A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The chapel of Romford was first mentioned in 1177, when the pope confirmed it to Hornchurch priory along with the church of Havering i.e. St. Andrew, Hornchurch, and other possessions previously granted by Henry II. (fn. 1) Romford remained part of the parish of Hornchurch until the 19th century. The original chapel, also dedicated to St. Andrew, lay at the junction of South Street and Oldchurch Road, on the south side. That spot, immediately east of the river, was still known in the 19th century as Old Church mead. (fn. 2) As Romford grew larger its chapel, which was 2½ miles from the parish church, began to seek independence. In 1236 there seems to have been a move to establish a graveyard there. Henry III ordered that this should not be done until he had conferred with the bishop of London, and that seems to have been the end of the matter. (fn. 3) By the 15th century the growth of the town along the main London-Colchester road had left the old chapel isolated, and a new one, dedicated to St. Edward the Confessor, was therefore built on the present site in the market-place. (fn. 4) When the new chapel was consecrated in 1410 it was at last agreed that there should be a graveyard there, but in other respects the rights of the parish church, and those of New College, Oxford, as owners of the rectory, were strictly reserved. The new chapel was built under the leadership of Robert Chichele, a London merchant, and brother of Henry Chichele, later archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 5) Robert Chichele held the manor of Gidea Hall and other local estates. (fn. 6) Henry Chichele, who in 1408 became bishop of St. Davids, was authorized by the bishop of London to consecrate the new chapel. (fn. 7) As a graduate of New College he may well have taken part in the negotiations with the college concerning the new chapel.
Under the agreement of 1410 those worshipping at Romford were bound to contribute as before to the repair of the parish church, as well as maintaining their own chapel. They tended to regard that obligation as unfair, and in 1529 joined with Havering to secure an arbitration award under which their total annual payments towards the repair of Hornchurch church were limited to 16s. 8d., unless the church had suffered catastrophic damage. (fn. 8) After 1529 there is no evidence that Romford made any substantial contributions to the repair of Hornchurch church until 1802–3, when the south aisle of the church was being rebuilt. At that time a copy of the agreement of 1410 came to light, and Hornchurch, having taken counsel's opinion, successfully levied a church-rate in Romford. (fn. 9) No reference was then made to the award of 1529, which had evidently been forgotten. Romford was still paying church-rates to Hornchurch in 1814. (fn. 10)
While seeking independence from Hornchurch, Romford chapel attempted to gain control over all the northern wards of the parish: Collier Row, Harold Wood, Noak Hill, and Havering, as well as the Town, By the late 15th century Romford was levying chapel-rates in all these wards. (fn. 11) The only serious opposition came from Havering, which had its own chapel, and by the late 17th century a graveyard also. In 1650 it was proposed that a new parish should be formed for Romford, comprising the Town, Harold Wood, and Collier Row, and another parish for Havering and Noak Hill; but that came to nothing. (fn. 12) By 1750 Havering had at last broken free from Romford, and in 1784 it became independent also of Hornchurch. (fn. 13) Romford itself became a separate parish in 1848–9. (fn. 14)
The chaplain of Romford chapel was appointed and remunerated by Hornchurch priory from the 12th to the 14th century, and later by New College, until the late 15th century, from which time the college seems usually to have delegated those functions to the vicar of Hornchurch, reserving the right to remove the chaplain. (fn. 15) From the later 14th century the chaplain drew his income mainly from the small tithes of Romford, granted to him on long lease. (fn. 16) This was a voluntary arrangement similar in effect, though not in law, to that of a normal vicarage. (fn. 17) In 1734, when a new chaplain was required, the vicar of Hornchurch considered paying him a fixed stipend, and keeping the small tithes of Romford in his own hands. (fn. 18) That may occasionally have been done in the 18th century, but the old practice of leasing the small tithes in kind to the chaplain was probably the usual arrangement until the time of Anthony Grant (chaplain 1838–62). (fn. 19) All the parochial tithes were commuted in 1846–9, (fn. 20) but Grant's successors continued to be appointed as lessees of the benefice until 1926–7, when New College endowed the vicarage. (fn. 21)
The income of the early chaplains is not known, but some idea of it may be inferred from the terms of their leases. A lease granted in 1369 was for 3 years at 9 marks a year. (fn. 22) Another, granted to the same chaplain in 1384, was for 14 years at £10. (fn. 23) Those two leases included certain great tithes, which no later chaplain is known to have enjoyed. A chaplain appointed in 1615 was granted a 50-year lease at an annual rent of £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 24) In 1650 the chaplain was receiving £45 a year, allowed by the government from the small tithes. (fn. 25) During the later years of the Interregnum he was receiving also an augmentation of £30 to £40. (fn. 26) By the 17th century the chaplain was receiving a considerable amount from subscriptions. (fn. 27) In 1734 it was stated that his total income was never less than £200, including subscriptions of £20 to £50 or more; out of this he had to pay about £80 rent to the vicar of Hornchurch for his lease. (fn. 28) In 1849 the small tithes of Romford were commuted for £287, charged entirely on the section of the parish south of the main London road. (fn. 29)
By 1384 there was a parsonage, called the Priest's House, which was leased to the chaplain along with the small tithes. (fn. 30) It was possibly identical with Priests, a house on the site of the present Priests Avenue, east of Havering Road, (fn. 31) and if so it may have been the parsonage as early as 1272, for Ralph of Langley, who was then chaplain, certainly had property in that area, as did one of his successors soon after. (fn. 32) If Priests was the parsonage it was inconveniently remote from Romford chapel, and it had passed into lay ownership by 1689. (fn. 33) It was rebuilt about 1814 by Octavius Mashiter, whose family held it throughout the 19th century, (fn. 34) but it has since been demolished.
The 'old vicarage', adjoining the churchyard, still existed in 1879. (fn. 35) It had an 18th-century front, with Ionic pilasters, but the irregular rear portions were probably older. It must have gone out of use by 1846, when the vicarage was a large house, in grounds of 2 a., on the west side of North Street, near the market-place. (fn. 36) The North Street vicarage was used until 1909, since when there have been several moves. (fn. 37)
The guild of Our Lady in Romford chapel was in existence by 1479, and received several bequests during the following years. (fn. 38) At its dissolution in 1548 it had a net annual income of £4 6s. 10d., which maintained a priest, John Saunder, and provided 5s. for the poor. (fn. 39) Its property included a house called the Tilekiln on Harold Wood common, which later formed the endowment of the Tilekiln charity. (fn. 40)
Avery Cornburgh (d. 1487), lord of the manors of Dagenhams and Gooshayes, by his will founded a chantry in Romford chapel. (fn. 41) The terms of the benefaction were recorded in verse on his tomb, which still survived in the chapel in the early 17th century. (fn. 42) The total endowment was £13 a year, of which £10 was for the stipend of the chantry priest, who was to preach not only at Romford, but at South Ockendon, Hornchurch, Dagenham, and Barking. At the dissolution of the chantry in 1548 the net income was £12 0s. 11d. (fn. 43) There was a chantry house or 'priest's chamber'. It is thought to have been the building, immediately east of the church, which was a public house for many years before 1908, when it was bought back by the church and re-opened as Church House. (fn. 44) It is a timberframed range of 16th-century character, four bays long, with jetties to the street and the churchyard, and a gallery above a wide jetty on the rear elevation. It may once have formed part of a larger building which extended eastwards along the street, and had an open yard. The building was much altered in the 18th or the early 19th century. (fn. 45)
The names of at least 10 chaplains of Romford have been recorded before the Reformation. (fn. 46) From the late 16th century the list seems to be fairly complete. (fn. 47) By the 17th century, if not earlier, the inhabitants of Romford were choosing, or helping to choose, their own chaplain, though the legal right of appointment still lay with the vicar of Hornchurch as the agent of New College. (fn. 48) The most notable 17th-century chaplain was John Morse, 1615–48, a prominent Puritan. (fn. 49) Dr. Gloster Ridley, 1748–62, and his son and successor James Ridley, 1762–5, were both successful writers. (fn. 50) Between c. 1770 and 1848 Romford chapel seems to have been left for long periods in the care of an assistant curate, who usually served also as Sunday afternoon lecturer. (fn. 51) In 1792 the chapel vestry complained that the lecturer had delivered 'heavy and pointed denunciations from the pulpit' tending to stir up controversy. (fn. 52) His successor, Dr. John Wiseman, was dismissed in 1810, also after a dispute. (fn. 53) Dr. George Croly, curate in the 1830s, was a writer, dramatic critic, and later a popular City preacher. (fn. 54) Anthony Grant, vicar 1838–62, was a distinguished lecturer who became archdeacon of St. Albans in 1846 and canon of Rochester in 1860. (fn. 55) Like many of his predecessors he was a New College man. The parish church was rebuilt during his incumbency.
The former chapel of ST. ANDREW has disappeared, and nothing is known of its appearance or construction. The chapel of ST. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, consecrated in 1410, survived until 1849. When new it contained features notable enough to be imitated in the specification (1413) of improvements to the parish church of Halstead, in north Essex. (fn. 56) At the time of its demolition the chapel was a large building comprising nave, chancel, north aisle and chapel, west tower, and north and south porches. (fn. 57) The north aisle and chapel, which were the same width and height as the nave and chancel, may have been late-15th-century additions, perhaps associated with the guild of Our Lady, or Cornburgh's chantry. (fn. 58) From the parish records it seems unlikely that any major external alterations or additions had been carried out after the 15th century except for the rebuilding of the tower in 1790. (fn. 59) Repairs carried out in 1641 included the removal of stained glass. (fn. 60) Romford celebrated the Restoration by setting up the royal arms, building a chancel screen, inserting new glass in the east window, and repairing the chapel roof. (fn. 61) A visitor in 1662 thought the church 'handsomely beautified within.' (fn. 62) A (west) gallery was built about 1678. (fn. 63) The nave arcade seems to have been rebuilt c. 1802. (fn. 64) That may have been a botched job, for it was later said that the chapel was 'greatly dilapidated and barbarized' and that 'the masts of ships supplied the places of the stone columns to sustain the aisle and roofs.' (fn. 65)
Romford chapel had an organ in 1552. (fn. 66) In 1814 there was an organ, erected by voluntary subscription, in the west gallery. (fn. 67) During the following years the chapel was employing an organist who was also choirmaster. (fn. 68)
There were 6 bells in 1552. (fn. 69) One of them, probably dating from the early 15th century, still survives. By the 18th century there were 8 bells, and a society of ringers was active by 1755. (fn. 70) All the bells were transferred to the new church in 1850. (fn. 71) Before 1552 Romford was well supplied with communion plate, but the earliest surviving pieces date from 1654. (fn. 72) In 1552 there were two chests, one of which was allowed to remain in the chapel. (fn. 73) An old iron chest existed c. 1660, when Nathaniel Beadle, churchwarden, gave another 'great iron trunk coloured blue', standing on iron wheels. (fn. 74) Neither of those chests survives.
The original east window of the chapel was placed there by Robert Chichele, and contained an inscription, dated 1407, commemorating Henry IV and his queen as well as Chichele and his wife, and stating that the chapel was founded in honour of Christ, the Virgin, and St. Edward the Confessor. (fn. 75) That window was presumably the one, recorded in the early 17th century, which depicted Edward the Confessor and two pilgrims, with the incomplete inscription 'Johannes per peregrinos misit Regi Edwardo …'. (fn. 76) It was no doubt removed with the other glass in 1641. In 1661 a new picture of St. Edward was placed in the east window. (fn. 77) It was renewed in 1707. (fn. 78) It was evidently transferred to the new church in 1850; it still existed c. 1876, but must have been removed before 1882, when a new east window was recorded. (fn. 79)
The old chapel contained several fine monuments of the 16th and early 17th centuries, which were removed to the new church. Many other monuments in the church and churchyard, including some which have disappeared, are on record. (fn. 80)
In 1840 it was decided to demolish the old chapel and build a new one, to the designs of Edward Blore, at the other end of the market-place. (fn. 81) The work was started about 1844, but it was abandoned owing to lack of funds, and the site was converted into a cemetery. (fn. 82) The new church of St. Edward was at last built in 1850, on the site of the previous one. It is of Kentish ragstone with Bath stone dressings, in the Decorated style, designed by John Johnson. (fn. 83) It originally comprised chancel, nave with clerestorey, north and south aisles with north organ chamber and south chapel, west gallery, south porch, and south-west tower with a spire 162 ft. high. (fn. 84) In 1885 two vestries were added on the north side. (fn. 85)
A new organ, by Walker & Sons, was bought in 1866; it was rebuilt about 1905 by Speechly & Son. (fn. 86) In the early years of the 20th century St. Edward's was a musical centre for the churches of the district. (fn. 87) The church bells include three by Miles Graye (1636), and one each by John Darbie (1657), John Waylet (1704), Lester & Pack (1756), C. & G. Mears (recast, 1850). (fn. 88) The tenor bell was probably by Robert Burford (d. 1418), and would thus have been bought as part of the original equipment of the old chapel of St. Edward. (fn. 89) The bells were rehung in 1922. (fn. 90) There has been a church clock at least since 1552. (fn. 91) A weight-driven clock, made in 1759, served until 1945, when a new electric clock, with a chime of four bells, was given by the London Central Board of Licensed Victuallers, whose chairman was then the mayor of Romford. (fn. 92) The dial and hands of the old clock were retained. The church plate includes a silver paten (1654) and silver-gilt cup (1661), both given by Carew Hervey alias Mildmay of Marks; a pair of flagons, dated 1640, bequeathed by John Burch (d. 1668); (fn. 93) and a silver paten of 1707, given by Thomas Roberts, vicar of Hornchurch. (fn. 94) A silvergilt cup and paten of 1563, listed in 1926, no longer existed in 1976.
The church contains three fine alabaster monuments brought from the old chapel. (fn. 95) That to Sir Anthony Cooke (d. 1576) of Gidea Hall, in the north aisle, was restored in 1973 by Miss Inger Norholt under the direction of the Romford Historical Society. (fn. 96) Those of Sir George Hervey (d. 1605) of Marks, and Anne (Hervey) wife of George Carew (d. 1605) are in the south porch.
St. Edward's church was the only Anglican place of public worship until the building of St. Thomas, Noak Hill (1842). The church of St. Andrew was built in 1862 for the district west of Romford station, and was given a separate parish in the following year. By 1900 four more churches had been built: two in the town, one at Collier Row, and one at Squirrels Heath. Seven others have been built since the First World War, including two at Harold Hill. Ten new parishes have been formed since 1926.
The church of ST. THOMAS, Noak Hill, Church Road, was built in 1842 as a memorial to Frances, wife of Sir Thomas Neave, Bt., of Dagnams. (fn. 97) It is a small building of red brick, with transepts and south-west tower, designed by George Smith in the Early English style. The tower was restored in 1971. (fn. 98) The church's most notable fittings are collectors' items from elsewhere. They include painted window glass of the 16th-18th centuries, given by Sir Thomas Neave, Bt. Among these pieces are medallions with the badge of Jane Seymour, the arms of Charles II and Queen Anne, and some French and Flemish glass. (fn. 99) Three monumental brasses of the 15th to 17th centuries, taken from South Weald church, were given to Noak Hill church early in the present century by John Sands of Dagnam Priory, but were restored to South Weald in 1933. (fn. 100) The church remains in St. Edward's parish. From 1882 to c. 1895 St. Edward also had a mission in North Street, occupying the former Congregational church. (fn. 101)
The church of ST. ANDREW, Romford, St. Andrew's Road, was built in 1862 for the new working-class district on the former barrack ground. The building, designed by John Johnson, is of Kentish ragstone in the Early English style. (fn. 102) Since the Second World War the district has been redeveloped, but St. Andrew remains, in its small, hedged churchyard. A separate parish, taken from Romford, was assigned in 1863. (fn. 103) The benefice, endowed mainly out of the rectorial and vicarial tithes of Romford, was declared a rectory in 1866; the advowson was from 1863 vested in New College. (fn. 104) The first rector, William J. Skilton, 1863–85, served with distinction on the local board, and later on the school board, of which he was chairman. (fn. 105) The mission church of ST. AGNES, Jutsum's Lane, was opened in 1928. (fn. 106) The churches of St. Alban, Princes Road (1890), and St. Augustine, Rush Green (1958) also originated as missions of St. Andrew, but were later given their own parishes.
The church of ALL SAINTS, Squirrels Heath, Ardleigh Green Road, originated in 1884, when a wooden mission church, in Romford parish, was built in Squirrels Heath Road, at the corner of Upper Brentwood Road. (fn. 107) In 1926 a permanent church was completed on the same site, and a separate parish, taken out of Romford (main part), St. Andrew, Romford, and Hornchurch, was formed. (fn. 108) The advowson of the vicarage was vested in the bishop of Chelmsford. The church was enlarged in 1933–4, but in 1941 was destroyed by bombing. (fn. 109) Services were later held in the Royal Liberty school, and then in a hut on the bombed site. (fn. 110) In 1957 a new church, designed by R. C. Foster, was built in Ardleigh Green Road, about a mile farther east, and the parish boundaries were altered accordingly. (fn. 111) The church of St. Michael, Gidea Park (1929), which started as a mission of All Saints, was later given a separate parish.
The church of THE ASCENSION, Collier Row, Collier Row Road, originated in 1880 as a mission of Romford. (fn. 112) Services were held first in the Hainault Forest school, Collier Row Road, (fn. 113) and later in a mission hall. The present church was built in 1886. The Crown subscribed £140 towards its erection, no doubt because there were extensive Crown estates in the district. (fn. 114) The Revd. J. H. Pemberton (d. 1926) of the Round House, Havering, a noted rose-grower, was curate in charge from 1880 to 1923. He left funds to endow the benefice, and further contributions were made by his sister, Amelia Pemberton. A new parish, taken out of Romford and St. Chad, Chadwell Heath, was formed in 1927, the advowson being vested in Miss Pemberton for life, and then in trustees, including the vicar of Romford; the church was consecrated in 1928. (fn. 115) The parishes of the Good Shepherd, Collier Row (1935) and St. James, Collier Row (1955) were both taken mainly from The Ascension.
The church of ST. JOHN THE DIVINE, Romford, Mawney Road, originated in 1897, when an iron mission church, in Romford parish, was opened in Willow Street. (fn. 116) In 1928, after long delays, the first stage of a permanent church was opened on a new site in Mawney Road. A separate parish, taken out of Romford and St. Andrew, Romford, was assigned to it, the advowson of the vicarage being vested in the bishop. (fn. 117) The church, built of brick, was designed by W. D. Caröe in Byzantine style. The first stage comprised the sanctuary, part of the chancel, and a temporary nave. In the second stage (1932), the chancel was completed and five bays of the aisled nave were built. A side chapel was added, as a war memorial, in 1948, (fn. 118) and a choir vestry in 1966–7, (fn. 119) but parts of the original plan, including the upper part of the tower and the three western bays of the nave, had not been completed by 1975. In that year it was stated that the church was in danger of closure, with a regular congregation of only 9 or ten. (fn. 120)
The church of ST. MICHAEL, Gidea Park, Main Road, originated in 1929 as a mission of All Saints, Squirrels Heath. (fn. 121) An ecclesiastical district, taken out of All Saints, was assigned in 1933. (fn. 122) In 1936 the advowson of the vicarage was vested in the bishop of Chelmsford, and in 1938, when a permanent church was completed, a separate parish was formed. (fn. 123)
The church of the GOOD SHEPHERD, Collier Row, Redriff Road, originated in 1934 as a mission of The Ascension, Collier Row. (fn. 124) A separate parish, taken from The Ascension and from St. John, Romford, was formed in 1935. The church (1935), hall, and vicarage were given by Dame Violet Wills, in whom, and in other trustees, the advowson of the vicarage was vested. (fn. 125)
The church of ST. ALBAN, Romford, Princes Road, was opened in 1890 as a mission of St. Andrew. (fn. 126) A conventional district was formed in 1935. (fn. 127) A separate parish, taken from St. Andrew, was assigned in 1952, the advowson of the vicarage being vested in the bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 128)
The church of ST. GEORGE, Harold Hill, Chippenham Road, originated in 1939, when a mission of Romford was opened in Straight Road, for an area still largely rural. (fn. 129) After the Second World War it was well-placed to serve the western side of the new Harold Hill estate. In 1953 a new church was opened on the present site and a conventional district was assigned. (fn. 130) A separate parish, taken from Romford, was formed in 1956, the advowson of the vicarage being vested in the bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 131)
The church of ST. PAUL, Harold Hill, Petersfield Avenue, was built in 1953 for the eastern half of the new L.C.C. estate. (fn. 132) Churchmen from Harold Wood, in Hornchurch, helped with the work, and in 1954 that part of Harold Hill was transferred to Harold Wood parish. (fn. 133) A conventional district was assigned to St. Paul in 1955, and a separate parish, taken from Harold Wood, in 1956. (fn. 134)
The church of ST. JAMES, Collier Row, Chase Cross Road, which succeeded the Calvary mission of Havering, was built in 1956 and was assigned a separate parish, taken from the Ascension, Collier Row (main part), Romford, and Havering; the advowson of the vicarage was vested in the bishop of Chelmsford. (fn. 135)
The church of ST. AUGUSTINE, Rush Green, Birkbeck Road, originated in 1946 as a mission of St. Andrew, Romford. (fn. 136) In 1948 a hut was erected at the corner of Birkbeck and Rush Green Roads, and in 1953 a conventional district was formed. A dual-purpose church was built in 1958, and a hall was added in 1965. A separate parish, taken from the parishes of St. Andrew, Romford, St. Peter and St. Paul, Dagenham, and Holy Cross, Hornchurch, was formed in 1969. The advowson of the vicarage was vested in the bishop of Chelmsford.
In 1852 a cottage in Church Lane was registered for Roman Catholic worship. (fn. 137) The church of ST. EDWARD, Park End Road, was built in 1856 by William Petre, Lord Petre. (fn. 138) A day-school was built in the same year. (fn. 139) St. Edward's was one of the first Roman Catholic churches built in south Essex since the Reformation, and for many years it served a wide area. The convent of the Sisters of Mercy, Western Road, was founded in 1908. (fn. 140)
At Harold Hill a priest started work in 1949, when the first houses were being built on the L.C.C. estate. (fn. 141) A new parish was formed in 1952. In 1953, with Mass attendances averaging about 1,000, a church hall was opened in Petersfield Avenue. The church of the MOST HOLY REDEEMER, adjoining the hall, was completed in 1964. (fn. 142) It is of variegated brick with roof-line canted up to the tall west front, which is mainly of glass.
A new parish for the western side of Harold Hill was formed in 1954, and the church of ST. DOMINIC, Straight Road, was opened in 1956. (fn. 143) There is a primary day-school attached to this church.
At Collier Row a new parish was formed in 1952. (fn. 144) A church hall was registered in Lowshoe Lane in 1955, and the church of CORPUS CHRISTI, adjoining it, in 1965. There is a primary day-school attached to this church.
At Gidea Park a new parish was formed in 1963. The church of CHRIST THE ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST, Brentwood Road, was opened in the same year. (fn. 145) It is an octagonal building of brown brick with a central spirelet.
There have been nonconformists at Romford since the later 17th century. In 1672 Samuel Deakin was licensed to conduct worship in the house of George Locksmith there, and William Blackmore to do so in his own house at Hare Street; at the same time the houses of William Mascall, surgeon, and William Wood, both at Romford, were also licensed for Presbyterians. (fn. 146) Deakin (d. 1676) and Blackmore (d. 1684) were both buried at Romford. (fn. 147) Nothing certain is known of Deakin's earlier career. Blackmore, a prominent Presbyterian, had been ejected in 1662 from St. Peter's, Cornhill (Lond.).
In 1690 Edward Whiston of Romford, 'aged and poor and no constant meeting', began to receive an annual grant from the Presbyterian and Independent Common Fund. (fn. 148) This was continued at least until 1693, and in 1691–3 the Fund also made a grant to Edward Kighley for lecturing to Whiston's congregation. (fn. 149) Whiston and Kighley both had connexions also with the Presbyterian congregation at Aldborough Hatch, Ilford. (fn. 150) Whiston died in 1697. (fn. 151) His work probably led to the foundation of Romford Independent (now United Reformed) church. (fn. 152)
In the late 17th century there were also some Quakers at Romford. Among their leaders was William Mead (d. 1713) who about 1684 bought the manor of Gooshayes at Harold Hill, then called Harold Wood, and lived there with his wife Sarah, who was the stepdaughter of George Fox (d. 1691). (fn. 153) In his later years Fox visited Gooshayes several times. By 1691 there was a small Friends' meeting at Harold Hill, belonging to the Barking monthly meeting. In 1695 the monthly meeting decided that Harold Hill should be reduced to the status of a 'retired' meeting, attended only by those too infirm to travel to public meetings farther away. The monthly meeting continued to meet occasionally at Harold Hill up to 1701. In 1709 the Friends applied to quarter sessions to license for meetings the house of William Smith at Romford. (fn. 154) Nothing permanent resulted from this. Sarah Mead, who died in 1714, left £100 for building a meeting-house at Romford or Harold Hill. This legacy was an embarrassment to the monthly meeting, which in 1718 declared that the few Friends living in those areas attended the Barking meeting, which was itself small and poor. (fn. 155) They asked that the legacy should be made available for the general charitable purposes of the monthly meeting. Sir Nathaniel Mead, Sarah's executor, eventually agreed to this, and the money was handed over in 1732.
For most of the 18th century the Independent church, then in Collier Row Lane (North Street) was the only dissenting place of worship in Romford. Another Independent church, opened in 1798, was merged with North Street in 1818. The first Wesleyan Methodist church in the town was opened in 1827, and the first Baptist church in 1836. By the end of the 19th century there were also Primitive Methodist, Salvation Army, and Catholic Apostolic churches, and several undenominational missions. In 1972 there were 28 registered places of worship. They included 6 Baptist, 4 Methodist, 2 United Reformed, 1 Quaker, and 2 Salvation Army. The remainder belonged mainly to fundamentalist or Pentecostal sects, which accounted for 12 out of the 23 churches opened since the First World War.
Salem church, London Road, was founded in 1836 with 13 members, most of whom had previously worshipped at Ilford. (fn. 156) Early meetings were held in a schoolroom in the market-place belonging to John R. Ward. (fn. 157) Thomas Kendall, from Ilford, was the first pastor (1836–47). In 1840 a small chapel was built on part of the old barrack ground in London Road. Dissension arose, and in 1847 some of the members, led by Kendall, seceded to form a church at Chadwell Heath. (fn. 158) In the same year, however, those remaining at Salem built a larger chapel adjoining the earlier building. Another secession took place in 1852. During the ministries of Joseph Davis (1866–79) and J. M. Steven (1879– 1913) the church prospered. A hall was added in 1868, (fn. 159) and shortly before the First World War Salem opened the Pretoria Road mission, later Mawneys Baptist church. After the war the membership of Salem increased, and in 1934 a new church was built in Main Road. It was originally intended that the old Salem should be retained as the Sunday school of Main Road, but in 1936 it was reconstituted as a separate church, which still survives. Salem is a yellow-brick building with the date 1847 under the roof pediment.
Main Road, now called Romford Baptist church, has grown steadily, and by 1971, with 594 members, was one of the largest Baptist churches in England. (fn. 160) It has founded two other churches, at Chase Cross and Dagenham, and helped to form a third, at Harold Hill. (fn. 161)
Zoar (Strict) church, Market Place, later North Street, originated in 1849, when Samuel Ford's house was registered for worship by H. W. Tydeman, minister of the New London Road, Chelmsford, church. (fn. 162) A chapel seating 40 was opened in 1850 in part of a building at the entrance to Ducking Stool Alley, nearly opposite the Laurie Hall. (fn. 163) Zoar is thought to have been joined in 1852 by seceders from Salem. (fn. 164) It appears to have moved to North Street by 1871, and to have closed soon after. (fn. 165)
Romford Common chapel, Harold Wood Hall, originally Congregational, was taken over about 1866 by the Baptists of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Lond.). (fn. 166) It was still active in 1882. (fn. 167) In that year the Baptists opened a church at Hornchurch, (fn. 168) and they apparently gave up the Romford Common chapel soon after. (fn. 169)
Mawneys church, Pretoria Road, originated in 1910 as a mission of Salem. The original iron hall was replaced by a brick building in 1928, and a separate church was formed in 1931. (fn. 170)
Zoar (Strict) church, Carlisle Road, was formed in 1927. (fn. 171) It was originally in Hornchurch Road, but had moved by 1936 to Albert Road. (fn. 172) The present building was erected in 1953. (fn. 173)
Chase Cross church, Chase Cross Road, originated in 1936, as a mission of Romford (Main Road); a permanent building was opened in 1961. (fn. 174)
Harold Hill church, Taunton Road, originated in 1950, when the Baptists of Main Road and the Congregationalists of South Street opened a joint Sunday school at Harold Hill. (fn. 175) This collaboration continued until 1955, when the Baptists built Taunton Road. (fn. 176)
Trinity (Wesleyan) church, Mawney Road (now Angel Way), originated by 1827 when a chapel was built in High Street. (fn. 177) The first resident minister was John Smith (1828–30), whose brilliant career, cut short by death, was long remembered in Romford. (fn. 178) By 1829 the church, then in the Spitalfields circuit, had 80 members and a regular congregation of 260. (fn. 179) It was in the Romford circuit 1833–48, and later in the Barking and Romford 1848–77, Romford 1877–1908, Ilford 1908–47, and the new Romford circuit from 1947. (fn. 180) The Romford society was affected by the Wesleyan Reform movement. In 1850 John Hornstead, society steward and trustee, was among the delegates to the Reform meeting at Albion chapel, Moorgate (Lond.). (fn. 181) He also appears among the local preachers on a plan of the 3rd and 8th London (Wesleyan Reform) circuits for 1852. (fn. 182) This indicates that he had seceded from High Street. The nearest Reform chapel on the 1852 plan was at Becontree Heath, in Dagenham. (fn. 183) The Romford society, however, remained loyal to the old connexion, and in 1867 built a new schoolroom. (fn. 184) In 1887 the old chapel was sold to the Salvation Army, and in 1888 the present Trinity church, seating 600, was built at a cost of £3,400. (fn. 185) It was well placed in Mawney Road, on the growing Mawneys estate. A school was built in 1899. In 1906 Trinity was the centre of a free church mission that led to the 'Romford revival.' (fn. 186) New vestries were added in 1923, and further extensive alterations were carried out in 1936. At that period one of the church leaders was Thomas England, the estate developer. Trinity was damaged by bombing in 1940. (fn. 187) The construction of St. Edward's Way (1970) has left the church awkwardly isolated on the southern edge of that ring road.
Victoria Road (Primitive) church originated about 1873, when missionaries came from Grays. (fn. 190) A permanent building was erected in 1875. It was in the Grays and Romford circuit until 1935, the Ilford circuit 1935–47, and then the Romford circuit. It was wrecked by bombing during the Second World War, was rebuilt in 1950, but closed in 1966. (fn. 191)
Harold Hill church, Dagnam Park Drive, originated in 1950, when members of the Harold Wood church, under the Revd. Leslie W. Gray, started open air services on the new L.C.C. estate. (fn. 192) A school-church was built in 1953 with the aid of 'portable' war damage compensation from the former Grove Methodist church at Stratford, in West Ham. (fn. 193) A foundation stone from the Grove (1873) is incorporated in the Harold Hill building.
Collier Row church, Clockhouse Lane, was planned in 1939, when the site was bought with funds from the sale of Chadwell Heath church. (fn. 194) About 1950 the Romford circuit started mission work at Collier Row, and in 1954 the church was built. (fn. 195)
Havering Road church, Moray Way, Rise Park, originated in 1957, when a hall, in the Romford circuit, was registered. (fn. 196) The church was built beside the hall in 1974. (fn. 197) It is of snuff-coloured brick, with full-height windows across each corner, giving an octagonal plan; there is a central spirelet.
United Reformed and earlier Congregational Churches.
Romford United Reformed church, Western Road, probably originated in the work of Edward Whiston and other Presbyterians in the late 17th century. (fn. 198) In 1700 a meeting at Stewards, Romford, was registered by Independents. (fn. 199) Stewards, a manor house in Hornchurch Road (South Street) was demolished shortly before September 1717. (fn. 200) In August of that year Peter Goodwin, Independent minister, conveyed to trustees a meeting-house in Collier Row Lane (North Street). William Sheldon, minister 1732–63, took charge also of the Independent meeting at Havering Well, in Hornchurch, which from that time was permanently attached to Romford. During the pastorate of Thomas Ellis, 1771–7, who held unitarian views, the church is thought to have declined, but it was revived by his successor, Thomas Strahan (1777–1825), who as a layman had worshipped with the Calvinistic Methodists at Moorfields Tabernacle (Lond.). By the end of the 18th century the Collier Row Lane and Havering Well churches together had endowments producing £35 a year, mostly for the maintenance of the minister.
In 1819 the Collier Row Lane church united with Bethel chapel, Hornchurch Lane. (fn. 201) The Collier Row Lane building was demolished, and the Union chapel was built on the same site in 1823. (fn. 202) Samuel H. Carlisle, minister 1827–52, was an unbalanced and quarrelsome Scotsman. (fn. 203) His control of the endowments made it almost impossible to dismiss him, and in 1846 a large part of his flock seceded to form Coverdale chapel. (fn. 204) After Carlisle's death the two churches re-united. Frederick Sweet, 1864–1902, was an outstanding minister, serving also as chairman of Romford school board, and as a leader of the local Liberal party. (fn. 205) In 1877 a new church was opened on a prominent site in South Street. (fn. 206) It was built in Early English style, of brick faced with Kentish ragstone, to the design of E. C. Allam of Romford. The 1819 building was later a Salvation Army hall, an Anglican mission, a printing works (c. 1900–20), and finally a Peculiar People's chapel; it was demolished about 1934. (fn. 207)
The new church in South Street was gutted by fire in 1883, but was rebuilt in the same year. A hall and schoolrooms were added in 1884, and the old Coverdale building in North Street was then sold. South Street supported the mission at Chadwell Heath, Dagenham, from 1896 to 1901, and in 1906 helped to form a new church at Emerson Park, Hornchurch. (fn. 208) In 1910 the hall was enlarged, partly with money given by an American grandson of Samuel H. Carlisle, and was renamed the Carlisle institute. By that time the membership was over 200. During the ministry of T. Sinclair Phillips, 1920–37, it rose to a peak of over 400. (fn. 209) After the Second World War mission work was undertaken on the Harold Hill estate, leading to the formation of a new church in Heaton Way. In 1965 the South Street buildings were sold for redevelopment and a new church was built in Western Road. (fn. 210) This is a polygonal building of red brick with central spirelet. There are halls behind it. In 1971 the membership was 180. (fn. 211)
Bethel Independent chapel, Hornchurch Lane (South Street), appears to have originated in 1792, when John Ping and others registered for worship the house of Hannah Gray in that road. (fn. 212) A chapel was built in the same road in 1796. (fn. 213) It was joined by a congregation which since 1794 had been meeting in a cottage at Becontree Heath. (fn. 214) The first minister, Henry Attely, 1798–c. 1805, was active also in Rainham, Upminster, and Dagenham. (fn. 215) He established friendly relations with the Collier Row Lane church and in 1819, after the departure of his successor, Bethel united with the older church. After the building of the Union church in 1823 Bethel was sold.
Coverdale Independent chapel, Collier Row Lane (North Street), originated in 1846, in a secession from the Union chapel. (fn. 216) With help from the Essex Congregational Union a small chapel was opened in 1847 almost opposite the Union chapel. The split was healed in 1853, when the 20 members of Coverdale re-united with the 28 of the Union chapel. The Coverdale building was retained by the Union chapel, and was used as a Sunday school until 1884. It was sold in 1887 and converted into a dwelling. (fn. 217)
Romford Common Congregational chapel seems to have originated in 1861, when a schoolroom at Harold Wood Hall was registered for worship. (fn. 218) It was taken over by the Baptists about 1866. (fn. 219)
A Congregational meeting existed at Collier Row in the 1870s. (fn. 220)
Heaton Way United Reformed church originated in 1950, when the Congregationalists of South Street and the Baptists of Main Road opened a joint Sunday school at Harold Hill. (fn. 221) The Baptists departed to Taunton Road in 1955. (fn. 222) The Congregationalists, after many setbacks, formed their own church in 1960, and in 1962 completed the building in Heaton Way.
Other Churches and Missions.
The Catholic Apostolic church, Manor Road, originated in 1867, when a house in High Street was registered for worship. (fn. 223) Meetings were held in the Laurie Hall, Market Place, from 1869 until about 1894, when an iron church was built in Manor Road. (fn. 224) In 1962 that church was re-registered as the undenominational Manor Hall. (fn. 225)
The Salvation Army opened fire in Romford in 1881. Its missionaries reported a hostile reception in this 'brewery blighted' town. (fn. 226) Their headquarters were at first in North Street, in the old Union (Congregational) chapel (1881–2), and its schoolroom, formerly Coverdale chapel. (fn. 227) Among their supporters were Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Read, of Holm Lodge, London Road, who are said to have been formerly members of the community of Agapemonites. (fn. 228) In 1886 there was a Salvation Army tent at Holm Lodge. (fn. 229) In 1887 the Army took over the old Wesleyan chapel in High Street. (fn. 230) That remained in use until 1967, when a new citadel was built to replace it. (fn. 231) The old building was demolished to make room for the roundabout linking High Street and London Road with St. Edward's Way. The new citadel was built farther east in High Street, to the design of Ernest J. Lipscomb. (fn. 232) Its most striking feature is a tall circular building used for the Sunday school. This has windows of coloured glass framed by longitudinal fins of concrete. In North Romford the Salvation Army had a hall in Collier Row Road, 1937–41, and then in Chase Cross Road, registered 1942. (fn. 233) In 1963 it built a hall in Oxford Road, Harold Hill. (fn. 234)
Brazier's Yard mission, High Street, was opened in 1884 for undenominational religious and temperance work among the poor. (fn. 235) Mrs. Read, the founder, was no doubt the friend of the Salvation Army mentioned above. The original mission room was replaced in 1894 by a hall made from three cottages, and two other cottages were later bought for use as classrooms. In 1912 the mission moved to the old Albion Street school. It appears to have closed during the 1920s.
Romford Town mission was founded about 1886. (fn. 236) James Finley, who had been dismissed from his post as a lay missioner at St. Edward's church, continued evangelical work under an undenominational committee whose chairman for many years was J. W. Lasham, a local chemist. (fn. 237) Meetings were held at first in a cottage on the Mawneys estate, but by 1895 had been transferred to the Laurie Hall. The mission's aims were similar to those of Brazier's Yard. It was supported for a time by the Country Towns Mission. Finley died in 1906, but his widow Maria carried on the work for several years. The mission met at the Regent Hall, Market Place, c. 1913–29, and later at the Ingrave Hall, Ingrave Road. It appears to have ceased about 1933.
Richmond Road Evangelical, formerly Peculiar People's, church originated in the 1920s with meetings in the old Congregational (Union) chapel, North Street. (fn. 238) The new church, built in Richmond Road, was registered in 1934. (fn. 239) Harold Hill Evangelical Free church, Bridgewater Road, and Collier Row Gospel mission, Mowbrays Road, which belong to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical churches, were both opened in 1956. (fn. 240) The Evangelical church, Brentwood Road, is treated under Hornchurch.
Romford Christian Spiritualist church, St. Edward's Way (formerly Church Lane), originated in 1923. (fn. 241) Meetings were held at first in a hall in Brooklands Road (1923–8). A church was built in Church Lane in 1929. The congregation increased, and in 1937 a larger church was built behind the previous one, which became a hall.
The Friends' meeting-house, Balgores Crescent, Gidea Park, originated in 1934, when a particular meeting was formed in Romford. (fn. 242) Early meetings were held in Brentwood Road and later, from 1944, in Victoria Road. (fn. 243) The present meeting-house was built in 1961. (fn. 244) It comprises a range of yellow-brick buildings, including a warden's house in a secluded garden.
The Brethren have five halls in Romford. Ingrave hall, Ingrave Road, was apparently taken over from the Town Mission about 1933. (fn. 245) Rush Green hall, Birkbeck Road, and Collier Row hall, Collier Row Road, were both registered in 1936. (fn. 246) Rise Park hall, later chapel, Pettits Lane North, was first registered in 1948. (fn. 247) The Carlisle room, Carlisle Road, was registered in 1963. (fn. 248)
The Jehovah's Witnesses registered premises in Victoria Road 1941–2, in Eastern Road 1951, and in Trowbridge Road, Harold Hill 1959. (fn. 249) Only the last was still in use in 1975.
Elim church, Wheatsheaf Road, appears to have originated in 1944, when the British Israel World Federation and Evangelical Church of England registered a hall, later known as Christ Church, in Victoria Road. (fn. 250) It was re-registered in 1948 by the Bible Pattern Church Fellowship, which in 1955 moved to Wheatsheaf Road (fn. 251) Elim was registered under that name in 1960. (fn. 252) The London City Mission registered a hall in Gooshays Drive, Harold Hill, in 1961. (fn. 253) Varley Memorial hall, Briar Road, Harold Hill, was registered by the Christian Community in 1962. (fn. 254)
JUDAISM. (fn. 255)
Romford and District synagogue originated in 1933, when a congregation was formed. Temporary burial rights were granted by the United Synagogue in 1934. A synagogue hall in Palm Road was registered in 1938. (fn. 256) Activities were suspended during the Second World War. They were resumed after the war at a house in Eastern Road, and a permanent synagogue was built in the garden there in 1954. (fn. 257) In 1970 the old house was demolished and a larger synagogue was built on the site. (fn. 258)
Harold Hill and District Affiliated synagogue originated in 1953 when a congregation was formed. It became affiliated in 1954. Services were held in hired premises until 1958, when a pre-fabricated building was erected in Trowbridge Road. (fn. 259) In 1962 the side walls of the synagogue were rebuilt in brick, making it a permanent structure.