Holy Trinity Church, South Woodford

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History - Basil de M Davies

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The impetus which brought Holy Trinity into being was the same that affected many other areas round London at that time, namely the increase in population and its movement outwards to the suburbs. The continuing effects of the industrial revolution from the first half of the 19th century brought grinding poverty to many of the already depressed portions of the population but, in conjunction with social legislation in the fields of health and education, it also brought increasing prosperity to the middle and lower classes in the white collar and artisan sectors, engendering in the Mr. Pooters, his betters and inferiors, a desire for improved living conditions in green and pleasant surroundings.

The agents for this outward movement were of course the railway entrepreneurs on whose heels came the property developers, and the “ragged-trousered philanthropists”, ready and willing to erect gentlemen’s residences and estates of more modest dwellings for sale or, much more frequently for letting on the acres of large mansions which were then coming on to the market and which were themselves being vacated because of the same influences. The Eastern Counties Railway branch line to Loughton from Stratford was opened in 1856, intending as it was said to serve the existing generally well-to-do occupants of villages along the Roding Valley. What it did do in fact was to transform Wanstead and Woodford from rural communities into leafy suburbs.

Some idea of the pressure on existing church accommodation can be gleaned from the following table of figures taken from the Census of Population for the last half of the 19th century, viz








Woodford St. Mary














(Source: Victoria History of Counties of England - Essex)

It is not surprising therefore that other Anglican churches came into being in the area during this era, viz St. Pauls, Woodford Bridge (1854), Christ Church, Wanstead, as a chapel of ease (1861), All Saints, Woodford Wells (1874) and St. Philip & St. James, Woodford, since demolished, (1882). New non-Conformist churches likewise were being created at the same time; the Baptist Church in George Lane for example celebrated its centenary in 1981.

Early plans

The initiative for the formation of Holy Trinity appears to have come from St. Mary’s Woodford. Following a request made probably at their Easter Vestry in 1880, a meeting of parishioners and congregation was called on Wednesday 14th April of that year to consider the steps to be taken for providing additional church accommodation for the rapidly increasing population of the district. After this meeting approaches were made to St. Mary’s Wanstead; representatives of both parishes met on Tuesday 8th June 1880 and formed a Joint Committee to carry out a proposed scheme for a church in a new ecclesiastical district to be formed by the whole of Woodford parish east of the railway line and a portion of Wanstead parish adjoining Woodford and situated east and west of the railway line. A map drawn in 1815 for a survey of the manors of Wanstead and Woodford shows the boundary between the two parishes in the Hermon Hill area as running parallel to and just west of the southern part of George Lane passing through the site of the present churchyard.

The Joint Committee comprised the two Rectors, their assistant curates and Churchwardens with certain elected representatives. It is clear from the minutes of the meetings that the driving force in this enterprise was Mr Robert Scott Stable, Churchwarden of St Mary’s Woodford. He chaired the meetings (until 1882) and appeared to do most of the work.

This would be an appropriate place to say something about Mr. Stable except that very little is now known of him. He lived in Cleveland Road at this time but when he died at the age of 71 on 31st May 1890 he was living at Holly Lodge, Derby Road. He was buried at Cranbrook, Kent and a memorial plaque was erected to his and his wife’s memory in St. Mary’s church. Mrs.Stable served on the Ladies Appeal Committee, and two Stables, who may or may not be their sons, are named on the Great War memorial board in Holy Trinity’s choir stalls. It seems unlikely that Mr. Stable transferred his allegiance to Holy Trinity although his name appears among those present at the Easter Vestry in April 1890 shortly before he died. It is ironic that though he may have seen the present church virtually as we now have it, he did not survive to witness the consecration of the chancel north aisle and tower. He is commemorated in the porch (north wall) by a likeness in one of the four bosses and by a carved medallion above, which records “In grateful remembrance of Robert Scott Stable who loved this church and laboured unceasingly for it 1879 - 1890 Psalm 132 vv 4 & 5. ‘The memory of the just is blessed’ “.

Appeal for Funds

The initial work of the Committee was concerned with purchasing a temporary church, and arranging for the appointment of an architect to design a new church to be erected on an acre of land given by Earl Cowley, the site to be held at a nominal rent until the formation of a new district had been sanctioned and sufficient building funds collected. Mr. John Fowler RIBA of Louth was appointed and he was commissioned to produce a design for a permanent church and to inspect iron church buildings offered for sale.

In 1881 Building and Appeals Committees were formed and in August/September of that year an Appeal was addressed to all houses in the two parishes. Accompanying this Appeal was a drawing by Mr. Fowler of how the new church would appear externally.

(Click image for larger version)
  Artist's Impression - outside

A drawing of the interior as it was expected to look, and made about the same time, shows a south aisle and depicts angels and cherubim painted above the chancel arch.

(Click image for larger version)
  Artist's impression - inside

In the event the ground was not stable enough to support the upper stories of the tower and steeple, and the south aisle was never built, presumably because there-was not enough money available.

The design of the church was ambitious, certainly by today’s standards; the following is a description of the building given in Kelly’s Essex Directory for 1890 (as in course of construction): “a semi-circular aspidal memorial chancel with vestries and a transeptal chapel on the north side, clerestoried nave of 5 bays, aisles, south porch and at the west end of the north aisle a lofty tower of four storeys with angle pinnacles and octagonal broach spire, relieved by three bands of ornamental work and dormers at the base.” There is a legend given credence among some older members of the parish that, at the formation of the Chelmsford Diocese, Holy Trinity was considered for the cathedral church. There seems to be no real basis for this story and it is more than likely a rumour generated by wishful thinking.

It is interesting to note that the printed Appeal for funds gave the existing population of the new parish as 1,800 but said “as many acres are laid out for building purposes on both sides of the railway … it is anticipated that in a very short time some thousands of the poorer classes (sic) will be added to the population of the New District.” This latter event probably did not take place then to the extent or in the manner expected since the Great Eastern Railway refused to make workmen’s fares available on the Loughton branch. Could it be that this was in deference to a strong lobby from those well-to-do occupants of the Roding Valley villages? However that may be, the railway’s policy persisted through to the 1939/45 war, unlike on the Walthamstow branch where the early- morning fare was introduced from the outset (2d!) and brought a population explosion with consequences for domestic architecture which can still be seen in that district today.

It is also interesting to reflect how the neighbourhood of Holy Trinity must have appeared when the permanent church was built. It stood surrounded on three sides by farmland; from Wanstead Hospital (the Merchant Seamen’s Orphanage as it then was) to Woodford Bridge was all green fields save for the Nightingale farm house, the parsonage and a terrace of small houses. On the other side of Hermon Hill and Chigwell Road the aspect must have been fairly open; no Alexandra Road at all; no houses in Orford, few in Pelham and a handful only in Pulteney Road. There were a few houses near George Lane, but George Lane itself was almost devoid of dwellings, with only Cowslip, Daisy, Victoria, and some parts of Maybank and Gordon Roads built on. The Cleveland Road estate was of course quite well forward by then, but this area did not cater for the “poorer classes” whose place was firmly below the line, i.e. the railway line.

The above describes virtually all the built-up portion of the new parish. Considering that a census of churchgoing among Christian communities in England & Wales in 1851 revealed that only 41% of the population attended church, it is all the more remarkable that the founders of Holy Trinity contemplated such a grandiose and large structure in that situation. The church when complete was to seat a thousand.


The Temporary Church

The Joint Committee for building the new church obtained quotes for a number of “iron churches”. These were referred to Architect Mr. Fowler and eventually in November 1881 an iron church with vestry was purchased for £92. 10s. 0d. (£92.50 for younger readers), due mainly to some smart footwork on the part of a Committee member at the time. Together with charges for dismantling, re-erection, foundations, fees for referee in selecting the architect and incidentals, the final bill totalled £ 410. 9s. 6d.; fortunately £425 had been subscribed by that time to meet the expense. This building is still with us, standing alongside the south side of the present church; for many years known by the opprobium of “The Iron Room” but latterly and more sedately as The Small Hall it has served the community in many ways since it ceased to be used for public worship. It was already second-hand when it was bought, having been erected a temporary church of St. Michael, Camden Road in 1879. In common parlance, it can be said to owe us nothing, and in celebration of its centenary is in the process of having the fabric renewed and re-painted inside and out through the services of the Community Work Department of the Probation Service.

The temporary church was opened on Sunday 5th March 1882 under the title of the church of the Holy Trinity. There is no record of any special service of consecration, the minutes of the Joint Committee a month beforehand merely recorded the date of the opening “if Mr. Hughes can so arrange it.”  Mr. Hughes was Rector of Woodford.

There was a central aisle separating the appropriated from the non-appropriated seats, the former being charged £1 annually. Various fittings, a lectern, kneelers for communicants etc were donated by church members. Two months later Mr. Denington and Mr. Tijou are recorded as having been elected as Sidesman at the Easter Vestry; this would have been at the Woodford Vestry since the first Vestry meeting at Holy Trinity (an unofficial one) is recorded in 1885 when the same two gentlemen were termed acting churchwardens.

The Committee minutes of 10 February 1882 gave some hint of tension between its lay and clerical members over the conduct of services and the nomination to the living yet to be sanctioned. The laity evidently favoured the appointment of Mr. A. Gray Maitland then assistant priest at St. Mary, Woodford, and seemingly this had the support of Earl Cowley; however, upon being invited to say what arrangements were to be made for the church when it was opened, Mr. Hughes at first failed to respond but later contented himself by stating, for himself and for the Rector of Wanstead, that when the minimum stipend required by law (£100) was guaranteed they would be prepared to ask that the new ecclesiastical district be constituted, and ask Lord Cowley to exercise his right of patronage. He also said that the services at the new church would be carried on “as Mr. Maitland wished, he (Hughes) reserving those rights which attached to him legally as Rector”.

Whether or not this resolved everything to everybody’s satisfaction cannot be con- firmed, but it is perhaps significant that at the next meeting but one on 2nd June 1882 Mr. Stable resigned as Vice Chairman although he expressed his willingness to continue as Joint Treasurer and as a Committee member. Mr. E. N. Buxton, one of the local landed gentry was nominal chairman but Mr. Stable chaired all the meetings save one. What is curious to note is that after this incident there is an hiatus in the minutes, for nothing more is recorded until 16th October 1884, more than two years later, when Mr. A. Smythe Palmer’s name appears and his appointment as Hon. Secretary in place of Mr. A. Gray Maitland is recorded.


Progress towards a Permanent Church

The meeting of the Joint Committee in January 1881 had resolved that the first section of the permanent church should be the entire east end, and this is confirmed by the wording of the Appeal for funds which was circulated throughout the two parishes, indicating that it would include chancel, vestries, organ chamber and a temporary nave.

As mentioned in Chapter II, there are no minutes or other records to tell us what transpired between 1882 and 1884 but the fundraising evidently fell into the doldrums. In August 1881 £1050 had been promised in the Woodford parish but none in Wanstead; this should not be taken to indicate a miserly attitude on the part of the Wanstead inhabitants - it could be explained by a lack of energy in those appointed to make collections in that area. In November 1884 the amount raised and promised had only risen to between £1100 & £1200 and it is not surprising therefore that the architect was asked to produce a less costly building scheme. This he did and the Committee then had to choose between two schemes, the estimated costs of which were


Original plan

Smaller Plan

Nave & chancel



Nave only



Church complete (without spire or tower)



After voting on alternative motions, there was a majority in favour of the original plan. Readers may notice that this contradicts the account already given in Wilmin Figg’s History & Brief Guide of 1974, but the minutes in question are quite clear on this point.

Clearly, following this decision renewed efforts had to be made to raise money, among which was the formation of a Ladies Committee; by May 1885 £2500 had been promised, of which £200 was donated by Mr. J. C. Barclay MP. In the event, a contract with Mr. W. Burton of Newcastle to erect the Nave and heating apparatus of the permanent church for £4465 was signed in 1886 by Mr. Smythe Palmer, the acting Churchwardens and other members of the Committee and, on 2nd June 1887, the Nave was consecrated by Bishop Claughton DD, Bishop of St. Albans, in whose Diocese the church was then located.

Two years later, on 17th August 1889, the foundation stone of the Chancel was laid by Dr. Claughton. It is to the generosity of the Misses Nutter (great benefactors to this and other churches in the area) that the Chancel was built at this time as a memorial to members of their family. As with Mr. Robert Scott Stable, Bishop Claughton is commemorated by a likeness in one of the bosses in the porch and by a dedication immediately above. In his address when laying the foundation stone, the Bishop appealed for efforts to be made to complete the north aisle for which £700 of the £1000 cost was still required; that this was achieved is evidenced by the fact that on 27th September 1890, just over one year later, the Chancel, North Aisle & Tower were consecrated by Dr. Festing who had succeeded to the diocese of St. Albans.

In May 1885 a gift of additional land had been made by Lord Cowley for “the New Church and for the schools and parsonage house at Hermon Hill.” Without the benefit of maps which the Committee evidently had before them it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which plot of land was offered, but reading between the lines it is interesting to speculate how the south side of Hermon Hill might have looked to-day had the alternative layout been selected. The architect was consulted and his advice to Joint Committee was to abandon the old site and “ask Lord Cowley for the site opposite the property of the British Land Co. Ltd (presumably the piece of land offered) and to take that part opposite the block of buildings between Pelham and Orford Roads making the west side of Pelham Road the east boundary … (and) this would allow a continuation of that road on Lord Cowley’s estate which might be an advantage … the site would be (on) somewhat higher ground and (have) a more even surface for so large a building …”

The Committee resolved to adopt this advice but alas the minutes tantalisingly cease altogether at this point. The inference to be drawn is that, had the course been accept able to Lord Cowley, Holy Trinity church would have rested with its chancel athwart the present area of the Main Hall and its nave on the line of houses now to the west of the Hall, with Pelham Road running across on both sides of Hermon Hill and along the church’s east end. It is clear from the minutes that Mr Fowler was reporting a plan for the Pelham Road extension and not putting forward his own pet scheme.


The New Parish

After Mr. Smythe Palmer’s arrival the parish continued to function as a Conventional District. At an unofficial Vestry Meeting held under his chairmanship on 7th April 1885 he announced that the Bishop had appointed him to the charge of the Conventional District; Kelly’s Essex Directory for 1886 under the entry for Holy Trinity describes him as the Rev Abram Smythe Palmer BA Trinity College Dublin mission curate in charge.

The Order in Council creating the separate parish was published in the London Gazette on 8th May 1888 whereupon it became a legally constituted parish. The parish was form ed from part of Wanstead Parish and the whole of Woodford parish east of the railway line, but there have been at least three amendments to the boundary since it was laid down. These occurred when St. Barnabas, St. Philip & St. James and St. Cedd were created. There are one or two locations in Wanstead and Woodford parishes which for practical considerations of ministry are taken as part of Holy Trinity but the area comprised in Holy Trinity parish can now be delineated as follows:

From a point on the south west corner of Cranbourne Avenue at its junction with Hermon Hill the boundary line runs along the centre of Eagle Lane to the railway line; thence northwards on the railway to a point level with the centre of Tavistock Road (even numbers of which remain in Wanstead parish), west to the Woodford Road and north to the junction with Glebelands Avenue. The line then turns east down the centre of Glebelands Avenue (odd numbers Woodford St. Mary parish) to to Cleveland Road and continuing on across Marlborough Road to the railway line, then north again to a point level with the north end of Wynndale Road; thence, eastwards across to St. Barnabas Road along the centre of Wansford Road (even numbers only in Holy Trinity parish) to meet the east side of Chigwell Road. Here the line returns south, crosses Charlie Brown’s Roundabout and then backs away south east across Nightingale Recreation Ground site , rounds the eastern extremity of Onslow Gardens and runs along the centre of Ashbourne Avenue (Nos 2 - 32 in War stead parish) to Cranbourne Avenue. At this point the line wanders erratically until it eventually meets the boundary wall of Wanstead Hospital, the effect being to leave nos 53- .97 and 38 - 100 Cranbourne Avenue in Wanstead parish. The boundary re turns along the line of the hospital wall to Hermon Hill and thence to its starting point.

The first legal vestry meeting was held on 14th May 1888 “at the Iron Room adjoining the church” by which time Holy Trinity had acquired an assistant priest, the Rev. S. Norwood and Mr. George Denington and Mr. Joseph Salmon were elected the first Churchwardens of Holy Trinity church.

Parish Life

What of the parish life of Holy Trinity’s formative years? In England at large the Church of England was beset by theological differences; by reactions to the Oxford Movement; and by the consequences of what was described in the correspondence column of The Times as “infamous”, The Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. This legislation instituted severe penalties for those clergy found guilty of ritualistic practices e.g. using incense, altar lights, the sign of the cross etc., and under this Act some were imprisoned and, as late as 1889, the Bishop of Lincoln was summoned before the Archbishop of Canterbury’s consistory court to answer charges. The Bishop eventually came well out of the proceedings and the result had the effect of bringing peace to the long drawn-out ritualistic disputes. At Holy Trinity however the only matter seemingly exercising the minds of the parishioners at the first legal Vestry meeting (or at least of the outgoing Churchwarden Mr. Tijou and another) was whether plates or bags should be used for taking collections. It seems plates secured a better response even if some parishioners boycotted them!

Nonetheless, the first Vestry meeting did not get off to a good start. The Order in Council establishing the legal parish was not promulgated until well on into the year and for some reason Mr. Smythe Palmer gave less than one day’s notice of the meeting. It was alleged that he dated it on the Saturday, posted it up on the Sunday for the next day and fixed it to the inner door of the church where it could not be readily seen. This caused the aforementioned Mr. Tijou to press strongly for an adjourned date so that adequate notice could be given. An extended account of this meeting was reported in the Woodford Times for 18th May 1888 and indicated acrimony and lack of trust in the new Vicar on the part of some members. It also hinted at an earlier parochial meeting when differences between members and the churchwardens (acting) on the one hand and the Vicar on the other were voiced. No minutes of that meeting, if any were taken, are in the church’s archives. At the Vestry meeting the assistant curate Mr S. Norwood seems to have acted as a peacemaker with some success. It is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Tijou, who till then had been acting Vicar’s Warden, was not selected to serve again.

The next matter troubling the new church was raised in the year following when the Churchwardens moved, and the meeting carried nem con a motion that the chairman make representations to the Stratford Bench of Magistrates requesting them to suppress the nuisance by bands playing and by parties of excursionists singing comic songs whilst passing along the road in front of the church during the performance of Divine Service. This was, one can visualise, an affront to the worshippers in an age when it was the custom for the lower orders to know their place and to be put in it if they did not! At this remove, and with the use of the expression ‘comic songs’, the whole matter has a risible air raising faint echoes of “Three Men in a Boat.” The cause no doubt was East End ‘Arrys & ‘Arriets on their way to the country and Epping Forest. What the Stratford Bench thought or did about it is not recorded.

As might be imagined, the first two or three Vestry meetings had very few people present at them. The second (unofficial) one in 1886 had only 7 present but nonetheless could accurately be described as a packed meeting, being held in the Vestry of the Iron Church. Readers have only to look at the old building to see that the Vestry - this is the projecting structure on the side facing the Vicarage - measures a mere 10 ft by 10ft; with 7 chairs and a table there can have been little elbow room!

Another storm in a teacup arose in 1891 when Mr James Salmon resigned as Churchwarden two months after his re-appointment, and a special meeting was convened at which the Vicar thought it necessary to secure the attendance of a solicitor. It appears that the beneficent Misses Nutter had adopted a too proprietorial attitude towards the church building by refusing to hand over the keys to Mr Salmon, in which they seemed to have the covert support of Mr Smythe Palmer whose demeanour comes over as rather equivocal. At the meeting, the other warden Mr Green also said he would resign over the issue. There were some lively exchanges of opinion forthrightly expressed, but at the end of the meeting both wardens agreed to continue in office, with the Misses Nutter retaining the keys. The following year however both wardens and the Vestry Clerk were replaced. The former lasted only one year for in 1893 further new Churchwardens appear, although in the case of the People’s Warden it needed an adjourned meeting to secure an election. The Rev E K Molyneux was assistant curate by then.

Despite the furore over the keys, the Misses Nutter Continued to give generously to Holy Trinity, votes of thanks in their favour being recorded in 1897, 1898, 1900 and 1903. The occasion in 1900 was in connection with putting a new roof on the chancel, and at the same time the ladies of the congregation had raised money for repair of the nave roof, neither of which necessities seem much of an advertisement for Mr Burton, Builder, of Newcastle. To be fair to the gentleman, the roofs may have been ‘temporary’ when the structure was put up and after 10 years needed renewing; our south wall in the nave for instance was put up as a temporary one in anticipation of a south aisle being constructed and has stood ever since.

In common with all other churches in the Church of England, up to the end of the First World War, Holy Trinity was governed by the Vicar and Churchwardens and the parishioners had little or no say in the general administration and finance. However under the C of E Assembly (Powers) Act of 1919, Parochial Church Councils came into existence although it seems that in Holy Trinity circumstances had foreshadowed events because in the Vestry meeting of 8th April 1915 reference is found to “the Church Council elected in March (were) re-elected.” A similar record appears for the following year and on 4th April 1918 10 gentlemen and 10 ladies (all named) were elected to form the Council with the Vicar, assistant curate, 2 Churchwardens and 2 Sidesmen. They were elected en bloc in 1919. (NB It was in 1918 that women over 30 years of age first received the parliamentary vote). Regrettably, no record of the early PCC deliberations exist as the PCC minute books prior to 1939 are missing.

There is little more that can be said of any great significance about life and events in Holy Trinity parish. Topographically the building developments in the parish envisaged by the forefathers of Holy Trinity took place mainly between 1890 and 1910 and were confined chiefly to the area between the railway and Hermon Hill/Chigwell Road. It was not until the late 20’s, between the two wars, that the Nightingale farmland was sold and the estate which bears its name came into being, thus making Holy Trinity entirely a suburban church in the centre of a built-up area. The Nightingale estate probably now forms the main focus of congregational membership.
The stress of world events from 1914 onwards can be observed in the church minutes; the departure of church members to the two wars, some never to return, among whom in particular was numbered David Wilkerson RAF DSO DFC (in whose memory the Scout Hall is dedicated); the 1938 crisis (the main Hall was used for fitting gasmasks); war damage and its aftermath of repairs under emergency legislation. Generally, however the pattern of parish business changes very little. It is interesting in passing to compare the assiduity or otherwise of different minute takers; the briefest was he who recorded the Vestry meeting for 1922 and who got it all down, including the heading, in nine lines; and what might be described as the laziest was he who dealt with the Vestry minutes between 1926 and 1930 merely by pasting in cuttings from the Woodford Times, and by omitting to record anything at all for 1927!

What is it about the character and quality of Holy Trinity parish that has left so little to remark on in its first hundred years of history? It has to be said that its only remarkable attribute is of being unrepresentative of the population of the country at large. In so far as these terms have any relevance today, its residents are and since the 1890’s have been to a large extent those of lower middle and artisan classes; the nature and quality of the private dwellings speak to this. It contains no slum areas, thank goodness (one can of course point to the odd house here and there which deserves the description), nor substantial residences or mansions. There are no gentry, no lords of the manor - to which one might also murmur thank goodness - and it is doubtful if it can lay claim to many if any residents from the well-to-do upper echelons of the professional or commercial hierarchy - the so-called socio-economic Group A. Again, there is no substantial industry in the parish, no important commercial concerns; no architectural creation of distinction and no outstanding natural features. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, it is all rather hum-drum.

Church Life & Liturgy

There have been eight Vicars serving Holy Trinity to date (webmaster’s note: this document was written in 1982 – the current vicar is the tenth of the parish). Their names are on a board on the north wall in the Lady Chapel. The first, Mr Smyth Palmer was also the longest serving, so much so that there are two or three members of the congregation who can still remember him.

There has, of course, been a succession of assistant clergy, deacons and priests - certainly more than 20 assistant curates are recorded since the advent of Mr Norwood in 1885.
Names familiar to church members since the last war are Messrs B I Cobb, D’Arcy Irvine, John Crump, Fr Gaston. Keith Finnemore, John Wells, Michael Fox (webmaster: Archdeacon of West Ham), Keith Lovell, Geoffrey Dobson and Alan Barnes.

In the last two decades or so the degree of Anglicism at Holy Trinity has moved upwards from ‘middle-of-the-road’ to ‘high’, but by no means Anglo-Catholics. Like many Anglican churches we no longer say Matins on Sunday but have an early-morning said Communion with sung Eucharist as the main service. In the last 2 - 3 years a westward facing nave altar has been brought into use but not as a regular practice.

Over the years, and more frequently in the past four decades, there have been certain spiritual aspects of church life which have exercised and challenged the minds of Anglicans; and these have impinged on Holy Trinity also. The introduction of Synodical Government in 1969 drew the laity at parish and deanery level more into consultation on the fashioning of church life and policy. In recent times, church members have been asked to deliberate on and vote about Anglican/Methodist Unity, Infant Baptism and the admission of women to the priesthood, but probably the most traumatic event for many was the introduction of new and experimental forms of communion service whose use had to be sanctioned by the parochial church council. At Holy Trinity all these subjects were discussed at parish meetings and while some took exception to the changes in the services, by and large they were viewed with open minds, and Holy Communion Series 2 and 3 and last year the Alternative Services Book Rite A were taken in their stride by the majority. On the other hand, we did not throw the traditional forms on one side and the 1662 Prayer Book has continued to be used for certain communion services (the Interim Rite) and for Evensong.

At our parochial level two other events also caused much heart-searching for the congregation. These were the discovery in 1971 of faults in the south wall which professional advice suggested made it unsafe; and the launching in 1975 of a Stewardship Mission among church members with the assistance of the Diocesan Stewardship Adviser.

A number of schemes were considered to do with re-building the south wall, including complete demolition and re-development of the church and site. In the event, these were found not to be viable and were dropped. As regards the Stewardship Mission, there was at the time a strong body of prejudice against the scheme but the basic Christian concept of stewarding time, money and talents came to be recognised and accepted generally, with consequent benefit to Holy Trinity.

Church Organisations

Church organisations tend to be of the same kind wherever one goes, and constituent bodies tend to remain the same through the years albeit their titles and descriptions will change. The earliest record of parochial organisations available is in a Holy Trinity magazine for March 1923 owned by a church member. This incidentally declares itself to be Volume XXVI so one may assume the parish magazine was first published in 1897.

The only organisations existing today under the same titles as in 1923 are the Mother’s Union, the Scouts/Cubs formed in 1917 and the Guides/Brownies formed in 1916. In 1923 there were also a Literary Society, Mothers Meetings (precursor of the Wives Group?), a Needlework Guild and a Dorcas Society (forerunners no doubt of the Sanctuary Guild), the Church Lads Brigade, Girls Friendly Society and the King’s Messengers (for young people).

Other organisations which have flourished and declined in the past 40 years have been the St Francis Fellowship and St George’s Guild (for young communicants), Women’s Fellowship, Parent’s Fellowship and Fellowship of Marriage. Two bodies which have continued unabated since their inception are the Sanctuary Guild which has existed under one title or another over a number of years; and the Parish Fellowship which was formed in 1947 and has met regularly each Tuesday ever since. It is moreover the one body open to all church members. As its Leader recently stated “there is no age qualification - you must be either male or female!”


The Present Church Building

The design of the building, in Ancaster stone, is based mainly on the 12th and 13th century styles of Gothic architecture as indicated by the narrow pointed lancet windows and the arcading in the chancel. The main entrance doorway is a good example of the earlier Norman style with a round arch. Being a mere 100 years old it contains little of historical importance but the patient observer will find items of interest.

The church is free of the more Victorian exuberances of brass and dark fretted wood work. Its generous and lofty proportions, with an unobtrusive chancel screen and large windows east and west, give an air of light and space. Originally, and within living memory, the main inside walls were unadorned brickwork but were subsequently given a plaster coating. Opinions as to whether or not this was an improvement were divided.

The church is remarkable for the number of texts carved or embossed in the chancel. It is not proposed to quote these verbatim but interested readers can look for them in the following places, viz: the chancel screen and wrought-iron gates; the seven rows of steps; the upper and lower parts of the altar rail; the upper and lower parts of the altar table; below the reredos; the string course above the arcading and the cornice of the chancel; the credence table, the choir stalls and prayer desks (north and south); the fald-stool; and on the foundation stone and a marble plaque above it. It is said that had the full design of Holy Trinity been carried out, there would also have been inscribed above the great chancel arch the words “When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of heaven to all believers,” and as mentioned earlier the large space above would have been filled with painted angels and cherubim.

The east windows comprise 5 lancets. These were originally full of stained glass containing representations of a number of biblical subjects and characters of the Old & New Testaments on the themes of the Ascension and the Life Everlasting. The three central windows were dedicated by Mary, Jessie and Gertrude Nutter in memory of their father Richard Whitaker Nutter and of his two brothers. This is fully described in Wilmin Figg’s History and Guide.

All the east windows were blown out during the Second World War. The north and south lancets were replaced in plain glass and the three eastern ones by a design of Christ in Majesty created by Mr. Hugh Easton who designed the RAF window in Westminster Abbey. These windows were blessed by the Bishop of Barking on 22nd April 1950.

The six stained glass windows in the north aisle, 5 within the Lady Chapel and one behind the reredos, are memorials to former members of the church. Proceeding along the aisle from west to east, these are:



Subject & Inscription

Thomas Megan Wood, died 4th Sept 1908, & his wife

Baptism: They brought young children to Him

Eliza Hume Wood died 19th Feb 1889, erected by their sons Thomas & William Megan

Boy Jesus in the temple:
Hearing & answering their questions

William Sutton, Churchwarden 1893- 1900, erected by his friends

Confirmation: Defend O Lord this thy child

Lucy Isabel Johnstone died 4th July 1894

Communion: This do in remembrance of me

Alfred S & Florence Hackett


ADMG. Lily Dickson, in loving memory of Walter & Julia Ringer
died 1922

The Good Shepherd

(it is presumed the initials prefacing the attribution of the last-named are intended to mean ‘ad majorem Dei gloriam’ which is customarily abbreviated to AMDG)

The Lady Chapel itself was dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on 5th May 1926. The reredos, purchased in 1951, was exhibited at Lambeth Palace during the Festival of Britain in that year. It was paid for out of a bequest made in 1941 by Miss Hannah Elder and is dedicated to her memory and to that of her sister Dorothy Elder who died in 1929.

In addition to the memorials listed in Wilmin Figg’s Guide,the church now houses the following created since 1974, viz:

2 Offertory Tables &
2 Alms Dishes

Dedicated to Wilmin Figg, one time group Scoutmaster, PCC member, Sidesman & Churchwarden, died 5th August 1976

Credence Table

Given by Walter SIdney Curtis in memory of his wife Kathleen & commemorating their marriage in Holy Trinity Church.

Chalice, Paten & Ciborium

In memory of William Bacon, died 1979

Reading Desk

In memory of James Lakey, died February 1980, aged 4 years.

Finally members of the congregation may not realise that the high altar table is itself a memorial; it was dedicated at the consecration of the chancel in 1890 to the memory of the Reverend William Pitt Wigram, Rector of Wanstead 1837 - 1864. Although there is nothing to confirm it, this is no doubt another example of the Misses Nutter’s benevolence.

In the last five years, under the leadership of Father Peter Beech and with the advice of architect Mr Norman Davey much work has been done in restoring the fabric and appearance of the building, including remedial work required by a quinquennial inspection made in 1976. The Trinity Task Force, a body of church members, have decorated the entire chancel and tower internally and have removed some rows of pews each side of the main aisle at the east end to provide more space round the nave altar. Other work, carried out by contractors, has included repair of the plaster work along the west wall; the installation of sophisticated damp-proofing operated on a (very low) differential potential system; a complete re-wiring of the church’s electrics and the installation of a greatly improved lighting array; and re-decoration of the whole of the nave, chancel arch and west wall. At the time of writing, a re-constituted Trinity Task Force is to decorate the Lady Chapel.

Plans for other internal changes include removal of the font to an area at the west end of the Lady Chapel; paving of the area from which pews have been removed; and the creation of a totally enclosed vestibule (‘Narthex’) at the west end of the nave. The last named has been declared a project for the Centenary Year.


1887 – 1914

A Smythe Palmer MA DD

1914 – 1924

John Holyoak BA

1924 – 1939

Henry Monks MA Hon Canon

1939 – 1946

E Barlow Hoitby MA BD

1946 – 1957

Sidney John Burling AKC

1958 – 1969

Frederick E Bayley AKC

1969 – 1975

R Paul Angwin FCA AKC

1975 – 1989

Peter J. Beech

1990 - 2000

Tony H Ashdown AKC

2001- 2018

Robert E. Hampson, B.Sc B.A. M.Th



1888- 1890

George Denington

James Salmon


R R Green

James Salmon


John Wilson

H Brack

1893- 1899

Capt Mainland

William Sutton

1900 – 1901

Capt Mainland

Herbert L Gross

1902 – 1904

Capt Mainland

C Watson

1905- 1906

C Watson

Dr F A Martin Flegg

1907 – 1908

Dr Martin Flegg

Thomas Megan Wood Jnr

1909 – 1915

Dr Martin Flegg

W E Carpenter

1916- 1919

E S Laundy

W E Carpenter

1920 – 1925

Alfred James Hall

W E Carpenter

1926- 1927

Dr Martin Flegg

W E Carpenter

1928 – 1939

Ernest A Evans

W E Carpenter

1940 – 1941

J J Dyer

W E Carpenter

1942 – 1945

W J Jackson

W E Carpenter

1946- 1947

A B Griffiths

J Cross (W E Carpenter, Churchwarden Emeritus)

1948 – 1950

A B Griffiths

Hubert R Lovell

1951 – 1952

H Atwood

Hubert R Lovell


Henry Webb

Hubert R Lovell


Gerald Herrington

Hubert R Lovell

1964- 1969

Gerald Herrington

Fred Wilson

1970- 1972

Wilmin Figg

Fred Wilson

1973- 1974

Wilmin Figg

Basil de M Davies


Edwin Walker

Basil de M Davies

1976- 1977

Edwin Walker

Gerald Herrington

1978- 1981

Jack Groom

Gerald Herrington

1981 – 1983


Gerald Herrington

1983 – 1988


John Thurley



Ian MacBrayne


Barbara Thomas


2004 – 2005

Barbara Thomas

Eileen Chaplin

2005 - 2011

Patricia Thurley

Andrew Coombes

2011 - 2012

Patricia Thurley

Ian McBrayne

2012 - 2017

Ian McBrayne

Andrew Coombes

2017 - 2019

Kenneth Watling

Andrew Coombes

(The list of wardens in Basil de M Davies' account ends at 1982. The list is due to be completed and the website updated in time)

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