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Saint Pauls Mission Church Littleworth

Elevation of the mission church 1905 [P22/2/2/1]
Elevation of the mission church 1905 [P22/2/2/1]

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a series of copied articles which seem to have appeared in the Wilshamstead parish magazine just before the First World War, presumably written by the Vicar (Richard Charles Whitworth). This piece concerns the Saint Paul’s Mission Church in Littleworth.

“Although this little church is young, and its erection within the recollection of our readers, it may be useful for the information of the writer’s successors to place on record the history of its origin”.

“The idea of a small church at the Littleworth extremity of the parish was conceived as far back as thirty-nine years ago, but it was not till twenty-eight years later that the project began to assume definite shape. It was in January 1899 that the first cash contribution was received and never from its first inception did the building fund stand still. It accumulated little by little, not without labour and some disappointment till the winter of 1905 when the sum raised was sufficient to justify the commencement of building operations”.

Saint Paul's mission church in 1979 [Z50/134/38]
Saint Paul's mission church in 1979 [Z50/134/38]

“At first a building of stone or brick was contemplated, but subscriptions came in too tardily and sparsely for the consummation of such a design within reasonable time. Recourse was therefore had to the cheaper materials of zinc and wood. The order for the fabric of this character was placed in the hands of Mr. William Harbrow, of South Bermondsey, in November 1905, and this contractor, bringing into the work the most modern improvements known in the iron building trade, accomplished a very satisfactory result. The interior dimensions are: - length, 54 feet and breadth, (maximum) 20 feet. This space includes in the narrowest parts of the chancel 10 feet square, a vestry 10 feet by 5, and a porch 4 feet by 6. To prevent access to damp from below the whole area beneath the boarded floor and wall foundations is lined with a six-inch bed of cement concrete, and intervening between the wood and iron work of the roof and walls are layers of felt to ensure a more equal and comfortable temperature. The seating accommodation is nominally for one hundred adults in the main body of the building, but practically there is room for forty chairs without causing any discomfort. The church stands on a plot of ground which was purchased from Mr. B. Cambers of Cotton End, and the freehold of the site and fabric is vested in the Ely Diocesan Board of Trustees, who have appointed the Vicar and Churchwardens of Wilshamstead for the time being, as the local custodians to preserve the property for the exclusive uses of the Church of England”. [Bedfordshire was in Ely Diocese until being transferred to Saint Albans in 1914].

“Though this church is licensed by the Bishop for divine service, and the administration of the Holy sacraments, it is not consecrated, that is, it is not dedicated solely and entirely to the direct worship of God. Under this arrangement it can be and is properly and legitimately used for social and more secular functions as mothers’ meetings, tea parties, lectures, entertainments, &c., but when the building is put to these uses, the chancel is screened off by movable panelled partitions”.

“The opening ceremony was originally intended for Saint Paul’s Day (January 25th, 1906), but circumstances did not permit the fulfilment of that purpose, and though dedicated in the name of Saint Paul the service did not take place until Shrove Tuesday, February 27th of that year. It was hoped that the Bishop of Ely, Dr. Chase, would conduct the dedication, but prior engagements prevented his lordship’s presence, while illness, inclement weather and other causes accounted for the absence of the Venerable F. Bathurst, and many of the neighbouring clergy. The duty fell on Canon Macaulay, a former vicar of Wilshamstead, who preached most effectively from Saint John XVIII. 18. The musical parts of the service were undertaken by the surpliced choir of the parish church and accompanied by Mr. Alfred Pearce at a temporary harmonium. A collection for the building fund realized £2.2.6”.

The interior of the mission church in 1979 [Z50/134/32b]
The interior of the mission church in 1979 [Z50/134/32b]

“At the date of the opening there was a debt on the church but in the course of a few months this was cleared off. It is also satisfactory to be able to say that, by means of a monthly offertory, the church is self-supporting”.

A bill of 1905 reveals the final cost was £197/10/- [P22/2/2/1]. The land was conveyed to trustees by Benjamin Cambers of Cotton End, retired publican (of the Bell in Cotton End, a Benjamin Cambers, perhaps his son, was later landlord at the Rose) in February 1903 [P22/2/2/2] for £38. The church was disused by 1979 and was sold, demolished and a house built on the site in 1981.

House on the site of the former mission church at Littleworth March 2013
House on the site of the former mission church at Littleworth March 2013