History of High Beach Church, Part 2

New Church 1873

We now meet Thomas Charles Baring MA, a director of Messrs Baring Brothers’ Bank in the City, who had recently moved into Wallsgrove House.  He soon became a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant, and Member of Parliament for South Essex.  He took a very keen interest in parish affairs, and at the Vestry meeting in 1870, when Mr Hyde was again appointed Vicar’s Warden, Mr Baring was elected Parish Warden.


Mr Norton wrote: “I was making efforts to obtain promises of aid in building the new church when Mr Baring generously offered to built it at his own expense if he might built it on his own plan”.  The Vicar accepted the offer, and a London Architect, A W Blomfield (a son of the Bishop who had consecrated St Paul’s in 1836) was commissioned to submit plans.  Bomfield, later Sir Arthur, now in mid-career as a fashionable architect (not only of churches), could, according to John Betjeman, “turn out an impressive church in almost any style”.  At this particular time he favoured the Early English Gothic with the soaring broach spire of the 13th century stone churches of the East Midlands, and Mr Baring accepted his design. The new church was completed in 1873, at a cost of £5,500.00;  it was described in a guide book of 1876 as “an elegant little church – from many spots amidst the old forest trees, the church peeps out prettily, and its spire is a landmark for miles around”.


The church was opened without ceremony on Sunday the 22nd June, licensed by the Bishop for Sunday services and baptisms;  marriages still had to be performed at St Paul’s, the parish church, and for the time being, the new church was not consecrated, owing to unexpected legal complications.


The site had been given by Charles William Hamilton Sotheby, Lord of the Manor, who “released” the land in 1869 from the Forest as his father had done for St Paul’s and the school.  About an acre in size, it was enough to allow for a churchyard, and it was hoped the High Beach burials would no longer have to be at Waltham Abbey.


School Duties 1873

The school continued to occupy a good deal of the Vicar’s time.  As well as being responsible for the religious education, he had to check the registers, keep detailed accounts and have them audited, collect the local subscriptions and the “school pence” (2d or 3d a week according to age (1p)), pay the bills and wages, which were sometimes delayed when cash ran short, deal with an increasing amount of correspondence with both National Society and Education Department, and interview and appoint teachers.


He had to decided to employ no more school-mistresses, and advertised in “The Schoolmaster” periodical for a certificated master.  Mr Brown came, and stayed for a year, followed by Mr Warren for two and a half years, Mr Beck for seven months and Mr Bray for 15 months, each in turn leaving to improve his prospects in a larger school.


The annum inspections began again.  From 1873, the inspector was Matthew Arnold, son of the famous Dr Arnold of Rugby School, and himself a leading poet and literary critic.  He praised the masters’ efforts and the improvement in the children’s work, but condemned the school building as damp, out-of-date and over-crowded.  “I regret” he added, “that money has been spent enlarging the room as a wiser policy would have been to build an efficient school”.


On his last visit in 1878, when sixty-nine children attended, Arnold wrote:  “The present master has been here only since April.  He cannot fairly be judged until he has had the school longer under his care”.  Arnold was known for being “unfailingly kind and charming” in the performance of his often unwelcome duties.


The new master, whom Arnold would not judge too hastily, was John Titt, aged twenty-four and newly arrived from Abbotts Ann, a small village near Andover, where he had been pupil-teacher and then “acting-teacher”;  by studying in his spare time, he  had qualified by examination in 1877 as a certified schoolmaster.  This time the Vicar had advertised for a master who could play the organ and train a choir, and Mr Titt had all the qualifications.  Mr Baring ordered an organ from Henry Willis, already a well-known London organ builder, who visited High Beach to supervise the installation.  It cost Mr Baring about £750.00.


New School 1882

In 1879, Her Majesty’s Inspector praised Mr Titt’s work, but threatened to stop the grant if “this most squalid school” was not rebuilt.  His final warning in 1881 faced the Vicar with the prospect of either finding the money for a new building – or losing the school.


The 1870 Education Act had set up local school boards with powers to “fill the gaps” with “board schools” where there were no National or British schools, and also to take over inefficient voluntary schools.  A school with its building condemned and its grant withdrawn was certainly “inefficient”.  Once again, however, Mr Baring came to the rescue, and built and furnished a fine new school in Mott Street at his own cost. “Otherwise,” Mr Norton wrote later, “I should have been compelled to transfer the High Beech National School to the Waltham Abbey School Board”.


The new school opened on the 5th June 1882 with ninety-three children on roll, elementary education between the ages of five and thirteen now being compulsory.  The Inspector on his next visit commended the “good arrangement and convenience of the new school” – and the grant was paid.  George Hunt, the Parish Clerk, bought the old desks for £2.00, and the old school was pulled down and sold for £9.00.  The site became the Vicarage kitchen garden.


Mr Titt’s teaching staff in 1878 had consisted of two monitors, Susan Guttridge and Henry Riding– both aged fourteen and former pupils – the latter soon becoming pupil-teacher articled for four years. Monitors earned £8.00 a year and Pupil-Teacher £10.00 rising to £20.00.  The master’s salary was £60.00 a year plus a half-share of the annual grant – an extra £20.00 or so if the exam results were good.


At the end of his apprenticeship, Henry riding was examined by the Inspector and “passed well”.  He was recognised as “acting teacher” and took a post as assistant master (£40.00 a year) at the Loughton National School.  About the same time, a cryptic note in the Log Book says:  “S Guttridge left school (married)”.


The Epping Forest Act 1878

Several years before the new church was built, local protest and public interest led to enquiries about recent enclosures of common land in the Forest, reducing it from over 7,000 acres in 1851 to less than 3,000 in 1871, when the Corporation of the City of London began to collect evidence of enclosures made by lords of manors (including Mr Sotheby) and others, in preparation for a Chancery lawsuit.


In 1874, the Master of the Rolls ruled that enclosures made before 1851 were allowed, as well as those made up to 1871 and by that date built on, but all others were to be returned to the Forest.  This made Mr Sotheby’s enclosure of 1869 illegal, and it seemed at first that the church would have to be removed.


Four years later, however, the Epping Forest Act, empowering the Corporation to assume ownership and management of the Forest, made a special exception in favour of the church, and allowed both enclosure and building to remain.  Mr Sotheby had inherited a family property in Northamptonshire, and left High Beach after selling the Sewardstone manorial properties and rights to Mr Baring, who was appointed one of the Verderers under the Act.  On the 27th June 1879, Mr Baring signed the deed which conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the “parcel of land” together with “the unconsecrated building known as St Paul’s, High Beech”.


Then the Commissioners told the Vicar that the 1837 licence for services in St Paul’s was no longer valid and that the action taken in 1856 to make High Beach a New Parish had been incomplete, as an important part of the Act had not been complied with.  This concerned fees taken at a district church, which belonged by right to the minister of the original parish out of which the district had been formed, and he must relinquish that right.  The Revd. James Francis, who had succeeded Mr Whalley as Incumbent of Waltham Abbey in 1846 as Incumbent of Waltham Abbey in 1846, stated, when asked by Mr Norton, that he had never “recognised or exercised” his right to the High Beach fees.


In August 1880, Mr Norton received a new licence from the Commissioners, by which as “Incumbent of the Church of St Paul, High Beech”, he could perform the services, including marriages “in the said church”.  The old church had rarely been used since 1873, and the new church had by now come to be known as “St Paul’s”.


Other notable events at this time were the arrival at the Manor House of His Honour Judge J T Abdy LI.D., the Waltham Abbey County Court Judge, and the Queen’s visit to High Beach, when she drove in procession from Chingford by the recently-made Ranger’s Road to the “gorgeous pavilion” set up in front of the King’s Oak, to dedicate the Forest to “the use and enjoyment of her people for all time”.


Consecration 1883

The Vicar then prepared and submitted to the Bishop of St Albans (in which diocese Essex had been since 1877) a Petition for Consecration “of the unconsecrated building known as St Paul’s, to be in substitution for the existing church”.  The document was agreed by the legal experts, engrossed on parchment, and signed by the Vicar, the churchwardens, Messrs John Hyde and T C Baring (the former aged eighty-three and warden since 1855) and nine other residents, Robert Edwards JP of Beech Hill Park, Judge Abdy, A J Arrowsmith of Arabin House, George Hunt the Parish Clerk and his brother Charles, Morris King of Beaulieu, Charles Cranville, Edward Kirby, and John Titt, chosen as being “principal inhabitants”.


The long awaited Consecration Day was Saturday the 18th August 1883, when the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Revd. Thomas Legh Claughton, accompanied by the Archdeacon of Essex, the Vicar and “others of the Clergy” and the churchwardens, Messrs Hyde and Baring, were met at the church door by the Diocesan Registrar.


They entered the church, and Mr Norton presented the Petition to the Bishop, who passed it to the Registrar to read aloud to the large congregation assembled.  The Bishop announced his readiness to consecrate the church and churchyard, and the procession moved up to the chancel “repeating the 24th Psalm in alternate verses”.  Standing at the north end of the altar, the Bishop laid on it the Deed of Conveyance of the site, and recited several prayers before “placing himself in his chair”.


Then the Registrar read out the Bishop’s Sentence of Consecration, which may well have surprised many of the people present, as it began by referring to the site as having been acquired for a church “intended to be called St Paul’s, High Beech”, and finished with the dedication of the church “by the name of the Church of the Holy Innocents” (commemorating the Baring’s two young sons who had died in the United States of America).  The service continued with Evening Prayer – Psalms 84, 122 and 132, followed by a Lesson (1 Chronicles chapter 29 verses 1-17), Magnificat, Creed, and prayers led by the Bishop.  Next came a hymn, for which Mr Titt presided at the organ, and then the Archdeacon preached on the ext of 1 Kings Chapter 8 verse 13.


The Bishop read more prayers, after which he left the church, followed by the Registrar, clergy, churchwardens, and congregation, and they all processed round the churchyard, which fortunately had been cleared of its forest undergrowth and levelled, repeating in alternate verses Psalms 49 and 88.  After prayers of consecration of the burial ground, the Bishop pronounced the final blessing.  A contemporary writer recorded Bishop Claughton’s “courtly bearing and his fine and sympathetic voice – one of the last of the old ‘prince-bishops’”.


Parish Church 1884

Two days after the Consecration, the Vicar applied to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the Church to be made a parish church.  They replied that the New Parish must first be legalised, and for this they needed to see the document by which the Vicar of Waltham Abbey surrendered his right to the High Beach fees.


Mr Norton had written again to Mr Francis, who had replied on the 10th August: “Some time ago, I had a note from you asking me to say that I had resigned my claim to marriage fees.  My reply was to the effect that if I had a claim, it had never been recognised or exercised, and therefore I could not well say that I had resigned it; no occasion for that recognition ever had been put before me.  Now hearing again from you, I have come to the conclusion that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners must mean to ask whether I will resign all future claims.  this I am quite ready to do, if by so doing I can assist you to gain your end.  But is it that the Church has come to such a pass that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have power to license a building for marriages?”


On the 13th September 1883, Mr Francis signed and sealed his Surrender of the fees “arising within the limits of the Particular District of St Paul’s High Beech” and Mr Norton paid the Solicitor’s charges:


“The Revd J Norton, Dr to Messrs Jessopp and Gough, Solicitors of Waltham Abbey.  Engrossing Surrender of fees, 4s 8d (23p);  Attending Mr Francis on his executing same, 6s 8d;  Parchment, 1s 6d.”


When the Commissioners received the Surrender, they at last agreed to accept High Beach as a Parish under the provisions of the New Parishes Act of 1856, and could now deal with the Vicar’s application, which he had sent on the 24th August, for “the new church” to be substituted for “the old parochial church”.  Among the information he had to give were the details of the benefice income:

“From Commissioners £100.00, Endowment £34.00, Queen Anne’s Bounty £36.00, Pew Rents £35.00, total £205.00”.

He received no Surplice fees in 1883 – there had in fact been no weddings since 1877, and no burials yet in the new churchyard.  The annual £10.00 pledged by Sir William Wake in 1836, and now given by his great-grandson, Sir Herewald, had come to be regarded as an Easter Offering, and not counted as part of the income of the living.


The London Gazette of the 12th February 1884 published an “instrument” signed and sealed by the Commissioners, the Bishop and the Vicar on the 24th January, which substituted “the New Church of the Holy Innocents in the New Parish of High Beech for the Old Church of Saint Paul in the same Parish”, declaring the “the New Church shall henceforth be the Parish Church of the same New Parish” and that all endowments, rights and emoluments were transferred to the New Church and to the Vicar and his successors for ever”.


Since 1873, St Paul’s had hardly been used.  The last baptism there, in March 1873, was the 400th in the Register, and the last marriage, in 1877, the seventy-third.  there were no more weddings until the first in the new church on the 23rd February 1884.  The first burial in the new churchyard on the 13th February 1884, was of Katharine Dellar aged two years, whom the Vicar had christened “Catherine” in 1882, daughter of Charles Dellar, labourer of High Beach, and his wife, Mary Ann.


In June 1885, the Bishop granted Mr Baring a faculty for “one pew at the west end of the Northern transept” and “a burial placed thirty feet square at the North Eastern corner of the churchyard” to be assigned to him “and his heirs and assigns for his and their use for ever”.  The Vault was already in use, as the coffin of Mr Baring’s father, the late Bishop of Durham, was placed there in the previous October, and that of the Bishop’s widow in May;  they are commemorated by the large brass tablet on the north wall of the chancel.  (The vault is still used for family interments, the last in July 1985).


Mr Baring’s final benefaction to the parish was in 1890, when he provided new almshouses in Mott Street to replace the ancient ones in Lippitts Lane End.


St Paul’s demolished 1885

In March 1885, the Vicar met the Bishop at Chigwell and told him about the condition of the old church.  “Last year, parties from London broke open the door, and not only did much damage inside but behaved very disgracefully.  I tried every means to keep them out, but in vain.  They tore down notices and broke locks and bars”.  The Bishop advised him toe “get the building removed as quickly as possible, and to put an end to the scandal caused by the desecration”.


So Mr Norton and the churchwardens, Messrs Baring and Morris King (Mr Hyde had retired at the age of eighty-six)  applied for a faculty to “take down” the old church  on the grounds that St Paul’s was very dilapidated, and fast being destroyed by “excursionists”, that the churchyard was not consecrated, so there were no graves or monuments, and that it was proposed to sell the bricks, pews and fittings and put the proceeds towards the erection of a new vicarage.


A faculty to remove the old church was granted on the 2nd May, and after it was “pulled down”, the materials were sold for £30.00.  No trace of the building remained above ground and, except for the registers, books and documents preserved in the iron register chest, nothing has survived from St Paul’s Church.


The position of the church can be located on the way up from Lippitts Hill just past the ditch which runs down from the pond by Fairmead Cottage and under the roadway, where Church Road (Church Street as it was called at that time), bends to the left uphill, where the trees on level ground on the edge of the forest are of more recent growth than the others nearby.


The site remained fenced and unused until 1913 when it was conveyed to the Conservators of the Forest for a payment of £50.00 – not a purchase price but a gift to the parish.  The money was invested and not used until 1952, when it helped to pay for the blue chancel carpet in the present church.  The old school site adjoining the north side of the Dairy Farm was used as a kitchen garden for the Vicarage until 1920, and then let at 10/- (50p) a year to various villagers until 1930 when it too was returned to the Forest.


Plans for new Vicarage 1891

Apart from having become a “Cockney Paradise” at summer weekends and holidays, High Beach had seen little change in the past fifty years.  The state of the roads can be judged from the warning in a handbook of 1887 that “the hill leading from the church towards Waltham Abbey is very steep and unrideable for cyclists”.


John Hyde of Honey Lane Green Farm and George Hunt, the parish clerk, both died in 1886 (their grave-stones can be seen from the road, side by side at the north-west corner of the churchyard), Mr C W H Sotheby in 1887 and the Revd. T H Sotheby, one of the 1838 trustees of St Paul’s, in 1888.


In January 1891, the Vicar wrote to the Ven. H. F. Johnson, the Archdeacon of Essex:

“We think that the time has come when we ought to make a strenuous effort to obtain a new vicarage.  I met the Bishop of St Albans at Sir T F Buxton’s and consulted with him as Patron of the Parish.  He suggested that as you saw the house,  I should write to ask you to kindly make some report to him as to the unfitness of the house to be a residence for the Vicar of the Parish.  Then he will give his sanction to our efforts to raise funds for building a new vicarage.  I have spent annually a sum amounting to a rent to patch up the old house, but it is now beyond repairing”.


The Archdeacon replied:

“I have a very distinct recollection of the size and condition of your vicarage, and its absolute unsuitableness for its purpose.  The only wonder is that you have borne with its discomfort for so long.  I am very glad it is proposed to obtain a new vicarage. I consider it quite necessary.  I shall be very glad to promote the undertaking in any way in my power.  I am well acquainted with the circumstances of the case, and am ready to report to his Lordship that the Vicarage is quite unfit for its purpose”.


An architect’s report at this time stated:

“I hereby certify that I have examined the two weather-boarded cottages which have been used as a parsonage, and am of the opinion that they are so old that the materials are completely valueless, and will not realise the cost of pulling down and carting away old materials, and making good the site”.


The Vestry meeting on Easter Tuesday, the 31st March 1891, assembled only to learn that Mr Baring was ill, and adjourned after passing a vote of sympathy.  Mr Baring died on the 2nd April and the Vestry met again to express “great regret for the loss which the Parish has sustained by the death of the late T C Baring Esq. MP, and deep sympathy with Mrs Baring and her family”.  The Vicar then appointed Mr A J Edwards JP, of Beech Hill Park as Vicar’s Warden, and His Honour Judge Abdy was elected as Parish Warden.  Edward Kirby, parish clerk since 1886, was re-appointed (to be succeeded in 1892 by Ernest James Hunt, who continued until 1933).


In September 1892, the architect sent the plans of a new vicarage at an estimated cost of £1846.00.  Mrs Baring promised £1,100.00 and Mr Edwards gave £200.00, followed by Mr Arrowsmith of Arabin House, Mr J W Melles of Sewardstone and Mrs Devoy of Beaulieu, with £100.00 each.


Unfortunately the proposed site near the Wallsgrove boundary was unacceptable to the Barings, and Mrs Baring was persuaded to withdraw her support.  A few smaller donations came in from local people – Mr Kennedy of Arabin Cottage, Mr Horncastle of Rosemead, the Revd J W Maitland (Rector of Loughton), “H” (probably Horace Norton) and others;  Queen Anne’s Bounty promised to help but at least £1,000.00 more would be needed.


The Model Vicarage 1894

By the end of 1892, the money already received towards a new vicarage was increased by a grant of £400.00 from Queen Anne’s Bounty, and the Vicar now set out to raise £1,000.00.


He had circulars and collecting cards printed, and with the help of Mrs Norton and the family, persuasive letters were written to likely subscribers far and wide.  He put an appeal in the Church Times, and circulars were sent round the district.  One of them was:  “I enclose the appeal for aid in rebuilding the Vicarage at High Beech.  Waltham Abbey is our mother parish, and I hope that my appeal will be favourably considered by the residents of Waltham”.


The building contract was given to John Bentley of Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, and the work was begun in August 1893, by which time another £350.00 had come in, with a further £400.00 from the Bounty Office.  By the end of the year, £200.00 had been sent by Church Times readers, mostly clergymen, and including no less than 2,937 gifts of one shilling each (5p).  The builders finished in March 1894, and the interior work completed in May.


Then a press notice appeared:  “High Beech Vicarage Fund.  The Vicar would be glad if all who have kindly promised to wish to give DONATIONS to the above Fund, or who have taken Collecting Cards, would send them to him as soon as possible, as he is anxious to print the Balance Sheet.  There is still a debt of nearly £100.00 towards which the Lord Bishop of Colchester has kindly given £1.00”.  He got the £100.00, and the total reached £1,980.00.


Further donations continued to arrive, and the Bounty Office, which had been holding the money at interest, notified a £43.00 balance, which was later added to the benefice endowment.  Even the Norton’s stationery and postages were covered.


The final figures were:

Queen Anne’s Bounty              £800.00             Builder              £1,846.00

Sale of old church                       £30.00             Architect           £   162.00

Donations and interest           £1,311.00             Expenses           £     90.00

                                                                             Balance             £    43.00

                                                £2,141.00                                       £2.141.00


The new vicarage, with eleven rooms (including one parish room), kitchen and offices, was built behind the old house near the Wallsgrove boundary.  The Vicar wrote:  “The new Vicarage was built entirely by my own efforts, and with the most generous help of some of my parishioners and of a very large number of friends and well-wishers and the aid of a very liberal grant from Queen Anne’s Bounty, but without a loan, so that my successors will have the enjoyment of a “Model Vicarage” (as it was designated by the architect when the plan of it was hung in the Royal Academy) unencumbered by any debt”.



In May 1894, Mr Titt had recorded in the School Log Book that a “terrible Gunpowder explosion occurred at Waltham Abbey on Monday the 7th at 4.10 pm.  The School here was very much shaken;  plaster fell from the ceiling, endangering the lives of the children and teachers, who rushed out in great fright.  One of the windows was damaged.  The Vicar, who was in the village close by, paid us a visit shortly after the occurrence, and read prayers at the close of the school”.


Mr E J Kennedy had been Parish Warden since 1893.  He was General Secretary of the YMCA and was also preparing, under Mr Norton’s guidance, for the ministry.  He was ordained at Advent 1894 and preached his first sermon in High Beach Church.  He moved first to St James’ Hatcham and then to Boscombe, and was an outstanding Chaplain to the Forces when the War came.  At the 1895 Easter Vestry, Mr John Titt was elected Parish Warden.


Turn of the Century

1894 saw the Nortons settled in the new vicarage.  Reginald, the eldest son, now aged twenty-nine, followed his father to St John College, Cambridge, and was ordained deacon in 1891 and priest in 1892.  After curacies in Canning Town and Plaistow, he was now a curate in St Leonard’s-On-Sea.  Horace had studied at the Royal College of Music before being appointed in 1893 organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s Loughton, where a new 3-manual organ was installed in 1895.  He was also a church Lads’ Brigade Officer, and secretary of the High Beach Cricket Club, of which Mr Edwards was captain.  Nothing is known of Bertrand. Eustace, now nineteen, was preparing for university, and the daughters – Lily and Queenie – were still at home.


The Vicar had already been at High Beach longer than the twenty-seven years of his five pre-decessors, and during his ministry, the population of the parish slowly increased from 531 in 1861, 535 in 1871, 502 in 1881 to 548 in 1891 and was rising to 594 in 1901.  Up to 1895 the average annual rate of baptisms had risen from ten to thirteen, that for marriages was still two, whilst burials (from 1884) averaged nine.


By the turn of the century, Mr Norton was in his seventies and still conducted most of the services.  In 1901 he took twenty-one of the twenty-two baptisms, two of the three weddings and ten of the twelve funerals.  The younger Mr Baring’s marriage to Mr Henry S Brenton, a London Solicitor was performed by her brother-in-law, the Revd V T Macy, Vicar of St Luke’s, Enfield, who had married her sister in 1893.  The Revd. William Allen, first Vicar of St Mary’s, came up from Loughton for one of the funerals.


In 1902, the Nortons’ younger daughter, Florence Elma (called Queenie) was married to Mr Lyonel John Lock, MRCS LRCP and her father conducted the service.  Bertrand and Horace signed the register as witnesses.


In the “Waltham Abbey Church Monthly” for March 1904 was a letter from Viscount Horncastle, a businessman in the city, Chief Commoner of the Corporation of London and first Mayor of Hackney, who had formerly lived at Rosemead, Forest Side.


“We are glad to know that some recognition is being made of the long and faithful service of the Revd J Norton, who has laboured faithfully and zealously for the well-being of the parish.  It is greatly owing to his energetic and unwearied efforts that the parishioners now have the beautiful Church of the Holy Innocents in place of the old farm-like building of St Paul’s.  Also a new School on a beautiful and healthy site, and a new Vicarage, in place of the old unhealthy and dilapidated buildings that were used previously.  Mrs Devoy has generously set an example of paying tribute to the Vicar’s work amongst us.  Cannot some effort be made by others to continue the much-needed help to our beloved Vicar?”


In the June issue was a reply from Mrs Macy:

“This is quite a mistake as the Church was built entirely by the late T C Baring Esq MP, as were the Schools and the Almshouses”.


The Vicar himself replied in the July number:

“Mrs Macy must have quite misunderstood the letter.  Everyone knew that the Church was built entirely at Mr Baring’s expense, as was the School on his own property.  Doubtless the writer of the letter, who well knew the facts, referred to the first steps to obtain a new Church taken by me long before Mr Baring came to High Beech.  I may add that the School has been maintained by me for nearly thirty-nine years on my own responsibility with the aid of subscriptions from parishioners.  Had there been any mistake in the letter, I should have felt bound to correct it”.


Parish Activities 1900s

IN 1903, Reginald, the Nortons’ eldest son, died at the early age of thirty-seven.  He had returned from St Leonard’s to Plaistow, moving again to Brighton, and in 1899 to his final curacy at St Paul’s Ramsgate.


The same year, the Vicar noted that he received, in addition to the stipend of £170.00, £38.00 in pew rents, £9.00 in fees and £25.00 in Easter offerings.  He had to pay £29.00 in vicarage expenses for rates, insurance and repairs, leaving him a net income of £213.00 – the highest figure during the whole of his incumbency.


In 1905 and 1906, he conducted all the baptisms, weddings and funerals except for one taken by the Rector of Loughton, the Revd. J W Maitland, and two by the Revd J H Stamp, the Curate of Waltham.  In 1907, Mr Norton officiated at all occasional offices – nine baptisms, five weddings and eight funerals.


A list of lay workers in the parish in 1906 shows that there were ten adults in the choir (eight ladies and two men);  Miss Lily Norton was secretary for the Church Missionary Society, the Missions to Seamen, and St Andrew’s Waterside Mission to Sailors, Mrs Edwards for the Girls’ Friendly Society and Mrs Norton was superintendent of the Sunday School with twelve teachers (nine ladies and three men).


During the winter months, social evenings were organised by a parochial committee.  Tickets cost a shilling (5p) and fifty or sixty parishioners sat down to a tea;  sometimes a piano was hired for a musical programme.  Tickets for lantern lectures cost 2d (1p), covering the cost of refreshments, hire of slides and supply of carbide for the “magic lantern”.  There were children’s treats, and at Christmastime carol singers went round the parish.


Early in 1908 it was evident to Mr Norton that at the age of eighty, he now needed clerical help in the parish.  He therefore engaged a non-resident curate, and in August the Revd A t Kirkpatrick commenced his duties at £107.00 per annum, of which the Vicar and Mr Edwards each paid half.  The new curate relieved the Vicar of weddings and funerals – Mr Norton managed to take all the eight baptisms during the year, the last in November.  Since 1895, the average number of baptisms had remained constant at ten a year, marriages averaged three a year (in every case, at least one of each couple was a parishioner), and funerals still averaged nine.  From January 1909, Mr Kirkpatrick took all the services, although the Vicar continued to make the register entries in his neat clerkly handwriting.


Alexander Thomas Kirkpatrick lived at Loughton in a house on Church Hill named “Priest’s Garth” and for some years had been Curate of St Johns.  He was MA of Trinity College, Dublin, ordained in 1886 in the diocese of Winchester.  After three years as Curate of Dorking, he spent five years in Australia, first on the Queensland coast near Brisbane, and then 450 miles westwards in the Outback.  Returning in 1895, he held curacies in Ireland and Sutton Coldfield, moving in 1903 to Loughton,  where he lived until 1933.


A register of services was started on the 27th March 1910, Easter Day, and shows that Mr Kirkpatrick was now preaching as both services every Sunday, although Mr Norton was at church three times in April to publish banns.


The Vicar presided at the Easter Vestry, but was not well enough to baptise his grandson, Eustace Horace Bertrand, the infant son of Eustace Norton, now a school-master in Horsham.  The christening, in August, was performed by the baby’s uncle, Dr Lock, recently ordained, and now curate of St Thomas’ Charlton and medical officer of the Billingsgate Medical Mission.


The end of an Era  1912

In 1911, Mr Edwards took the Chair at the Easter Vestry – and the Vicar wrote up the minutes.  In April he compiled the parochial returns for the past year.  Eleven candidates had been confirmed and there were fifty-four names on the roll of communicants.  The day school had fifty-three children on the roll with average attendance of forty-seven, and three teachers;  for the Sunday School the figures were sixty-two and fifty-nine, with nine teachers.  There were five voluntary district visitors, and twenty-nine choir members (fourteen voluntary and fifteen paid).  The church was incurred for £7,000.00 (it had cost £5,500.00 to build in 1873) and the vicarage for £1,200.00 (less than its original cost).


Queen Anne’s Bounty had increased their annual grant to £44.00, pew rents came to £40.00 and fees £4.00, but Easter offerings were only £12.00;  the annual Wake donation had been discontinued “on the plea of lack of funds”.  With vicarage expenses of £25.00 (land tax £2.00, rates £15.00, insurance £1.00, repairs £7.00) and his payment of £54.00 to the curate, the Vicar’s net income was only £155.00.


Sunday offertories were used for church expenses and special collections were made for missions and charities.  In 1911 these amounted to £102.00 and £61.00, and with pew rents and Easter offerings made a total of £215.00 in voluntary giving by the parishioners (about £4,500.00 in today’s values).


The regular Sunday services were Morning Prayer at 11.00 with Holy Communion on the first and third Sundays and at Festivals, and Evening Prayer at 6.30 in the summer and 3.30 during the winter months.  In January 1912 Mr Kirkpatrick introduced an “early service” at 8.00 am, once a month, later extended to Festivals as well.



26th March 1912 was the forty-seventh anniversary of the Vicar’s first Sunday in High Beach and the 7th April was Easter Day, with twenty-nine communicants at 8.00 o’clock and a further thirty-four after Morning Prayer.


On Easter Tuesday, Mr Edwards again took the Chair at the Vestry Meeting, and once more the Vicar recorded the minutes, his handwriting now showing that it was an effort for him to put pen to paper.  He died at the Vicarage on Friday the 26th April, less than a month before his 84th birthday.


“It is with great regret”, said the May Church Monthly, “that we have to record the death of the Rev. Josiah Norton, Vicar of High Beech for the past forty-seven years.  The late Vicar had been ailing for a considerable time, but his death comes as a shock to all who knew him, and we feel sure that he will be greatly missed by his flock and all his many other friends.  The funeral tool place at High Beech on Wednesday the 1st May, and was attended by many mourners and the beautiful wreaths testified to the great esteem in which the late Rev J Norton was held”.


His curate and his son-in-law, the Revd L J Lock, conducted the service, and the interment was in a grave near the east wall of the churchyard.


Mr Kirkpatrick stayed on a Curate-In-Charge of the parish for a further six weeks.  The Bishop offered the vacant living to Mr Oakley of Halstead, who declined it as there was no stable for his horse and motor, and then, the 20th May, to Mr Kempthorne of Takeley.  The Bishop described High Beach as “a charming Essex village, a lovely and healthy spot”, and advised Mr Kempthorne to get in touch with Mr Edwards, the churchwarden, “who takes a keen interest in the parish and will be hospitable and show you everything.  He tells me that Loughton people walk out on fine Sunday afternoons, but parishioners are often slack simply, I believe, because the old vicar outlived his capacity for work.  I want to send them a man of ‘moderate views’ who will visit the people”.






7th Incumbent – 1912

Mr Kempthorne lost no time in making up his mind, and a week after his first letter, the Bishop wrote again:  “I am glad you accept High Beech.  It will be in tomorrow’s ‘Times’.  I am asking the Bishop of Barking to license and admit you – High Beech is a titular vicarage and does not require the more costly process of institution and induction”.


The Revd. Charles Henry Kempthorne BA, of London University and Lichfield Theological College, was ordained in the diocese of Chester in 1886, and spent two years as Curate of Middlewich.  He moved to Essex to be Curate of Mistley, and in 1897 Vicar of Takeley, a village of some nine hundred inhabitants nearly Bishops Stortford, where his net income was £205.00 with three acres of glebe;  High Beech with £209.00 was hardly a financial promotion.


On Friday the 19th July 1912, he was licensed to the living by the Rt Revd Thomas Stevens DD, the first Bishop of Barking (who lived at Ilford), with the assistance of the Revd R L Allwork, Rural Dean of Chigwell and Vicar of Epping.


Mr and Mrs Kempthorne moved into the vicarage in time for the new Vicar to take the services on the following Sunday – 8.00 am with sixteen communicants, 11.00 am and 6.30 pm with the 39 Articles.


Before moving to Buckhurst Hill with Horace and Lily, Mrs Norton had offered to sell or rent to Mr Kempthorne two pieces of land which she said had been given to her husband – one adjoining the vicarage garden to the south, where they had a tennis court, fruit bushes and flower beds, and the other, the site of the old school opposite which they had used as a kitchen garden.  Mr H H J Baring, who had succeeded his father as Lord of the Manor, soon made it quite clear that he had only lent the garden site to Mr Norton, and Mr Brenton, the solicitor who lived at the Manor House, gave his opinion that the school site had been vested in the incumbent and churchwardens, and could not legally have become private property.  Mrs Norton finally gave way after being threatened with a writ for possession and Horace handed over the keys in February 1913.  The school site was late let for 10/- per annum to local gardeners.


The future of the old church site was then considered, and Mr Brenton negotiated with the Forest authorities, who would not accept his suggestion that the land should be exchanged for a similar sized extension of the churchyard, but did agree to take it in return for payment of £50.00, which could be used only on any permanent improvement to the church, or for the benefit of the living.  This was authorised by a faculty in June 1913.


In January 1914, the diocese of Chelmsford was formed, covering Essex and part of Kent north of the River.  The Rt Revd J E Watts-Ditchfield becoming the first Bishop.


The following month, Elma Caroline, the six-year old daughter of Dr and Mrs Lock, died of pneumonia at Mrs Norton’s house in Buckhurst Hill, and was buried in High Beach churchyard.  The Waltham Abbey Church Monthly noted “the officiating clergymen were the Revd Ernest Lock, Vicar of Pill, and the Revd. J H Bridgewater, Rector of Charlton.  The absence of her father, who is on his way to China to take charge of the hospital at Piny-ying, was a distressing circumstance which rendered this sad bereavement especially grievous”.





WAR – 1914

On the 4th August 1914, the newspapers announced the declaration of war with Germany, and the pattern of life in the parish began to change, with the younger men leaving for military service, and the older men and women too, taking up war work.


On the 26th March 1915 – fifty years to the day after the Norton’s first Sunday in High Beach – Mrs Lora Anna Norton died at the age of seventy and was buried in the churchyard by the Revd F W Morris Woodward DD, Rector of Buckhurst Hill.


Now living at Arabin House was Arthur Morrison, journalist and author, whose detective stories about Martin Hewitt – a successor to Sherlock Holmes – were followed by his two novel, “A child of the Jago” and “Tales of Mean Streets” about life in East London.  Morrison was a keen collector of Japanese paintings, and was also an inspector in the Essex Special Constabulary with the distinction of having telephoned the warning of the first Zeppelin raid on London.  His son Guy was abroad with the Army in Egypt.


Bad news from the Front began to come all too often.  An early casualty was one of the churchwarden’s sons, Captain Noel Edwards, who died in Belgium in May after a German gas attack.


The War Office had commandeered Rigg’s Retreat on Wellington Hill for use as a training camp, and the Vicar held Sunday morning parade services in church for the soldiers, with the help of the Revd G A Campbell, Vicar of St Mary’s, his curate, the Revd R K Davis, who soon became an army chaplain, and a benevolent retired clergyman living in Loughton, the Revd. William Dawson.


One of the soldiers in the camp in 1916 was the poet Edward Thomas, an officer in the Artists’ Rifles awaiting embarkation to France.  His wife rented a cottage in Nursery Road “in the forest among the beech trees and fern and deer” where they spent his Christmas leave, and he wrote his last poem.  Three months later, he was killed by shell blast at the Battle of Arras.


Heavy snowstorms on Palm Sunday 1917 left the snow lying deep during Holy Week, and the services were poorly attended;  there were forty Easter communicants.  The Zeppelin raids on London were close enough for High Beach people to be alerted.  On Sunday the 17th August, the Vicar received a warning at 6.00 pm but carried on with Evening Prayer.


In January 1918 the church roof was damaged by shrapnel from anti-aircraft guns – fortunately the churchwardens had insured against “war risks”.  In October the so-called “Spanish ‘flu” epidemic reached the parish, and on the 3rd November, a very wet Sunday, only twelve adults and seven children were at the morning service.











PEACE  1918

On the 11th November, the Armistice was signed and the War was over, but many High Beach people were saddened by bereavement.


During the war, sixty-four men from the parish served in the forces, and seventeen of them lost their lives.  The names were recorded on a framed list which was hung in the church.


+Pte P ME Abbot                                                                   Cpl A Hunt

 Cpl J Bartlett                                                                          Pte S Hunt

 Pte J H Belsham                                                                     Pte S Joy

 Sgt M Brucken                                                                       Pte W Kelly

 Rfn S Carter                                                                           +Pte H J Langdon

 Pte H G Clarke                                                                      Pte C Lankester

+Rfn F J Cordell                                                                     Ptd H Lankester

+Pte A T P Cornell                                                                 Seaman A Lawrence

 Pte B Cook                                                                            L Cpl A Lawrence

+Pte P J Cook                                                                         Pte W Littler

  Pte C Davies                                                                         Pte C R Marden

  Pte W Dykes                                                                         Farr.Sgt-Maj T Meredith

+Capt. A N Edwards                                                              +L.Cpl H Miller

 Lt-Col G J Edwards DSO MC                                              Pte G Morrison

 Capt R Edwards                                                                    Pte H Plumb

 Pte C English                                                                         Sgt W Powell

 Pte F English                                                                          Sgt W Riggs

 Pte F Fish                                                                               L.Cpl H F Riley

+Rfn R Fish                                                                            L.Cpl H F Riley

 Pte E Foreman                                                                       +Pte C G Reed

 Pte E W Goodey                                                                    Pte L Reed

+Pte J W Goodey                                                                   +Major A Roddick

 2nd Lt L Gumprecht MC                                                        L.Cpl A Sawyer

+Rfn E H M Gumprecht                                                         +Pte P J Tarling

  Rfn F Harvey                                                                        Cpl P Tozer

  Pte R Hawthorn                                                                    S.Sgt-Maj R Tozer

+Pte C E Hind                                                                        +Pte W F Tozer

 Rfn J H Hind                                                                         Gdsn C W Wright

 Rfn W W Hind                                                                      Gdsn E Wright

+2nd Lt E E Horn                                                                    Gdsn C Withy


On Sunday the 1st June 1919, the Memorial Tablet in the Church was dedicated to “The Fallen Soldiers of High Beech”.  An address was given by the Vicar of Waltham Abbey, Mr Johnston, and the tablet was unveiled by Field Marsh Sir Evelyn Wood VC, who “spoke in praise of those in the Parish who had sacrificed their lives in the Great War, and hoped the lessons of the War would go home to the hearts of all classes”.


Vestry meetings during Mr Kempthorne’s time were mere formalities.  Each year the minutes repeat the same theme:  “The Vicar thanked the church-wardens for all they had kindly done in the past year, and suggested that if they could see their way clear to serve for another year, it would be a great help” – and each year, Mr Edwards and Mr Titt “consented to do so”.  Then Mr E Hunt “was re-appointed Church Clerk for another year at the usual salary” of £7.10.0d.


An important event for the Church of England in 1919 was the passing of the Enabling Act, which required every parish to set up a Parochial Church Council (to end such situations as had developed in High Beach – the autocratic control of church affairs by incumbent and church-wardens).  Also in 1919, Mr Titt reached the retirement act of sixty-five after forty-0ne years at the village school and Miss Laura Hooper was appointed to the headship.


Mr Kempthorne too had decided to retire, feeling perhaps that a younger man was needed to revive the parish after the debilitating effects of the war years.  Rising costs and falling income had left the annual church accounts in the red, in spite of generous donations from Mr Baring.  The offertories, £84.00 in 1913, had dropped to £67.00 in 1919, when collections for charities totalled only £18.00.  Easter communicants, sixty-three in 1912, had numbered fifty-three in 1919;  compared with thirteen confirmation candidates in 1913, there was only one in 1915, five in 1916, and none since.  The roll of the day school had fallen from fifty-three in 1911 to thirty-eight in 1917, and the Sunday school from sixty-two to thirty-five.  A depressing feature of church life was the constant difficulty of obtaining coke for the church boiler!  The annual rate of baptisms had halved during the war, whilst that of weddings had doubled – ten of the thirty-one bridegrooms were servicemen, including an Australian signaller, a US Army mechanic and an Army Officer who married Miss Kempthorne.


Although there was no clergy pension scheme, an incumbent who retired on the grounds of age or infirmity could claim a proportion of the benefice income as pension.  The Ecclesiastical Commissioners arranged to give Mr Kempthorne £60.00 a year from the High Beach endowment, which would leave his successor short by that amount.


The Vicar’s last Sunday in the parish was the 12th February 1920, when he preached on “The Enabling Act” at 11.00 am and “The Fall” at 6.30 pm.  The Kempthornes retired to Christchurch, in Hampshire.


8th Incumbent – 1920

During Lent 1920, Sunday services were shared by Mr Edwards the Churchwarden, Mr Kirkpatrick the former curate, the Revd Alexander Colvin, Curate of St Mary’s before the War and now at St John’s, and the Revd. A J Bell, Curate of Waltham Abbey.  Meanwhile, the Bishop of Chelmsford offered the vacancy to the Revd W D Jones BD AKC, Curate of St Paul’s Goodmayes, and came to High Beach on the 27th March to institute him as Vicar.


William David Jones, of King’s College, London, Wordsworth Prizeman and AKC (1st class), had been ordained deacon in 1890 and priest in 1891 by the Bishop of Rochester, and had held a succession of curacies in London – Brockley 1890, Finsbury 1892, Stoke Newington 1895, South Hackney 1904 (while there he took his BD degree), London Field 1912 and Goodmayes 1915.  A curate for thirty years and now in his fifties, he and his wife had three sons and a daughter – William Owen, married and living in Saffron Walden, Arthur Morris, an under-graduate of Keble College, Oxford, Bernetta Mary (known as Berta) and Lewis aged sixteen.  Mr Jones, as his daughter wrote later, “believed in good Catholic teaching”.


The day after the institution was Palm Sunday and the new Vicar took his first services – 8.00 am with twelve communicants, 11. 00 am Mattins, and 3.30 Evensong when he read the 39 Articles.  A week later on Easter Day, there was a record number of communicants – fifth-three at the early service and another twenty-six after Mattins.


On the 19th April, the Vicar took the chair at the Vestry meeting, when he nominated Mr Edwards as the Vicar’s Warden;  Mr Titt was proposed and duly elected as People’s Warden (the obsolete title “Parish Warden” now being abandoned) and Ernest Hunt was re-appointed Clerk at the usual salary.  The churchwardens’ accounts were £7.00 in deficit.


In spite of moving from an urban parish of four thousand people to a country one of five hundred, the Vicar found much to be done.  On weekdays, he read the morning and evening offices in church at 8.00 am and 5.00 pm, with Holy Communion on Saints’ Days, introducing altar ornaments, brass cross, candlesticks, vases and a book rest.  He compiled an electoral roll and set up a parochial church council;  Miss Susannah Hunt, teacher at the village school and a sister of the parish clerk, was the secretary.  He was chairman and correspondent of the school managers and was responsible for the parish coal and clothing club.  On summer Sundays, he held open-air services in the churchyard before Evensong.


Years later, Arthur Jones wrote:  “My brother Lewis was a keen gardener.  In those days, rabbits were more than plentiful, and the only way he could grow cabbages was to make circular baskets of chicken wire, one for every single cabbage.  We had American blackberries, currants, gooseberries and a profusion of apples, all of which we inherited from our predecessor-but-0je named Norton, who built the Vicarage, and whose wife, I believe, had a hand in the planning of it – whence all those commodious cupboards.  High Beach was indeed a very isolated village, except when the Sunday School outings came with their long lines of horse brakes, and later the flocks of cyclists who used to come out on summer evenings from London in droves to the King’s Oak, and go back again after a rest.”


On Easter Tuesday 1921, a meeting of parishioners was held in the vestry, and the churchwardens’ accounts showed a deficit of over £10.00 which  was “due to the large expense of providing a new boiler for the hearing of the church”.  In accordance with a resolution of the PCC, the deficit was cleared by the proceeds of a sale of work.


In 1922, the Vicar presented fifteen candidates at the confirmation in Waltham Abbey (three boys, ten girls and two adults) – the first such occasion for High Beach since 1916.


In 1921 the Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd James Theodore Inskip DD, came to preach – the first of many visits to High Beach church, for which he had a special affection, and where he later acquired by faculty a family grave-space.  The Vicar was by now making the acquaintance of his clerical neighbours, and visiting preachers included Canon Olivier of Epping, Mr Gell of St Mary’s, Mr Maitland of St John’s, Mr Ames from Theydon Bois, Dr Woodward and his curate from Buckhurst Hill, and the Archdeacon of Southend, the Ven P M Bayne.  The choir of St Barnabas’ Woodford came to sing Stainer’s “Crucifixion”, the first of several visits.  Arthur Jones, now ordained and Curate first of Ashford and then Maidstone, helped with services as did the Revd V T Macey, now a Vicar in Canterbury, when visiting his Baring relations in High Beach.


The Village Hall was built in 1924 –it did not belong to the church, but was available for the church to use.  The vestry soon became too small for the annual meetings which were then held in the Village Hall, as were the services on a Sunday in 1926 when the church was being cleaned and distempered.


Bishop Watts-Ditchfield had died in 1923 and his successor, the Rt Revd Guy Warman, came to preach in 1927.  Other preachers at this time included Mr Cleall, the new Vicar of Waltham Abbey, Mr B J Stanley, a Lay Reader from Loughton, and the incumbents of Epping Upland, Woodford Wells, Theydon Garnon, Coopersale, Chigwell, Lambourne and Chigwell Row.  There were also regular sermons and collections on behalf of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa.


At the 1928 Annual Meeting, the Vicar referred to the recent death of Mr H H J Baring, who “had been a most generous supporter of the church and institutions of the parish”.  The year’s accounts showed a deficit after paying for repairs to the churchyard wall.  Mr A J Edwards, who had been churchwarden since 1891, resigned owing to ill-health (he died the next year), and the Vicar appointed Mr Francis Pegler of Arabin House as his warden.


Mrs Jones died in 1929, and her husband and son officiated together at the funeral.  Lewis, the youngest son, had recently emigrated to Canada, and Arthur was now preparing for missionary work in Central Africa.  Miss Berta Jones remained at home to keep house for her father.


In 1930, severe gales damaged the church steeple and weather-vane, and a sale of work was held to defray the cost of repairs, £89.00.  The following year, Bishop Warman having moved to Manchester, the new Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Henry Wilson, paid his first visit to the parish.  When Mr Pegler resigned in 1931, he was succeeded as Vicar’s Warden by Col E N Buxton, MC, DL, JP, who was now living at Wallsgrove House.  Ernest Hunt resigned in 1933 after forty-one years as parish clerk, and was succeeded by his nephew, William Ernest Hunt – the fourth Hunt to hold the office.


Eustace Norton, until recently Headmaster of the Junior School of Framlingham College, died in 1932 and was buried in the churchyard.  His wife died two years later, and was buried by their brother-in-law, the Revd L J Lock, who had served with the RAMC during the War, and later became Rector of Walsoken;  retiring to Chelmsford, he died in 1936, and was also buried at High Beach.


The Bishop of Chelmsford came again in 1933, and other visiting preachers at this time included Mr W E Crick a Lay Reader, and Father Driver, a retired priest, both from Loughton, the Revd S T Smith, the new Rector of Buckhurst Hill, and the Diocesan Missioner, the Revd H P Statham.


The Vicar had received various annual grants from the diocese and the Commissioners since 1920, to help towards the £60.00 pension he had to pay to the previous Vicar.  These grants ceased in 1929 when the two Willingale parishes were united, and part of their tithe rents, amounting to about £30.00 per annum, was added to the High Beach stipend.  When Mr Kempthorne died in 1931, the pension payments finished, but the total benefice income, with the addition of pew rents averaging £30.00, fees £37.00 and Easter offering £32.00 was little more than £300.00.  There was now a vicarage car, (an Austin 7 costing £33.00 a year to run, repairs £19.00, petrol and oil £14.00) and a vicarage telephone.


In 1935, the Annual Meeting discussed a proposal to replace the old candle fittings in the church with electric light. This was eventually agreed, and the installation by “Northmet” was completed in November, the cost being covered by donations of £122.00, collected by Col Buxton.  The first year’s electricity bill was £8.7.7d, compared with a sum of £7.12.0d for a year’s supply of candles.  The Vicar and his daughter, however, still used oil lamps and candles at the Vicarage.


High Beach continued to be a favourite resort for weekend trippers, and the already popular family car brought more visitors, as did the motor cycle “dirt-track” stadium at the King’s Oak.  Passers-by stopped to visit the church, and young couples from outside the parish wanting to be married at “the church in the forest”, found that they could acquire residential qualification by booking a room at the King’s Oak or “leaving a bag” in the parish for the three weeks while their bands were being called.  This resulted in a sudden “boom” in the number of weddings at High Beach.


Up to 1931, the yearly averages were:  seven baptisms, five weddings and eight funerals.  There were ten weddings in 1932, eighteen in 1934 and no less than twenty-one in 1936!


In 1937, the Vicar presented four candidates for confirmation (making sixty-six in all during his time in High Beach), took all the ten christenings, ten of the fourteen weddings and eight of the nine funerals, the last in November, and conducted most of the Sunday services up to the 28th, Advent Sunday.  That day, he took Mattins, preaching her sermon on the text “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him”, and afternoon Evensong with intercessions.  On the 30th, St Andrew’s Day, he celebrated Holy Communion at 10.30 am as was his custom on Saints’ Days;  and this proved to be his final duty.  He died on Friday the 10th December at the age of seventy-one, and the Bishop of Barking took the funeral service and burial on the 14th.


Interregnum 1937

The Revd Daniel Conoley BD, a retired priest who lived at Forest Gate, had taken the services on the 5th and continued as priest-in charge for the next six months (at three guineas a Sunday).  The Bishop of Barking came for the early service on Christmas Day, when there were thirty-three communicants, and he came again on Good Friday.


The parochial returns for 1937 were compiled by the churchwardens, Col Buxton and Mr Titt.  They showed fifty-seven communicants, fifteen boys and fifteen girls with two teachers in the day school, and seven boys and twenty-one girls with one teacher in the Sunday School.  There were thirty names on the electoral roll but, although the Easter vestry and Annual Church Meeting were held as usual, the PCC had not met during the year.  Offertories and donations came to £96.00;  church expenses £84.00, a deficit of £8.00 from 1936 and £5.00 paid towards the diocesan quota of £14.00, left a deficit of £1.00.


Miss Berta Jones later married the Revd H S Jones, Rector of Monks Eleigh, Suffolk – a friend from their Goodmayes days – and the Revd Arthur Jones returned from Africa in 1950 to a curacy in Watford and a lectureship in African Music at the University of London, becoming D.Litt in 1961.


During the last forty years, with three elderly Vicars, the church had seen very little change.  Electricity, motor cars, telephones, radio (“wireless as it was still called” and even the early stages of television, were no longer novelties.  Changing the candles for electric light was an indication that the church was, at last, starting to move with the times.  Another change came in June 1938, with the arrival of a young Vicar – whose own story now continues our Parish History.






9th Incumbent  1938

(Contributed by the Rev Walter F Jones, ALCD.  Vicar of High Beach 1938 to 1944)

Something of my personal background will not be out of place as it was very different from that of any of the previous incumbents.  Brought up as a boy in the parish of St John’s Boscombe, Bournemouth, one of my early recollections is of being among the crowd of spectators outside the church for the funeral of the Vicar, who was E J Kennedy.  The local school had been given a half holiday for the occasion.


Kennedy had been one of the outstanding army chaplains of the 1914 war but had died in 1915.  I have dim memories of his towering figure, six feet five inches tall, and of his striking appearance.  I mention this because of his past connections with High Beach and the small boy’s later connection still very much in the future.


Before Kennedy was ordained he lived at Arabin Dower House.  He became churchwarden, was prepared for the ministry by the Vicar of the time, Josiah Norton, and he preached his first sermon after his ordination in High Beach Church.  His influence at Boscombe had been very great;  some of it lingered on in my young days.


I left school early during the years of the 1914 war, and after some years in commercial life I felt the call to serve god not so much in the ordained ministry as to work in the church overseas with the Church Missionary Society.  However this came to naught, and I went on to train for the ministry at St John’s Hall, Highbury, known as the London College of Divinity, becoming an Associate – hence the initial ALCD.


I was ordained in the London Diocese in 1928 by Bishop Winnington-Ingram.  At the ordination in St Paul’s over forty men were ordained including one who a few years ago retired as Bishop of Ripon.  I was privileged to read the Gospel at the service.


I served three curacies in all – Holy Trinity, Dalston, St Mary’s Beeston, Leeds and St Andrew’s Rochford in the Chelmsford diocese.  That is how it was that after five years, married and with two small children, I was offered by Bishop Henry Wilson, the benefice of High Beach.


He had already offered me the parish of Takeley, where a former Vicar of High Beach, Kempthorne, had been Vicar.  We found the vicarage a rambling house of sixteen rooms with no gas, electricity or inside water.  The bathroom consisted on a large empty room with a hip bath in the middle.


In direct contrast was High Beach Vicarage which had been designated a “model vicarage” when it was designed by Josiah Norton.  The income of £350.00 per annum which went with it, was hardly commensurate with the life style demanded by such a delightful house.  It was apt to give one delusions of grandeur without the wherewithal to sustain them!


The income was made up in a precarious fashion by a system of pew rents (which had been abolished in the Church at large but lingered on in some of the remoter parishes), Easter offering which included not only what was actually given in church on Easter Sunday (fortunately for me because this did not exceed £12.00) but also the result of a whip-round by the churchwardens, and various sums sent to the Vicar personally.  Then there was a sum creamed off from one of the more affluent parishes of the diocese.  Who could have dreamed up a more haphazard way of financing the clergy?  Even so, we had to pay for our own repairs and decorations.  From this patchwork income a sum had to be paid annually to the diocese known as “Dilapidations” which was spent for us every five years.


All my predecessors had used oil lamps in the vicarage, but electricity was now laid on.  It was very difficult to grow anything in the garden, large though it was, without adequate protection against rabbits and deer.  The church had already been electrified (only literally!) a few years back.  Until then it was lit by candles, and many were the voices raised in protest.  They told me candles were better – presumably more picturesque.


I found High Beach a scattered isolated parish consisting of houses on and around the high bank (or “Beach” from which the area got its name, though many swore by “Beech”), surrounded by various hamlets and isolated houses.  It was indeed a geographical area between Chingford, Loughton and Waltham Abbey, with no cohesion or identity as a whole, and little sense of community beyond the immediate area of the Beach.  There had been no new buildings for years with the exception of a few council houses, and they were a very long way from the church.


The occupants of the few big houses had their real interests elsewhere.  When they came to church, it was in the morning.  Quite a number of the smaller cottages were occupied by the present or former employees of the big houses.  When they came to church, it was in the evening (or afternoon in the winter months)  Those who were independent of this set-up found it difficult to belong or relate.  Until the war put an end to much free movement, congregations were swollen by many visitors.


The fact that many young people from outside the parish did their courting in the Forest led to constant request for weddings in the church.  The tradition had been established before I came, and I saw no reason to disturb it.  Legal impediments were easily overcome!


The churchwardens were Lt-Col. E N Buxton and Mr John Titt.  Mr Buxton was of the brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury & Buxton.  When the war came, he took up a staff appointment at the War Office and was not around much.  His wife, the Hon Sybil Buxton was of the Ulster family of O’Neill.  Her brother Terence O’Neill (later Lord O’Neill) became Prime Minister in the Stormont Parliament.


The other churchwarden was John Titt who was also the organist.  Indeed he had been the organist ever since he came to the village in 1878 and the church had had no other.  He had been the village schoolmaster, but had retired from that post in 1919.  He was a little gnome-like figure with a white beard.  To say he was an eccentric player is an understatement!  I well remember my first Sunday service.  In solitary state I walked up the centre aisle, doubtless fully conscious of my newly-acquired dignity, for this was my first living. I stood to start the service.  The organ continued.  In some embarrassment I sat down.  And I had to remain seated until John Titt finished, which he did abruptly.  He explained that “the old Vicar took much longer to get to his place” than I did.  When the old man finally had to give up, I had much voluntary help from Loughton.


Mr Searle, who played the organ from 1938 to 1939 remembered two unnerving occasions in 1938 when he played the organ for the morning service.


“The first was the only time I met John Titt, the veteran organist.  Our conversation was rather one-sided owing to his deafness, but he told me sadly several times that “they” would not let him play any more.  He hovered round me, darting from one side to the other showing me which stops he always used.  I am afraid I preferred my own choice of stops, but this did not deter him, and he persisted with his advice until the final hymn.


On the second occasion, I arrived to find that no organ blower had come – the organ was “pumped” by hand in those far off days.  The verger said that he would do it – when he had finished giving out the books at the door. He started blowing just as the Vicar emerged from the vestry and made his way briskly up to the chancel, and I could play only a few bars of my carefully rehearsed voluntary.  Having to watch the “tell-tale” which showed how much wind was in the bellows, he relied on memory for the words.  His was the only voice I could hear in the Venite, but as he could not manage the psalm from memory, the Vicar’s voice now became audible in the distance.  In the Te Deum, the verger again took the lead, but unfortunately, while we were with the glorious company of the apostles, he had jumped a couple of verses, and was with the holy church throughout all the world.  When I realised what was happening, I tried to stop him by calling “wrong verse”, and drew a loud stop to drown his stentorian voice.  He stopped singing eventually and order was restored.  After the blessing, he deserted the pump handle to collect the books as the people went out – and again I lost my chance to play a voluntary”.


As churchwarden, Titt was followed by E J Bryant who had come to live at Arabin House with his sister Mrs Stone, but he left after a year, and for most of my time, the other churchwarden was W W Webster of “Torwood”.


When I came much clearing up had to be done.  In my first year, a new boiler was installed, the chancel roof repaired, the church cleaned and the churchyard “tidied up”.  It was necessary for me to re-assure the parish in the church magazine that I had no designs on the general lay-out and natural appearance of the churchyard.  This was a very sensitive issue!


WAR  1939

The whole of my incumbency was overshadowed and dominated by the war.  The Munich agreement came after my first few months, and my first Harvest Festival co-incided with the issue of gas masks to the civilian population.  I managed to start a small church magazine monthly, and kept it going for the duration of my time.  Miraculously an almost complete set of copies has survived.  Reading these through after so many years was a salutary experience.  It made me wish that I had devoted more of the little space to people and less to grappling with the spiritual issues of the war.  A Women’s Fellowship and Working Party was started, and a Children’s Service.  We had a Youth Club later on.


But as the war dragged on its course any kind or organised parish life became difficult.  Various functions were held but life was mainly a matter of maintaining the services and keeping personal contact with as many people as possible. Although we were never able to get a choir together the services were always musical.  I remember a Methodist minister who was on one occasion in the congregation telling me that the singing was worthy of Methodists – no higher praise!  I noted in the magazine that out of 779 possible hymns in our hymn book (many of them impossible) we had sung 208 in the course of one year.  Many churches with choirs have a smaller repertoire.


During these years many people passed through the parish.  Bellair at Lippit’s Hill was taken over by the Borough of West Ham for use as an old people’s home.  Two of the old people discovered that they had known each other fifty years before, and so re-discovered love’s young dream.  They were married in High Beach Church.  It was quite an excitement.


The Suntrap housed the Plaistow Maternity Hospital. At one time, we were sleeping six of the nurses at the vicarage.  Being East Londoners, the mothers waked to church as soon as they were able for the service of Churching (now I believe largely abandoned). The practice ceased when one mother came before she should have done, and had to be taken back by ambulance.


The Vicar of Plaistow, Donald Tibbenham, a man of some charisma, as we should say today, brought a number of his congregation out to Wallsgrove House, many of whom had been “bombed out”.   Together they lived a community life, even holding their own services. Their Vicar’s sudden death was a great shock to them.  He was buried at High Beach amid emotional scenes.


I frequently visited the church school, which belonged to the unreformed era of education but kept the children in the village.  An uncertificated teacher took the infants, and Winifred Hodges, the Headmistress, took the rest. When I came, Susannah Hunt was the assistant.  She had been connected with the school all her life – first as a pupil and then as pupil-teacher and assistant.  She died in 1942 in the same house in the Forest in which she had been born sixty-eight years before.  She was the first secretary of the Church Council when it was formed after the Enabling Act 1919.  When I came, the PCC I believe existed, but was in abeyance, and was resurrected.  The school in 1939 had the largest number on the registers since 1930 – which was not saying very much.  Miss Hodges was a great nature lover and tried to communicate to the children her own love of trees and birds.


At the out set of the war, a small company of the Home Guard (“Dad’s Army”) was formed and I myself was an Air Raid Warden and the Vicarage was the post for the village.  Emergency rations were kept there, but fortunately never had to be called on.


During the bombing of London, we put up in the vicarage numbers of people who had to get away from the strain caused by the air raids.  Some seemed to be under the impression that the vicarage was some kind of hotel. Numbers of bombs and land mines were dropped in the Forest.  As far as I can recollect there were no casualties in the parish except horses in Wallsgrove.  The church did have a very narrow escape on one occasion, but the only damage was cracked windows.  The school was out of action for a while, and the children had their lessons in the church, but I cannot remember now whether this was due to the bombing.


It was an awe-inspiring sight to watch from the vicarage bedroom, London burning during the heavy raids.  After the first heavy raid on London , there was what they called “unplanned evacuation” when many people just fled to the Forest. We got some of them into the Suntrap which was then empty, and they just slept on the floor.


Another time when people flocked into the Forest was on the first Day of Prayer after Dunkirk.  People were indeed full of foreboding about what would happen.  When I arrived at the church on that Sunday I was quite unprepared for the cars lining the road outside the church and the large congregation within.  People seemed to turn instinctively to the quiet and peace of the Forest in this time of crisis.  Perhaps the more cynical would put it in different terms.  I remember that we had just received a message that the organist, who was then Carlton Roberts, was detained in Liverpool on business.  My wife deputised at the organ, and she recalls our two children sitting on either side of her on the organ stool.


An anti-aircraft site was soon in operation at Lippitt’s Hill after the declaration of war but only one parade service took place in the church as the site and others in the area were under the ministry of regular chaplains.


The Anglican chaplain was Joseph McCulloch, who afterwards became a City incumbent, and was well-known for his outspokenness.  The Methodist chaplain, with whom I established friendly contact, was Cyril Downs.  Years later when I was Vicar of St Barnabas, Plymouth, we walked together in procession at one of the services.  One of the AA gunners at Lippitt’s Hill was Maurice Denham, who has since become known to millions through radio, television and screen.


During the war years, I was able to keep in touch with the Loughton churches.  Indeed although our historic links were with Waltham Abbey, we were more naturally linked with Loughton.  I belonged to the Loughton Fraternal of Clergy and Ministers.  More “Catholic” than any of us was the Methodist minister, Arthur Barr, who afterwards joined the Roman Catholic Church.  I remember taking part in ecumenical study groups discussing the best-selling Penguin “Christianity and Social Order” by William Temple, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury.  However, I cannot recall that any of my congregation at High Beach shared my need of fellowship with Christians outside the parish.


As the war years went by, the strain of the war took its toll.  Families lost relatives in action but no in such numbers as in the 1914-18 War.


The figures of our Easter communicants tell their own story.  There were one hundred and eight for my first Easter in 1939.  Two years later this was down to ninety.  There were seventy-six in 1942 and sixty-one in 1943.  If Easter communicants reached their lowest point in 1943, the number of baptisms were at their highest – nineteen as again nine in my first year.  I draw no deductions from this!  Weddings on the other hand reached their highest figure in 1939 when there were twenty-one – no doubt due to the onset of war.  They reached their lowest in 1944 when there were seven.  Averages for the years 1938 to 1944 were Baptisms:  twelve, Marriages:  thirteen, Burials:  nine.


At the beginning of 1944 the end of the war was in sight although the invasion of the continent was still to come.  The magazine shows that some of us were thinking much of the kind of nation we would have after the war.  I received an invitation from the Church Missionary Society to take the post of Area Secretary for the three dioceses of Southwark, Rochester and Canterbury.  So in April of that year, we moved to Croydon where we were to live – in time to experience the flying bombs and V2 rockets.


For the next seven years, I travelled constantly in South London and South-East England.  It was a life in direct contrast to my six years in the Forest.  But it is these years I recall with affections and some nostalgia, and not my travelling years.  Those walks through the Forest to church with our children when they were young have always remained in our memory.


After a spell as Vicar of St James, Hatchan, New Cross, South London – where E J Kennedy had been curate and vicar at the turn of the century – and then afterwards as Vicar of St Barnabas, Plymouth, I returned to the Chelmsford Diocese in 1966, first to Pattiswick and Bradwell, and then to Weathersfield where I finished my active ministry.



A final comment comes from the “Vicar’s Notes” in the church magazine for March 1944.


“My last Sunday with you will be the 9th April (Easter Day).  There is still no news of my successor here.  Nobody as yet has come to see the place.  It will not be a surprise to me if an appointment is not made for some time, considering the serious shortage of clergy and the position of the income here.  Average wages have risen 60% or 70% during the war to keep pace with the rising cost of living, but the income of the clergy remains fixed.  This is felt especially in the smaller incomes and this parish is one of them.  Again, the flow of men into the colleges has dried up on account of the war and many men have enrolled as chaplains.  The prospect of having no Vicar for some time should put you on your mettle..  I know that every effort will be made to maintain the services every Sunday.”


However the vacancy lasted for only two months with no interruption to the regular services, thanks to the Revd. E F W Ames – Vicar of Theydon Bois -  who was Rural Dean, the Revd A V G Cleall, - Vicar of Waltham Abbey, the Revd A Stainsby – Chaplain of Bancroft’s School, and Mr W E Crick – the lay reader from Loughton.


10th Incumbent  1944

The Revd. Frank Knibbs was instituted as Vicar of High Beach on Monday the 5th June 1944.


Mr Knibbs had studied at Leeds University and Keble College, Oxford, before being ordained deacon in 1937 and priest in 1938 by the Bishop of Ripon.  From 1937, he was Curate of Meanwood, Leeds, and in 1939 became Vicar of Whixley with Green Hammerton, near York, a parish with a population of 1093 and a stipend of £237.00.


In 1942 he moved into the Chelmsford Diocese to be Vicar of the Good Shepherd, Collier Row, on the western fringes of Romford, where a large housing estate was still uncompleted and a new church had been built in 1934 through the generosity of Miss Violet Wills, the tobacco heiress.


There was a full church for his institution by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Revd Henry Wilson.  The Bishop of Barking and many local clergymen were present, and the large gathering moved on to Wallsgrove House by the invitation of Colonel and Mrs Buxton.


The following day was ‘D’ Day, when the British and American forces invaded Europe, and a week later Germany began to assault London, and the south-eastern counties with V1 missiles, the pilot-less aircraft commonly called flying bombs or “doodle-bugs”.


In his first letter in the Parish Magazine, Mr Knibbs asked parishioners with relatives away serving in the Forces to let him have their names and addresses so that he could write to them, and a framed Active Service List was displayed in the Church.


Three men had already made the supreme sacrifice and had been buried in the churchyard – Philip David Lloyd in 1940, Lionel Herridge in 1943 and William Morgan Davies in 1944.  Arthur Freshwater, the Verger’s son, had been taken prisoner in 1942 after the fall of Singapore, and his wife and parents were still waiting for news of him.







K Belsham                               S Glass                                    J Reed

A R Bolton                              A G Holland                           E Reed

J A Bolton                                D S Howard                            L Reed

F R Bolton                               C S Howard                            T Riley

C N Bolton                            +L Herridge                              J Riley

E N Buxton                              F C Howlett                           J Rawlings

A Cooke                                   G Hunt                                   W Salmon

A M Cooke                              W Hunt                                   H Warlow

C Cooke                                   P Joy                                       D Wilson

H Cooke                                   S Lankester                             W W Webster

R Cooke                                   E Lankester

B Cordell                                 T Love

L M D Davies                          S Lloyd

+W M Davies                        +P Lloyd

H E Dellar                                H Martin

H C Dellar                                B Miller                                  C Brown

B Dickens                                G Parkes                                  G Bateman

J Freeman                                W C Payne                               E Burton

+A Freshwater                         J Piper                                     A Rayment

R Glass                                    F Porter                                 +L Rayment



In July, a “Serving Men’s Fund” was opened with a church collection, followed by house-to-house visits by Miss Hodges, headmistress of the village school, Mrs Brenton of the Manor House, Mrs Freshwater, Mrs Knibbs and Miss Patricia Webster of Torwood.  Further collections and gifts, a garden meeting, a concert arranged by Mr Roberts the organist, a bring-and-buy sale, a whist drive and Mr Miller’s box at the tea hut, brought the total to £182.00 by the end of the year, when parcels and postal orders were sent to High Beach servicemen.


A matter which occupied the PCC at this time was the benefice stipend, so aptly described by the Revd. Walter Jones as “the patchwork income”.  The incumbent received, at intervals during the year, £35.00 from the original endowment of the Old St Paul’s Church, £46.00 from Queen Anne’s Bounty, £143.00 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and £29.00 from the tithes of Willingale parish – a fixed total of £253.00.  In addition were the variable items – the wedding, burial and churchyard fees, the Easter Offering (the church collections on Easter Day together with a “whip round” made by the churchwardens) and the pew rents.  The averages for the previous six years were £44.00 from fees, £39.00 Easter Offering and £38.00 in pew rents – showing that the Vicar expected to receive about £374.00 per annum.


The Bishop of Chelmsford considered the “the income of High Beach is impossibly small for these days” and recommended the PCC to adopt “Scheme K” by which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would augment benefices below £450.00 by doubling a sum guaranteed by the parish.  For a start, the PCC agreed to raise £36.00 a year so as to increase the stipend by £72.00.


The aid raids were intensified in September by the V2 rockets, which by January 1945 were arriving at the rate of eight a day;  forty-six feet long and loaded with nearly a ton of explosive, they came over at around 3,000 miles an hour, too fast for warnings to be given.


On Monday the 8th January at 11.00 am, a rocket fell in the Forest a short distance to the south-east of the church and the blast of its explosion smashed the east and south windows, stripped the tiles off the nave roof, and covered everything inside the church with dust and plaster.


The cost of repairing the damage was estimated at over £1,000.00 with a further £200.00 for cleaning the organ.  Temporary repairs were soon begun, the broken windows boarded up and the roof protected with tarpaulins.  A restoration fund was started and generously supported by donations, concerts, collections and other activities.  Until Easter, Sunday services were held in the music room of Wallsgrove House.


“At Evensong on Sunday the 4th March 1945”, the Vicar wrote in the Parish Magazine, “We made special remembrance of Arthur Freshwater, who died in the Japanese prison camp in Siam, and who, before joining the Sherwood Foresters Regiment at the beginning of the War, was a sides-man at the Church, a communicant, and a keen member of the High Beech Church”.


At this time the Vicar also recorded the death on active service of a fifth High Beach man, Cecil Rayment.


A year later the Vicar wrote:  “With the return of ex-prisoners of war from the Far East, definite first-hand news is available concerning Arthur Freshwater.  Contact has been made with several of the men who were his friends and with him up to the time he died, and all bear witness to the amazing courage, cheerfulness under terrible circumstances, and unquenchable faith in God, that Arthur displayed”.


A memorial stone in the churchyard gives further details:

“Arthur David, 1/5 Shewood Foresters, the beloved husband of Ella Freshwater, born 14.2.1917, died 21.7.43 whilst a POW at Touchan Spring Camp, Siam”.


VE Day, 8th May 1945, brought peace in Europe, and VJ Day on the 15th August, marked the end of the War.  The temporary repairs had not been finished until June, being delayed by shortages of labour and materials, as priority was given to repairing bomb-damaged houses. The repairs cost £512.00 – the restoration fund fortunately had reached £600.00.


The activities in the parish showed that the Vicar and his people were not disheartened by the damage to the church and the difficulties of the post-war period.


There were many fund-raising events in aid of the church restoration.  The first-ever confirmation in High Beach Church was taken by the Bishop of Barking at Whitsun 1945.  The choir was started in the same year in time for the Harvest Festival and seated in the Chancel (in Mr Titt’s time, the choir had sat on chairs either side of the organ).  The new electric organ blower was installed in time for the Christmas services.  Two years later, blue gowns and hats were bought for the ladies and girls, and strips of carpet for the choir stalls were given by Miss Lily Norton.


Early in 1947, after a bitterly cold winter, there were burst pipes in the church, and the boiler was also found to be in a bad state.  Wintry gales had damaged the temporary roof covering, and rain came through in several places.  The roof was once more made water-tight, but restoring the heating system was not completed until April 1948, at a cost of £177.00 towards which a bring and buy sale raised £125.00.


The balance sheet for 1947 showed a total income of £1213.00, total expenditure £605.00 and balances of, Church account £183.00, restoration fund £272.00, heating fund £125.00.00 and Titt Memorial Fund £28.00 (part of the donations had been spent on repairing the bells and setting up the choir stalls).  Scheme K payment had been increased to £86.00.


The licence for permanent repairs to the building arrived at last;  the nave roof was to be stripped, rotted timbers renewed and tiles replaced, damaged interior plaster made good, the walls redecorated and the windows glazed.  The cost was expected to be covered by compensation from the Government War Damage Commission.


In April 1948, Mr Knibbs announced that he had a “Call” to become a Missions to Seamen Chaplain, and was resigning the living.  The following month, he had to withdraw from his new appointment after an unsatisfactory medical examination.  Unfortunately, the Bishop had already offered the High Beach vacancy to the Vicar of Dovercourt, who had accepted, so that the obvious solution was for Mr Knibbs to move to Dovercourt.


The Vicar’s last Sunday was the 18th July.  During his time in High Beach, communicants at Easter had averaged ninety-three (103 in 1947) and his Easter Offerings had risen from £15.00 to £52.00.  Annual averages were twenty baptisms, eleven marriages and eight burials.  The electoral roll contained sixty-eight names.


At the Farewell Social, the Vicar and Mrs Knibbs were given a cheque for £63.00 and a grandfather clock.  As gifts from the choir, Graham and Rosemary each had a stamp album.


11th Incumbent  1948

The Revd. Herbert Purefoy Statham MA of Kin’s College, Cambridge and Wells Theological College, was ordained in 1904 and served in the Southwark diocese until 1929, when he moved to Chelmsford as Diocesan Missioner – he visited High Beach to preach in 1932.  He had been Vicar of Dovercourt since 1935, and was instituted to the living of High Beach on the 24th July 1948.


The permanent war-damage restoration work on the church began soon after Mr Statham’s arrival, and when the outside roof repairs were completed, scaffolding was put up inside for the plastering and decorating.  Although the organ was covered by sheets, all the Sunday services were continued in spite of the dust and mess.  The work was finished during December  - almost five years after the V2 explosion – and the windows re-glazed except for the three at the east end of the chancel.


Meanwhile, the War Memorial Tablet was completed, and erected in the church in time to be dedicated on Remembrance Sunday, 7th November.


The new Vicar was also immediately involved in the complicated affair of the vicarage drainage.  Some months earlier, the diocesan architect had found that the drains were not connected to the main sewer nor to a cesspit, but discharged into the Forest, running by the front fence in an open channel, causing offensive smells in hot weather.  It was proposed to build a cesspool on the land adjoining – the “garden site” formerly owned by the Barings, and let to successive Vicars at a nominal rent, and now the property of Mrs Brenton of the Manor House, who generously offered the land as a gift to the benefice.  This was at first not accepted by the Church Commissioners (a body formed in 1948 by the union of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with Queen Anne’s Bounty) who asked “Is it really intended to add over three-quarters of an acre to the grounds of the parsonage house so that a cesspool may be put on the land/”  By March 1949, however, they agreed to accept the gift, and the new drainage was soon completed.


In addition to the War Memorial Tablet, four other memorials were placed in the church during Mr Statham’s time at High Beach:  three stained glass windows in the chancel given in memory of his wife by Mr F F McKenzie, Superintendent of the Forest (Bishop Inskip was to dedicate them but he died three days before the date arranged and, after a service at St Mary’s was buried in High Beach Churchyard beside his wife, daughter and granddaughter);  the table by the south door in memory of David Freshwater, verger 1939 -50;  the plaque on the front of the organ case to Mr Titt (who had died in 1940);  and the tablet on the wall behind the Vicar’s stall recording the Revd. Josiah Norton’s long incumbency, given by his daughters, Miss Lily Norton and Mrs Lock.


A paragraph in the October 1949 Parish Magazine reported that “the Rev F Knibbs has unfortunately been obliged to resign the living of Dovercourt.  The departure of his curate left him single-handed in charge of this large and complicated parish, and the task was beyond his strength.  The difficulty has fortunately been solved by his appointment to the beautiful little village of Eridge Green in Sussex, where he will have a lighter task among rural surroundings”.


The organ, which had been shaken in the explosion and later suffered from the effects of dust and damp, was dismantled and over-hauled in 1950, an “American organ” being used for two months.


The church spire was struck by lightning in April 1951, the lightning conductor and the wiring in the tower and vestry destroyed, the clock damaged and some of the stonework of the spire cracked and loosened.  Fortunately the insurance company paid the bill for the repairs.


On being told of the stonework damage by the steeplejacks, the architect, Mr Rex Foster, sent a surveyor to advise on the necessary repairs.  He arrived at the church to find vertical ladders from ground to the weathervane on the north side but no steeplejacks.  On his own, he climbed to the top, inspecting the damage on the way.  At the top the view was wonderful but, as there was a bit of a breeze, the tops of the trees were rolling and this gave something of a mal-de-mer feeling.  On the way down his left elbow suffered a sharp knock on a ladder socket disabling the arm and the remainder was completed single-handed.  The re-inspection after the repairs were carried out was done with the aid of field glasses.  Twenty-five years later, that surveyor was elected churchwarden not, of course, anything to do with the lightning strike.


In July, the Vicar was installed as an Honorary Canon in Chelmsford Cathedral, and at the end of September, Mr S Carlton Roberts, who had been organist since 1939, resigned and was succeeded by his young assistant, Barry Rose of Chingford.


On Sunday the 14th October, Canon Statham died at the age of seventy-one.  He was buried in the churchyard, the service being conducted by the Revd D A Rhymes, Priest-vicar of Southwark Cathedral, who had been the late Vicar’s curate at Dovercourt.  The Rt Revd H R Gough, now Bishop of Barking, preached at the memorial service when many of Canon Statham’s clerical friends joined the large congregation.


Colonel Buxton wrote in the Magazine:  “May we retain his certainty that love of his God and kindliness to his neighbour made an infinitely cheerful way of living.”




For the next seven months from October 1951 to May 1952, the Sunday services and the baptisms, weddings and funerals were taken by the clergy of Waltham Abbey and St Mary’s , Loughton – Canon Cleall (who was now Rural Dean) and his curates, C C C Wilson and N E H Westall (who was priest-in-charge at Upshire), and the Revd L S Bewers and his curates, D V Wright (of St Michael’s) and R W East.  The Bishop of Barking came for the early service on Easter Day and Mr W E Crick the Loughton Lay Reader, who had often helped out during the past twenty years, came several times.


12th Incumbent  1952

On the 3rd May, the parishioners welcomed back the Revd Frank Knibbs, ‘re-instituted’ by the Bishop of Barking in the church which now showed no signs of war damage.  In the caption on the cover of the church magazine during Mr Knibbs’ previous incumbency had been “The Church in the Forest” – now on the cover was “The Cathedral in the Forest”.


Mr Knibbs was delighted to be back as Vicar of High Beach – “the same loveliness of the Forest, same garden to mow, weed and scythe at the vicarage, the same charming church, the same unfailing friendliness and loyalty .. As a parish we have really made history.  Apparently it has never been heard of before for a vicar to come back for ‘a second innings’, not even by the bishops, who surely ought to know.”


One ‘restoration’ was necessary.  The old chancel carpet had been stolen in 1949, and a team of ladies undertook the making of a replacement –a twenty-four feet long blue carpet (part of which is still in position in the Chancel).  It was ready for “Coronation Sunday”, the 31st May 1953, which began a week of parish festivities which included the lighting of the Beacon Bonfire at the King’s Oak.


From the Parish Magazine 1953

“An unexpected pleasure was ours (those of us who attended Church) on the 17th May, when our morning congregation included no less distinguished a visitor that “Montgomery of Alamein”.  The complete surprise of this informal visit added greatly to its charm and inspiration.  Had “Monty’s” coming been advertised beforehand, the Church would doubtless have been crowded to overflowing but the pleasure of the occasion, both for him and for us, would have been thereby diminished.


After the service Viscount Montgomery stood at the porch and chatted with us, and expressed his admiration for our Church and its beautiful setting.  That was not surprising.  The sun shone out splendidly and our lilac was in full bloom, not to mention the bird-songs and the wonderful trees in May”.


Also from the Parish Magazine:

“There must be may of us who pass the Church in the Forest every day of our lives who will never have noticed in the tail of the arrow of the weather-vane, the two words “Laus Deo” – Latin for “Praise the Lord”.  Perhaps our eyesight is not quite what it was.  The arrow needs to be at the right angle to catch the light.  Even then it requires a keen eye to pick out the letters.  A friend who lives three miles from the Church picked them out with a telescope from his window recently and informed the Vicar.”


Parish life was very active during this time.  In 1953 the Vicar introduced an innovation – “Midnight Mass” on Christmas Eve, attended by eighty-five communicants.  He conducted the Sunday services as usual on the 3rd January and died suddenly in hospital a week later, aged only forty-seven.


The wooden seat in the churchyard by the south porch is inscribed in his memory, and overlooks his heather covered grave which, at his own request, was not marked by a stone.



The living was again vacant, this time for only four months during which time the services were maintained by local clergymen from Waltham Abbey and Loughton, and some two hundred parishioners and friends contributed almost £600.00 to “The Revd F Knibbs Memorial Fund”.


13th Incumbent – 1954

On the 5thMay 1954, the Revd Arthur Laurence Harriss BA, FSA who had been Vicar of Canewdon was instituted as Vicar of High Beach, and installed in the Vicarage with his two daughters, the Misses, Doris and Eileen Harriss.


The stipend was now augmented by £172.00 under Scheme K, making with fees and Easter Offering, a gross of about £500.00 (pew rents being phased out).


A kindly, cheerful man, Mr Harriss had spent his forty years of ministry first in London, and from 1930 in the Southend deaconry.  During his time in High Beach, he made no major changes in the parish routine, apart from appointing Mr John Hunt (who had been a pupil of Dr Harold Darke, an eminent City organist) in place of Mrs Knibbs, who had been organist since Barry Rose went off for the National Service in 1952.


A group of ladies, under the guidance of Mrs Clarke of the Dower House, worked for six months on a new altar cloth which was finished in time for Christmas 1955.


Early in 1956, Mr Harriss had decided to retire because he realised that the parish needed a  vicar’s wife as well as a vicar, and also because he had reached the age of seventy.


He left High Beach in April and lived in Rochford, becoming a Public Preacher, Rural Dean of Canewdon, and Honorary Canon of Chelmsford. He died in 1976.


For the period 1948 to 1956 the annual averages were eighteen baptisms, fifteen marriages and eight burials.  Peak figures were reached with twenty-three marriages in both 1953 and 1954, and twenty-nine baptisms in 1955.



Yet another interregnum followed (the fourth in twelve years), and a retired clergyman was found to act as priest-in charge, the Revd F G Frost, a former Lincolnshire Rector, now living in Buckhurst Hill.  He had in fact spent four weeks in High Beach on a holiday exchange of duties with Mr Knibbs in August 1946.


Few parishes can have had as many changes as did High Beach between 1937 and 1956.  During those twenty years, a regular churchgoer would have known six vicars (three of whom died in office), attended six institutions, and seen dozens of visiting clergymen during the five interregnum periods while the parish was without a vicar.


But for the whole period, and indeed since 1932, Col. E N Buxton had been Vicar’s Warden, and his stabilising influence undoubtedly contributed greatly to maintain the continuity of the parish.  He was to continue in office until his death in 1957.


14th Incumbent – 1956

The Revd. Joseph Crompton was instituted as Vicar on the 6th June 1956.  Many years later, he wrote:

“It was a glorious evening on the day we moved into the Vicarage, so my wife and I strolled through the forest to the church.  Tom James, a former churchwarden, was working the churchyard.  When he saw us, he left what he was doing and kindly offered to show us round.  We saw the “Father Willis” organ and learned that the great man himself had built it for High Beach Church;  we were told how the blue chancel carpet had been made by the ladies of the parish and why it had become known as the Carpet of Reconciliation.  Up in the tower, we saw the thirteen hemispherical bells and the Heath Robinson style of machinery which played them by gravity weights on a cable, which took two men twenty minutes hard work to wind.  The apparatus had been put out of action by a wartime bomb, and after the war, Tom James and another church officer, Alfred Whitaker, did away wit the cumbersome weights.


And so a pleasant evening was passed learning about the place in which we were to spend so long a time.  As we left, Tom looked at me with a twinkle and said “By the way, two bishops are buried out there and four of our former incumbents!”.  My wife’s immediate reaction was to exclaim, “Let pack up and go back – it’s not too late”.


But they did stay, for the next twenty-four years.


By 1971, Mr Crompton was vicar of High Beach with Upshire (Upshire was not then a Parish) and was in sole charge of the benefice without connections with any other church.  Services followed a well established pattern, namely 8.00 am Holy Communion on the 1st and 3rd Sundays (2nd and 4th at Upshire) and Morning Prayer at 11.15 am with short Holy Communion after on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.  The 11.15 timing was to allow sufficient time for the Vicar to get to High Beach after a 9.30 service at Upshire.  However, on one Sunday each month, this was not possible and a Lay Reader, Dr Joseph Whiteley, took Morning Prayer.  There was a Sunday School which met at the Village Hall before the Morning Service but, in the early 1970’s, this was changed to meet in the Church.


All ran smoothly under the hand of Michael Shingleton who was both one of the churchwardens and also treasurer.  Miss Brenton of the Manor House, “looked after” the church in so many ways and was Sacristan.  She held the massive 7”-8” iron key to the front door.  This key was later changed when the porch was closed in  thus reducing the terrific draughts that occurred when the door was opened.  Dr John Hunt played the organ and at one time, his wife and three daughters were all in the choir.  In the late 1960’s the mechanism for ringing the bells changed, and Jane Russell taught herself how to play the “lever mechanism” and compiled a book of over two hundred hymn tunes which can still be played on the bells.  As she was in the tower anyway, she also became responsible for winding the clock each week – it runs for eight days before it needs re-winding.  Phyllis Shingleton was in charge of the flowers.


One Good Friday, the main and side doors were damaged and could not be opened and the long sealed tower door had been smashed open and it was possible to get in easily.  The vestry had been searched and the safe turned on its  face and ripped open with masses of sand all over the place.  Nothing had been stolen except a ladies watch which was broken and had been in the safe for years.  This caused cancellation of the Good Friday Service but after a weekend of hard work, the Easter services went on as usual.


During the 1970’s, Series Two, the forerunner of the ASB was tried over a few weeks but the congregation voted not to adopt it.


Harvest Suppers were wonderful events, with, on one occasion, Biddy Webster bringing her goats along to the old Village Hall.  The church used the hall for social and fund raising events such as Christmas Bazaars, with a Secret Shop for children made by Phyllis Mason, refreshments for Flower Festivals etc until the Hall was forced to close.  Then the church used Sewardstone Hall until the new hall was built.


When Dr John Hunt moved in 1976, his place as organist was taken by Jack Haylett who had been playing the organ at Upshire.  His wife, Vi Haylett, joined the High Beach choir but was always delighted to be invited back to sing at Upshire.  It had been customary for a group of adults and children to go around the Parish singing carols just before Christmas but bad weather and the effect of cold and long walks in the dark, narrow lanes were discouraging and it was suggested that informal carol singing took place in the church and this is still a popular part of church life.


Mr Crompton decided to retire in 1980 after twenty-four years and various leaving parties for him were well attended.


Interregnum 1980

The interregnum which followed lasted for almost twelve months, during which it was “business as usual”, all under the control the churchwardens.  However, two things happened immediately.  The large “Model” Vicarage was sold and Upshire severed connections with High Beach and attached themselves to Waltham Abbey.  So High Beach was left without a priest, entirely on its own and nowhere to house a priest, if one could be found.  The PCC, led by Michael Shingleton, worked hard to ensure that the church would not be closed.  There were meetings with the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and any one else likely to listen.  Not a service was missed and in fact, a mid-week service was held with the Bishop of Chelmsford preaching.


Apart from the day to day running of the Parish, there was the problem of getting a priest for each of the Communion services which was not easy but a few kind clergy did help, as did some of local Readers.  The biggest problem was the Midnight Communion for Christmas Eve.  Not a single priest was able to help – all being too busy in their own parishes.  The Bishop suggested that if a priest could be found to consecrate the bread and wine, Dr Joseph Whiteley could conduct the service.  With the Bishop’s consent, the Vicar of St Mary’s, Loughton joined the procession at High Beach at 11.30 pm, went straight to the altar, consecrated the elements, turned, went out to his car, drove through the forest, fully robed, and joined his own procession at 11.45pm.  Meanwhile, Dr Whiteley, assisted by both wardens, Mr Shingleton and Mr Harold Bodley, continued the service at High Beach with a congregation of about ninety people.


The Sunday School continued, led mainly by Mrs Audrey Duerden, helped by her daughter Beverley, ‘Trish Webster, Denise Bodley and others as they were available.  The church has always been known for its beautiful flowers and its standard has never dropped, after the death of Phyllis Shingleton, thanks to Mary Mason supported by her husband Maurice.


At last the Bishop told the churchwardens he had got a priest for High Beach if somewhere could be found for him to live, but the new man could not be a vicar as he would only be serving his second curacy.  The new priest could not be for High Beach only as he would have to be licenced to the Vicar of an adjoining parish as a Curate and would not be permanent, just a stop-gap for two or so years.  So a hunt started for a house.  Wallsgrove had a pair of cottages in Church Road, one for the gardener and one for the chauffeur.  The latter was available and was purchased (that cottage is the right hand one of the pair which are now combined into the Vicarage) and a lot of work was carried out in preparation for the new occupants.


15th Incumbent – 1981

The Revd. Paul Haworth arrived in September 1981 to be Priest-In-Charge while the ecclesiastical powers-that-be linked the parish of High Beach (the benefice having been extinguished) first with St Mary’s, Loughton and later with Waltham Abbey.  Mr Haworth arrived with his wife, Kathrine, their sons, Roy and Bruce, and Paul’s father, Alek.  At a service of Evensong, the Bishop licenced Mr Haworth as Curate of St Mary’s Loughton, with special responsibility for High Beach, and a fresh start was made.


By common consent no changes were made to the services so everything proceeded much as normal.  After a short while Kathrine Haworth took over the Sunday School, Jack Haylett built up the choir from the congregation including his wife, Vi, Phyllis Mason, Joyce and Jane Russell and others.  Phyllis Mason made a replacement Festival Altar Frontal in plain gold with ornamental orphreys which was used instead of the white frontal and then, with help from friends, made a replica of the original Festival Frontal which is used to this day on festive occasions.


Two major alterations were made to the Church.  Due to a very generous bequest from the Misses Akers, the Chapel was moved from the South to the North transept and the “Akers Room” was formed by providing a sound resisting oak and glass screen to the South transept and furnishing it.  At the same time, the church was rewired and the present blue carpet fitted in the aisle.  These changes were designed and supervised by Michael Shingleton.


There were also changes in the situation regarding the church which resulted in Upshire being created a parish and that, with the Parish of High Beach, formed part of the Team Ministry of Waltham Abbey.  Mr Haworth was made Vicar of High Beach and of Upshire as part of the Team headed by the Rector of the Abbey Church and in  October 1988 he was instituted as Vicar of High Beach.  This change ensured that High Beach would not be out on a limb as before but part of a larger unit with more staff to call upon.  The second cottage then became available and the two were united, giving extra space for the family and an office and it was duly named “The Vicarage”.  In fact the Rector of Waltham Abbey gave the name board from Waltham Abbey to High Beach, as his house was now called “The Rectory”.


The congregation was changing in nature.  The older members moved away or passed on, and were replaced by individuals or families who found Morning Prayer rather formal, if not for themselves, then for their children who were used to having freedom to express themselves.  Two services were held close together on a Sunday morning, the Family Service with news time, when the children could tell everyone what they had been doing, and the more formal Mattins.


In October 1992, Mr Haworth and his family left after spending eleven years in High Beach.



Interregnum 1992

A twelve month interregnum followed which was a little easier inasmuch as there was help available from the Team Ministry, and three people, Harold Bodley, David Jessop and Jane Begley, were available to lead Mattins.  As before Michael Shingleton led the PCC through all this ably assisted by David Jessop, the other churchwarden.


16th Incumbent - 1993

The Revd Jonathan Pearce came to High Beach in October 1993, with his wife, Nina and three children as Vicar of High Beach and Upshire, in the Waltham Abbey Team Ministry.  Mr Pearce was born in Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands and first felt the call to the ordained ministry at seventeen years old but completed ten years working in industry before entering St John’s College, Nottingham.  He was a curate from 1985 to 1989 in the Chesham Team ministry and then Assistant Priest from 1989 to 1993 and also Assistant Priest at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.


The services continued as normal but with the addition of some Combined Services for both congregations on special occasions and the inclusion of Holy Communion with Morning Prayer instead of after, for the 2nd, 4th and 5th Sundays.  A Christingle Service was introduced for Christmas Eve and has proved popular, and also an Easter Garden Service on Good Friday.  It was decided by the PCC to distribute the Parish Magazine free of charge to every house in the parish, thereby creating better lines of communication.  The major change to the church was the introduction, for the first time,  of running water in 2001 and, thanks to a very generous donation by Mrs Sully, the building of a disabled toilet.  The perimeter walls on two sides of the church also had to be restored due to vandalism by joy riders.  The number of baptisms and marriages conducted at the church increased, with twenty-five baptisms , twenty-three marriages, one blessing and eleven funerals in 2004.  The Church still attracts people out for a walk from Loughton and from the inner city areas.  It has moved with the times to such an extent that it now operates its own web site on the internet, thanks to the hard work of Nina Pearce.


Interregnum 2007 -2010

When Rev Pearce moved to Great Totham and Goldhanger at Easter 2007, the church was informed by the Deanery that the next incumbent would be for seven years only and the vicarage in Church Road was sold as the Deanery considered it unsuitable for parish work partly because of the poor parking facilities. A new vicarage was purchased on the Meridian Estate in Waltham Abbey, equidistant between High Beach and Upshire.  Services continued with the assistance of clergy and Lay Readers from Waltham Abbey whilst the position was advertised.  St Thomas Upshire was cared for by Rev Joyce Smith of Ninefields, part of the Waltham Abbey Team and because of the close proximity of the two churches, it was decided in 2008 that Rev Smith would become vicar of both Ninefields and Upshire and she was licensed accordingly in January 2009.


 This left Holy Innocents in a difficult position as financial constraints meant the Deanery would not consider a vicar being appointed solely for High Beach.  Whilst the matter was considered, the Rev Stephen Day, curate of Waltham Abbey who had been conducting the most of the services at High Beach left in June 2009 for his own living in Cambridge, followed in July 2009 by the Rector of Waltham Abbey, Canon Martin Webster who became Arch Deacon of Harlow.  This left the Rev Joyce Smith the sole full time vicar of the Waltham Abbey Team comprising Waltham Abbey, Ninefields, Upshire and High Beach with the assistance of one non stipendiary vicar, and four lay readers – one of which was at sea each alternate month.  Still all services at Holy Innocents continued, with DIY services led by Matthew Pearce and Jane Begley.  Activity Days were introduced to encourage non church going families to join in craft activities to reflect the seasons of the church’s year.  The church was opened every Sunday afternoon from the beginning of May to the end of September for visitors who could listen to the organ being played, try their hand at playing the carillon and enjoy home-made cakes with tea and coffee – the sale of which helped considerably to pay the Family Purse.


Eventually the Bishop proposed that a new position be created whereby a vicar would be appointed to High Beach for 25% of his/her time, combined with a Chaplaincy of the Epping Forest part of the City of London Corporation (25% time)  and a Chaplaincy to the Lee Valley (50%).


17th Incumbent 2010

Revd Gillian Hopkins was inducted at Holy Innocents in July 2010.








































Perpetual Curates of  St Paul’s

1837 William Watson

1842 Henry Eley

1843 Samuel Pryer Field

1850 Henry Francis Mallett

1852 Louis Alexander Beck

1865 Josiah Norton

Vicars of High Beach

1868 Josiah Norton

1912 Charles Henry Kempthorne

1920 William David Jones

1938 Walter Frederick Jones

1944 Frank Knibbs

1948 Henry Purefoy Statham

1952 Frank Knibbs

1954 Arthur Laurence Harriss

1956 Joseph Crompton

Priest in Charge

1981 Paul Haworth


1988 Paul Haworth

1993 Jonathan Pearce

2010 – Gillian Hopkins




























Churchwardens from 1837

1837  Charles Sotheby                                    Richard Arabin

1838  Charles Sotheby                                    William Walford

1839  Matthew Allen                                      William Kettlewell

1841  Charles Sotheby                                    Matthew Allen

1843  Mr Hanson                                            Mr Hubbard

1852  Charles Sotheby                                    James Dawson

1855  John Hyde                                             Thomas Hoseason

1857  John Hyde                                             George Boss

1859  John Hyde                                             William S Lupton

1861  John Hyde                                             John Gifford

1864  John Hyde                                             H W Holman

1865  John Hyde                                             Mr Croskey

1869  John Hyde                                             Roger D Upton

1870  John Hyde                                             Thomas Charles Baring

1885  Morris King                                           Thomas Charles Baring

1891  Arthur Janion Edwards                         John Thomas Abdy

1893  Arthur Janion Edwards                         Edmund John Kennedy

1895  Arthur Janion Edwards                         John Titt

1928  Francis Pegler                                        John Titt

1932  Edward North Buxton                          John Titt

1939  Edward North Buxton                          Mr E J Bryant

1940  Edward North Buxton                          Mr W W Webster

1946  Edward North Buxton                          Mr T James

1949  Edward North Buxton                          Mr G F Johnson

1957  Mr George Clarke                                 Mr G F Johnson

1961  Mr Mark Buxton                                   Mr G F Johnson

1965  Mr H J Cooper                                      Mr Mark Buxton

1967  Mr H J Cooper                                      Mr Michael A Shingleton

1969  Mr John F B Sizer                                 Mr Michael A Shingleton

1974  Mr John F B Sizer                                 Mr John H Hunt

1975  Mr Michael A Shingleton                     Mr John H Hunt

1976  Mr Michael A Shingleton                     Mr Harold D Bodley

1985  Mr Michael A Shingleton                     Mr David Jessop

1997  Mrs Jean A Tyler                                   Mrs S A Jane Begley

1999  Mr Douglas Tyler                                  Mrs S A Jane Begley

2007 Mr Peter Taylor-Steward                       Mrs S A Jane Begley

2009  Mr Michael Janes                                  Mrs S A Jane Begley

2010 Mr Geoffrey Higginbottom                   Mrs S A Jane Begley


Organists from 1878

1878 – 1938                                                    Mr John Titt

1938 – 1939                                                    Mr F J Searle

1939 – 1951                                                    Mr S Carlton Roberts

1951 – 1952                                                    Mr Barry Rose

1952 – 1954                                                    Mrs Knibbs (assisted by son Graham)

1954 – 1976                                                    Dr John H Hunt

1976 – 1990                                                    Mr Jack Haylett

1990 -                                                              Mr Frank Manning


The Organ 1878

The following article was written by the late Dr J H Hunt on the occasion of the Centenary of the organ.


When in 1878 Mr T C Baring wished to have an organ in his new church at High Beach, he chose Henry Willis to build it;  he could not have done better!  Now acknowledged an as instrument of historical interest it is still in good playing order, its glorious sound a continuous tribute to the genius and craftsmanship of its maker.


“Father” Willis as he came affectionately to be known, made his name as a young man of twenty-six with his rebuilding of the organ at Gloucester Cathedral and soon after, with a large organ for The Great Exhibition of 1851.  He became the leading organ builder of the last century and his ideas on organ design and tonal development had a considerable influence on the subsequent development of the organ in this country.


“A Father Willis organ is part of our artistic heritage;  it should be jealously preserved” so says W L Sumner in his book on Henry Willis.  So often, ageing organs have been allowed to deteriorate to a point where renovation is impossible.  That the organ at Holy Innocents has survived so well can be attributed largely to the excellence of the materials and the soundness of construction which was a feature of all Henry Willis’ work, not least his many small organs.  No doubt the Spartan condition in the Church during much of its life have also helped – heat is a great enemy of organs – but it is also due to the foresight of successive church councils who, realising its worth, have readily agreed to whatever steps were necessary from time to time to keep it in good order.


The organ passed out of the care of Henry Willis & Sons in 1906 and records are scanty until 1932 when, following a period of neglect, the late Col. E N Buxton had it examined by Gray & Davison Limited who were installing a chamber organ at Wallsgrove House.  Part of the organ had been un-useable for some time owing to stiffness in the action and renovation was undertaken to restore it to reasonable playing condition.


It was in this state when John Hunt as a youth was allowed by the veteran organist Mr John Titt to play it.  Amazingly, Mr Titt had been appointed in 1878 before the organ was installed.  He continued as organist for sixty years until infirmity compelled his retirement in 1938.  Mr Titt remembered Henry Willis himself visiting the church to supervise the erection of the organ.


The Church was partly unroofed by a German missile in 1945 but the sturdy organ suffered no serious damage except from dirt and rubbish showered into it, and after cleaning and minor repairs it was again in good order.  It is recorded that some pipes of the clarinet stop were returned to Gray & Davison’s work-shop for repair after war damage.  The electric blower was installed at this time also.


In the most recent renovation by Wm Hill & Son and Norman & Beard, in 1972, a new pedal board and a balanced swell pedal were fitted.  Also, direct electric action to the pedal stops was substituted for a rather unsatisfactory pneumatic action which in 1950 had replaced the original long and complicated tracker work that had become badly worn and noisy.  The original manual track action (now much in favour again) was also thoroughly overhauled.  The pipe-work has never been altered in any way, and the organ still sounds much as it did when it left the hands of its illustrious builder over a hundred years ago.


In January 1989, all the pipes except the two pedal ranks were taken down, cleaned, replaced and tuned – a five days’ job for the tuner and his assistant.  It is believed some of the pipes for the clarinet stop were not returned after the Second World War.  New pipes were installed in 2002

and in January 2005 all the pipes were taken down, cleaned and replaced and the keyboards also were cleaned.


Interesting facts about the Church


The cost of building our present church in 1873 was £5,500.00.  The cost of adding on the disabled toilet in 2002 was £50,000.00.


The spire is a stone broach spire which soars to above the tree tops to a height of 125 feet.


In the tower are thirteen hemispherical bells cast in 1873 at the Whitechapel Foundry;  the largest bell is 2’8 ½” diameter and weighs 4 ¼ cwt, the total weight of the bells being nearly 2 ¼ tons.  They were originally played by a weight driven device with pinned barrels but are now operated from a key-board with manual levers.


The timber roof of the nave is a good copy of the hammer-beam type found in medieval churches.  The main roof was repaired by wood from orange crates after the Second World War.


There are several interesting tablets on the walls including war memorials for two wars, some brass memorials and one in memory of the longest serving incumbent, Josiah Norton.


Victoria stained glass remains in the windows in the north transept.  Similar windows in the chancel and south transept were shattered by a German rocket which exploded nearby in 1945, also damaging the church roof.  The chancel windows were replaced with modern stained glass given in 1949 in memory of his wife by Mr F F McKenzie, Superintendent of the Forest for thirty-nine years.  On the left is St Francis and on the right, St Stephen and the Holy Innocents.


The contents of the north transept were originally in the south transept which was furnished as a chapel in 1960 in memory of Col E N Buxton and Mrs Buxton.  He was a Verderer of the forest;  the altar frontal is embroidered with the cattle marks of the local forest parishes, and the kneelers with forest designs.  A guide to the brand marks stands on the altar.


There are four carved stone heads inside the church and thirty-four others outside.  High up at the corners of the tower are four splendid gargoyles – water spouts carved in the shape of fierce winged creatures.  The weathervane bears the Latin words “LAUS DEO” – ‘Praise the Lord’ – an apt reminder of “Glory to God in the Highest”.


The Lych Gate was erected in 1898 to the loving memory of the late Mr and Mrs Arrowsmith of Arabin House by their son, Mr Walter Arrowsmith.


In the churchyard near the main road, is a tall stone carved with runic script (Old Scandinavian).  It is a quotation from the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf:  “Then at the fated hour Scefing, very brave, passed hence into the Lord’s protection” – a clergyman’s memorial with the names of the wife and son on a flat stone nearby.

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