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Twenty-one Years in S. George's Mission

By Charles Fuge Lowder

London: Rivingtons, 1877.

Chapter XI. S. Peter's Church: Commencement and Consecration.

IT is now fifteen years since a munificent gift of a site for a Church in Old Gravel Lane was made to the Mission, and a fund was commenced for building purposes. At that time, however, it seemed more desirable to purchase S. Saviour's Church, in Wellclose Square, and to form our first ecclesiastical district around it. After some negotiations had been opened with the trustees, who were willing to sell, it was found that the Danish Government objected to the sale; and an important portion of the proposed district having been in the meantime assigned to S. Paul's, Dock Street, the opportunity was lost of arranging a suitable district around S. Saviour's. A friend who had generously promised £1,000 towards the purchase of S. Saviour's, kindly allowed it to be devoted for the proposed Church in Old Gravel Lane; and another promise of £500 being made, with other smaller gifts, [150/151] the prospect of accomplishing our object became gradually more distinct. Grants also were promised by the Diocesan Church Building Society, the Bishop's Fund, and the Incorporated Society; so that at length a sufficient aura was collected to warrant the commencement. A Building Committee was formed, and the contract for the foundations being taken, the work was begun in April, 1865. The foundations, from the nature of the ground, were expensive. It was, however, determined to persevere; the building contract was entered upon, and the walls began to rise from the ground.

The following description of the laying of the Foundation Stone is taken from our Ninth Annual Report:

"It was deferred till the Octave of S. Peter's Day. A long procession of Clergy and choristers, with banners, and a cross-bearer at their head, proceeded from the Chapel of the Good Shepherd in Calvert Street (singing appropriate hymns) to the site, where a large number of friends and parishioners were assembled. A service consisting of Psalms and Antiphons was then commenced. The blessing of the stone was performed by the Rev. J. L. Ross, Rector of the parish, and the Earl of Powis laid it according to due form. An address was given by the Rev. C. F. Lowder, and the procession returned to the Mission Chapel. The order and [151/152] respectful behaviour of the people in the streets were much remarked by those who remembered the riotous mob of former days.

"Lord Lyttelton, as President of the Working Men's Club, immediately proceeded to award the prizes won at the Flower Show, and then about 120 friends sat down to luncheon under a tent on the ground. Speeches were made by the Earl of Powis, who expressed his great interest in the work which had been carried on by the Mission (an interest the sincerity of which was manifested on the following day by a contribution of 1100 towards the Church); and by the Rector of the parish, who made a very hearty and telling address, in which he expressed his own most hearty sympathy in the progress of the Mission, and conveyed the same feelings from the Bishop. Other speeches and toasts followed, and then the company for the most part adjourned to the Schoolroom to see the very interesting exhibition of plants, vegetables, and flowers grown in the neighbouring houses and cottages by the working people of the district."

The building of the Church went on steadily, but not so rapidly as we desired; and it became evident as the autumn advanced that we should not get it covered in, as we had hoped, before Christmas. Fortunately for [152/153] the works, the winter was very mild, so that scarcely any damage was done by the frost, and nothing occurred to atop the progress of the building. The roof was finally fixed in April; and on the occasion of the Ninth Anniversary of S. Saviour's, Wellclose Square, which was kept on May 2nd, we held our children's service in the yet unfinished building.

The roof being fixed, every exertion was made to get the Church ready for the day of Consecration, which was now fixed by the Bishop for the day after S. Peter's Day. Much however remained to be done, and an unexpected difficulty arose in a settlement which at one time caused some apprehension from its effect on the south pillars. When this was remedied all haste was made in laying the floor, and though a small portion of the tiles was not completed, and. the panels of the Altar, as well as the Cross over it, were not gilt on the day itself, yet nothing essential was wanting to show the general effect and character of this beautiful Church, which was generally admired by all present on that occasion, or who have since seen it. The simplicity yet grandeur of its outline, the warmth and richness of its colour, the height of its pitch, the dignity and elevation of the altar marking it as the prominent feature, and the solidity of the whole work give it an originality and [153/154] effect which commend it to all, and help to inspire those who enter it with feelings of reverence for the presence of Him whose house it evidently is.

Before, however, we enter upon the account of the Consecration Day, we must needs take farewell of our former Chapel of the Good Shepherd, in which for nearly ten years we had been permitted to worship and instruct our people in the faith of Christ's Holy Church. Many happy and interesting associations clung round this Iron Chapel, plain and unpretending in its exterior, yet bright and cheerful within, especially when, at Easter or Christmas Festivals, its altar was decked in its white vestments, its chancel was well lighted, and flowers and wreaths lent their beauty and fragrance, while a devout and faithful band of worshippers filled the body of the Chapel. Many had learnt dearly to cherish this little tabernacle of the Lord's Presence, where they had first learnt to know and love Him in the blessed Eucharistic Feast; and though we could not but rejoice to exchange it for such a Church as S. Peter's, yet some have said even after the Consecration, with tears in their eyes, that they could not feel quite the same for S. Peter's as for the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, where their first religious impressions had been formed. It was here also that so many of our [154/155] children had been baptized, so many prepared for their Confirmation and first Communion, so many made their first Confession, that neither priest nor people could remember without emotion that our last Communion, our last Eucharistic Worship, our last prayers, were so soon to be offered up in these walls, which, though not consecrated by the Bishop's blessing, were hallowed by many prayers and thanksgivings. It was on S. John Baptist's Day that the last service was held, S. John Baptist himself, the greatest of the ancient prophets, and yet the least in the New Dispensation, standing between the old and new Covenants. Some of our Communicants, anxious to keep a remembrance of the Iron Chapel, asked that we should have a photograph taken; accordingly the choir assembled on an early morning of the week, in order that the last procession might be photographed with a view of the interior.

The day of Consecration, however, was of course a festive day in the district. Streamers were hung across Old Gravel Lane with appropriate texts, and the neighbourhood of the Church was gay with flags. The schools lined the way, and the Clergy received the Bishop at the schoolroom, in which he robed, and then followed the long procession of Clergy and choir chanting the Veni Creator up the nave into the chancel. The prayers [155/156] of Consecration having been offered by the Bishop, and the procession having passed round the Church chanting Psalm xxiv., Matins was sung and the Eucharistic office commenced by the Bishop, who preached a very earnest and impressive sermon from the text of Genesis iv. 9, containing Cain's reply to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The offertories during the day amounted to £400.

After the service in Church about 300 friends sat down to luncheon in the former Chapel of the Good Shepherd, which is used as a Schoolroom. The Earl of Powis was in the chair, supported by the Bishop, Lord Lyttelton, H. Barnett, Esq., M,P., the Bishop-Designate of Nelson, Archdeacon Sandford, the Rector of the parish, Mrs. Gladstone, &c. After the usual toast of "Church and Queen," the Bishop's health was proposed by Mr. Barnett, and heartily received by the large and influential company. The Bishop, in reply, proposed the writer's health in very kind and handsome terms, making the most liberal allowance for points of difference, and hailing the Mission as one great means of drawing the sympathies of the wealthier and more influential residents in the West of London to their poorer brethren in the East. In like manner he said that none could think of the self-denying labours of [156/157] the Sisters without taking shame to themselves in their comparative ease and luxury. The Bishop's words were received with great enthusiasm, and will long be remembered as among the most cheering of the many happy recollections of this bright day. The Rector, Lord Lyttelton, the Bishop-Designate of Nelson, and other speakers followed; after which the company for the most part adjourned, as on the occasion of laying the First Stone, to the Boys' Schoolroom, when Lord Lyttelton again opened the Flower Show, and declared the prizes for the best plants. Next came a tea to the Communicants and choir, with an address from some of the Clergy; and then Evensong in the now Consecrated Church of S. Peter's, which was a very hearty service, with processional hymns and an excellent sermon by the Rev. C. C. Grafton. On Sunday the sermons were preached by the Rev. Luke Rivington and the Rev. W. J. Butler, Vicar of Wantage, the latter in the evening to a large congregation. Sermons were also preached throughout the Octave; and thus the work at S. Peter's was duly inaugurated, and being commended to God's blessing, was left to fulfil the great work for which it was intended.

The following is a short architectural description of the Church.

[158] S. Peter's is in the style of the later First Pointed Gothic, being faced externally with yellow stock bricks relieved with stone dressings, and internally with red bricks having bands and patterns of black bricks. The columns of the main arches are of blue Pennant stone. The plan consists of a lofty nave, 68 feet by 27 feet, with clerestory lights. It is at present four bays in length; the three western have north and south aisles 10 feet wide. The west walls are temporary, with provision for an extension, and for a north-west tower and slated spire. Eastward of the nave are transepts north and south, connected with it by lofty arches piercing the clerestory. The chancel is 35 feet long by 22 feet wide, with two trefoiled windows in the east end, surmounted by a shafted wheel window about 17 feet in diameter.

The chapel on the south side of the chancel is 35 feet by 16 feet, with an open high-pitched span root, having a three-light east window and large quatrefoil side-lights. The organ-chamber is on the north side of the chancel. There is a lower and upper sacristy, connected by an internal atone staircase. In the transept gables are cusped wheel windows; the other windows are mostly single lights with trefoiled heads. The floors are laid with encaustic tiles in patterns. The [158/159] chancel is fitted with returned oak stalls. The altar is of carved and pierced panels, gilt. It is intended eventually to erect a reredos.

The east window of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd has since been filled with stained glass, the offering of a benefactress now taken from us, whose family completed her gift; it is hoped to fill others also. Two of the capitals of columns have also been carved, and a temporary screen for decorations has been placed at the entrance of the chancel.

On the Consecration of S. Peter's, a district taken out of S. George's and S. Paul's, Shadwell, was assigned by the Ecclesiastical Commission; and the present Vicar, having been nominated by the Trustees, was first licensed as Perpetual Curate, and subsequently, on the resignation of the late Rector of S. George's, became Vicar of the new parish.

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