Change and Decline

The 1960s brought great change to Camden, as outdated housing stock was updated and families relocated. As early as 1963, the Scout troops were shrinking as rehousing meant that they now lived too far away to take part in their old community.1 The Primary School found its classes shrinking as families were moved to different parts of London,2 and Fr. de Langdale and the PCC undertook door-knocking efforts across the new estates in an attempt to engage the new residents with the church. By the mid-60s, the number of services offered on a Sunday had shrunk to reflect these new demographics, and Evensong was abandoned.3

When Fr de Langdale resigned after 50 years at St Michael’s, his successor Fr. Alan Page inherited a building in increasing need of work amidst a community in flux. Like many churches, the congregation shrank in the 1960s, intensified by the relocation of many in the community.

Although the Parish Magazine ceased in the 1970s, one of its last iterations shows that even as St. Michael’s faced these challenges, it was still maintaining the importance of the Catholic tradition. In 1974, study groups meeting at St. Michael’s discussed the Mass as the centre of their faith, and the importance of “the church as a centre of proclamation,” in which, as Fr Page put it, “Christ is the Host, we are the guests.”4

But despite such intentions, the shrinking congregation was rapidly outpaced by the needs of the building, and later by the hall. At its worst, the roof leaked, the building flooded due to a burst water main, the electricity had been disconnected, and a tiny congregation huddled in the unheated side chapel. Squatters had taken over the Church Hall, and the neighbouring Sainsbury’s supermarket attempted to buy the church building itself.

HDJ

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  1. Parish Magazine, December 1963; December 1965
  2. Parish Magazine, March 1966
  3. Parish Magazine, April 1964; January 1970
  4. Typed draft of parish newsheet, September 1974.