Hanwell: Churches

Pages 230-233

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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The first time at which there is known to have been a church at Hanwell is the mid12th century. (fn. 1) It may well have been there for some time before, though there is no evidence for the statements by local historians that there was one at the time of St. Dunstan's alleged gift of Hanwell to Westminster Abbey. (fn. 2) While it is not impossible that there was a church in the 10th century, there is no reason whatever to believe the further statement that there was a pagan or Christian shrine here in Roman times. (fn. 3) In the 12th century the church's jurisdiction extended over the whole ancient parish, including New Brentford, and when a chapel was founded in the town c. 1163-88, arrangements were made to preserve the rights of the mother church. (fn. 4) It was not until 1747 that the chapelry of New Brentford became legally independent and had a separate benefice, and even then the advowson was retained by the rector of Hanwell. (fn. 5) Since 1908 the foundation of new parishes within Hanwell proper has reduced that of the parish church to a comparatively small area.

The patronage of Hanwell church belonged to the Abbot of Westminster, who was the lord of the manor, and passed with the manor to the Bishop of London, who still holds it. (fn. 6) According to a 15thcentury inspeximus from the Crown, the abbey had secured a grant from King Stephen that the virgate of land which belonged to Hanwell church should be free from all secular service. (fn. 7) The next information available about the glebe dates from 1650, when it was said to comprise 25 acres. (fn. 8) At the inclosure of 1816 the rector held about 20 acres of old inclosures east of High Lane (now part of the golf course) and 5 beside the church. He was also allotted 2 acres on the heath, on which St. Mark's School was later built. (fn. 9) All the glebe had been sold by 1924. (fn. 10) Since Westminster Abbey never appropriated the living of Hanwell, the rector was entitled to all the tithes, though the small tithes and dues of Brentford seem to have been payable to the curate there under the 12th-century agreement. (fn. 11) In 1291 the benefice of Hanwell was valued at £6 13s. 4d. and in 1535 at £20. (fn. 12) In 1650 it was worth about £100, out of which, according to the people of Hanwell, £18 were allowed to the curate of New Brentford. According to the people of New Brentford, however, the curate received rather less, and the money he did receive constituted the income of all the tithes of the chapelry. (fn. 13) In 1714 the rector of Hanwell successfully sued Christopher Clitherow of Boston House for his small tithes, and it was made clear that small tithes were paid to the curate of Brentford by custom and not by right. (fn. 14) In 1747 the rector formally gave up all his right to the church dues, offerings, and small tithes of New Brentford: he retained, however, part of the tithes of hay, (fn. 15) and by 1837 was apparently receiving all the great tithes. (fn. 16) Despite this loss the value of the benefice rose from about £100 to £150 in the earlier 18th century (fn. 17) and to £530 gross by 1830. (fn. 18) In 1837 the tithes of Hanwell were commuted for £410, and the great tithes of New Brentford, also belonging to the rector, for £60. (fn. 19) In 1957 the living was worth £769 net, of which £475 came from endowments. (fn. 20) The rectory house east of the church, which by 1795 had been 'much improved' by G. H. Glasse, rector 1785-1809, (fn. 21) was rebuilt in 1847 (fn. 22) and demolished after 1934. (fn. 23) It had been sold some time before, and a smaller house had been built in 1922 to replace it. (fn. 24) This stands at the bend in Church Road.

The first known rector, Henry of Bayeux (instituted c. 1187) held the churches of Greenford and Hanwell together, (fn. 25) and at least one other medieval rector is known to have been a pluralist. (fn. 26) Another held the church before he was ordained sub-deacon and one had a dispensation for five years from proceeding to any higher order than this. (fn. 27) The only other information about the life of the church before 1547 is that by this date half a yardland and 8 acres had been given for its maintenance. (fn. 28) In 1547 the rector provided a priest to serve the cure: (fn. 29) the statement of a number of local historians (fn. 30) that he himself served New Brentford is based upon insufficient evidence. (fn. 31) A number of the 16th- and 17th-century rectors held other livings, though some at least are known to have had curates. (fn. 32) John Fuller (1548-51), later Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, may have held other preferments while he was at Hanwell. (fn. 33) Three rectors between 1551 and 1596 combined Hanwell with other Middlesex livings nearby and the two who served from 1596 to 1631 were prebendaries of St. Paul's. (fn. 34) Between 1575 and 1591 the incumbent was a licensed preacher. (fn. 35) Parliament sequestered the living in 1644, but the rector's wife was still receiving a fifth of the income in 1651. (fn. 36) During the Interregnum the parish had a succession of incumbents, and possibly a few vacancies of some length. (fn. 37) In 1653 the government revoked one appointment on the petition of the 'well disposed inhabitants' and appointed commissioners to decide the difference in the parish about it. (fn. 38) Little is known of the life of the church in the decades after the Restoration: two rectors of some eminence held the living for short periods, (fn. 39) and the tone of the parish may possibly be indicated by the fact that one prominent parishioner, Henry Hodges, was a keen supporter of Titus Oates and a reputed anti-monarchist. (fn. 40) Two Sunday services were held during the 18th and early 19th centuries, and the number of communion services was increased from four a year to one a month between 1766 and 1790. (fn. 41) Samuel Glasse, a chaplain of George III and rector 1780-5, and his son and successor, G. H. Glasse, a classical scholar, were both men of some eminence in the literary world, and seem to have been active and benevolent incumbents in the contemporary mould. The elder Glasse, though holding another living during most of his incumbency, took an active part in parish affairs and particularly in the rebuilding of the church in 1781-2. After his resignation he lived in Greenford, leased charity lands in Hanwell, and continued to attend the vestry. (fn. 42) G. H. Glasse, who accumulated a small estate around the church, (fn. 43) is said to have spent a considerable fortune. He committed suicide because of financial troubles, (fn. 44) but there seems to be no evidence for the statement by Sir Montagu Sharpe that he defaulted on Hobbayne's charity funds. (fn. 45)

In 1847 there was strong opposition both inside and outside the parish to the bishop's appointment to the living, when the claims of J. A. Emerton, the proprietor of Hanwell College, who had served as curate for twelve years, were passed over. Emerton was apparently influential in the second rebuilding of the church in 1841, and according to the churchwardens the congregation had increased fourfold during his ministry. (fn. 46) In spite of the embarrassing circumstances of his appointment to Hanwell, the rector of 1847-64 seems to have been active in the parish: the National school was built on glebeland in 1855 and services for South Hanwell were held there until St. Mark's was opened in 1879. (fn. 47) Church rates continued to be levied until they were abolished by statute, but pew rents were introduced in 1860 and largely replaced them. (fn. 48) Derwent Coleridge (rector 1864-80), the son of the poet, had formerly been the first principal of the National Society's training college at Chelsea. (fn. 49) Just before his retirement from Hanwell at the age of 80 he succeeded in building St. Mark's Church, and before this he had introduced Hymns Ancient and Modern at the parish church, started a night-school, a choir, confirmation classes, and regular 'collect-day' services, and made a few changes in ritual. (fn. 50) These last aroused some opposition, (fn. 51) and one man, not a parishioner, complained that 'simple worship had been turned into a semi-musical entertainment', (fn. 52) but Coleridge's changes do not seem to have been at all radical, and since his time the church has remained more or less evangelical in character. (fn. 53) Eleven o'clock matins was still the main Sunday service in 1959. A bequest was made to the church in 1940, subject to a life interest, for the maintenance of the musical part of the services. (fn. 54) In 1959 there were 355 persons on the electoral roll. (fn. 55)

The church of ST. MARY, Hanwell, was opened in 1842. (fn. 56) It stands at the end of Church Road on a site successively occupied by at least two earlier buildings. The medieval church, which was dedicated to St. Mary by the later 12th century, (fn. 57) was pulled down in 1781 because it was too small for the growing population. It was some 67 feet long, and the nave was nearly 22 feet wide and the chancel about 15 feet. (fn. 58) There was a small west tower with a pyramidal roof and a south porch or vestry. The windows, as they appear in a water-colour drawing, (fn. 59) suggest that the nave at least dated from the 12th century. A suggestion (fn. 60) that the church was thatched is not borne out by the original drawing. The church built to replace this one was opened in 1782. (fn. 61) It was designed by Thomas Hardwick, a mason of New Brentford, who had already rebuilt the nave of the chapel there. (fn. 62) It was a characteristic brick and slated building of that date with an aisled and galleried nave, and round-headed windows under a cornice and parapet. The chancel was small and there was a west turret with a cupola. (fn. 63) Another gallery was added in 1823 to accommodate the pupils of Dr. Bond's school, (fn. 64) but the church was still too small for the population, since the servants of the gentry and the National school children occupied the only seats which 'could be considered free'. (fn. 65) The present church was therefore built in 1841 and consecrated in the following year. (fn. 66) It was one of the earliest churches to be designed by George Gilbert Scott, though not his first, as has sometimes been claimed. Scott afterwards condemned his work of this period as 'a mass of horrors': (fn. 67) Hanwell, like Scott's other early churches, lacked 'any proper chancel' and had galleries, which still survive, in the nave aisles. It is in the style of the 13th century and is built of flint with white brick and stone dressings. It has a small clerestory and a tall south-west tower surmounted by a broach spire. A chancel and a second vestry by W. Pywell were added in 1898. (fn. 68) The wall paintings in the chancel are said to have been originally executed by William Yeames, the painter of 'When did you last see your father?' who was a parishioner and at one time churchwarden. (fn. 69) The church was badly damaged by fire in 1912. (fn. 70)

No monuments or furnishings have been preserved from the medieval church, except for a bell of 1760. (fn. 71) The earliest of the wall-tablets dates from 1798. (fn. 72) Among the others is one of 1806 to Margaret Emma Orde by P. M. van Gelder. The earliest plate dates from 1782. (fn. 73) A bequest of 1538 gave the church a chalice, mass-book, and vestments. (fn. 74) In 1685 there was only one cup and a cover. (fn. 75)

Although St. Mark's was built in 1879, the first modern church to have a separate parish assigned to it was that of ST. MELLITUS, on the corner of Uxbridge Road and Church Road. The parish was formed in 1908 and lay between the railway and Elthorne Park, thus including St. Mark's as a chapel of ease. (fn. 76) The church was built in 1910 from the proceeds of the sale of Holy Trinity, Gough Square, in London, and was endowed with some £375 a year, also from Holy Trinity. (fn. 77) In 1957 the endowment provided £78 out of the income of £642 net. The Bishop of London is patron of the living, (fn. 78) and in 1959 there were 165 names on the electoral roll. (fn. 79) The main Sunday service in 1959 was parish mass at 10 o'clock, preceded by said matins at 9.30. The dedication of the church is probably derived from the legend, propagated by Sir Montagu Sharpe, that Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons, was instrumental in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons of Hanwell. (fn. 80) The church was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and Sons in a Gothic style, and has an aisled nave of five bays with chancel and chapels and a bell-cote. It is built of brown and red brick. The vicarage was built at the same time beside it.

The church of ST. MARK, Lower Boston Road, became independent in 1919 when the south-western part of St. Mellitus's parish was assigned to it. (fn. 81) It had been built in 1879 to the designs of W. White in the early Decorated style (fn. 82) in brown and red brick and has an aisled nave, an apsidal chancel and no tower. When the benefice was created the patronage was vested in the Bishop of London. In 1955 the church had an endowment of £443 out of a net income of £603. (fn. 83) There were 195 names on the electoral roll in 1959. (fn. 84) A licensed incumbent was appointed in that year, after the living had been vacant for some years before. (fn. 85) The main Sunday service was then sung mass at 11 o'clock.

The church of ST. THOMAS, Boston Road, was built in 1934 from the proceeds of sale of St. Thomas, Portman Square. The parish assigned to it in 1933 consisted of the southern part of St. Mary's parish which had been detached from the rest by the creation of St. Mellitus's parish. (fn. 86) The mission from which it grew was first established in 1907 in a house in Elthorne Avenue, and an iron mission church (now the church hall) was erected in 1909 on a site given by Lord Jersey. (fn. 87) It was later taken over by the London Diocesan Home Mission, and in 1933 became a perpetual curacy in the gift of the Crown, which had been patron of St. Thomas, Portman Square. The endowment was also transferred from the London church, (fn. 88) and in 1957 comprised £216 a year out of an income of £807. (fn. 89) There were 392 persons on the electoral roll in 1959. (fn. 90) The principal Sunday service was then family eucharist at 9.30, with said matins at 11. The church was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and is built of brick, with nave and chancel under a high concrete-vaulted roof. The seven bays of the nave are divided by boldly projecting piers which are pierced with arched openings to form narrow aisles. There are vestries and a chapel on each side of the chancel and a tower in the centre of the north side. The crucifixion on the east front is by Eric Gill. Some of the fittings come from St. Thomas, Portman Square. (fn. 91)

The church of ST. CHRISTOPHER, Bordars Road, was established by the London Diocesan Home Mission in 1937. (fn. 92) A parish was assigned to it in 1951 and a benefice was created in the gift of the Bishop of London. (fn. 93) It was worth £570 net in 1957, including an endowment of £424 a year. (fn. 94) There were 88 persons on the electoral roll in 1959. (fn. 95) A permanent church had not been built by 1959 and services were held in the original church-hall. The main Sunday service was sung mass and holy communion at 10 o'clock.


  • 1. Cal. Pat. 146-7, 166.
  • 2. e.g. Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 24, 28; for the charter, see p. 224.
  • 3. See Sharpe, op. cit. 24.
  • 4. Westm. Domesday, f. 131, abstracted by Sharpe, op. cit. 25-26.
  • 5. The deed of 1747 is transcribed in Ealing Libr., 'Brief explanations of respective rights of Rector of Hanwell and curate of New Brentford' (MS., 1790) and is quoted by Sharpe in Home Cties. Mag, iv. 103-4.
  • 6. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 194; Crockford (1957-8).
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1461-7, 166.
  • 8. Parl. survey of church livings in Home Cties. Mag. iii. 33.
  • 9. M.R.O., Hanwell Incl. Award. For the school, see p. 235.
  • 10. Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 36.
  • 11. Westm. Domesday, f. 131.
  • 12. Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 377. Val. of Norw. ed. Lunt, 358 seems to contain an error in attributing a separate valuation to 'Brentford with the chapel'.
  • 13. Home Cties. Mag. iii. 33. For another contemporary estimate, see Cal. S.P. Dom. 1654, 342.
  • 14. Exchequer decree (E 126/20, f. 173) cited by Sharpe in Home Cties. Mag. iv. 46-47.
  • 15. Ealing Libr., 'Brief explanation' (MS. 1790) and Home Cties. Mag. iv. 47-48, 101-4.
  • 16. M.R.O., New Brentford Tithe Award.
  • 17. Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9556-7; cf. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Bks. etc. 1715-18, 30-31, 56, 57.
  • 18. Guildhall MS. 9560.
  • 19. M.R.O., Hanwell and New Brentford Tithe Awards.
  • 20. Crockford (1957-8).
  • 21. Lysons, Environs of Lond. ii. 544; see prints, e.g. B.M. Maps K. 29. 15. b.
  • 22. Foundation stone, now preserved in church.
  • 23. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 11 (revised edns.).
  • 24. Ex inf. the rector. No reference to the sale of the old Rectory has been found in Lond. Gaz. 1920-8.
  • 25. Westm. Domesday, f. 131.
  • 26. Cal. Pat. 1292-1301, 215; see Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 194.
  • 27. Reg. Winchelsey, ii (Cant. & York Soc. lii), 925, 931; Cal. Papal L. vi. 32; see also Cal. Papal L. iv. 62-63.
  • 28. E 301/34, no. 158.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. e.g. Sharpe in Home Cties. Mag. iii. 303.
  • 31. The statement (E 301/34, no. 118) that Thos. Cheney (rector of Hanwell) was parson of New Brentford was legally exact: neither this nor the absence of any reference to a curate or chaplain need imply that he served the chapel himself. All other evidence about the chapel and chaplains in any case makes this seem unlikely.
  • 32. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 193-4; Guildhall MS. 9537/1-3.
  • 33. D.N.B. vii. 752.
  • 34. Hennessy, op. cit.
  • 35. Guildhall MS. 9537/5.
  • 36. M.R.O., Cal. Brentford Petty Sessions, 1651-1714, 2, 3; cf. Walker Revised, ed. Matthews, 259; Home Cties. Mag. iii. 33.
  • 37. Walker Revised, 259; Home Cties. Mag. iii. 33; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1653-4, 205; 1656-7, 220; Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 9, 461.
  • 38. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1653-4, 205.
  • 39. D.N.B. viii. 956; xix. 16.
  • 40. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1680-1,402; for Hodges, see also p. 225.
  • 41. Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9557-8.
  • 42. D.N.B. vii. 1300; M.R.O., CH/H. 17; Ealing B.C., Hanwell Vestry Min. Bk. 1780-97. See p. 219.
  • 43. M.R.O., Acc. 140; T. Gream, 'Plan of par. of Hanwell 1803', in St. Mary's ch.
  • 44. Gent. Mag. 1809 (2), lxxix p. 1082. D.N.B. vii. 1299.
  • 45. Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 35, but cf. charity acct. bks.: M.R.O., CH/H. 2-3.
  • 46. J. A. Emerton, Hanwell rectory: or use and abuse of episcopal patronage (1857; copy in Ealing Libr.), and presscuttings, &c. in libr.
  • 47. M. K. Johnson, Story of St. Mark's Sch. Hanwell (1955), 3 (copy in Ealing Libr.); for the school, see p. 235.
  • 48. Ealing Libr., Hanwell Pew Rent Cttee. Min. Bk. 1860-70.
  • 49. D.N.B. iv. 754.
  • 50. See his annual Pastoral Letters penes the rector of Hanwell.
  • 51. Ealing B.C., Hanwell Vestry Min. Bk. 1878-90, 30-32; Mdx. Cty. Times, 31 Aug. 1878.
  • 52. Mdx. Cty. Times, 7 Sept. 1878.
  • 53. Ex inf. the rector, and see S. Hinchliffe, Hanwell Parish: men of mark (copy in Ealing Libr.), no. 21.
  • 54. Char. Com. files.
  • 55. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 56. S. Hinchliffe, Hist. of Par. Ch. St. Mary, Hanwell (1956 edn.), 15 (copy in Ealing Libr.).
  • 57. Westm. Domesday, f. 131.
  • 58. B.M. Church Briefs, 21. 4; Ealing B.C., Hanwell Vestry Min. Bk. 1780-97.
  • 59. B.M. Maps K. 29. 15. a, reproduced (much reduced) in Hinchliffe Hist. of Par. Ch. 4.
  • 60. Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 24: he gives a copy of the water-colour with alterations to show thatch: the material of the roof cannot be distinguished in the original.
  • 61. G. H. Glasse in Gent. Mag. 1805 (2), lxxv. 821-2.
  • 62. H. M. Colvin, Dict. Eng. Architects, 1660-1840, 264.
  • 63. See prints and drawings, e.g. in interleaved copy in Guildhall Libr. of Lysons, Environs of Lond. ii. between pp. 552 and 553 Ealing Libr., TS. copy of agreement for building, 1781.
  • 64. Ealing Libr., Hanwell Vestry Min. Bk. 1823-7, 4 Sept. 1823. See p. 236.
  • 65. J. A. Emerton, Hanwell rectory, 4.
  • 66. Hinchliffe, Hist. of Par. Ch. 13, 14; cf. Emerton, Hanwell Rectory, appendix pp. 7, 13.
  • 67. G. G. Scott, Personal and Professional Recollections, 86-87.
  • 68. Builder, lxxiv. 333.
  • 69. Hinchliffe, Hist. of Par. Ch. 13, 14.
  • 70. Hanwell Par. Mag. Sept. 1912 (copy in Ealing Libr.).
  • 71. Hinchliffe, Hist. of Par. Ch. 13.
  • 72. See Gent. Mag. 1800 (1), lxx. 305n.
  • 73. Hinchliffe, Hist. of Par. Ch. 21.
  • 74. P.C.C. 16 Dyngeley (John Hone).
  • 75. Guildhall MS. 9537/20.
  • 76. Lond. Gaz. 1908, p. 5717.
  • 77. Ibid.; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1912).
  • 78. Crockford (1957-8).
  • 79. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 80. See Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 17, 24.
  • 81. Lond. Gaz. 1919, p. 10641.
  • 82. T.L.M.A.S. xviii (2), no. 35.
  • 83. Crockford (1955-6).
  • 84. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 85. Ex inf. the rector of Hanwell.
  • 86. Lond. Gaz. 1933, pp. 8296-7.
  • 87. Ealing Libr., Form of Service at laying of foundation stone of St. Thos. Hanwell (1933); duplicated hist. in the church.
  • 88. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1912, 1922); Lond. Gaz. 1933, pp. 8296-7.
  • 89. Crockford (1955-7).
  • 90. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 91. See R.I.B.A. Jnl. xli. 523-9.
  • 92. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1940).
  • 93. Lond. Gaz. 1951, pp. 3005-6.
  • 94. Crockford (1957-8).
  • 95. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).