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Alterations And Repairs To Saint Matthews High Town

Saint Matthews Church from the south-east June 2011
Saint Matthew's church from the south-east, June 2011

Luton, Saint Matthew’s is comparatively little altered from the time it was consecrated in 1876. Former County Archivist Chris Pickford wrote a history of Bedfordshire churches in the 19th century spanning four Bedfordshire Historical Record Society volumes. Saint Matthew’s appears in Volume 80, published in 2001.

Because there was very little money when the church was built, High Town was never a rich area of Luton, it was very sparsely furnished. Until that date a temporary wooden church in Brunswick Road had been used for worship and the choir seats, desk and pulpit all came from there. The nave contained chairs rather than pews.

The first vicar, John Wood, died in 1883 and a reredos of Caen stone with a Sicilian marble cross was presented by his widow in 1885 [P132/10/1]. A carved stone pulpit was presented in his memory by the congregation the previous year [P132/12/1]. The font was presented by Doctor Horace Sworder in memory of his wife in 1892.

In 1891 the organ was installed. This was made by Eustace Ingram of Holloway [Middlesex]. It has been extensively rebuilt over the years. A brass eagle lectern was presented in 1901.

The first repairs to the church were undertaken in 1910 [ABV3 and P132/10/2]. These were on the west front. A war memorial plaque was installed in 1921 [P132/8/1]. In 1934 a chapel at the end of the east aisle was furnished in memory of Margaret Cripps and stained glass was placed in the windows of the apse, at the east end of the church, and in the baptistery in 1963 and 1964.

New electric lighting was installed in 1936 and 1937 as a memorial to the diamond jubilee of King George V (1910-1936) [P132/8/2-3]. A processional cross was acquired in 1938 [P132/8/4] and a cross and two candlesticks in 1946 [P132/8/5].

An oak font cover was installed in 1960 at the same time as a new oak litany desk [P132/8/6]. The bellcote at the west end was modified in 1963. The bells are original, supplied by Mears & Stainbank in 1876.