Our History

Like R.W. Bullock, the Vicar of the time, we too are grateful that P.A. Underwood took the trouble to write this "Short History" in 1938 and we hope you find it as interesting and informative as we have. Though not a faithful copy, it is deliberately recreated in the original style. The only thing that has really suffered is the picture of the interior of the church, which we hope to replace soon with a clearer one.






We are very grateful to Mr. P. A. Underwood (Verger since July, 1919) for his History of the Parish Church Of Purley. It is always difficult to remember that we in our time are making history just as much as our forefathers did in the Middle Ages when they built their Cathedrals and Churches, and that men two or three hundred years hence will be, or ought to be, reading what we have written in stone and window. Perhaps, if we did remember, we should write a bit better than we do. Anyhow we are sure that this account of how our Church came to be as we have got it today will not only interest a great number, but also perhaps make us more grateful for what our forefathers have done for us.
It is good to think that our old bell is once more at work in Canada calling people to worship, but we must not be satisfied with giving away what we no longer want. That is not very good "writing." So we trust this story of our Church will stir us to far bigger efforts to build for those who have no Church.
                                                     R. W. Bullock,
November, 1938.                                                                                                                        Vicar.
The Parish Church of Purley (Christ Church) was commenced in 1877, when the foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Tait on the 14th of April, and consecrated a year later. It was intended to be a Chapel of Ease to St. John's, Old Coulsdon, and to seat 350 people. The funds were raised by public subscription, mainly through the efforts of John Henry Smith, Esq., of Purley Bury, and the cost was £5000. The Building Committee comprised the Rector of Coulsdon (the Hon. and Rev. George Winfield Burke), John Henry Smith, Esq., William Henry Heath Esq., Richard Hinds Swain, Esq. (Treasurer), George Hunter, Esq., John McBride, Esq., and John Glenn, Esq. (Secre­tary). The only apparent link with these gentlemen today is Miss Glenn, who lives in the Whytecliffe Road in the house in which her father lived when the Church was built, and Glenn Avenue named after Mr. Glenn, and situated on part of his old estate.
The Architect was James Fowler, Esq., of Lough, Lincolnshire. The builders, Cornish & Gaymer, of North Walsham, Norfolk, It is not easy to define the period adopted by the architect ; traces of Saxon, Gothic, Square, Old English and Norman appear in various parts of the building.
The apse is distinctly Norman, the arches and windows Gothic or Perpendicular, the Clerestory win­dow Square or Old English, and the pillars Norman. One interesting part inside the Church is at the west end door where a very good imitation of a Saxon pillar can be seen, and a genuine one is in Southwark Cathedral in the ambulatory. The pillars are usually very slender, and appear to be strengthened by several round slender pillars, but actually are separate and could be easily removed and not in any way weaken the structure. A sheet of paper can be passed com­pletely round the two pillars at the west door.
The interior furnishing was completely carried out in pitch pine except one or two doors which are oak, but in some cases even the framework is pitch pine with the facings oak. The red bricks are well laid and tuck pointed, but do not add anything to the natural light in the building, and very seldom in the course of a year is it possible to go through a service without artificial light either in the Chancel or Nave. The black bricks are made of a mixture chiefly comprising soot.
The roof is lofty, about sixty-five feet at its highest point, and is covered in with stained match-boarding. This was not part of the original roof, the spaces between the rafters being ceiling, but only two parts of the original remain, in the old vestry, now the organ chamber, and the west vestibule. Vibration was blamed for the falling down of pieces of the ceiling and a local builder, Mr. W. Saker, since deceased, boarded it in to prevent this, about thirty-five years ago. He often told me that he had six carpenters at work on the job, three sawing up and three nailing up, and the scaffolding had to be built up so that no weight whatever was on the cross-ties. These ties by the way do not appear to be nailed or secured in any way, but seem to be kept in position by the weight of the roof.
These windows have been termed at various times to be " ugly," " beautiful," " most modern," etc., but when you come to examine them at close quarters some really wonderful colours are seen. The west window is a memorial to Lieut. Cecil Frederick Featherstone, 3rd East Surrey Regiment, who was killed in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, on April 25th, 1915. His parents still live in Plough Lane, Purley. The figures represent Samuel, a Knight and St. George, the faces of the figures being taken from actual photographs of Lieut. Featherstone at various ages up to the time of his death. The drawings were done by an old friend of the family, a man over 70 years of age.
The St. Andrew's Chapel window is also a good design, being a memorial to Lieut. T. H. Mason, 3rd Middlesex Regiment, who was killed on July 24th, 1915. This is a Curtis window. The Norman apse (some say Byzantine) contains five windows, sometimes known as the five points, because they represent the five wounds, also the five main incidents in the life of Christ, Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, as shown by the designs in the windows. The centre light was given by the Dawson family, of which Lord Dawson of Penn is a member, who used to worship in this Church, and is dated 1901 and has two sets of initials on it, H.D., F.E.D. The one of the Baptism of Christ is a thankoffering in commemoration of the Coronation of King Edward VII, 1902. The Resurrection commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Church, 1903. The Ascension window is in memory of Sarah Ford Phillips, December 16th, 1908, and the Nativity a memorial to Matilda Iremonger, September 6th, 1910. All these windows are by Curtis. The oldest and finest stained glass is the light in the centre window of the north aisle. The panel of St. Peter is Flemish or German origin, of late 15th or early 16th century; the supporting columns of a later period This light was fixed, with others early in the 19th century in the Private Chapel of Ashridge Park, Herts., and was removed in 1929 and presented to the Church by John Daniel Wood, in memory of his wife. Emily Wood, and his son, John Guy Wood, who was killed at Givenchy, May 25th, 1915. It is an interesting fact that the remainder of the glass of which this window was a part was sent, for sale by auction, to Sothebys on July 12th, 1928. Two gentlemen practically did all the bidding, one against the other. One was obviously an American, the other not known to anyone. The unknown gentleman outbid the other at £38,000 for the whole of the glass, fifty-three lots, and it is now in the South Kensington Museum. The description; of our window, according to the catalogue, is worth quoting:
" Gothic-Headed Panel, showing the figure of St. Peter, clad in a blue tunic and white robe usually shown in old mosaics and Greek pictures, he holds one key in the left hand and the Gospel in the right, after the earlier paintings. The figure is probably of the 15th or early 16th century and is of German or Flemish origin, the canopy appears to be of the same date, though the two fluted columns supporting it and the outer border of the panel are later additions; at the foot of the panel is a shield bearing St. Peter's emblem, the crozier, and another emblem of uncertain significance." Six feet high, 2 feet 5 inches wide.
A peculiar feature is if you look at the figure of St. Peter you will notice that the artist has made him appear to be a sufferer from goitre. However, the Church Council realise the window is a valuable piece of old stained glass and have had it suitably insured.
In recent years various alterations have been made inside the Church, but the only addition to the original building are the vestries, which were built in 1913 and formed the last work for the Church by its old Vicar, the Rev. R. R. Resker. The internal alterations, carried out under the direction of E. H. Bullock, Esq., Architect, of Grays Inn, are the lengthening of the Chancel, Sanctuary, the making of St. Andrew's Chapel and new Baptistry. The Chancel was extended some five feet in 1930, which allowed the space between the Choir stalls to be widened about three feet. The Com­munion rails were also brought forward a foot. The new stalls and pulpit are in English oak and were made and fitted by Messrs. Thompson & Sons, of Peterborough. The St. Andrew's Chapel, which used to be the organ chamber and was also used by the Russell Hill schoolboys, was made by the same firm. Both the Chancel and the Chapel were dedicated by that delightful old gentleman (well-known in the Borough as " Mr. Uff "), the Right Rev. W. W. Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, on February 2nd, 1930, and St. Andrew's Day, 1931, respectively. These alterations were a jubilee Thank-offering.
The Baptistry was given by Mrs. Mary Rose Blakey, in memory of her husband, Edward Thomas Blakey, and their son, Edward James. The panelling is in English oak, and the stonework Hoptonwood, the font design being on the lines of an old Saxon Font. Another Bishop of Woolwich, successor to the late" Mr. Uff," the Right Rev. A. L. Preston, since deceased, dedicated the Baptistry on October 16th, 1934. The old font, which used to stand on the north side of the nave at the west end, was taken down and given to a Church in the Birmingham district. The site of the old font was retiled and a seat, removed from the front of the Church when the chancel was extended, placed there to even up the nave seats,
There are four of these in the Church the chief one being to the men of the Parish who fell in the Great War, and quite a lot of controversy raged round the actual wording on the tablet. It was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson.
It is worth noting that a good majority of War Memorials in various parts of the country have the dates 1914-18 on them, whereas the one in the Church reads 1914-1919 which is correct, for although the Armistice was declared on November l1th, 1918, peace was not signed until June 28th, 1919, and hostilities could have broken out afresh at any time until the signing of the Peace Treaty. The four wooden crosses were removed from the graves of the deceased Tommies, claimed by the relatives, and deposited in the Church. The beaten bronze tablet near the Vestry door is in memory of 2nd-Lieut. Vernon Lane Patch, West Riding Regiment. who was killed at Havrincourt on November 28th, 1917, and whose father still attends the Church. The two tablets in the St. Andrew's Chapel are to Cecil John Brymer and Catherine Price, the ashes of both the deceased being buried beneath the floor of the Chapel near where the tablets are erected.
The New Bell was placed in the bell turret in 1937 and was subscribed for by the children of the Parish, who gave several pantomimes to aid the subscription list. It was made by that well-known firm of bell founders, Messrs. Gillett & Johnston, of Croydon. The old bell is now in Canada in the parish church of the Rev. Basil Resker, who was born, I believe, and brought up in this parish whilst his father was Vicar here. It bears the inscription, Facet A.D. 1801, Mears & Sons, London, and has the appearance of an old ship's bell, although I have not been able to trace its history back to see if this is correct, but it certainly was in use some 76 years before summoning worshippers to Christ Church, Purley. I think I can be blamed somewhat for its journey to Canada for this reason: Mr. Resker always pays a visit to the Church during his leave, and did so just after the new bell had been hung and the old one was lying in the porch. I jokingly asked him if he would like to take a bell home in his waistcoat pocket. He asked me what I meant and told him we had a new bell now and if he approached the Vicar he might be able to have the old one. He took me at my word and the bell now rings in Canada.
There is little carving of note in the Church either of wood or stone, except the pillar heads which have carved leaves, and the inner west door has a carved head of a man and woman with coronet, on either side of the door, but I don't think anyone knows what they represent.
The arch over the Credence Table is carved, but a good look at the kneeling angels on the riddle posts of the altar is fairly convincing they are not carved.
The tracery on the woodwork of the Chancel and Chapel is carved, but not by hand, except the roses on the tips of the tracery in the Screen of the Chapel. These were all carved out of the solid and not pinned on, as is so often done these days. The reason the two side tracery parts have pinned on roses is because someone made a bad mistake at the works and sent the tracery without inner cusps. As soon as it was noticed, before the joiners left, new sets were ordered and made, refitted, and the roses taken off and pinned to the new, but the doorway tracery is complete and all in one piece.
This was erected about three years ago as it was felt something was needed to carry the voice over the Church, the acoustic effects being bad. It has certainly been a great improvement.
This instrument, by W. Hill &-Son (Norman Hill & Beard, London), is two manual, tracker action, and has seven stops on the Swell, seven on the Great, three Couplers, and two stops on the Pedal. The Pedal Board is radiating and concave. The Swell is controlled by what is known as a "kick swell." The smallest pipe is about 3 ins. long and no thicker than an ordinary lead pencil, the largest is 16 ft. and a foot square. All the pipes are speakers, except two dummies which are facing toward the Nave, It is blown by electricity installed about 10 years ago. The pipes facing the Chancel were silvered some two years ago.
Previous to 1884 the Church had a Curate-in-Charge under the Rector of Coulsdon, the first Vicar being Rev. Robert Root Resker (1884-1916), followed by Rev, Derman Christopherson (1916-1920), Rev. Herbert Purefoy Statham (1920-1927, December 20th), and Rev. Reginald Wilton Bullock (February, 1928), to present date.
I have been unable to trace the actual dates and service of the People's Wardens except for the past 20 years, Mr, T. J. Midlane was Warden in 1919. He was followed by Mr. P. V. Purves, then Mr. W. Hawes, and the present Warden, Mr. L. L. H. Thompson. Dr. S. Duke Turner has served all the Vicars of the Parish as Vicar's Warden. He told me he had taken over in 1911-12, and is still in that office.
Another faithful servant was the late John Bonwick, who was the Verger for 39 years until he retired on July 16th, 1919.
This little booklet is not intended to be an exact history of the Parish Church of Purley, some of the statements are possibly not correct, whilst others are. We are not able to point to our Church and say this was erected in such-and-such century, or that was added so many years later, and so on, but whether a building is old or new, especially a Church, each one has some interesting point about it which is not found in another, and our Church is every bit as interesting to those who like to find it so, in spite of the fact that it has only been built 60 years.