A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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A church dedicated to St. Mary existed by 1231, when Walter, rector of Acton, held a house from Peter FitzAlulf. (fn. 1) The church served the whole parish until 1872. (fn. 2) The benefice was a rectory in the gift of the bishop of London. (fn. 3)
The church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1291, (fn. 4) and again in 1428. (fn. 5) In 1536 and 1549 it was valued at £14, (fn. 6) but c. 1570 the rectory and tithes were farmed to John Garraway for £50 a year. (fn. 7) The living consisted in 1650 of the parsonage house with outbuildings and 1 a. of pasture, valued at £10 a year, and the tithes valued at £190 a year; (fn. 8) the total was reduced to £160 for taxes in 1646 and 1653. (fn. 9) In the 18th century the total value was £300 to £350. (fn. 10) The tithes were valued at £759 in 1806, (fn. 11) £1,018 c. 1830, and £1,037 in 1851, (fn. 12) the sum at which the tithe rent charge was fixed. In 1889 the incumbent also received c. £165 a year in fees. (fn. 13)
The parsonage house, near the Steyne and Horn Lane, was rebuilt c. 1725 by William Hall, rector 1719-26, who died before moving in. (fn. 14) In 1889 it had 4 reception rooms and 14 bedrooms, with outbuildings and c. 1 a. (fn. 15) A new Rectory, on almost the same site, was built in 1925 (fn. 16) and the old one was demolished.
No chantries were recorded in 1548, (fn. 17) although in Elizabeth I's reign a small piece of land, valued at 1d., was said to be for the maintenance of obits and lamps. (fn. 18) A fraternity of St. Mary had existed in 1464, 1477, and 1479. (fn. 19) Mrs Sarah Crayle left 40s. a year in 1730 for an annual sermon, as did Mrs. Ann Crayle in 1759 and John Cordy in 1799. (fn. 20)
Richard de Pertenhale, rector 1361-? 1381, was certified as a pluralist in 1366, when he was appointed to a minor canonry in London. (fn. 21) John Holborn, rector 1405-26, held benefices in London, (fn. 22) Dr. Daniel Featley, rector 1628-43, also held Lambeth, (fn. 23) and Dr. Bruno Ryves, rector 1661-77, was dean of Windsor and Wolverhampton. A former chaplain to Charles I, Ryves was the author of Mercurius Rusticus and instrumental in prosecuting Richard Baxter. (fn. 24) Anthony Saunders, rector 1677-1719, was chancellor of St. Paul's from 1672; (fn. 25) Dr. Edward Cobden, rector 1726-64, held the prebend of Caddington Minor from 1726, a London benefice from 1730, and the archdeaconry of London from 1742; (fn. 26) William Antrobus, rector 1797-1852, also held a London benefice from 1794. (fn. 27)
A chaplain served the cure in 1377, (fn. 28) 1456, and 1458. (fn. 29) In 1549 Hugh Turnbull, rector 1542-63, was paying a priest out of his income to serve the cure, (fn. 30) as he still did in 1554. (fn. 31) Roger Cox served as assistant curate for most of Featley's incumbency, (fn. 32) Ryves had an assistant curate in 1664 and 1673, (fn. 33) and Cobden had as many as three curates, one a schoolmaster. (fn. 34) The assistant curate received £10 a year in 1768, £90 a year c. 1800, and £150 c. 1835. (fn. 35) There was at least one from the 18th century.
In 1637 a new communion table had been railed in and the church repaired, but the young were not properly catechized or instructed, because of failure to send children and servants to church. (fn. 36) Daniel Featley was known to be an exact observer of ceremonial, which caused a company of Metropolis Volunteers, lodging in Acton, to break into the church in August 1642, damaging the fittings. (fn. 37) Another report placed the incident later in that year, after the battle of Brentford, when soldiers also pulled down the font, smashed the windows, and set fire to the rector's outbuildings. (fn. 38) Featley's livings were sequestrated in 1643 and he complained that all his personal goods, rents, and a copyhold house were also seized. (fn. 39) He was succeeded by Philip Nye, minister 1643-54, described as an able preacher in 1650, assisted by John Nye, (fn. 40) and then by Thomas Elford, who was ejected in 1661. (fn. 41)
In 1685 Acton, with other parishes, was to keep the registers with more care and record the names of stranger preachers. (fn. 42) During the 18th century services were held twice every Sunday with two sermons, communion was taken once a month by between 20 and 40, and children were catechized in Lent. In 1766 evening prayers were held every Saturday and morning prayers on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (fn. 43) A piece of waste was added to the churchyard, which was nearly full, in 1792. (fn. 44) By 1810 the number of communicants had risen to 50 and St. Mary's could seat only 400 out of a population of 1,400. (fn. 45) In 1851, when attendance in the morning averaged 550, with 90 Sunday school children, there were 700 free sittings and 50 others, (fn. 46) but in 1865 the church was said to seat only 500 adults. (fn. 47) Attendance in 1903 was 729 in the morning and 476 in the evening. (fn. 48) The church ran St. Mary's mission house at no. 12 Priory Terrace, High Street, from the early 1880s, and a room and working men's club in the Steyne, possibly in the mission room and parish club house built at the back of the old Rectory stables and leased to the parish in 1879. (fn. 49)
The church of ST. MARY was rebuilt at least once on its existing site at the corner of High Street and Market Place. The building in the early 18th century was thought from its style to be of the 12th or 13th centuries, of flint and a soft stone. It was small with low walls and narrow windows, (fn. 50) and had a chancel, nave, and two aisles c. 1795, by which date the walls had been rebuilt in brick. (fn. 51) An altar table of black marble from Ashford-in-the-Water (Derb.), thought to be of the 12th or 13th century and probably from the medieval church, was repaired and placed in the existing church c. 1960. (fn. 52) In 1504 Richard Pontesbury, mercer of London, left stone towards paving the chancel and money to make a chapel on its north side, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. Anne, and St. Margaret and similarly paved. (fn. 53) There was a chapel of St. Catherine on the south side of the church by 1534. (fn. 54) The chancel was much decayed by the late 17th century and was repaired and whitewashed. The west tower was described as lofty and handsome in 1705 and was thought to be early 16th-century. It was square, of brick with stone dressings, and had a peal of six bells; (fn. 55) in 1766 it was cased with brick (fn. 56) and later had an octagonal turret at one corner. (fn. 57) The cupola needed repair in 1800 and again in 1821, when the surveyor recommended that it be replaced by a roof of lead or copper. (fn. 58)
The churchwardens in 1768 were to replace the vestry room with an octagonal one against the south side of the tower. (fn. 59) In 1780 repairs included making a coved ceiling over the body of the church, painting the gallery columns and wainscot, and building a new vestry room. (fn. 60) A north gallery was suggested in 1794, and changes to the gallery and pews were planned in 1802 (fn. 61) but perhaps not carried out. After plans for more seating in 1825 and 1830, (fn. 62) it was decided in 1836 partially to rebuild the church, whereupon services were held for a time in a schoolroom. (fn. 63) Part of the cost was met from the sale of Masons green and other waste and from compensation from the G.W.R. (fn. 64) The result was described by the bishop of London as the ugliest church in his diocese. (fn. 65)
The whole church, except the tower, was demolished in 1865, because it could seat only 500 and was considered unworthy in style. (fn. 66) Its successor, consisting of a chancel, nave with aisles, and south-east chapel, was built of red brick with stone dressings to the design of H. Francis in a Decorated style. (fn. 67) The tower in turn was rebuilt in 1876 and the vestry was extended over part of the churchyard in 1906, giving an additional, south-east, exit. (fn. 68) Planned to seat 1,050, (fn. 69) the church seated 950 in 1906 and 750 by 1979. (fn. 70)
A font from the previous church, possibly the medieval one described by Lysons, (fn. 71) was later used in St. Andrew's mission church, (fn. 72) but many other fittings were incorporated in the new building. They include a brass of Humphrey Cavell (d. 1558), (fn. 73) and several monuments and mural tablets, the earliest being to Anne, wife of Sir Thomas Southwell, 1636, Catherine, Viscountess Conway, 1639, Mary, wife of Maj.Gen. Philip Skippon, 1655, John Perryn, 1656, and Philippa, wife of Francis Rous, 1657. (fn. 74)
The plate in 1552 consisted of a pyx, two crosses, two paxes, and two chalices of silver with patens. (fn. 75) In 1639 Alice, Lady Dudley, created Duchess Dudley in 1644, gave a set containing a flagon, possibly the largest in the diocese, a chalice, a paten on a foot, and a ciborium with cover by T. Bird, all silver-gilt with elaborate repousse ornament. (fn. 76) A silver bowl had been added by 1685, (fn. 77) and an offertory plate by 1810. (fn. 78) In 1889 the plate consisted of Lady Dudley's gift, with another chalice and paten, and a spoon and cruet, all silver-gilt. (fn. 79)
A pair of organs lacked some pipes in 1552. (fn. 80) An organist was appointed in 1826 and a new organ placed in the west gallery, where the old one had stood, in 1859. (fn. 81) The tower held four bells and a sanctus bell in 1552. (fn. 82) The peal of bells was increased to eight after recasting in 1877 (fn. 83) and in 1937 included (vi) by James Bagley, 1712, and (vii) by Ellis Knight, 1637. (fn. 84) The registers begin in 1538. (fn. 85)
The rapid increase in population after 1860 brought not only the rebuilding of St. Mary's but the creation of separate parishes for South Acton in 1873, East Acton in 1880, and Acton Green in 1888, followed by districts for West Acton in 1907, Acton Vale in 1915, and North Acton in 1930. All Saints', South Acton, and St. Dunstan's, East Acton, were founded from the old parish church; thereafter most mission churches were run from All Saints'. (fn. 86)
ALL SAINTS, Bollo Bridge Rd., S. Acton. Dist. formed 1873. (fn. 87) Patron bp. of London. (fn. 88) Two asst. curates 1881, three by 1892, two in 1926, one in 1947, none by 1955. Attendance 1903: 479 a.m.; 393 p.m. Red brick bldg. with stone dressings in early Decorated style 1872 by J. Kelly: apsidal chancel, aisled nave, SW. tower; SE. chapel 1895 by E. Monson. Severe war damage to spire, since removed. Andrew Hunter Dunn, V. 1871-92, became bp. of Quebec 1892. James Macarthur, 1892-7, became bp. of Bombay, then of Southampton. Parish covered densely populated and poor area, where church ran several missions and other facilities, inc. Dolphin coffee tavern, Osborne Rd., a nursery and an institute and kitchen for the sick, Strafford Rd. (fn. 89) Missions: (fn. 90) mission ho., Osborne Rd., and Acton Green sch. 1877; (fn. 91) Stanley Rd. iron mission church by 1886 until 1902; (fn. 92) Fletcher Rd. by 1903, closed by 1926; (fn. 93) All Saints' parish hall, attendance 1903: 314 a.m.; 86 p.m.; Good Shepherd mission, Stirling Rd., by 1903 until 1934, (fn. 94) attendance 1903: 25 p.m.
ST. ALBAN THE MARTYR, South Parade, Acton Green. Dist. formed 1888. (fn. 97) Patron bp. of London. (fn. 98) Two asst. curates 1892, one in 1905, none in 1926. Attendance 1903: 477 a.m.; 321 p.m. Originated in mission run by All Saints' (q.v.) in 1882 at temp. mission church and Sunday sch. in two bldgs. in Acton Lane near Beaumont Rd.; later held at parish hall, a sch. bldg. on Acton Green common. (fn. 99) Red brick bldg. with stone dressings in neo-Gothic style 1887 by E. Monson, seating c. 750: (fn. 100) unusual roof steeply pitched in nave, low and circular in chancel, ending in modified apse. Chapel added 1908. Mission services continued in temp. church, sold c. 1938, (fn. 101) attendance 1903: 73 p.m.
ST. ANDREW'S mission church, Salisbury Street. Begun in shop premises. Church by 1894, contained font from old parish church, with which mission was connected. (fn. 102) Attendance 1903: 209 a.m.; 111 p.m. Curate-in-charge 1915. (fn. 103) Closed after Second World War, when bldg. demol.
ST. BARNABAS'S (temp.) church, Stanley Terrace, Acton Vale. Mission held by St. Dunstan's (q.v.) at no. 20 the Parade, Acton Vale, by 1884, called St. Barnabas's mission church by 1890. (fn. 104) Iron church in Stanley Terrace by 1894 (fn. 105) and mission room closed by 1898. (fn. 106) Attendance 1903: 130 a.m.; 118 p.m. Replaced by St. Thomas's (q.v.) 1915, and bldg. and site sold 1919. (fn. 107)
ST. CUTHBERT'S mission church, Osborne Rd. Founded from All Saints' (q.v.) by 1880, called St. Cuthbert's by c. 1900, but still served from All Saints' in 1926. (fn. 108) Attendance 1903: 83 a.m.; 59 p.m. Closed c. 1934. (fn. 109)
ST. DUNSTAN, Friars Place Lane, E. Acton. Dist. formed 1880. (fn. 110) Mission services by curate from St. Mary's held in barn of Cotchings farm, E. Acton, and later in E. Acton infants' sch. (fn. 111) Goldsmiths' Co. of London gave land and bldg. and endowed living out of Perryn trust. (fn. 112) Patron Goldsmiths' Co. (fn. 113) Two asst. curates 1892, one in 1896, none in 1955. Attendance 1903: 201 a.m.; 136 p.m. Red brick bldg. with stone dressings in Early English style 1879 by R. Hesketh, seating c. 750: chancel, nave of five bays, N. and S. choir aisles, SE. chapel, SW. tower and spire. Mission at Acton Vale became St. Barnabas's mission church (q.v.).
ST. GABRIEL, Noel Rd., N. Acton. London Diocesan Home Missioner appointed for N. Acton in 1923, and services held in marquee (fn. 114) and in private ho. in Horn Lane. (fn. 115) Iron hut built in Noel Rd., afterwards used as parish hall until 1960s. Parish formed 1930. (fn. 116) Patron bp. of London. (fn. 117) Two asst. curates 1935, none in 1947. Brown brick bldg. with stone dressings in Decorated style 1931 by E. C. Shearman, seating c. 200: red brick interior with Gothic arches, chancel unfinished, sanctuary in nave, NE. chapel; terracotta plaques given by George V and Queen Mary from Queen Alexandra's private chapel at Sandringham, said to be from old Danish church. Church was first of Bp. Winnington-Ingram's 'forty' commissioned for growing outskirts of London. (fn. 118)
ST. MARTIN, Hale Gardens, W. Acton. Parish formed 1907 from St. Mary's, with some parts of Christ Church and St. Mary's, Ealing. (fn. 121) Patron bp. of London. (fn. 122) One asst. curate 1915, none in 1965. Iron bldg. dedicated 1903, (fn. 123) later used as parish hall. Red brick bldg. with stone dressings 1906 by E. Monson, seating 750: (fn. 124) nave, N. and S. aisles, N. and S. transepts, SW. chapel; not oriented. New hall built c. 1960 replaced temp. chancel and used for worship in winter.
ST. PETER, Southfield Rd., Acton Green. Patron bp. of London. (fn. 125) Curate-in-charge and two assts. 1915, one asst. curate 1935 and 1973. Services held in tent on recreation ground 1906, and in a council sch. (fn. 126) Temp. church 1907, seating 300, (fn. 127) later used as parish hall. Buff brick bldg. with red brick facings and stone dressing to W. door, in basilican style, based on St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome, 1915 by William A. Pite, seating 750: (fn. 128) nave with apse, N. chapel. Chancel screen from Quebec Chapel, Marble Arch. Organ 1858 from St. Alphage, London Wall.
ST. SAVIOUR'S church for the Deaf, Old Oak Rd. Non-parochial. Built by Royal Assoc. in Aid of Deaf and Dumb 1924, on site given by Goldsmiths' Co. of London, with funds from sale of St. Saviour's church for the deaf in Oxford Street, from which statues and foundation stone were taken. Dark brown brick bldg. with stone dressings by Sir Edward Maufe, seating up to 110: on two levels, the upper being the church, the lower a recreation centre; church floor raked to make priest clearly visible; (fn. 129) nave, chancel, gallery, and side chapel.
ST. THOMAS, Bromyard Ave., Acton Vale. Parish formed 1915. Patron bp. of London. (fn. 130) Replaced St. Barnabas's (q.v.). Site, in proposed garden city, given by Goldsmiths' Co. of London. Bldg. funds from sale of site of St. Thomas Charterhouse, Goswell Rd. Brown brick bldg. with red brick dressings in early Decorated style on cruciform plan 1915 by Sir A. Blomfield: apsidal chancel, vestries, and two bays of nave 1915; extended at W. end in Perpendicular style 1927. Parish centre added to N. side 1973: nave with unfinished aisles, NE. and SE. chapels. Two windows, early Victorian altar plate, and wardens' staves from St. Thomas Charterhouse. (fn. 131)