History of Christ Church
Warley was a busy place in the 1850s; the barracks were well established on the site of what is now Ford’s head office
and the Keys estate; the railway had recently arrived, as had Warley Hospital, and a school had been built. Christ Church was built in 1853 at the instigation of the Rector of Great Warley (Dr. Robinson) as a district church, to serve the growing population at the North end of his his parish. There were some boundary adjustments in 1955 and again in 1965, and the present parish is bounded by the railway line, Mascalls Lane/Dark Lane/Green Lane, Fords and the King George V playing Fields. A parishioner formerly living in Crescent Road had title deeds showing that the land had formerly been part of the glebe land of South Weald parish.
Christ Church was designed by the architect Samuel Teulon (who also designed part of Warley Hospital) and was built
by John Hammond at an estimated cost of £4,200 on land donated by the East India Company (the owners of Warley Barracks) and it was consecrated on 29th March 1855. The original church building consisted of the nave (where the congregation sits) and tower, with a recess at the Eastern end, and a wooden gallery at the Western end (reached via a door from the tower staircase). The vestry was in what is now the organ loft, and the organ was, it is thought, at the Western end above the gallery. The pulpit was close to its present position, and there were even seats underneath the tower. Look for the foundation stone of this original building (just visible in what is now the Vicar’s vestry). There was also a vicarage on the Southern side; the building still stands as a private house but the vicar’s residence was moved to Mount Crescent in the 1970s.
The South aisle was added in 1877 (look for the joins in the original nave pews where they were lengthened and the notice boards in the Vicar’s vestry recording grants towards this addition on condition that a certain number of places were set apart as free for the poor of the parish) and the pulpit was moved to a more central position.
The chancel (where the clergy sit) and present Vicar’s vestry were added in 1891 (and the West door added at about the same time); look for the kink in the boundary at the back of the church, where the East India Company gave additional land to accommodate this new chancel, the gate which gave the soldiers access to the church from their parade ground and the reference to the building of the chancel in one of the memorials that hang on the Southern chancel wall. The stone reredos in this “new” chancel came from the original chapel in Warley Hospital (later the canteen) – see if you can see where the base has been built up to accommodate the step in the floor. The oak chancel screen was installed (across the chancel arch) in 1924.
An estimate for the installation of electric lighting was obtained in 1926 from the Brentwood and District Electric
Company Ltd of King’s Road, Brentwood, in the sum of £150 15s 0d but the faculty authorising its installation was not issued until 1930; Try to spot the remains of the pipes for the original gas lighting in the roof.
The gallery succumbed to woodworm in 1956; look for the door (which now appears as an internal window high up in the Western wall of the church), and the stone ledges that supported the gallery on the same wall either side of the tower.
The organ was replaced by the present Rothwell organ in 1916 at a cost of £527 (the original organ was sold to Great Cornard church, near Sudbury, for £50). The “new” organ was rebuilt in 1971 when the present console was added.
Internal re-ordering of the Church took place in 1990. This re-ordering consisted of removing the choir stalls in the Chancel and the front few rows of pews (see if you can work out how many from the gap in the numbers on the pew ends), moving the wooden screen back from the Chancel arch to its present position, extending the chancel floor level into the nave to form a dais, installing the present glass and light oak screen across the tower area and the matching doors for the main entrance, moving the pulpit back to the Northern side of the nave (close to its original position), and carpeting the church. Around this time the pews were also restored over a period of several years by a group of volunteers drawn from the congregation.
In 2006 a new audio-visual system was installed, and further pews were removed from the back of the nave to create an open meeting area, complete with tea and coffee making facilities.
The Christ Church Building Trust has been established as a separate charity to raise funds for future restoration and possible expansion. Perhaps we will grow so much that we will need to re-instate the gallery!
Do wander round the church and look at the memorials. The Vicar’s vestry has several interesting pictures (including
the picture of the church as first built mentioned previously) and photographs of 7 of the 11 previous vicars; there are memorials in the chancel and South aisle, and various plaques in different parts of the church. Admire the stained glass “Earthy window” at the front of the South aisle, as well as the one at the end of the chancel. As you go round, give thanks for the foresight and generosity of Dr. Robinson who began the church, and for all the people who have extended and modernised it over the years; to all these people, as to us, it has been a house of prayer; we hope that it will be for you as well.