Heritage: Names are all that’s left of Havering’s old churches

Upminster Windmill in 1900 - Upminster's original Congregational church stood opposite. Picture: Bri

Upminster Windmill in 1900 - Upminster's original Congregational church stood opposite. Picture: Brian Evans - Credit: Brian Evans

Prof Ged Martin takes a lightning tour of the borough’s vanished places of worship

Romford’s original church stood half a mile south of the town. Its location gradually became inconvenient.

In 1406, King Henry IV authorised a new church, St Edward’s, on the north side of Romford Market.

The original chapel probably stood near Homebase. The area’s still called Oldchurch.

During the Middle Ages, there was a private chapel at Suttons, a farm which stood where Suttons Lane meets Airfield Way, Hornchurch.

At Berwick Farm at Rainham, now a hotel, a chapel dedicated to “Our Lady of Berwick” existed from 1315 to 1525. Carved stones and tiles have been found nearby.

A medieval chapel at Upminster Hall (now a golf club) was probably connected with the Abbots of Waltham Abbey who owned the property from 1062 to 1540. It contained a baptismal font, given to Upminster church in the 18th century, when the building was demolished.

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Bones have been found nearby, suggesting a graveyard.

All Saints’ chapel shared Rainham’s churchyard with the parish church. It was endowed in 1348, possibly to say prayers against the Black Death. By 1521 the income was so small that no priest would take it on. It was demolished about 1548.

A parish church was a financial asset, because the faithful made gifts, called “oblations”. In 1267, John de Dover was forced to close a chapel he’d built on his manor, Dovers in South Hornchurch, remembered in a Rainham roundabout. The prior of Hornchurch, who controlled St Andrew’s parish church, objected to the competition.

In 1344, Pope Clement VI launched an investigation from Italy into claims that another John de Dover, perhaps a grandson, had also opened an unauthorised oratory.

A deal was struck in 1345. John’s chaplain was forbidden to minister to Hornchurch people. The prior claimed two third of the oblations. How long the oratory lasted, nobody knows.

In this case, history repeated itself. In 1967, Rainham’s Catholic church, Our Lady of La Salette, was built on the site.

The London Loop footpath crosses Pyrgo Park, site of a Broxhill Road mansion. The aristocratic Grey family had a chapel and private burial ground here from 1564.

The building was demolished about 1770, and the coffins removed to St John’s church at Havering-atte-Bower.

St John’s served the villagers of Havering. Another chapel, inside the royal palace, was for the king’s private use. Unfortunately, the buildings fell down around 1650.

Harold Wood’s first church, a prefabricated building erected in 1871, was replaced in 1939 by St Peter’s, on a new site in Gubbins Lane. That’s why Harold Wood has a Church Road with no church.

Two Havering churches were destroyed in World War Two. Bombed in 1941, All Saints’ Squirrels Heath (near Gidea Park Station) was moved to Ardleigh Green in 1957.

In 1944, a V1 flying bomb destroyed the Hall Lane chapel, near Tylers Common. Although later rebuilt, it was demolished about ten years ago.

Built in 1800, Upminster’s original Congregational church stood opposite the windmill. In 1911, worshippers relocated to Station Road. The old building is now part of Sacred Heart of Mary’s School.

A small chapel in Park Corner Road, Hacton, has become a children’s nursery.

Missionaries from Grays founded a Primitive Methodist church in Victoria Road, Romford, in 1875 (“primitive” referred to their pure principles). Rebuilt in 1950 after wartime damage, it’s now home to Havering’s Learning Disability Society.

Near Roneo Corner, the original burial ground of Romford’s Congregationalists faces Upper Rainham Road. In 1877, a new Congregationalist church was built in South Street. It included a family clubhouse, which even had a smoking room!

Rather than undertake costly modernisation, the building was sold, and a new church (now United Reformed) built in 1965 in Western Road. (Santander Bank occupies the old site.)

Reckoning that Romford people had made South Street real estate a bonanza, the Congregationalists shared their windfall, helping to start the Samaritans telephone helpline.