St George's, The New Church Building 1962
The Vicar Lends a Hand
At first the building work went well, the foundation stone was laid by the venerable Neville Welch, Archdeacon of Southend on 23rd December 1962. For information on the original church building click here
When the roof was on but the building just a shell, the builders were declared bankrupt and all building work stopped. However, Rev. Carlos was very resourceful. He and the Parochial Church Council together with the architects took control. They impounded the builder’s equipment and sold it, employed privately the two men already working on the job and with the help of the remaining sub-contractors they finished the church just one week before it was due to be consecrated.
The outside of St George’s is quite modern with its blue-green slate east wall which provides an effective contrast to the large hardwood cross attached to it. The cross is 9 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Another distinctive feature is the spire at the centre of the roof, technically known as a Fleche, which points heavenwards. It is made of tubular aluminium and at one time housed the bell from the original Church building. Finally, there is the modern stained glass cross to the curved south side wall of the porch. The coloured glass pieces are set in concrete with an art stone surround, it is 7 feet 4 inches high by 6 feet 1 inch wide, and the coloured glass is 16 inches wide.
Inside, the church is bright and sunny with large windows to both sides and is very simple in design. The cross outside is repeated behind the altar, with the blue-green slate wall. These two crosses are attached back-to-back. The only ornamentation is a satin cross, two candle sticks and an altar book rest.
The pews were built from pre-cut kits by the men of the congregation, supervised by the vicar on Tuesday nights which became ‘pews night’. Altogether there were 30 pews and 6 choir stalls. The space in the new hall became even more cramped, as when each pew was finished they were stored on the stage in the hall.
The men of the church also cleaned and drained the land on the north side of the church and laid a car park. Finally everything was finished and the church was consecrated on Friday 17th July 1964 by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, John Gerard Tiarks, assisted by the Venerable W.N. Welch M.A. and the Reverend Canon M.B. Morgan M.A. Rural Dean of Wickford. Reverend Francis Carlos was inducted as the first vicar.
I spoke to Mr. K. Buckland, the verger of the church, who was present at the Consecration Service. “I remember the Consecration Service”, he said, “It had been a boiling hot day and the church was packed. We had to borrow chairs from the Methodists and even then there were people standing outside. We borrowed a big electronic organ and two speakers from Hodges & Johnson, they sent an organist as well. The choir stalls were filled out with visiting clergy. There must have been about five hundred people altogether in the church.”
Source Barbara Evans. 1968?
The Women did not wish to be left out and it was agreed that the women would make hassocks for the church. Work started on the 300 hassocks needed in November 1964, designed so they could be sewn over the already existing kneelers. The design is the red cross of St George on a white shield against a royal blue background.
The women also made the altar linen, bookmarks, pulpit falls and the veils and burses for the communion vessels.
Shortly before Reverend Kemp arrived, cracks started to appear in the church building especially in the south wall. To finance the remedial work needed, the church field was sold to Wiggins Builders who built Rushbottom Lane Doctors’ surgery along with the surrounding houses.
The new church had been built on two large concrete rafts. One raft supported the chancel and sanctuary and the other, the nave. When the weather was dry the surrounding Essex clay dried out and cracks would start to appear. The remedial work entailed digging down and laying a thick permeable plastic apron for 15 feet around the building. This would retain water and prevent the Essex clay from drying out and resulting in damage. Once again services took place in the church hall. The hall had served well and was refurbished after the church repairs were completed.
While the repairs were being done the church interior was reorganised, the pulpit was moved from the south wall and the chancel housing the choir pews was scrapped. For some reason the vicarage was built on piles, unlike the church, and there were settlement problems around 1998 and that to required some repairs.
St George’s stayed like this until it was thought the church building would be much more functional if the pews were changed for chairs, so the pews that the men had built were removed.
The original small electronic organ, put in when the church was built, was not adequate for the job it was expected to perform, and frustrated the organist, choirmaster and churchgoers alike. Following a substantial gift of money in 1966 an organ fund was started and donations poured in. The old organ from St Peter’s, Thundersley, which was being replaced was purchased and rebuilt to fit St George’s. The woodwork was stripped and the pipes were sprayed silver to match the modern décor. A dedication service was held on Sunday 26th February 1967, local councillors attended and the church was crowded with people.
Source Barbara Evans’ notes 1968? and Ina Osborne’s notes Oct 1998