An introduction to the history of the church of St Andrew the Apostle

Mission Hall from the east
Mission Hall from the south west
Mission Hall from the west
The church of St Andrew the Apostle

It was during the spring of 1888, after the sudden death of the Reverend John Morley Truman (1835-1888), that the Reverend George Porter (1843-1924), a curate at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, was appointed to the position of rector at St Catherine Wickford. During the early years of his living at Wickford the Reverend Porter began a plan to erect a much needed Mission Room in the village. The aim of the project was to accommodate the growing population at the west and south end of the parish which was a mile and a half or so away from the church. In 1895 land just short of an acre situated to the west of what is now Hall’s Corner was identified as a possible site for the new building and this was later purchased. When the Reverend Porter resigned the living at Wickford in 1899, the Reverend Francis Dormer Pearce was appointed his successor and Pearce was handed just over £5 which Porter had collected towards the cost of the new building. As welcome as such a sum was it was far less than the estimated £438 required. The Reverend Dormer Pierce enthusiastically rose to the challenge and by the time the building was opened in 1901 just over £408 had been raised. The collection was assisted by a garden fete held at St Catherine’s Rectory with the Burnham Brass Town Band in attendance. There was a fine arts exhibition and stalls were attended by the daughters of local business men.
On July 9, 1901 (VII Id Jul MDCCCCI), a Tuesday, the foundation stone for the Mission Hall was laid by Margaret Symers Porter (Cunnynghame), the wife of the Reverend George Porter, the former rector. The new church building, which was made of brick and tile with a timber finish at both ends, comprised a vestry and a main hall measuring 40 feet by 18 feet. It was expected to accommodate 130 people and was built by John Rayner of East Hanningfield. A stained glass window entitled “The Good Shepherd” made by F. W. Farmiloe & Co of London, was installed on the east side. The architect of the building was Frank Whitmore of Chelmsford. The dedication service took place on Wednesday October 9, 1901 and was officiated by Thomas Stevens (1841-1920), the first Bishop of Barking and later the Archdeacon of Essex.
In August 1934, two years after the appointment of the Reverend Arthur George Munson as St Catherine’s rector, another garden party was held in the grounds of the rectory. This time the purpose of the fete was to raise funds for a new church to be dedicated to St Andrew at the same site as the Mission Hall, but adjoining that building on its north side. The fete was opened by Councillor Margaret Broom of Westcliff. According to the Essex Chronicle, Councillor Broom was pleased to attend because when she was passing through Wickford fourteen years earlier she stopped there and won a prize at a beauty show. Apparently, the Rector at the time won the beauty contest for men. This probably refers to the 1921 fete when the Reverend Edward William Brereton won third prize. Contests were held at the 1934 fete too, with prizes for the best babies aged less than six months and for those aged between six months and twelve months. For the ladies there were competitions for complexion, eyes, teeth and hands. If visitors did not want to participate in the competitions they could buy one of Old Bill’s jam pots from Mr Cook, visit the Beauty Parlour of Nurse Brooks (who judged the babies competition), or watch the dancing display put on by the School of Dancing from Southend. A total just in excess of £68 was raised on the day.
The new church was designed to be 71 feet by 29 feet and was to be constructed of reinforced brickwork with a white cement finish. On the inside a barrel roof with a height of 15 feet in the centre would hide the iron struts supporting the protective roof on the outside. There would be a vestry, a kitchen, a cloakroom and a porch entrance, all of which would link up to the existing hall.
In October 1934 the first foundation stone for the new St Andrews Mission Church was laid by John Ockelford Thompson who was elected seven times Mayor of Chelmsford. The inscription on the foundation stone was published in the Essex Chronicle:
“To the Glory of God this stone was laid by Alderman J. O. Thompson, O.B.E., J.P., 13th October, 1934. John Leech, Architect: J H Bartlett, Contractor.”
The builder of the new church, James Herbert Bartlett, lived on the Southend Road.
The second foundation stone was laid by the then Bishop of Barking, James Theodore Inskip (1868-1949). He became Archdeacon of Essex on the death of Thomas Stevens and later became the Archdeacon of West Ham:
“To the Glory of God this stone was laid by the Rt. Rev. J. T. Inskip, D.D., Bishop of Barking, 13th October 1934. A G Munson Rector: H S Harmer, H G Harvey, Churchwardens.”
On Saturday 28 December 1934 the new church had been sufficiently completed for Henry Albert Wilson CBE (1876-1961), the third Bishop of Chelmsford, to officiate at the dedication ceremony. The altar, incidentally, was a gift from Canon Isaac Lothian Seymour and the people of All Saints in Maldon. After the dedication ceremony tea was held in the Wickford Hall where humorous acts and musical entertainments were performed.
The old Mission Hall still stands today and is one of the oldest buildings in the town. Its foundation stone laid by Mrs Porter can be seen at the base of the south facing wall. The present church of St Andrew, however, was erected in 1964 by Carter & Ward, replacing the 1934 building. At the time the church of St Andrew was deemed to be a daughter church of St Catherine’s, but in 1981 it was officially declared as a parish church in its own right. Today St Andrews the Apostle, St Catherine Wickford and St Mary Runwell, all form part of the Wickford Team Ministry.

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