no light task is evident from the voluminous correspondence still existing which carries the story through the years 1898-1900: a story of hopes and disappointments, of promise and frustration, of cheering progress and tantalising delays.
The first business was to secure a site on which at once to build the Mission Church, and ultimtely the permanent church and parsonage. This was not easy. Some resident land-owners opposed the scheme on the ground that it would encourage the further urbanisation of the district, and when at length a site was settled on, troublesome boundary difficulties arose; but eventually through the good offices of the Morley Trustees, the land was secured at the very reasonable cost of one thousand pounds.
But that one thousand pounds had to be collected, and this was the next step. It was achieved; the site was paid for by the middle of 1899, the building of the temporary church was begun, and on May 22nd, 1900, it was opened for public worship by Dr. Talbot, then Bishop of Rochester. The Reverend Samuel Bickersteth having effected an endowment of £150 per annum out of the benefice of the Mother Church, the new parish of St. Hilda, Crofton Park, was duly consituted by Order in Council on September 17th 1900, with The Reverend Mr. John Hartforth Jacques as its first Vicar.
The “district of St. Hilda, Crofton Park” comprises (in the words of the Order in Council) an area “taken partly out of the parish of Lewisham, partly out of the new parish of St. Saviour, Brockley Hill, and partly out of the new parish of St. George, Perry Hill.
On June 15th 1907, an agreement was made between the St. Hilda’s Church Building Committee and Joseph Dorey & Co. Ltd., of Brentford for “the erecting and completing the permanent church of St. Hilda at Crofton Park … to the drawings and specification prepared by Messrs. F.H. Greenaway and J.F. Newberry … for the sum of £7,814 19s 2d,” and on June 3rd 1908, the church was consecrated by The Right Reverend Edward Stuart Talbot, by that time Lord Bishop of the new Diocese of Southwark.
And so, after ten years of strenous endeavour, the church was built. The building of the church was only the beginning. The church had to be furnished. Six hundred chairs had to be bought at 3s 6d each. A Chair Fund was started and money raised by among other things a ‘Parsons v Laymen’ football match which raised £5 or £6, a lady made and sold marmalade which raised £5 and just after Easter all the chairs were paid for. The Sunday School children provided the font and various groups within the church raised the money to buy all the other necessities.
Once the church was built and furnished there was still more work to be done. At the time of the consecration, there was still a considerable debt to be paid off. But with the efforts of the parish and with help from the Deanery Fund, this was paid off by the end of 1909. However, St. Hilda’s was still without a vicarage or an organ.
By April 1909, the Vicar was able to report that substantial grants from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Bishop made it probable that the Vicarage house could be built by the end of 1910. In September 1910, negotiations were opened for the building of the organ. An estimate for £800 by Conacher & Co., of Huddersfield was accepted and the work was finished in August 1911.
St. Hilda’s parish, like every other parish, suffered grievous loss in the 1939-1945 war. In September 1944, both the Vicarage and the Assistant Priest’s house were destroyed by enemy action and the Parish Hall was badly damaged. Luckily, the church suffered less severely. Church and Parish hall were restored and the vicarage was rebuilt in 1951 by a willing band of workers from the parish. The Assistant Priest’s house was also once again made fit for occupation.
St. Hilda’s celebrated its Golden Jubilee in June 1958 and and will soon be celebrating its centenary. It’s fortunes have gone up and down over the years but recent times new life have been apparent. In response to a feeling that Church and community need to work together to improve the quality of life in Crofton Park, plans are afoot to develop the Crypt area as a community project.
List of major additions to St. Hilda’s Church
Aumbry in the Lady Chapel
An Aumbry is a special kind of cupboard/safe set in the wall in which is kept the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. This is a focus of the living spiritual presence of Christ here in Earth. It is used for prayer and to be taken to the sick who have been unable to attend Holy Communion)
Whitening of the interior
Children’s Corner. Installed in memory of those who died in the Second World War). This was removed when parish rooms were built in the 1990s. However, the Statue of the infant Lord has been refurbished and placed in the new entrance lobby
Installation of oil-fired boilers.
Chapel of the Good Shepherd refurbished as St Cyprian’s chapel. Now the site of the proposed community facilities.
New parish rooms and lobby build inside the church.
A serious burglary saw the loss of the eagle lecturn, statues of St Mary and St John (former part of St Cyprian’s rood beam – see St Cyprian’s), one of the large standard candle sticks which stood before the High altar and various other items. The processional cross was subsequently discovered snapped in two and thrown on the railway bank at Crofton Park station. The new furnishing scheme can be seen inthe photos of the church in the main web site.
New statue of St Hilda
Folding lecturn with hangings for lecturn
Pulpit current rewiring and a new heating scheme for the church are under discussion.
New statue of St Mary placed in shrine in North aisle – a gift from our Lady and St. George Walthamstow.
New banner of St Hilda
Refurbishing of old porch (built of the lower part of wood work rescued from St. Cyprians Church, installed as a bookshop to the south of the font).