The History of St George’s Church New Thundersley
The parish of St George’s was originally part of St Peter’s parish Thundersley. St George’s was known as a ‘daughter’ church, the mother church being St Peter’s Thundersley with a ‘sister’ church at St Michael’s at Daws Heath. The services were usually conducted by the curate of St Peter’s. The first St George’s Church was built on Glebe land in 1925 in Rushbottom Lane, Benfleet. The foundation stone was laid 29th April 1926 by H.W. Looks the M.P. for South East Essex and the church was dedicated on 1st September later that year.
The building was very small and was constructed of lath and plaster with brick pillars and metal window frames. There was a screen to separate the body of the church from the hall. It had a pulpit but unusually the altar was at the west end. The hall and the church each had a coke burning stove but they were not very efficient and smoked. They would also go out overnight leaving the building very cold on Sunday mornings. Water was laid on but there was no way to heat it hence all cleaning of the church was done using ice cold water.
Holy Communion took place once a month conducted by the Rector of Thundersley, Evensong around 4pm every Sunday. There was a busy Sunday school and a branch of King’s Messengers.
Eventually two Deaconesses were in charge of St George’s. Miss Johnson conducted services and Miss Cain played the organ, which was a harmonium and pumped by the feet on the treadles. This eventually was replaced by a small electronic instrument after mice finally chewed through the bellows.
The population of the Rushbottom Lane area increased along with the building of more houses at the end of the Second World War and into the 1950s. The church authorities set up a ‘Conventional District’, with the first priest-in-charge the Reverend Francis John Carlos, who was Publicly Licensed in September 1957 to take charge of the new St George’s Church.
The first wedding was held at St George’s church in January 1958.
With the larger congregation an application was made to extend the church, this was granted and a Sanctuary was built on the west side of the church. The church was used as a dual purpose building, so the Sanctuary was screened off when the main part of the building was used for weekday activities. However it wasn’t until the new church was complete that St George’s became a parish in its own right in 1964. Thundersley was changing from a rural to residential area, prior to the 1950s most of the roads were unmade and very muddy in winter.
This area has problems with clay soil and the church was no exception, large cracks started to appear in the church building and it had to be shored up, see pictures above, and eventually it was declared unsafe and was demolished in 1962, making way for the present church. However the west end of the church could be saved and was incorporated into the new building and was then used as the baptistry (This part of the building is at the rear of the church). During the building works the services were held in the recently acquired separate church hall.
In the winter of 1961 an old army hut was purchased, for use as a new church hall, from the old army camp on what is now the Bird estate near to Cemetery Corner in Benfleet. It was dismantled, transported and re-erected by the parishioners.
An application was made in 1962 for the grant of a new church to be built, tenders were asked for and one for £20,000 was accepted. The architects were Ayshford and Sansome.
The last service was held in the old church on the 24th June 1962 and shortly afterwards the building was demolished, but leaving the sanctuary at the west end. The new St George’s would be built with the altar facing east in the conventional way.