Deptford has a rich history. The Czar of Russia learnt ship building in the Royal Dock and John Evelyn stayed in Sayes Court and his garden led to the establishment of the National Trust.
St Paul’s Church has a well chronicled history but the older St Nicholas’ Church is closer to the River Thames and may have been the local church for Christopher Marlowe, John Evelyn and the young man that became Peter the Great.
But have you heard of Christ Church in Deptford? This was another Church of England Church and parish. A huge building as the demand for pews soared in the late nineteenth century.
A contemporary account of the consecration conducted by the Bishop of London on the 27th December, 1864 explains that the new church replaced a temporary structure that had been used by the Rev John Polkinghorne Courtenay and the London Diocesan Home Mission. The site cost £7,000 – quite a sum then – that had been used as a saw mill and a kamptulicon floorcloth factory.
Local people and wealthy supporters sponsored the stained glass windows and these included Lady Anstruther, the widow of Sir Ralph Anstruther. He had supported the work of the mission and visited Deptford regularly. The church was gaslit – there was a local gasworks nearby.
Photograph courtesy National Portrait Gallery.
In the “The History of Deptford” by Nathan Dews, published in 1884, it says:
“The reredos is a stone representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous picture of the last supper. The pulpit and reading desk are also of stone richly carved.”
“Attached to the church is a commodious iron School Room in Reginald Road, where much parochial work of a practical character is being carried on, including Provident Sick Clubs with 800 members; Mothers’ Meetings; Blanket Club; Maternity Society; Parochial library and a Provident Dispensary.”
The curate Rev Robert Pratt, MA succeeded the first vicar, Rev J P Courtenay who died on 1st December 1882. However, in her History of Everyday Deptford, Jess Steele describes the Rev Pratt of Christ Church’s failure “that was so complete that his main funding had been withdrawn on the grounds that no one came to church. The Sunday School attracted around 200 children but Pratt commented that “the Ragged School gets the cream of them”.”
The Deptford Ragged & Industrial School is shown on the map at the corner of Giffin Street and Cross Street.
The saw mill was near the tide mill hence the name Tidemill for the school.
Christ Church is clearly shown on maps dating from 1900 opposite the ‘Addey’s School’ on Deptford Church Street and the Mission Hall is accessed from Reginald Road. It must have been a sizeable structure as it has ‘seats for 400’.
The maps of the 1930s clearly show the site of Christ Church off Deptford Church Street and the road layout has altered with Regent Street and Stanhope Street demolished. The site of the mission hall is between Hales Street and Reginald Road.
Even today, the site of Christ Church can be pin pointed to where the ‘pink palace’ is today.
The mission hall would be off Reginald Road as before. The parcels of land remain delineated on the 2022 google map.
Christ Church was demolished in 1937 after bomb damage presumably in the first world war. Documents show that there was a Zeppelin raid over Deptford near the docks about Midnight on 24-25th August 1916.
Also, there is a war memorial in Brockley cemetery that was paid for by the public – ‘By The Citizens of Deptford in Memory of 17 Residents Named Here Who Were Killed by Bombs From German Zeppelins During Raids on The Nights of September 7th 1915 And August 24th 1916.’
The parish of Christ Church was then merged with St Nicholas Church in 1936 to form the parish of St Nicholas with Christ Church.
Some of the land was sold by the Church Commissioners for the provision of public housing.