History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of East London

by Peter Kessler, 5 September 2010



Havering Part 1: Churches of Rainham & Wennington

Rainham Parish Church of St Helen & St Giles

Rainham Parish Church of St Helen & St Giles lies inside the junction of the Broadway and Upminster Road South in Rainham (formerly in Essex). In 1066 a priest held half a hide of land in Rainham, suggesting the existence of a church here before the Conquest. The present church was built of septaria and flint-rubble, with ashlar dressings, probably about 1178 when Richard de Lucy the justiciar arranged the grant of the advowson to Lesnes Abbey in Kent.

Rainham Parish Church of St Helen & St Giles

The twelfth century three bay arcades retain their original round arches and square piers, but thirteenth century alterations affected all parts of the church. The upper stage of the tower was built at this time and more work was done between the late thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Little else was done until 1719 and 1767. In 1856 the church was said to be in a poor way, and a major restoration was carried out in 1897. Today the church offers an evangelical service.

Chapel of All Saints

The Chapel of All Saints was sited within Rainham parish churchyard (above). In 1348 Sir John de Staunton was licensed to found a chantry there with two chaplains. It was endowed with a house, land and funds from Rainham rents. The land was increased by over thirty per cent in 1392. By 1521 the land, and therefore the endowment, had been sharply reduced and no one would accept the chaplaincy. So it was converted into a free chapel, and then dissolved in 1548.

South View Mission Hall

South View Mission Hall formerly stood on Wennington Road, a little to the east of the parish church. The hall was registered by Brethren in 1902. As it was later known as Maskell's Chapel, it may have been founded by Jeremiah Maskell, a village shopkeeper between about 18821912. It still existed in 1930-1935, when the members were described as Exclusive Brethren, but had ceased by 1954. No trace of it remained in 2010 but it may have been located close to this site.

Rainham Methodist Church

Rainham Methodist Church is on the south-east corner of Wennington Road and Ellis Avenue. Six nonconformists were enumerated in 1676. They may have been Baptists, as Rainham General Baptist Church existed by 1697. There is no record of the church after 1704. Wesleyan Methodism arrived about 1767 and was revived about 1831. A chapel was opened in the Broadway between 1834-1851 (demolished 1939), and the present buildings opened in 1930 and 1959.

Praise Community Church

Praise Community Church is on the north-eastern side of Cowper Road. The building was erected as the Gospel Hall in 1884 when a small gospel mission was founded here. This may have been Providence Chapel, attributed in the same year to Strict Baptists. In 1888 William Spear, of East Hall, Wennington, set up a small iron hall formerly used by Brethren in West Thurrock, supported by the Vellacotts. The present gospel hall was built later alongside the iron hall.

St Mary & St Peter Wennington Parish Church

St Mary & St Peter Wennington Parish Church lies on the southern side of Wennington Road, opposite Church Lane in Wennington. The first church on this site was Saxon, although its date of construction, probably in the late seventh or eighth centuries, is impossible to pin down. It certainly existed in 1042-1044, when Edward the Confessor confirmed the parish as belonging to Westminster Abbey. The present Norman church replaced it in the thirteenth century.

St Mary & St Peter Wennington Parish Church

The church was built in Kentish ragstone. The chancel, nave, and south aisle were apparently rebuilt in the early thirteenth century. In the early fourteenth century the north aisle was added, and later in the same century the embattled tower was added. Some restoration took place in 1866, which is probably when the north porch was added (seen on the far right of the photo) and remains the main entrance to the church to this day. It is now a Grade II listed building.

Rainham Jewish Cemetery

Rainham Jewish Cemetery occupies a large plot on the southern side of Upminster Road North, reaching all the way east to border Launder's Lane, which lies to the east of Rainham. The Jewish Federation cemetery is administered by the Federation Burial Society, based at 9/11 Greatorex Street, London E1, and the site was dedicated in 1938. It encompasses some nineteen and-a-half hectares (forty-eight acres) of land within its wall and more land outside.

Rainham Cemetery Chapel

Rainham Cemetery Chapel lies within the cemetery itself, which is at the north-eastern corner of Upminster Road North and Allen Road, heading back towards Rainham from the Jewish Cemetery (see above). When the cemetery was consecrated in 1902, Allen Road did not exist, probably being laid down and built up in the 1930s and 1950s. Despite the date of consecration for the site, the first burial here apparently took place in 1871, according to sources.

In Depth
In Depth


Images and text copyright all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.