Page06 - Christchurch and the Birth of a Parish

"What a truly beautiful church" my mother in-law proclaimed when, for the first time, she came to visit us this summer, "it's such a shame it's a Victorian whimsical fantasy creation"

She was always good at this, giving a compliment with one hand and taking it way with the other. But was she right? Christ Church looks old... the perfect country church in fact with buttresses, a spire, Gothic stained glass windows. So as always I endeavoured to prove her wrong.

But very quickly it was apparent she was correct. During the late 1830's and early 1840's the dynamics of the district had changed. From what had been a quiet sleepy farming community it was becoming a desirable residential area for the wealthy merchant classes from London who had made their money from the expanding empire. These changes resulted in the decision of James Hayward of Loudwater House, John Barnes and William Prowting Roberts to promote the idea of a new parish of Chorleywood.

They petitioned the Lord Bishop of London, to allow them to endow and build a church on the common on behalf of themselves and 300 persons in the area residing more than 2 miles from any existing church and within l mile of the proposed church. It was agreed that they would lay out £1,050 for the building of a church and a further £1,000 as an endowment.

Their request was granted and a new church was consecrated on November 13th 1845.

The new Parish was created on December 3rd of the same year. This paved the way for others in the area to follow as in 1846 West Hyde became its own Parish as did Northwood in 1854, Croxley in 1872 and Mill End in 1875. The new Parish was made up of over 60% of the old  Rickmanswoith one, mainly because it included the Loudwater and Cedar Estates whose land stretched far away from the common. Loudwater Lane is the Parish boundary.

The original church was designed in the fashionable English style which took its inspiration from traditional church buildings of 1,000 years before. It was designed by B Ferry FSA and consisted of a nave, chancel, vestry and a tower capped with a small pitched roof. The church was the centre of social life in the parish and the ecclesiastical authorities were responsible for education and the administration of various charities.

The adjacent school was built in 1853 and the school rooms were used not only for teaching but also for social functions and later by the parish council.The buildings were enlarged in 1891. In 1868 the vicarage was completed on land beside the school endowed and given by John Saunders Gilliat, the Lord of the Manor of Rickmansworth. The vicarage was a large gothic house but by the 1970's was deemed too large and demolished and replaced with a smaller modern house.

In 1870 it was decided to rebuild the church and famous architects Street ARA were consulted. The proposal was to retain the tower of the original church and to rebuild the remainder, an arrangement which met with general agreement. During the rebuilding, services were held in the adjoining school room. The new church was completed and consecrated in 1871. In 1881 a new spire was added and a clock incorporated in 1882.

At the turn of the 20th century a new graveyard had been added to the church, land from the common having been exchanged by agreement with the commoners. This plot was enclosed by a fence with an iron gate, through which sheep were led to graze in order to keep the grass down.

In 1921 Mrs A.O. Barnes offered to replace the existing gate with a lychgate (in memory 0f her husband). The offer was gratefully received and the newly erected gate was consecrated at a service 0n 29th July 1921. 

Mother in law may have been right this time, but my time will come to prove her wrong!

The Next Chapter

Plans for the new extension at Christ Church called "The Junction" are moving at a steady pace. The cost of the build is in the region of £1.5 million. Already £800,000 has been raised mainly from gifts and pledges from members of Christ Church.

(note: article spans onto Page 07)