A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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In the late 16th and early 17th centuries Roman Catholicism was upheld in Leyton by the family of Thomas More (1531–1606), grandson of Sir Thomas More. (fn. 1) He settled there in 1582 (fn. 2) and from that date (fn. 3) he, his family, and servants, and their connexions also living in Leyton, were repeatedly charged with recusancy at quarter sessions, at assizes, and in the archdeacon's court. Among those charged with them Lady Guldeford and members of the Gage and Povey families were related by marriage, and the Tyas family were tenants of the Mores on their forfeited estates in Yorkshire. Thomas himself was in prison from 1582 to 1586. In 1593, as required, he registered his name with the vicar and constable. (fn. 4) The More family lived quietly on their small Leyton estate, (fn. 5) which remained free of sequestration. Mary More, wife of Thomas, was reported in 1605 to be 'no seducer of others … bringeth up her children and servants in recusancy … of peaceable and quiet carriage'. After the death of Thomas in 1606 the indictments at quarter sessions continued against his son, Christopher Cresacre More, and his household. In 1613 Cresacre took the oath of allegiance (fn. 6) and was not presented again after 1614. (fn. 7) Between 1616 and 1629 he was frequently licensed to leave Leyton, officially his place of confinement, (fn. 8) and appears to have left there about 1617 to settle on the family estate in North Mimms (Herts.), though described as 'of Leyton' in licences up to 1629. Cresacre continued to own the Leyton house (fn. 9) until his death in 1649, but after his son, Thomas (d. 1660), conformed in 1650, and the More estates were cleared of penalties, it was probably sold.
St. Patrick's Catholic cemetery, provided by London Roman Catholics, was opened in Union (now Langthorne) Road in 1861. (fn. 12) Etloe House was leased in 1856 as a country house for the first Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster (Cardinal Wiseman), who lived there from 1858 to 1864. (fn. 13) But there was no Roman Catholic church in Leyton until 1897, when the Revd. F. C. G. Brown was chosen to found a mission. (fn. 14) Services were at first held in the chapel of St. Agnes school and orphanage. (fn. 15) In 1900 when St. Joseph's Catholic school was opened in Vicarage Road, (fn. 16) the upper storey was registered as a temporary church. (fn. 17) Total Sunday attendances in 1903 were 507. (fn. 18) A temporary iron church was opened in Primrose Road and registered in 1904. (fn. 19)
The permanent church of ST. JOSEPH in Grange Park Road was opened in 1924, (fn. 20) but not consecrated until 1930, when all debt on the building was cleared. (fn. 21) It is a simple brick building with stone dressings, consisting of clerestoried nave and chancel, with north and south chapels. The interior is decorated in a 'Byzantine' style.
Since about 1908 Etloe House, which was sold after Cardinal Wiseman's death in 1865 and privately owned for about 40 years, has been occupied as St. Pelagia's Home. (fn. 22) This was provided originally for destitute, and later for mentally defective, girls, and is run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (fn. 23)
Nonconformity was slow to gain a permanent footing in Leyton. The burial of all John Tabraham's children unbaptized in the 1670s suggests a family of Baptists in the parish. (fn. 24) In 1672 Daniel Andrews's house at Leytonstone was licensed for Presbyterian worship; (fn. 25) he had been a prominent vestryman from 1651 to 1662. (fn. 26) But Bishop Compton's census of 1676 gave only 8 nonconformists for Leyton. (fn. 27)
In 1748 the vicar stated that three of the larger houses in Leytonstone were occupied by dissenters or 'persons leaning that way', one a 'rigid Presbyterian', and the other two Dutch and French merchants; these were probably the three gentlemen's families of dissenters reported in 1766. (fn. 28) In 1763 Mary Bosanquet introduced Wesleyan Methodism to Leytonstone. By 1780 the followers of both Wesley and George Whitefield were active in Leyton and about that date the first permanent congregation was formed when the two connexions joined in a United Brotherhood of Methodists and Independents. This later divided, the Wesleyans establishing themselves in Leyton, and the Independents (later Congregationalists) in Leytonstone.
Primitive Methodists settled in Leyton in the late 1850s. A second Congregational church was founded in 1869. Great Baptist activity marked the early 1870s, four churches being founded by 1875, three of which still (1968) exist. The Brethren and Strict Baptists followed by 1880. In the 1880s and 1890s, alongside new churches of the main denominations, including one Presbyterian Church of England, many mission halls sprang up, most of them evangelistic and non-sectarian. Prominent among these missions were the Salvation Army and London City Mission. Much effort was concentrated on the poor, overcrowded districts of Harrow Green and Cann Hall.
By 1903 there were 20 churches of the main denominations and some 17 missions. The Baptists, though later comers than the Wesleyans and Congregationalists, were attracting larger total Sunday congregations than either, and the three denominations together were equalling the total attendances of all the Anglican churches. In all, nonconformists were accounting for about 57 per cent of the district's total Sunday attendances. (fn. 29) Sixteen of these churches still existed in 1968, though with greatly reduced membership, but one was closed that year. Unitarian and Christian Scientist churches were established before the First World War and Christadelphian, Elim Four Square Gospel, and Jehovah's Witnesses between the two wars. Only the Christian Scientists, Elim, and Jehovah's Witnesses survived to the 1960s. With few exceptions Leyton's nonconformist churches faced dwindling membership and financial insecurity in the 1930s. In 1932, in an attempt to maintain membership, the Fetter Lane Congregational church distributed, house by house, invitation letters to 1,954 families; 915 families did not reply, 393 were not interested, 100 were shortly leaving the district, 388 attended other churches and 158 promised to try to attend, but not one in fact did so. (fn. 30) The sole Presbyterian Church of England congregation was dissolved in 1939. The only newcomer among the main denominations after the Second World War was the Presbyterian Church of Wales, which moved to Leytonstone from Walthamstow in 1958. Nine of the more important independent missions (including the Salvation Army) founded before the First World War, still existed after the Second. There were 29 nonconformist churches and missions active in 1968.
The following accounts of individual churches were completed in 1968. (fn. 31) Dates in brackets after ministers' names show the period of their pastorate. Attendance statistics for 1903 are taken from the Daily News census. (fn. 32)
In 1866 a meeting place in Leytonstone was registered for worship of Independents and Baptists. (fn. 33) This may have been the Leytonstone High Road Congregationalists' Harrow Green mission, which opened that year.
Goldsmith Road, Leyton, described as a Union Church, existed in 1869, when F. Hughes became pastor. It does not appear to have survived his departure in 1879. Hughes was later pastor of Fillebrook, 1903–7. (fn. 34)
Fillebrook church, Fairlop Road, Leytonstone, originated in 1874, when drawing-room meetings were held on the initiative of G. A. Hutchison, founder of the Boy's Own Paper. (fn. 35) These were followed in 1875 by meetings held in the Weavers' Alms-houses, New Wanstead, and in the open Forest, and then in Kirkdale Road. After George Looseley gave a site on the Fillebrook estate, and the London Baptist Association gave £1,000 towards a building fund, a permanent church was opened in 1878. It is a large brick building with Gothic windows and a flèche above the roof. A hall was built in 1882 and the church enlarged in 1888. A mission was started in a room in Ashville Road in 1888, known at first as the Grove Green mission, but later as the Ashville mission. A hall was opened for it in 1892. Church membership rose from 37 in 1878 to over 500 by 1902. In 1903 total Sunday attendances were 1,169, the second highest in the district for all denominations. Fillebrook was associated with every kind of social and philanthropic work, including temperance. Two houses adjoining the church in Fairlop Road were bought in 1893 and 1919. A new additional Ashville Hall was built in 1923. Membership was still over 500 in 1936. Two new halls were built in Fairlop Road in 1939 and the two houses there reconstructed as an institute. After the Second World War, though Fillebrook continued to be the largest Baptist church in Leyton, membership fell, from 468 in 1946 to 212 by 1966. The Ashville mission closed; the newer Ashville Hall was sold to the Brethren in 1947; (fn. 36) the old Ashville Hall was also sold by 1949 (fn. 37) and is now (1968) used as a factory.
Vicarage Road church, Leyton, was opened in 1875. It was built with the support of the London Baptist Association on a site given by a resident Baptist pastor, E. J. Farley, alarmed at the 'spiritual destitution' of the neighbourhood. (fn. 38) In 1894 a larger schoolroom was built. A mission hall in Lea Bridge Gardens, in existence by 1885, was taken over in 1887 and run until about 1933. (fn. 39) Evangelistic services were also being held by 1897 in Etloe Hall, Church Road. (fn. 40) Church membership, which in 1926 was 151, was well maintained in the 1930s. The church was damaged by bombing in the Second World War. (fn. 41) By 1966 membership had fallen to 54.
Cann Hall Road church, Leytonstone, originated in 1875 in mission services held by 'The Christian band' in a barn at Cann Hall Farm. (fn. 42) Robert Thompson was elected their leader in 1876. A church of 32 members was formed in 1878 and the barn converted into a chapel. (fn. 43) In 1881 a small chapel (now the lecture hall) was opened in Cann Hall Road. The property was handed over in 1885 to the London Baptist Association, who built the present church designed by G. Barnes and opened in 1887. In 1892 another storey was added to the original chapel. An affiliated mission started in 1892 over the district boundary in Chandos Road, Stratford, was later known as the Edith Road mission; it united with Stratford New Town church, Major Road, in 1907. (fn. 44) The house adjoining the church was bought in 1918, and its ground floor registered for worship in 1920. (fn. 45) By 1926 the membership of Cann Hall Road was 391; it fell, however, in the 1930s and thereafter. In 1966 it was 89.
Meetings were held at Zion, Ashville Road, in 1883. A church was formed, under H. Hubbard, and moved in 1884, first to Mount Zion, Lindley Road, then to Park Terrace, Church Road, to the premises occupied from 1880 to 1882 by the Strict Baptists. (fn. 46) This church does not appear to have survived.
Harrow Green church, Leytonstone, originated in 1895 in a secession from Cann Hall Road of some members with strong evangelistic views, who erected an iron church in High Road, Leytonstone. (fn. 47) In 1902 the first part of the permanent building, called Leytonstone Road Baptist church, was opened at Harrow Green. Total Sunday attendances by 1903 exceeded 500. The building, enlarged in 1906, was also known as the People's Hall. (fn. 48) The next year the church took over the Montague Road mission, (fn. 49) and from 1908 to 1910 also held bible classes at the Temperance mission hall, Lansdowne Road. (fn. 50) In 1925 a new hall was opened. Membership began to fall in the 1930s, from 342 in 1926 to 240 in 1936. In 1940 the church was gutted by bombing. Services were carried on in the small hall, and then in the Howard Road mission hall, at first borrowed, then, in 1943, (fn. 51) bought from the Leytonstone High Road Congregational church. The church was rebuilt in 1959 (fn. 52) on the original site as a simple brick building with tall windows, a pantile roof, and a plain square tower. Church membership in 1966 was 52. The Montague Road mission was destroyed in the Second World War.
Hainault Road church, Leyton, originated in 1880 when Strict Baptists began to meet for worship in Park Terrace, Church Road, moving to Goldsmith Road in 1882. (fn. 53) From 1894 services were held in Wilmot Road, in a chapel bought from the Primitive Methodists. In 1895 a church was formed and H. E. Bond appointed pastor; but after he left in 1896 it was without a pastor for over twenty years. In 1903 total Sunday attendances, 53, were among the lowest in the district. A full-time pastor was again appointed in 1920. In 1926, when church membership was 33, a new church was opened in Hainault Road. In 1933 a new Sunday school was built. By 1946 membership was 148; in 1966 it was 75.
Leyton Hall, Goldsmith Road, Leyton, originated in meetings of Christian Brethren held in Goldsmith Road from the late 1870s. (fn. 54) Leyton Hall was registered in 1885. (fn. 55) In 1912 a larger hall was built on the opposite side of the road. This was badly damaged in the Second World War, but was repaired, and was still in use in 1968, though said to have become non-denominational. (fn. 56)
In 1903 Brethren were meeting in halls in Acacia Road and Crownfield Road, Leytonstone, (fn. 57) and about 1910 to 1912 in Lansdowne Road, Leytonstone, and in the Church of Christ mission hall in Murchison Road, Leyton. (fn. 58) Nothing more is known of these groups, but some of their members may have been associated with the foundation of Ashville Hall.
Ashville Hall, Ashville Road, Leytonstone, Open Brethren met from 1912 in Grove Green Hall, Grove Green Road, which they built. (fn. 59) A gospel hall in Grove Green Road is listed in directories from 1912. (fn. 60) The hall was enlarged in 1925. Membership in 1932 was over 200. The hall was demolished in 1940 after compulsory purchase, to build the railway subway to replace the level crossing. From 1940 to 1946 services were held in a small wooden hall in Fairlop Road, and from 1946 in the Fillebrook Baptists' second Ashville Hall, which the Brethren bought in 1947. They still occupied it in 1968.
Beachcroft Hall, Beachcroft Road, Leytonstone, was registered for worship of Brethren in 1920. (fn. 61) This was probably the group from Leyton Hall said to have started a new church in Leytonstone some time after 1912. (fn. 62) The hall, also known as Emmanuel, (fn. 63) was still used by Brethren in 1968.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Whipps Cross Road, Leytonstone, originated about 1906, with services held in a house on the corner of Whipps Cross Road and Forest Glade. (fn. 64) In 1908 the group combined with another from Woodford to hold services at the Richter school of music in the High Road. The group moved in 1909 to Haydn House (the Metropolitan academy of music), Fairlop Road, where in 1910 the Leytonstone Christian Science Society was formed. In 1913 the Society moved to Salway college, Fillebrook Road. (fn. 65) The Society became the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Leytonstone (Leyton) in 1915. (fn. 66) In 1922 the original Whipps Cross site was bought and a temporary building opened in 1923. A permanent church was completed in 1937 on the adjoining site. It is a red-brick building in a simple Georgian style with a semi-circular columned portico; it was designed by T. E. Davidson, Son & Sherwood, and is panelled inside with light oak, which matches the furnishings. The temporary building is now (1968) the reading room.
Leytonstone High Road church originated in meetings of the followers of George Whitefield, whose Tabernacle preachers were visiting Leyton by about 1780. The group may have been associated with the countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. About 1780 they joined for worship with a group of Methodists, as the United Brotherhood of Methodists and Independents. (fn. 67) By her will Mrs. Margaret Peat (d. 1785) left the interest on £1,000, after the death of William Shannon (d. 1804), to provide preachers in Leyton, 'either Mr. Wesley, or the Tabernacle ones, which the people may like best'. (fn. 68) The Brotherhood worshipped in Meeting or Chapel Yard in Leyton High Street, (fn. 69) in the cottage 'now used as a meeting-house' to which John Turner of Walthamstow was admitted in 1793 on the surrender of William Tilt. (fn. 70) It is not clear whether this chapel was originally established by the Methodists or the Independents, (fn. 71) but as it was Mrs. Tilt who invited Wesley's preachers to Leyton in the 1770s, (fn. 72) it may have been the former. The Brotherhood is said to have dissolved in 1812, leaving the chapel to the Methodists. (fn. 73) The break was, however, probably earlier, as Independent places of worship were registered in Leyton in 1798, 1799, and 1809 (two), (fn. 74) two of them (1798, 1809) by George Collison, minister of Walthamstow Marsh Street new meeting (1797–1837), tutor at Hoxton college from 1797 to 1801, and then president from 1803 to 1847 of the Village Itinerancy Society's new theological college at Hackney. (fn. 75) The division may have arisen from the conflicting influence of two strong personalities, Collison, and the Wesleyan, William Pocock. (fn. 76) Independent places of worship were also registered in Leytonstone in 1791 and 1817. (fn. 77) In 1826 Collison registered an Independent chapel in Leytonstone High Road, opposite Back Lane, built by subscription, and reported in 1829 to seat upwards of 150. (fn. 78) The long association with Collison explains why the Leytonstone High Road church was regarded as originating as a preaching station of Hackney college, (fn. 79) and why in 1851 the chapel was described as belonging to the Village Itinerancy Society. (fn. 80) In 1829 protracted litigation over Mrs. Peat's legacy, which had been in dispute since 1804, was concluded. The congregation fostered by Collison was accepted, under the name of the Tabernacle society of Leyton, as 'originating from … the Tabernacle preachers', and awarded one-third of the legacy, the remainder going to the Wesleyans. (fn. 81) This endowment in 1851 produced £20 a year. (fn. 82) The chapel was enlarged to seat 200 in 1838. (fn. 83) In 1839, under the name of Leytonstone Independent chapel, it was being run by a management committee, but without a full-time pastor. This caused difficulties, and in 1840 the committee resigned and handed over the chapel's affairs to Hackney college. When a full-time pastor was appointed in 1844 it became independent again. (fn. 84) A larger temporary iron church, to hold 400, was built in Wellesley (now Michael) Road in 1873, on a site given by William Goodman. (fn. 85) The permanent church was built near this iron one in 1877, facing the High Road. (fn. 86) It was designed by Lewis Banks, in an elaborate 'Lombardic' style, for 773 persons. (fn. 87) Galleries were added in 1888, bringing its capacity to 1,000. (fn. 88) The iron church was moved to Chigwell in 1880. (fn. 89) The old chapel was used as a preaching station until 1879, then as school and hall until 1885; it was sold about 1886 when the Barclay Hall, near the church, was opened for the school. (fn. 90) In 1903 Leytonstone High Road was one of the six bestattended churches in the district with total Sunday congregations over 1,000. Church membership, over 500 by 1899, was 656 in 1920; it was still over 600 in 1930, but had fallen to 440 by 1940. In 1944 the church was damaged by bombing; it was reopened, after repairs, in 1946. Membership in 1967 was 100.
A mission station of Leytonstone High Road was established near Harrow Green by 1867; the Howard Road mission hall was built for it by William Goodman about 1880. (fn. 91) It was sold to the Harrow Green Baptists in 1943. (fn. 92)
Grange Park church, Grange Park Road, Leyton, was founded in 1870 by Morgan Lloyd. (fn. 93) He preached in the grammar school, built in Grange Park Road in 1866, (fn. 94) later known as Grange Park Hall. A plot was bought and a church opened in 1874 under Stratford church. (fn. 95) In 1875 J. D. Davies was appointed pastor, and in 1877 the church became fully independent under the name of the Leyton Congregational church. A hall was built in 1878. Internal differences developed; Davies resigned in 1880 and the church became 'greatly disorganised', its affairs being temporarily delegated to the London Congregational Union. In 1881 it was reconstituted with a membership of 56, but dissension soon broke out again and in 1886 its collapse seemed imminent. Under W. B. Anstey (1887–93), it recovered. By 1891 membership had grown to 179. An iron school was built in 1894, and the church was enlarged in 1896. Missions which were conducted, first in Lower Faraday (now Sidmouth) Road, then at Etloe Hall, Church Road, were closed in 1898 and 1901 respectively. (fn. 96) Total Sunday attendances in 1903 were 671. At that date Sunday services were still being held at Grange Park Hall, (fn. 97) but whether these were associated with the Congregationalists is not known. Under G. A. Suttle (1904–13) all debts were cleared and membership rose to nearly 400. New Sunday-school buildings were opened in 1927. (fn. 98) Membership, maintained steadily at about 240 in the 1930s, was 197 in 1950 and 96 in 1967.
Ramsay Road church, Forest Gate, was founded by the Revd. Charles Higgins in 1888, when an iron building was erected. He remained minister until his death in 1915, although he went blind in 1905. His daughters continued to assist the church for many years. (fn. 99) The congregation was never large and the original iron building was still in use in 1967, when membership was 29.
Fetter Lane church, Langthorne Road, Leytonstone, originated as a mission of the Grove church, Stratford, established in Crownfield Road in 1885. (fn. 100) In 1891 an iron chapel called the People's Hall was opened in Frith Road. The services were led by E. T. Egg until 1894, when the Fetter Lane church (Lond.), founded in 1660, moved to Leyton. The 30 Fetter Lane members received 84 members of the mission into church fellowship, and the Fetter Lane pastor, R. Snowden, took over the ministry at Frith Road. When he died, Egg was again temporary pastor from 1897 to 1900. The Fetter Lane premises were sold in 1897, and in 1900 a permanent church, designed by P. Morley Horder and built partly with the proceeds, was opened in Union (now Langthorne) Road. The style of the building was strikingly original for its period and the architect may have been influenced by the contemporary work of C. R. Mackintosh in Glasgow. Externally there are small mullioned windows, gables, and large areas of plain plastered walling. The whole building debt was not cleared until 1919. In 1901 membership was 90, but under A. T. Hocking (1906–14) it rose to over 200. In the late 1920s serious differences arose between H. H. Gratton (1921–9) and his congregation, and he resigned. Membership fell by two-thirds in the 1930s, and the financial position became precarious. After 1937 the church was without a pastor for eight years and in danger of closing down. Though it revived after the Second World War, membership in 1967 was only 47. Under an endowment of 1912, four weekly pensions of 5s. are paid to poor persons of sound moral conduct.
The three Methodist connexions which united in 1932 had 7 churches in Leyton. One was destroyed in the Second World War, and one closed in 1968; the remaining 5 were still in use in 1968, all in the Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit. The Leyton Mission circuit, created in 1941, ceased to exist in 1946, and the Leyton (P) circuit in 1959. (fn. 101)
Wesleyan Methodism was introduced to Leytonstone by Mary Bosanquet (1739–1815), daughter of Samuel Bosanquet of Forest House. (fn. 102) She was said to have been influenced by a servant, and wrote in her diary when only twelve years old, 'If I knew where to find the Methodists I would tear off all my fine things and run through the fire to them.' Soon after she was twenty-one, having money of her own, and her family fearing that she might influence her brothers, by mutual agreement she left home to live in Hoxton (Lond.). In 1763 she returned to Leytonstone to a house of her own at the bottom of Davies Lane, (fn. 103) where she held meetings, undeterred by rowdy local hostility. A society of 25 was formed, and an orphanage was established. Wesley, who preached at Leytonstone in 1764, 1766, and 1767, described the community as 'one truly Christian family', commenting in 1767 'O what a house of God is here'. (fn. 104) Mary Bosanquet left Leytonstone for Yorkshire in 1768, taking the children with her. In 1781 she married John Fletcher, vicar of Madeley (Salop.). Without her leadership the Leytonstone society dwindled. When Wesley preached there in 1774 he found it 'shrunk to 5 or 6 members, and will probably soon shrink into nothing'. (fn. 105) Methodism revived in the parish, however, through the initiative of Mrs. Tilt, who invited Wesley's preachers to Leyton about this time. In 1777 field preachers were attracting large congregations, causing alarm in the parish vestry, which ordered the constables to report them to the magistrates. (fn. 106) About 1780 the group joined with followers of George Whitefield, to form the United Brotherhood of Methodists and Independents, which met in Chapel Yard. (fn. 107) Wesley preached in Leyton in 1783, in 1790, when the audience was described as small, and in 1791. (fn. 108) William Pocock, a builder and cabinet-maker whose wife was a staunch Methodist, had come to live in Leyton in 1786, and he and his family took a leading part in establishing Methodism there.
Knotts Green (W) chapel and its successor, the Mary Fletcher Memorial (W) church, originated in the eventual dissolution of the Brotherhood, after which its Wesleyan members apparently continued to worship in Chapel Yard. (fn. 109) In 1817 a Wesleyan Sunday school was started by John Marshall, probably in the house at Phillebrook which he registered for worship in 1818. (fn. 110) That year Leyton, previously in the London circuit, became a preaching place in the newly-formed Waltham Abbey and St. Albans circuit. In the same year H. E. Webster registered a house on Epping Forest for worship; though no denomination was then given, the meeting place he registered at Leytonstone in 1819 was Wesleyan. (fn. 111) Probably about this time, too, William Pocock built a wooden preaching room, in use by 1820, in Leyton High Street on the opposite side to Chapel Yard; this does not appear to have been registered. The removal from Chapel Yard could have been occasioned by John Turner's death about 1819, when he left his property, including the chapel, to his widow, Pocock being named as one of his tenants. (fn. 112) In 1823 a Wesleyan chapel was built on Knotts Green and registered by Pocock. (fn. 113) The land had been provided by Pocock himself and his son, William Fuller Pocock, who was an architect. The chapel was registered again in 1827 after enlargement; (fn. 114) in 1829 it seated about 150. (fn. 115) In 1828 the Waltham Abbey and Leyton circuit was formed. A two-thirds share of Mrs. Peat's legacy, (fn. 116) amounting to £1,333, was awarded to the Wesleyan Methodist Society of Leyton in 1829. In 1831 Leyton became the head of an independent circuit with preaching places as far afield as Waltham Abbey and Chigwell. The Leyton society had 80 members in 1841. The chapel was rebuilt in 1843 to the design of William Willmer Pocock, grandson of William. It was a rectangular brick building with tall round-headed windows set in arched recesses and a pedimented front gable. The agitation for Wesleyan reform found support in Leyton, which in 1850 sent five delegates to the reform meeting at Albion Chapel, Moorgate (Lond.). (fn. 117) William Burnett, circuit superintendent from 1848, explained in a letter to the press in 1851 that he treated the reformers in his circuit as 'men and brethren', having no disposition to 'scatter the flock', and claimed that the result was a whole circuit and not a ruin. (fn. 118) But his liberal attitude was not acceptable to Conference, and he was superseded as superintendent in 1851 and expelled in 1852. (fn. 119) Membership of the Leyton society fell to about 20; the circuit was wrecked by discord and ceased to exist. The Leyton society became incorporated successively in the Islington circuit (from 1853), Hackney circuit (from 1857), and Clapton circuit (from 1876). It gradually revived and in 1877 built a new church, the Mary Fletcher Memorial, on a site at the junction of High Street and James Lane (now Fletcher Road) given by Samuel R. Bosanquet. Designed in an elaborate Gothic style by G. Marshall and built of Kentish rag and Bath stone, it consisted of nave, with apse and west gallery, supported by pinnacled buttresses. A turret surmounted the west entrance, formed by four arches on columns. (fn. 120) Temporary iron schoolrooms were built near by in 1892 and 1894. In 1895 two arched doorways with columns replaced the single door inside the entrance. The Knotts Green chapel continued to be used as a school and mission room and was renovated in 1895. (fn. 121) The permanent Sunday school, matching the church in design, was opened in 1902. (fn. 122) Total Sunday attendances in 1903 were 797, with a further 66 at Knotts Green. In the 1930s the society was in grave financial difficulty. (fn. 123) In 1940 it was taken over by the Methodist Home Mission department, and the following year became a separate Leyton Mission circuit. The Home Mission supplied pastors until 1946, when the society was incorporated in the Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit. (fn. 124) The Knotts Green chapel was closed in 1940. (fn. 125) It was later destroyed by bombing, and in 1951 the site was compulsorily purchased by the borough council for housing. (fn. 126) The Mary Fletcher Memorial church closed in 1969 and the congregation transferred to Leyton Tabernacle. The site was sold and church and Sunday school demolished in 1971. (fn. 127)
High Road (W), Leytonstone, originated in a proposal in 1872 to build a Fletcher Memorial chapel in Leytonstone, attached to the Stratford circuit. (fn. 128) In 1875, with financial support from Sir Francis Lycett, J. Telford was appointed to work in Leytonstone, (fn. 129) where meetings had been held since about 1874 at The Shrublands, (fn. 130) later the site of the Rex Cinema. A small iron church, nicknamed the 'Leytonstone Pint Pot' or 'Little Sardine Box', (fn. 131) was registered in 1876, (fn. 132) built on the site adjoining the present church. It was linked with the Stratford circuit, though financially dependent on Lycett. When his support ceased in 1878, the help of the Home Mission department was sought. The permanent church, a substantial brick building with stone dressings and two Italianate west towers, was opened in 1880. (fn. 133) Membership rose from 56 in 1880 to 131 in 1883. In 1881 a mission was started in Acacia Road; this apparently closed in 1894. (fn. 134) In 1889 the church was enlarged by the addition of a schoolroom, later known as Cowley Hall. (fn. 135) Further enlargement took place in 1892 and 1902, completing an extensive range of buildings. (fn. 136) By 1903 High Road, with total Sunday congregations of over 1,000, was one of the strongest churches in Leyton. In 1928 membership was 468. A memorial hall was built in 1930. In the same year the society was included in the newly-formed Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit. The church was demolished in 1968. (fn. 137)
Cann Hall (W) mission was started in 1887 by a group from the Grove, Stratford (W). Services were held at first in the open, then in a rented hall in Cann Hall Road. (fn. 138) A small iron church was opened in 1898. From 1904 until 1914 the church was served by the Wesley Deaconess Order. An additional iron hall was opened in 1927. The church, originally in the Stratford circuit, has been since 1930 in the Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit.
Primitive Methodism came to Leyton in the 1850s, but it made little progress until the 1880s, when Alfred Ives began a vigorous ministry there. (fn. 139) A separate Leyton (P) circuit existed from 1887 to 1958.
Wilmot Road (P) originated in street preaching, followed by cottage services, in which the Primitive Methodists may have merged with a group of Bible Christians registered in 1857. (fn. 140) In 1867 they were meeting in Grange Park Road and were attached to the Third London circuit. (fn. 141) A small iron building was erected in Wilmot Road in 1868. It was transferred to the Stratford circuit in 1885 and the Leyton circuit in 1887. With the opening of the permanent Leyton Tabernacle, Wilmot Road became redundant, and in 1894 was sold to the Strict Baptists.
Leyton Tabernacle (P), High Road, Leyton, originated in 1883, when a group under Alfred Ives, minister of the Third London circuit, bought an iron church at the corner of Etchingham Road and Leyton (now High) Road, and formed a society. Apparently an undertaking was given by the Wesleyans of the Stratford circuit not to intrude in the neighbourhood. In 1885 Leyton Road, with Wilmot Road, became a branch of the Stratford circuit, but in 1887 became an independent circuit, with Ives as superintendent. F. W. Wilkinson, one of Leyton's historians, became superintendent in 1891. From about 1885 until the early 1890s a mission was conducted under Ives and Wilkinson in Holloway Road, Harrow Green; a mission room in Cecil Road listed from 1885 to 1890 may also have been associated with their work. (fn. 142) In 1893 a permanent church, designed by James Steed in the Gothic style, was opened on a new site, the old site being considered unsuitable after a public house had been built opposite. The old site was sold, but the iron church was re-erected on the new site as a lecture hall and school. In 1940 the Leyton circuit was joined by the two surviving churches of the former Leytonstone and Stratford circuit. (fn. 143) The Tabernacle was badly damaged in the Second World War, but restored. The Leyton circuit ceased to exist in 1959, when membership had fallen to 143, and the Tabernacle then joined the Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit. (fn. 144)
Gainsborough Bridge (P), Leytonstone, originated in 1901, when C. Hallam, minister of Stepney Green Tabernacle (Lond.), held services in Colworth Road for new residents of the Wallwood estate. (fn. 145) A permanent church, designed by Hallam, was opened in 1902. It is a two-storey building in an Italian baroque style, of white brick with terracotta dressings; these were mostly replaced by concrete when the west wall was rebuilt after damage in the Second World War. The original turret over the roof became unsafe, and was removed in 1930. About 1905 the church, previously in the Stepney Green (P) circuit, became a separate Leytonstone (P) circuit. In 1924 it was amalgamated with Henniker Road, Stratford, and Clinton Road, Forest Gate, both in West Ham, as the Leytonstone and Stratford (P) circuit. The organ, which was installed in 1909, with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, was built by the Leyton firm of R. Spurden Rutt. Under A. Lawton (1911–34) all debt on the church was cleared by 1919 and membership rose from 34 in 1911 to 101 by 1934. In 1941, after Henniker Road was closed, Gainsborough Bridge and Clinton Road were transferred to the Leyton (P) circuit. Gainsborough Bridge was damaged five times in the Second World War, so severely in 1945 that it was closed until 1948. Since 1959 it has been in the Leytonstone and Forest Gate circuit. (fn. 146)
United Methodism probably originated in Leyton during the 1880s, in the activities of Free Methodists. A group of Bible Christians, meeting in a house at Phillebrook, were registered for worship from 1857 to 1866, (fn. 147) but there is no further reference to them, and they may have merged with the Wilmot Road Primitive Methodists.
Grove Green (U), Leytonstone, originated in 1887 with Free Methodist services in a cottage in Pearcroft Road. (fn. 148) A society was formed in 1889 and a small brick church built in Grove Green Road with the help of Richard Mallinson. In 1891 arrangements were made to share pulpits with Cambridge Park, Wanstead. The church was enlarged in 1906. It belonged in turn to the Fifth London (Stratford) circuit, Forest Gate (from 1907), Walthamstow (from 1913), and Leytonstone and Forest Gate (from 1959). (fn. 149) In 1954 membership was 40.
Presbyterian Church of England.
St. George's church, Hainault Road, Leytonstone, originated in 1888, when the Revd. G. Drysdale, a retired minister living in the district, built an iron church in Wallwood Road. (fn. 150) In 1891 the Presbytery of North London recognized this as a sanctioned charge and in 1893 a permanent building designed by William Wallace was opened in Hainault Road. (fn. 151) It is a red-brick building with stone dressings, in the Gothic style, consisting of nave and transepts. Under William Kidd (1895–1919) a debt of £6,000 was paid off, a hall built, and membership raised from 36 to nearly 200. During the 1920s, however, the church began to decline rapidly, and in 1939 it was closed and sold to the Essex county council, which used it as a civil defence depot.
Presbyterian Church of Wales (Calvinistic Methodists).
Moreia, High Road, Leytonstone, is described under Walthamstow, where it originated. (fn. 152)
The Salvation Army.
The Leyton Citadel corps originated in 1883. (fn. 153) The Etloe mission hall, Church Road, was used for meetings (fn. 154) until 1886, when a permanent brick citadel was erected in High Road by F. J. Coxhead, a builder who was also corps sergeant-major. The local press, though inclined to ridicule the corps, admitted that the building seemed 'meant for real use and not for ornament', (fn. 155) and within ten years all opposition had died down. In 1908 a Young People's Hall in Lindley Road, also built by Coxhead, was presented by him to the corps with the two adjoining cottages. A revival campaign in 1908 led to the formation of the second Leyton corps in Lea Bridge Road. In 1931 Coxhead built and presented another hall, 'Salvation Castle', in Lindley Road. This is a stone-faced building with battlements. The High Road citadel was badly damaged in the Second World War. The corps finally transferred all its activities to Lindley Road in 1959; (fn. 156) the old citadel was sold and later demolished. The Leyton citadel corps has recruited more Salvation Army officers for training than any other corps in the British Isles.
The second Leyton corps originated in the revival of 1908, when a wooden hall was erected in Lea Bridge Road; a larger iron hall, with a brick front, was added soon after 1918. (fn. 157) These buildings also were badly damaged in the Second World War. About 1959 (fn. 158) they were replaced by a permanent hall, with shops forming the ground floor, but this was burned down in 1964 (fn. 159) and the corps was disbanded.
The Salvation Army was working by 1886 in a hall in Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone, (fn. 160) which the Cann Hall Wesleyan Methodists rented from 1887. The army took it over again about 1898, when the Methodists left, (fn. 161) were there in 1903, but had left by 1910. (fn. 162)
The Leytonstone corps, Southwell Grove Road, originated in 1899 with open-air meetings on Harrow Green. (fn. 163) The brick barracks were built by F. J. Coxhead in Southwell Grove Road in 1901–2. A new Sunday school was built in 1954.
Leytonstone church, Lea Bridge Road, originated in 1908, in meetings held by a group interested in the 'New Theology' movement led by R. J. Campbell, then Congregational minister at the City Temple (Lond.), and founder of the League of Progressive Thought and Social Service. (fn. 164) A Leytonstone branch of the League was formed, with membership drawn from many denominations. The early meetings, held from 1909 at the League House, High Road, Leytonstone, were led by Campbell's 'pioneer preachers'. Sunday services, started in 1910, were taken over in 1912 by J. A. Pearson, district minister of the London Unitarian Society, who had already given much help to the branch. In 1913 the services were transferred to Haydn House, Fairlop Road, vacated by the Christian Scientists, though members of the League, then called the Liberal Christian League, continued to attend lectures at League House. A self-governing church was formed in 1917, called the Leytonstone Free church until 1926, when it became the Leytonstone Unitarian church. From 1927 services were held at the Liberal Club, High Road, Leytonstone, while church activities continued at Haydn House. In 1931 a temporary church was built in Lea Bridge Road. It was damaged by bombing in 1940 and for some months, while it was being repaired, services were held in the minister's house. The church was closed soon after 1954. The building is now (1968) a furniture store.
The Welcome mission, Cathall Road, Harrow Green, Leytonstone, was opened by H. E. Lester and A. C. Wood in 1883, in a rented disused public house, as a branch of the Ragged School Union (now the Shaftesbury Society). (fn. 165) The public house was later bought and renovated, and in 1896 a large hall built at the back. (fn. 166) In 1903 total attendances at its Sunday services exceeded 500. It was particularly noted in 1904 for its 'drift work', organized to help the poorest children of the area. (fn. 167) In 1907 an evening institute was built on an adjoining site. The mission is still (1968) affiliated to the Shaftesbury Society.
The London City Mission hall, Aylmer Road, Leytonstone, was built in 1885 at a cost of £3,000 to seat about 400. (fn. 168) Though it was said to be doing excellent work in 1897, (fn. 169) by 1903 total Sunday attendances were only 91, perhaps because it was sited in a prosperous district, where mission services would have little appeal. It was closed about 1938. (fn. 170) The building was sold. It is now (1968) a clothing factory.
The Barclay Hall mission, High Road, Leyton, was founded before 1885 (fn. 171) by J. G. Barclay (d. 1898) of Knotts Green, in a small hall built on to the gardener's lodge at Leyton Green. It was originally under the direction of the vicar of St. Mary's church. About 1896 a London City missioner, A. Young, was placed in charge, and shortly before the Barclay family left the district about 1898 the hall was given to the L.C.M. (fn. 172) In 1907 a new hall was opened, designed by E. Frere. It is a simple but dignified building of yellow brick, the front having four full-height windows which were fitted originally with louvred shutters. The mission was still active in 1968.
A London City Mission room in Cathall Road, Leytonstone, listed from 1893, ceased about 1911. (fn. 173) It may have been the workmen's mission in Cathall Road listed in 1908 and 1910 but not later. (fn. 174) A City Mission hall is listed in Park Grove Road in the same neighbourhood from 1912 to 1917. (fn. 175)
The L.C.M.'s central hall, Ferndale Road, Leytonstone, originated about 1895, when the five children of Henry Borton, a builders' merchant at Wanstead, began holding evangelistic services in the Assembly Rooms. In 1901 their father built for them the present hall in Ferndale Road, designed in brick and stone with baroque features by T. & W. Stone. (fn. 176) It became a centre of evangelism in the district; in 1903 Sunday attendances exceeded 500. In 1948 Miss Beatrice Borton, the only member of the family still working there, invited the London City Mission to take charge. (fn. 177) The hall is still (1968) in use.
The work of the London City Mission's Goodman memorial hall, Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, began in 1903 in a house in Pearcroft Road. (fn. 178) An iron hall, called Bethsaida, (fn. 179) was built in 1906 in Grove Green Road. In 1912 the widow and family of Josiah Goodman built a larger permanent hall in his memory, designed by W. Hood. (fn. 180) About 1938 the hall was handed over to the L.C.M. which is still (1968) in charge.
Other Churches and Missions.
Swedenborgians (New Jerusalem Church) were meeting by 1895 in a shop in Cann Hall Road. Their leader, T. J. Barlow, also ran a New Church mission hall there, for the Willing Workers juvenile temple. The church moved to Woodford Road, Forest Gate, in West Ham in 1900. (fn. 183)
Bethel mission, Acacia Road, is listed from 1895. (fn. 184) This may have been the hall where the High Road, Leytonstone, Methodists (W) had a mission, 1881–94; (fn. 185) where a Mr. Athill ran a mission in connexion with Daniel's Band from about 1899 to 1901; (fn. 186) and where the Brethren were meeting in 1903. (fn. 187) An Acacia Road mission hall was sold in 1919, its title dating from conveyances of 1882 and 1885; it is not listed after 1922. (fn. 188)
The Lifeboat Evangelical church, Newcomen Road, originated about 1896 when a group called Daniel's Band began to hold services on Wanstead Flats, in the streets, and in Acacia Road. In 1900 a small brick hall called the Lifeboat was built in Newcomen Road. (fn. 189) By 1908 a second hall called the Lighthouse had been acquired in Harrow Road. (fn. 190) When the Lifeboat hall was badly damaged during the Second World War, all activities were transferred to the Lighthouse. In 1959 the restored Lifeboat Evangelical church was registered for worship as a member of the Fellowship of Free and Independent Evangelical Churches. (fn. 191) The Lighthouse hall had been demolished by 1954.
An Evangelical Christian mission, with Thomas Fairbard as pastor, was being conducted in Melbourne Road by 1897. It moved to Peterborough Road about 1906, but appears to have ceased by 1907. (fn. 192)
A Church of Christ mission room was registered in Eve Road, Leytonstone, in 1899, and listed in 1900, but not thereafter. (fn. 193) A Church of Christ gospel hall in Murchison Road, Leyton, was listed from 1908 to 1914, but apparently had been taken over by the Brethren by 1910. (fn. 194)
The Beachcroft Road, Leytonstone, evangelistic mission was listed from 1901. (fn. 195) In 1903 total Sunday attendances were 44. By 1911 it was known as Emmanuel mission. (fn. 196) It closed about 1916, (fn. 197) and was apparently demolished, as a new brick Emmanuel was built on the site in 1919. (fn. 198) This was occupied by the Brethren. (fn. 199)
An evangelistic mission in Lansdowne Road, Leytonstone, existed in 1903. (fn. 200) This was probably the Workmen's mission hall and institute listed from 1903 to 1909, which appears to have been taken over by the Brethren by 1910. (fn. 201) A separate temperance mission hall was also listed in Lansdowne Road from 1905 to 1922. (fn. 202)
Keswick Hall Evangelical free church, Boundary Road, Leyton, originated as a group who had previously worshipped in the Baptist church on the Walthamstow side of Boundary Road. (fn. 203) When the Baptist church moved to Orford Road, Walthamstow, in 1914, some of its members, who found the new church too distant, began to meet in an iron hut on the Walthamstow side of Boundary Road. (fn. 204) The leader of this group, T. J. Chappell, influenced by the Keswick Convention, decided to organize an independent undenominational church, and in 1920 the hut was registered as Boundary Gospel Hall for Christians. (fn. 205) In 1924 he built Keswick Hall on the Leyton side of the road. He continued to act as its pastor, with one short break, until 1942, when a London City missioner was put in charge. In 1952 the church joined the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.
Christadelphians had a mission hall in Leytonstone High Road from about 1925 to 1932, when it was sold. (fn. 206)
Leyton Elim Four Square Gospel church, Vicarage Road, was founded in 1927, after a campaign at the Cathall Road baths. (fn. 207) A regular pastor was appointed from 1930. Services were held in the Grange Park Congregational hall until the church was opened in 1934. It consists (1968) of a brick all-purpose hall, which was enlarged in 1953.
A shop in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, taken in 1937 for north-east London Jehovah's Witnesses, was registered as Kingdom Hall from 1938 to 1963, when they moved to Walthamstow. In 1954 it was the headquarters of the Walthamstow Congregation. (fn. 208)
The Leyton and Walthamstow synagogue is described elsewhere. (fn. 209) The Leytonstone and Wanstead synagogue, Drayton Road, Leytonstone, was founded in 1929, with services held privately in Preston Road. (fn. 210) A converted house in Drayton Road was opened as a synagogue in 1934, (fn. 211) with a membership of 10 families. It was seriously damaged by bombing in 1941, but restored. A community centre was opened in 1954, (fn. 212) when the membership was about 170 families. The Jews' burial ground, Forest Gate, is dealt with under West Ham.