CHURCHES VISITED AND REVISITED

PART 2 - COLCHESTER, NEWMARKET, THURSTON, ELMSWELL, NORWICH AND ACLE

  

 

MONDAY 26th DECEMBER 2017

 

Holy Trinity 

 

Holy Trinity, Trinity Street, Colchester

 

Holy Trinity is the oldest surviving church building in Colchester. It is on Trinity Street in the town centre. Parts of the church tower are Anglo-Saxon, believed to date from about 1020. The Saxon doorway in the west side of the tower has a triangular head: a feature common in Anglo-Saxon windows but unusual in a doorway. An earlier church building may have existed on the site.

 

The churchyard reportedly includes the graves of William Gilbert, discoverer of electromagnetism and physician to Elizabeth I, and the composer John Wilbye. The Church is now a café and youth venue for arts and music.

 

Christian Scientist, Trinity Street, Colchester

 

Christian Science Sunday church services are for everyone! The hymns, prayer and a Lesson-Sermon read from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures provide spiritual inspiration and a healing atmosphere.

 

Eld Lane Baptist, Eld Lane, Colchester

 

In Eld Lane, built in 1834 on the site of Colchester's first purpose-built Baptist chapel of 1711. The first Baptist church in England was established by Thomas Helwys in 1612 in London. He died in Newgate Prison but the faith spread.

 

There were Baptists in Colchester by 1630. In the Civil War period views of what the Christian faith should be contended within existing churches. With the Restoration in 1660 the Church of England was supreme and those who had other views had to worship underground. The Glorious Revolution of 1689 gave toleration to Dissenters. It was then that Colchester Baptist Church was formed.

In 1690 the Church registered its meeting house in East Stockwell Street, just off the High Street, and its minister, John Hammond. In 1711 the church moved to Eld Lane on part of its present site and called John Rootsey as its minister. Rootsey built up the church and made the first contacts which led to Baptist churches in Ipswich.

In 1832 the site of their premises was increased fourfold and the present church was built on it in 1834. This was largely due to the benefactions of Benjamin Nice, a farmer living in Ardleigh. One of their members at that time, James Paxman asked that his name be removed from the roll due to 'improper conduct'. Thus his son, James Noah Paxman, was brought up in the Church of England. He went on to found the major engineering company that bore his name.

In January 1850 the young Charles Haddon Spurgeon came to a knowledge of Christ in a Sunday morning service in the Primitive Methodist Church in Artillery Street. That evening Spurgeon worshipped at Eld Lane and it is as a Baptist that Spurgeon became the foremost Christian influence in 19th century Britain.

In 1866 with the minister ill but unable to retire Eld Lane looked to Spurgeon, who had just founded the theological college that bears his name, for help. He offered Edward Spurrier as assistant minister and agreed to preach himself twice a year to cover the cost. Spurrier soon had the church in a healthy state. On one of his visits Spurgeon saw the need for a school hall. With a gift and a loan from him the Church was equal to the challenge. In recent years this hall has needed rebuilding but is essentially the hall Spurgeon built.

Spurrier stayed at Eld Lane over 40 years. In that time out-stations were built at Parsons Heath (Wycliffe) and Blackheath (Orchard). Both are now independent churches. One of their ministers in subsequent years, Warwick Bailey, served from 1944 to 1972. He was a Borough Councillor for nine years and was mayor of Colchester in 1949/50. Two further additions have been made to the premises. That in front of the school hall was named after Spurrier and opened in 1923. A wing on the other side was added in 1991. It houses Open Door, founded in 1986 as a welcome to all who want to come on four weekdays.

 

Lion Walk URC, Lion Walk, Colchester

 

In 1648 Sir Charles Lucas, commander of forces loyal to Charles 1st in Colchester, surrendered his sword to Cromwell's army in an inn just off Head Street. At that time the tiny stream which was to become Lion Walk Church had already begun to flow, and some of its first members could well have been besieged with Sir Charles and watched as he was marched down High Street to be shot under the castle walls. For in the minutes of a church in Great Yarmouth dated 1642 is recorded "In the meantime John Ward, being called to Colchester, did there with others gather into church fellowship and there continued".

 

John Ward died in 1644 but the faithful few to whom he ministered worshipped in private houses, with difficulty and often persecuted, until in 1688 William Rawlinson bought land in Moor Lane for a meeting house, the site of the present St. Botolph's Parish Hall in Priory Street. There the church flourished - early in the 18th century the congregation numbered some 600

 

The second chapter begins with the purchase for £75 of part of the garden of the Red Lion Inn and the erection thereon of the Round Meeting House. This was timber-built, a strict octagon, and for 100 years the life of the church revolved around it vigorously. It was enlarged during its lifetime and eventually seated over 700. The congregation were not placid; they dissented to the extent that in 1843 nearly 30 members left and formed Headgate Congregational Church.

 

The period was notable for the ministry of the Revd T.W. Davids who came to Lion Walk at the age of 24 and stayed 33 years. His wife Louisa pioneered Sunday School work in Colchester, to the point where at times 1,000 children attended each Sunday. In 1863 the Round Meeting House was demolished and in its place was erected a Victorian Gothic-style edifice, built of Caen stone at a cost of £6,500. One prominent member left because of the design - a "steeple house" pointing to Rome. In fact large parts of the steeple fell before the end of the century once in a violent storm and once in, of all things, an earthquake.

 

The church rode these calamities and was led through the first half of the 20th Century by a succession of popular ministers. By 1940 however, the Caen stone had begun to deteriorate. By 1972 - the year in which Lion Walk became part of the newly-created United Reformed Church.

 

The painful decision to demolish and rebuild had to be made; it was agreed that Lion Walk must remain a town-centre church. Planning permission for development of the site was made conditional upon the tower and steeple remaining. It has been underpinned and renovated so that more than ever before it lifts the eyes and heart skywards. 

 

 

In Lion Walk, this Gothic Revival church was designed in a Geometrical Decorated Gothic style and built in 1863 for a Congregational community that had been said to have met in Colchester since the 17th century.

 

The 1884 Colchester earthquake damaged its steeple. The church became part of the new United Reformed Church in 1972.

 

St Botolph’s Priory, Priory Street, Colchester

 

The Augustinian priory of St Botolph's, generally called "St Botolph's Priory", was also established in the 11th century. This adopted the Augustinian Order in around 1200 and became the mother church of the order in Britain. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the priory church of St Botolph's became the parish church. It was also used by the Corporation on civic occasions until the English Civil War. In 1650 the church was described as burnt and ruined after the Siege of Colchester, and it has been left in ruins. Until the construction of a new church in 1837, parishioners attended All Saints church instead, although burials continued in the churchyard.

 

Colchester Islamic, Priory Street, Colchester

 

The Islamic centre is found between the houses opposite the car parks at the St Botoloph’s Street end of Priory Street.

 

Colchester Spiritual, Fennings Close, Priory Street, Colchester

 

In an alley off Priory Street in Fennings Close and down the slope is first the Spiritual then the Jewish Centres.    

  

Colchester Jewish, Fennings Close, Priory Street, Colchester

(1939-43) "Several families evacuated to the Colchester area during the Second World War joined with local families and Jewish service personnel to hold services."  (1943 & 1944) "Communal sederim held locally with service personnel from the Commonwealth and the United States." (1945-47) "Jewish National Servicemen held Friday evening services on Garrison premises." (1950s & 1960s) "Regular services begin and the Community forms - strengthened by several new families moving into the area." (1969) "The synagogue built on land purchased from the Spiritualist Church." "From this point the focal point provided by having their own synagogue premises, aided by the reinforcement of the Community by staff and students from Essex University, re-established the Community."

 

Sisters of Mercy Covent, Priory Street, Colchester

 

This was not on my original list but further down the road was the nun’s convent, which was also a customer on my dad’s round at the Old Heath Laundry. I am fairly certain that this is the same building, which seems now to be an educational site.

 

Cardinal Bourne Hall, Priory Street, Colchester

 

This is the Roman Catholic church hall and club room designed by Scoles & Raymond in 1911.  It is a red brick gabled front with Neo-Norman doorway and window. This was extended in 1913 and form a group with the church of St James the Less and presbytery. The wall and gate on the south side.

 

St James the Less, Priory Street, Colchester

 

This Roman Catholic Church of St James the Less and St Helen in Priory Street was designed by JJ Scoles, built in 1837 and enlarged in 1909–10. It is a Norman revival building with an apsidal chancel.

 

St James the Great, East Hill, Colchester

 

St James the Great is a Church of England church on East Hill in Colchester. The oldest part of the church is Norman dating from the 12th century. The nave, tower, and two aisles were built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The chancel and the Chapels of Our Lady and Saint Peter and Saint Paul were added around 1500. The radical priest John Ball, a leader of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 preached at the church. Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of England series describes St James’ as being the best Perpendicular work in Colchester. Architectural evidence shows that the church was founded by the 12th century or earlier. From 1328 or earlier until the Dissolution St Botolph’s priory was patron, presenting regularly except on two occasions in 1469 when Coggeshall abbey presented. The living was poor, but not the poorest Colchester living and vacancies were usually filled. One of the Rectors in 1406 was accused of keeping a concubine and Edmund Coningsburgh, Rector for under a year in 1470, was employed by Edward IV as an envoy to the pope in 1471 and became archbishop of Armagh in 1477.

 

The living was vacant from 1554 or earlier until 1586. In 1575 as many as 11 people were fined for repeated absence from church. Robert Holmes, Rector 1586-92, was accused in 1585 of ‘slack administration’ of the communion, and in 1588 he described the wearing of the surplice as superstitious. In 1595 Thomas Farrar, Rector 1591-1610, was accused of serving two cures in the same day; in 1616 his successor Samuel Crick was non-resident and his curate unlicensed.

William Shelton, Rector 1670-99 was a staunch defender of the Church of England, and opposed papists, Quakers, and other dissenters. In 1723 there were two Sunday services and monthly communion. By 1738, services at St James’ had been reduced to one on most Sundays. John Milton, Rector 1743-67, held only one Sunday service in 1747 when he also served Lexden.

By 1766 Milton, then also vicar of Fingringhoe, was in poor health and employed one curate to perform the Sunday service and another to say prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays; monthly communion was administered to 60-70 communicants.

In 1810 the resident Rector John Dakins provided an evening lecture as well as one full service on Sundays, and communion eight times a year for 50-60 communicants, a number little changed since 1778. By 1815, he increased the Sunday services at St James’s to two. In 1841 three quarters of the population of 1,439 were said to belong to the church, but on Census Sunday 1851, out of a population of 1,845, only 270 in the morning and 370 in the afternoon, including 70 Sunday school children on each occasion, attended church. By 1902 there were four Sunday services and two each weekday at St. James’s, reflecting the Catholic Churchmanship of Fr CC Naters, Rector 1895-1918, who introduced incense, vestments, processions, lights, and holy pictures, into the church. When in 1914, without a faculty, he erected a rood loft and screen, and an altar in the south chapel which obscured the monument to the philanthropist Arthur Winsley, a case was brought against him in the consistory court.

Fr Naters was ordered to remove the rood loft and some of the candlesticks and pictures. When a further judgment compelled him to replace the altar with a small Jacobean table to reveal Winsley’s monument, he then complied, but with solemn ceremonial and a defiant sermon against state interference in religion.

The Catholic tradition has been maintained by Fr Naters’s successors and today the church continues to be a focus for catholic faith and worship in Colchester. The church of St James, the largest in Colchester, stands in a commanding position just inside the former east gate at the top of East Hill. It is built of rubble with ashlar dressings, and comprises an aisled chancel with north-east vestry, aisled and clerestoried nave with north porch, and west tower.

The Roman brick north western quoins of an unaisled nave survive and the later medieval development suggests that in the 12th century the church may have been cruciform. The lower stages of the tower are late 12th or early 13th century, and the upper stage is 14th century. The presumed transepts were extended as aisles c. 1300 when the two eastern bays of the arcades were built. Money for a new aisle was being collected in 1403. The church underwent a major reconstruction in the late 15th century; new work was done on the chancel in 1464 and in 1490 money for the enlargement and enrichment of the church was raised by an entertainment in the street outside the church. The two western bays of the arcades were built and the arches of the eastern bays were reshaped to match them.

The aisles were extended and the older parts improved. The chancel and its chapels and vestry were built or rebuilt, as was the chancel arch and the matching arches between the chapels and the nave aisles. The tower was remodeled and given diagonal buttresses. The tower was said to be decayed in 1633. The church was in reasonably good order in 1835 except for the north wall, but by 1870, it was so dilapidated that the services were no longer being held there. Restoration work was carried out in 1871-2 under Fr SS Teulon. The north porch and tower arch were rebuilt, and all the roofs were renewed except for those of the chancel aisles.

A new organ was installed in the north chapel in 1890, and screens to designs by TG Jackson were erected in the south chapel in 1899-1900. In 1951 the 19th century choir stalls were removed from the chancel and the floor was lowered. In 1954 the north chapel was restored, and the existing organ removed and replaced by the organ from St Nicholas’ Church. The organ console was moved to the west end of the church in the 1970s. Two brasses of the late 16th century to Alice and John Maynard survive. A large marble statue of Arthur Winsley was erected in 1738 at the east end of the Lady Chapel. It was moved to the west end of the north aisle in 1923 when the south chapel was restored. A painting, the Adoration of the Shepherds, presented by the painter George Carter in 1778 as an altar piece, hangs above the north door of the nave. A painting of the Last Supper by Sir William Archer of 1855 is located in the Sanctuary to the left of the High Altar.

St Botolph’s, St Botolph’s Street, Colchester

 

The current church building was dedicated in 1837, It is built in the style of the old Norman building, with semicircular arches and Norman ornamentation and was designed by William Mason of Ipswich. The Church was nearly destroyed by fire in the 1943 air raids. It had its own team of fire watchers which dealt with several incendiary bombs. - This church has featured quite a lot in my life. My mum attended church there. It was also the place where mum and dad were married on 2nd January 1943 and also where I was confirmed on 10th June 1965. Later years saw myself meet up with mum and dad on 2nd January 1993, I think, for their 50th wedding anniversary, I tried to go inside with them, but the building was locked, so it had to be a photo taken outside, then it was off to BHS for a “large” breakfast. I also believe one of my former Grammar School teachers, Colin Nicholson, who is the organist. His brother, Allan, use to be a client of mine, and ran the nursery in Priory Street, and the housing development now there, bears his name. Many a visit to his premises, saw me return home with flowers. In fact just prior to him retiring, I had been off work, and my parents took me there in the car, and the boot and the back of the car, were full of flowers and pot plants. 

 

St Giles, St John’s Green, Colchester

(Church now Masonic Centre and Church Hall)

 

Originally built on part of St John's Abbey cemetery around AD 1150, contains work from every century since. It was declared redundant in 1956 and then used as a St. John Ambulance depot until 1975 when it was converted into masonic centre. The centre exists to serve the Masonic community of Colchester.

 

Abbey Gate, St John’s Green, Colchester

 

The Benedictine abbey of St John the Baptist, generally known as "St John's Abbey," founded in 1096, had a late 11th-century church until the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the execution of its abbot in 1539. Now all that remains is the gatehouse on St John's Green, which dates from the 15th century, and the small church with a wooden tower (St Leonard's) which was built for the layworkers on the site.

 

Strict Baptist Church, Stanwell Street, Colchester

 

Formerly in Stanwell Street, demolished in 1971 to make way for Colchester's Inner Ring Road. The chapel was built in 1811 or 1812 for a new congregation, some of whom had seceded from the Baptists in Eld Lane. Colchester Elim Pentecostal Church used the chapel 1957–71.

 

Abbeyfield Community Church, Abbeygate Street, Colchester

 

Abbeyfield Community Church began in 1880 when 4 men met together to pray for their neighbourhood around Vineyard Street in Colchester.

 

The room they met in, soon became too small, l and so a room was hired over the theatre Royal in Queens Street and the group that met there was known as “The Gospel Band.” Music being a significant focus. As this group then grew, it became apparent that a permanent meeting place was needed. Land was bought in Abbeygate Street and became the site for a mission hall. This building which we still occupy was opened in 1902 and officially registered as a place of worship in 1912. Eight years later a Sunday school was started and numbers grew to 50. Church life continued knowing particular times of God’s favour as well as times of little growth and discouragement. In 1966 the step was taken to change the name of the church to Colchester Evangelical Church and to become affiliated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Other changes then took place. The former superintendent became the Pastor followed by the purchase of a manse and building alterations including the putting in of a baptistry. In 1987 the first full time minister was appointed. The church is also affiliated to the Evangelical Alliance. Pastor Graham became the Minister in 1992 leaving to pastor Bethesda Baptist church in Ipswich from 1998 to February 2003 when he felt it was right to return to this church. In 2006 the name of the church was changed again, this time to Abbeyfield Community Church. God has given them a love for the Abbeyfield and the people that make up this growing community.

 

We believe this is where God wants us to live and serve him. With this in mind a new manse was purchased on the Churchill gate part of the Abbeyfield development and they are looking to see a Church and community building established there soon.

 

DNA Network, Whitewell Road, Colchester

DNA Networks is a church planting initiative, which began in 2001. From an Alpha course with students at Colchester Sixth Form College and ministry with international students at Essex University, DNA has developed into a vibrant community of faith. Beginning in Colchester, DNA Networks emerged when Janie and David Beales returned from Australia to live in England. Having been granted a Licence by the Bishop of Chelmsford, they prayer-walked the walls of Colchester virtually every weekday in the year 2000.

 
 
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