Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Christ Church History

The inborn gift of being able to rally in times of crisis is a marked feature of the fighting spirit in this church – a spirit which is the same yesterday and today and establishes the vital link with the growing faith for tomorrow.

Turning the clock back to 1593, the records tell us that the plot of land on which the building stands was once part of a verdure-clad area known as the village or hamlet of Crouch End. Its parish was St. Mary’s Hornsey and remained so until Christ Church was built in 1862. Its founder was the Rev Richard Harvey, for 50 years the rector of Hornsey, and a man of outstanding creative ability.

Realising the need for a separate place of worship in Crouch End village, the Rev Richard Harvey acquired on rent in 1848 a pleasant looking building, in the vicinity of the thoroughfare now known as the Broadway, for use as a chapel. Its somewhat limited capacity of 150 eventually led to an agitation in 1848 for a new church to be built. The rector knew it was time to act – that the chapel had to become a church – and so in 1856 he made a plea to the Bishop of London, Dr Charles J Blomfield. Unfortunately, the Bishop’s health deteriorated and he died the following year.

Four years later half an acre of land on which the church could be built was donated by Charles Scrase Dickins, owner at that time of a large part of the land in Crouch End. This generous offer stirred into action a few church pioneers under the chairmanship of the rector, now Canon Harvey. Only one scheme was received, that of Arthur William Blomfield, son of the Bishop of London, previously mentioned. An enthusiast of ecclesiastical design with an intimate knowledge of the architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries, he revived in the design of the new church the Gothic style with the pointed arch and the clerestoried nave.

Christ Church N8 was consecrated by the Bishop of London, The Rt. Rev. Archibald Campbell Tait, on Friday 27 June 1862. The sermon at the first Sunday service was preached by the incumbent, the Rev William Fleming, LLB.

During Mr Fleming’s ministry, the main expenses were paid out of the new pew rents and a collection in church taken once a quarter. Half the seats were free as stipulated by the Church Building society.

In June 1865 a move was started to complete the original design of the church for the purpose of adding the south aisle. In a few months £850 had been raised by subscription.

Mr Bloomsfield’s services were once again requisitioned and the south aisle was added to provide 243 extra seats. On 10 October 1867, after a month’s closure, services were held in the extended church. In 1872 a new organ was installed and Mr Robinson was the first to play it. Four months later Mr Fleming concluded his ministry and preached his last sermon on 28 July 1872.

There followed a lively period of development and the next of a long line of the church’s “pillars” was the Rev Charles Welland Edmonstone, who was vicar from 1872 to 1897. He soon started a fund from the congregation for the erection of the church spire, which was completed by Mr Arthur Bloomfield on 23 November 1873. The church then took on the beauty the architect had originally planned.

The handsome lectern which is still in use was presented by a member of the congregation, Mr Ferdinand Brand, Comptroller of the City of London, in 1878, in thankfulness to God for his recovery from illness. He died two years later but his son, John, who served as a church warden for 15 years, presented a stained glass window in memory of his father. It was destroyed during the Second World War.

PCC Pioneer Parish
In 1897 the Rev Charles James Sharp became the vicar Of Christ Church. He made a string of proposals, the first of which was that a Church Council be elected for the parish. This was an example of his own foresight, as it was made nearly 20 years before the enactment that Parochial Church Councils should exercise the powers they now possess and he made Christ Church a pioneer parish in this respect.

Church Cottages
In 1900, under the Rev Charles Sharp, a piece of land at Edison Road was secured on which the church cottages were built in 1901.

New Parish Magazine
In 1931, the Rev Alexander Dowding, a new vicar, introduced a new form of parish magazine entitled “News of Christ Church” with a circulation of 1,500. In November 1932 a modern system of radiators and pipes was installed at a cost of £500 to replace the obsolete heating processes.

Financial Crisis
There was a financial crisis in 1937, deficits of past years having seriously mounted, so that in February the vicar called for a day of prayer and gifts. The deficit to be cleared was £776 and the amount realised on the prayer and gift day was £778!

In 1951 several fund raising campaigns were launched for church repair and organ fund, and in October 1952 a Thanksgiving service was held in the restored and re-decorated church. The organ was rebuilt and the war memorial screen, unveiled by Lt Col. Chettle, contained the names of 22 men from the church and parish who died on active service, also the same number of civilians who lost their lives through enemy action during World War Two.

The 1962 centenary celebrations were probably the high point of the Rev A C Markby’s time at Christ Church.

In 1970, the Rev David Hubbard, who was part-time curate under Mr Mossman, was appointed as vicar and brought considerable administrative gifts to the task. The first visible results of the re-structuring of the church were to be seen in the completion of the dais.

The Rev John Townsend became vicar in 1983 and served the church faithfully until 1998 when he became Vicar of Jesus’ Church Forty Hill, Enfield. He retired in 2006. It was under him that a kitchen galley was added to the north aisle and the west end of the nave re-configured to include a small chapel. He also re-configured the south aisle to introduce the church office and choir vestry.

The Rev Dele Agbelusi became vicar in August 1999 and is still with us. He is conducting a very well defined teaching and evangelistic ministry and the family services are enhanced by many visual aids. A new parish magazine was introduced in 1999 and was called Crosslinks. Its circulation is ever increasing with a voice edition commenced in 2007. A new parish hall was built in 2004 and was dedicated by the Rt. Rev Peter Wheatley, the Bishop of Edmonton Episcopal Area. The Church Sanctuary was renovated in 2009 thus giving a fresh lease of life to the ageing fabric and paint; and later in the year a new audio visual system was commissioned.

In so short an article many interesting events and personalities must be omitted and the able men and women who served as church wardens or in other ways must go unmentioned, alas!

Growing for Export
Looking back over the 25 years, a fairly steady decline in attendance is observable, which reflects the experience of the church nationality. There are now signs that this trend is reversing. A particular problem in Crouch End is the excessive movement of people in and out of the district. This means that young, enthusiastic and talented people are trained up for Christian service only to leave in a very short time, often for more suitable accommodation.

And Tomorrow …
Maybe the specific task for Christ Church, in the 21st Century is to be a training ground for the benefit of other churches. We could be assigned a more challenging.


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