1923 History

Published in serial form in the parish magazines of 1923 under the title ‘Our Church and Parish’, this account of the early years of St Michael’s has also appeared in booklet form under the title ‘In The Beginning’. Chapter headings are from the original unless they appear in square brackets. All links and footnotes were added in 2017.



If you want to know how the work in St Michael’s parish first began, you must go and stand in front of the Gas Company’s brilliantly lighted shop at 5a Camden Road. This was the house which was taken as the Mission House, no site being at that time available even for a temporary church, and the spot where the Church now stands being occupied at that time by two houses, Nos. 11 and 13 Camden Road, which had long gardens at the back. The partitions of the shop were all removed, and the scullery converted into a vestry. Here it was that the first service was held on 25th February 1877, when there were 16 communicants at 8.00am. The altar was obtained from St James’ House, Fulham.

The little font, given by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral, came from St Michael’s Queenhithe, and had originally belonged to the City Church of Holy Trinity-the-Less, which was destroyed by the Great Fire of London, being the only thing saved from the fire. Eight boys were selected to sing in the choir, and Mr Dace offered his services as a voluntary organist.

The Rev E B Penfold, the first Vicar, lived at first at 1 Gloucester Street, now known as Albert Street, but later on moved to the rooms on the first-floor of the Mission House. His old friend the Rev A.G. Hunter (now Canon Hunter), came and gave his services as Assistant Priest; and so the two Priests settled down to their work. The parish at that time was smaller than it is now, the population being just over 5,000, whereas now it is over 8,000. The Hawley Crescent Schools were utilised for Sunday Schools, which were opened on 28th October 1877. As there was no room for children at the Mission House, a service was held for them every Sunday morning in the Schools. The services for grown-up people continued to be held at the Mission House until 17th August 1879.


After two years and a half a move was made from the Mission House to the temporary Iron Church which had been erected on the site of Nos. 11 and 13 Camden Road. A good many difficulties had to be overcome in order to secure first the leasehold and then the freehold of this property. However, at length the site was acquired for a sum of £2,300, the houses were demolished, and the Old Metropolitan Board of Works gave leave for an Iron Church, holding 250 people, to be erected at the far end of the ground, where the chancel now stands. The first service in this iron building was held on Sunday, 24th August 1879. It continued to be used for Divine service for over two years, until St Michael’s Day 1881.


During the two years that the Iron Church was being used, plans were prepared for the building of a permanent Church. The Architects were Messrs Bodley and Garner, and St Michael’s was the first Church they had designed in London. The style was XIVth century Gothic. Messrs Dove were the builders, and on All Saints’ Day 1878, the foundations of the Nave were laid, at a cost of £850. On Lady Day 1880, the contract for the building of the Nave was signed, the amount being £7,837. The walls soon began to rise fast, and on 5th June of the same year the corner-stone was laid, the ceremony being performed by the present Marquis Camden, who was then only 8 years of age. The Bishop of Bedford (Bishop Walsham How), who was then the only Assistant Bishop in London1 (there are now three Assistant Bishops2) was present, and preached from 2 Chron. Xxxvi 23, standing on the top of one of the half-built walls. Beneath the corner-stone there were placed, in a glass tube, a copy of ‘The Times’ newspaper of the day, a map of the parish, a list of subscribers, a specially printed copy of the Service, one of each of the silver coins of the year, and a parchment bearing the following inscription:

The Corner-Stone of this Church was laid by the Most Noble the Marquis Camden, on the 5th June 1880. Edward B. Penfold, Incumbent; John E. Elliott, Treasurer.

Towards the cost of this great undertaking, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave £5,300 from the sale of the site of St Michael’s, Queenhithe, one of the old City Churches. The rest was obtained from various Church Societies and by voluntary subscriptions. The Nave took a little over a year to erect, and very interesting it was to watch its progress. The tracery of the windows was all cut on the spot. A small steam engine stood where the first chancel-step now is, which worked the derry and ground the mortar. In January 1881 a severe snowstorm took place which penetrated through the ventilators of the Iron Church, causing the suspension of the Services for several days; but fortunately the roof of the new building was nearly completed, so that it suffered little harm. Then came the great day, when it was ready for consecration. On St Michael’s Day, 29th September 1881, the Holy Communion was celebrated for the last time in the Iron Church, at 8.00 am, and the Consecration of the permanent building took place at 11.30 am. Bishop Walsham How, who had preached at the laying of the corner stone, came this time to consecrate the Church, and preached the sermon from St Matthew xxviii 17. Many of the neighbouring Clergy were present, and the event was naturally of great interest to the whole district. The proportions of the Nave, thus consecrated, were wonderfully stately. The great features were the beauty of its arches and the massive dignity of the pillars. Its height is 59′ to the apex of the roof. From the first all the seats have been free, and it has always been kept open as much as possible. Besides the times of Services in the early morning and late evening, it is also open for private prayer every week day from 10-8. On 5th October the first Churchwardens were elected, Mr R H Gisburne and Mr J E Elliott. The intention had been to retain the Iron Church for parish purposes, but this the Metropolitan Board of Works (which has now ceased to exist) would not sanction. It had therefore to be pulled down, and went, with some of its fittings, to Woodford3 The Altar and its frontals were given to Croydon4.

Up to this time the entire cost of the Church and the site had been £12,174. Of this the site cost £2,470, and the actual building, including the foundations and temporary furniture, £9,704. It must be remembered that this had to be spent on the Nave only, for the Chancel and Side-Chapel were not added till 13 years later. It was only the courage and faith of the first Vicar, and the self-denying efforts of himself and the loyal workers and friends whom he gathered round him, which enabled the work to be carried so far to a successful conclusion. At the time of Consecration there still remained a debt of £800, which was not cleared off till the year 1886. Thus the Nave was finished, but it must be remembered it was much plainer in appearance than it is now. There was then no decoration on the ceiling, no dado round the walls and no heating apparatus. Two gigantic stoves stood one at the west door and the other at the old vestry door. The east end ended with a wall right across the Church, just where the Chancel now begins. And like this it remained until 1894.


In 1892, after the debt on the building of the Nave had been cleared off and a further sum of about £3,000 had been collected or promised, it was decided to proceed with the building of the Chancel. The foundations were laid in the autumn of 1892 by Messrs Rudd of Grantham but it was not till nearly a year later that the Committee felt justified in making arrangements for the foundation stone of the actual building to be laid. The contract for the building was given to Messrs Stephens and Bastow of Bristol, and was to include the Chancel, Side-Chapel, the Stone Screen on the south side, a proper heating apparatus in place of the two existing stoves, panelling round the walls, decoration of the ceiling, and Reredos behind the High Altar – the whole to cost £6,300.

The foundation stone was laid by Lord Halifax on 24th June 1893, an address being given at the close of the service by the Bishop of Marlborough. Beneath the stone (which weighed half a ton) a bottle was placed, containing the silver coins of the year, the Order of Service, and a parchment roll with the following inscription:

This Foundation Stone of the Chancel of St Michael’s Church, Camden Town, was laid by the Right Hon. Viscount Halifax, on St John Baptist’s Day, 24th June 1893. Edward B. Penfold Vicar; F. R. Humphreys, D. Winearls, Churchwardens; R. H. Gisburne, Treasurer.

The then Bishop of St Albans, attended by the present Vicar as Chaplain, and the then Dean of St Paul’s, were also present on this occasion, in addition to the two members of Parliament for St Pancras, a number of clergy, and a large congregation. A silver trowel, with an inscription, was presented to Lord Halifax for the ceremony.

After this noble event, the building began in real earnest, and took over a year to complete. The little Church Room, with all its memories of Guild meetings and various other uses, had to be pulled down, as it stood just where the outer wall of the Side Chapel was required. It was a moot point whether the vestries or the Side-Chapel should be built at this time, but the present vicar pleaded successfully for the Side Chapel as being essential for daily services; and so the vestries were postponed till a later date. During the months of August and September 1894, the Church had to be closed for services, as the walls of the Nave had to be plastered, the ceiling painted, and the partition between the old Nave and the new Chancel removed, necessitating the erection of scaffolding through the whole of the building. During these months the services were therefore held at the Mission Buildings, which were specially licensed by the Bishop, and all the services were continued there at the same hours as before. The High Altar was too large to be moved, but the new Altar, to be presented to the Side-Chapel in memory of the Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Saving Name, was ready, and was therefore placed on the platform of the Hall, where it was used daily until the Church was finished.

The great day of the Consecration was fixed for 13th October 1894, and St Michael’s Day was therefore transferred to that date. Only those, perhaps, who had waited since the first service was held in the old Mission House in 1877, or at least, since the Nave of the Church was built in 1881, could enter fully into the feelings of joy and thankfulness, and relief, at the arrival of the day of the practical completion of the Church. The new Chancel, with its fine window, the decorated Reredos, the Chapel with its stone groined-roof, the beautifully painted ceiling, the wall panelling, and the newly plastered walls, had quite transformed the appearance of the whole building. About 50 clergy were present at the Consecration Service, and the Church was crowded with worshippers. The Bishop of London (Bishop Temple, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury), after saying the prayers of consecration, celebrated and preached, the whole service lasting nearly three hours. It was a joy to look up into the roof and see the great gold letter M standing out (repeated no less than 144 times) to remind us of our Patron Saint. For the benefit of those who may have desired to know the meaning of the Latin inscription running round the side, we give the translation here. In the Chancel the words are taken from the Preface in the Communion Service:

With Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy Glorious Name, evermore praising Thee and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.

In the Nave are two verses from the old Office hymn for St Michael’s Festival, followed by the antiphon, the translation being as follows:

Thee, the Brightness and the Might
Of the Father, Thee we sing,
Jesu, of our hearts the Life,
On Whose lips the Angels cling.
To the Father and the Son,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
As it was, so let it run
Glory through eternity.

An Angel stood at the Altar of the Temple,
Holding a golden censer in his hand (Rev. viii.3)
O come let us adore the Lord, the King of Archangels.
O come let us rejoice.


The decoration of the Church began to demand attention at an early date in its history. It was severe in style and of a character which called loudly for embellishment. And naturally the first thought was to put some colour into the windows.

The first window to receive stained glass is the first one seen on the left hand in the north aisle. It represents St Stephen, the first Martyr of all, and St Alban, the first British Martyr (who met his death on 22nd June A.D. 304). St Stephen is holding in his left hand a palm branch, the emblem of victory. Above him are three angels, and below two more angels, holding up a shield on which is drawn the initial letter of his name, surmounted by a crown. The words in Acts vi.15 seem to be realised in the picture, “All that sat in the Council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” The connection of the Martyrs with the Angels is intended to represent the fact that the Martyrs continued on earth the warfare with sin which St Michael and the Angelic host began in heaven. The other figure, St Alban, has for his armour a breastplate and cross, a soldier as he was of this country and his God. The window bears the following inscription:

To the glory of God and the dear memory of Thomas S. Butler, who entered into rest 17th September 1884.

The light representing St Stephen was put in at Michaelmas 1884; that representing St Alban a year later.

The second window (the middle one in the north aisle) was placed in the Church in 1887 by the Revd A G Hunter, Mr Penfold’s first colleague. It bears the following inscription:

To the glory of God and in pious memory of Richard Hunter and Caroline his wife, the dearly loved parents of Archer G. Hunter, first Assistant Priest of this Church, AD 1877-1882.

The subject is St Pancras and St Paul. St Pancras was chosen in honour of the boy martyr to whom the Mother Church of the borough is dedicated. He was a young Phrygian who was brought by his uncle to Rome at the age of 14, after the death of his parents, in the year 304AD. There they were introduced to the Bishop, who baptised them. But a few days afterwards the uncle died, and Pancras was left alone. The persecution ordered by the Emperor Diocletian was raging at the time, and the boy was denounced as a Christian and put to death with the sword on 12th May 304, just about a month before St Alban was martyred in England. The first church consecrated in England (by St Augustine) was dedicated to St Pancras, at Canterbury, and its ruins are still to be seen. In our window Pancras is represented with a sword in one hand (to represent the instrument of his martyrdom) and a book in the other (to represent his profound learning).

The third window, the one next to the Side-Chapel, was dedicated at Michaelmas 1890. It represents St Faith and St Boniface, while Angels are seen holding up the curtains of heaven to disclose the Saints. The inscriptions are, under St Faith:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of Blanche Wilhemina Corfe, who entered her heavenly rest 31st January 1882, aged 27 years.

and under St Boniface:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of Edward Vickris Burridge, Priest and Missioner, who fell asleep 10th July 1889, aged 39 years. Beloved children of a sorrowing Mother. RIP.

St Faith was chosen because her festival occurs on 6th October, the Octave of Michaelmas, our Patronal and Dedication Festival. At a very early age she was martyred at Agen in France, in the year 290AD. When ordered to sacrifice to the heathen gods she signed herself with the sign of the Cross and answered boldly, “In the Name of Jesus Christ my Lord, not only will I not sacrifice to your gods, but I am ready to suffer all kinds of torments.” Then she was put to a cruel death, being slowly burnt over a brazen gate. That is why she holds in one hand a grid iron, and in the other a palm of victory. When the bystanders witnessed her courage, numbers of them confessed the faith of Christ and won with her the martyr’s crown. It is interesting to know that the beautiful chapel in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is dedicated to St Faith. The other saint in our window is St Boniface, the great English Missionary Martyr. He was a native of Crediton in Devonshire, and his one desire being to become a Missionary, he went out to Friesland in Germany, where he laboured until he became Archbishop of Mainz. In the year AD 755 he was put to death. His festival is kept on 5th June. The subject for this light is chosen as being specially appropriate to a Mission Priest, in memory of the Mission to Men which Mr Burridge conducted in the parish in March 1888, and which left behind it very deep and tender memories.

These three windows, and the three in the Side-Chapel, were executed by the well-known stained glass artists, Messrs Burlison and Grylls.


We have described the three stained glass windows in the north aisle of the Nave. There remain the windows in the Chapel of the Resurrection and the great east window in the Chancel.

The fourth window to be given was the one on the left nearest the Altar in the chapel. One of the lights was dedicated at Michaelmas 1898; the other not till a year later. They represent two scenes connected with our Lord’s Resurrection: the Confession of St Thomas and the Supper at Emmaus. The former scene shows St Thomas making his act of faith at last in his Risen Master, on the Octave of the first Easter Day, the words being, “And Thomas answered and said, ‘My Lord and my God.’” Above is an Angel bearing a scroll on which are the words, “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.” The inscription beneath runs as follows:

To the glory of God and in loving memory of Susanna Braine, who entered into rest 23rd March 1895.

The latter scene shows the two disciples at Emmaus on the evening of the first Easter Day, the words being, ‘He was known of them in the breaking of bread.’ Below, the inscription is:

To the glory of God and in memory of Thomas Percy Atchison, for 13 years Organist of this Church, who entered into rest 12th May 1899.

At the foot of the window are the figures of the four Evangelists.


The fifth and sixth windows were dedicated (along with other Memorials, i.e. the brass Figure of the First Vicar, and the chancel and communicants’ Marble Steps) by the Bishop of London, in the Octave of the Ascension Festival, 2nd June 1908. These were the two east windows, the one in the chapel being part of the memorial to the first Vicar; the other in the chancel being his own legacy to the Church of which he was the founder and which he had served so nobly for 27 years.

The subject of the east window in the chapel is The Crucifixion. On each side of the Crucified Figure of our Lord are the two who stood by His Cross – Our Lady and St John. The inscription at the foot is as follows:

Remember before God Edward Bainbridge Penfold, First Vicar of this Parish, who died 29th July 1907; in loving memory of whose life and teaching this Window is here placed by his Parishioners and Friends.

The window is full of Angels; one is seen on each side of the Cross adoring the Saviour of the world; six others are holding scrolls and prophetic emblems of Our Lady [labelled in Latin, of which the following is a translation] – ‘the Star of Jacob’, ‘the Garden enclosed’, ‘the closed Door’, ‘the Tower of David’, ‘the Lily of the Valley’ and ‘the Mystic Rose’. When there is only one side-chapel in a church it is usually (unlike our own) called ‘the Lady Chapel’. Perhaps the two ideas might be now combined by calling it ‘The Chapel of our Lady and the Resurrection’.


The great east window in the chancel is undoubtedly the glory of the Church. When it was first placed in position someone very truly called ‘a dream of beauty’. The work was entrusted to Messrs Kempe, the first stained glass artists in England, and is up to their best standard. It is like a piece of sparkling jewellery, its silvery tints reminding one of the old glass that is to be seen in the College Chapels at Oxford. Our Lord is seated in majesty, with all the adoring Angels round Him, and below is the figure of St Michael, our Prince and Patron Saint, in the centre, with St Gabriel on his left and St Raphael on his right. The inscription runs:

Remember before God Edward Bainbridge Penfold, first Vicar of this Parish, who died 29th July 1907, by whose desire, and at whose charge, this Window is here placed in praise of Almighty God and in honour of His holy Angels.

The words on the scrolls carried by the Angels are as follows: ‘O praise God in his holiness’, ‘The sea is His and He made it, and His hands prepared the dry land’, ‘O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is the Lord our God’, ‘The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel’. The difference made to the Church by this beautiful window can hardly be over-estimated.


The seventh and last window so far to be given, was the one on the left immediately on entering the chapel. It was dedicated on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6th January 1911. It was bequeathed by Miss Mary Bunker, who was for many years the faithful housekeeper of the late Vicar. It represents two more Resurrection scenes – on the left, the Angel appearing to the three Maries at the tomb on the first Easter morning, the words underneath being, ‘he is not here but is risen’, on the right being depicted our Lord’s appearance to St Mary Magdalene, with the words, ‘Touch me not’. In the central head-light is seen an Angel bearing a scroll inscribed, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’. At the foot of the window are four Latin Fathers of the Church – St Jerome, St Gregory, St Augustine and St Ambrose. The inscription in the right-hand corner is as follows:

Remember before God Mary Bunker, a faithful servant and devout worshipper who fell asleep 25th August 1910; at whose charge this Window is here placed.


So far we have described the building of the Church, with its Chancel and Side-Chapel, and all the stained glass window that it possesses. Now we must tell the story of the Vestries.

For the first 27 years of the Church’s existence the choir and servers all had to crowd into what is now the Verger’s room, while a small portion of the south aisle was curtained off for the clergy – where the Calvary now stands. How uncomfortable this was can well be imagined.

But the legacy of £1,000, bequeathed by the first vicar to the Church, made it possible not only to erect the great east window (which cost £660) but left £440 over towards the cost of the vestries. Both these objects had been expressly mentioned in his will among the things he wished to be done.

The actual cost of the vestries, including furniture etc amounted to over £800, while the new path round the Church, new drainage, railings, and the removal of 480 cart loads of earth which had been left when the chancel was built, accounted for another £120. The additional sum required was met by grants from various Diocesan Societies, and by individual donations.

The Architect of the vestries was the late Mr John T Lee, who was a devoted worshipper at St Michael’s and the builders were Messrs Simpson and Son of Paddington.

They were dedicated by the Bishop of Islington on 23rd October 1908. We have now got a suite of rooms, admirably designed in the late Decorated style, giving clergy, choir, and servers plenty of space to move about in. The sacristy, or priest’s vestry, has an entrance into the choir vestry as well as into the Church. The choir vestry is adapted also for Bible classes, and will seat as many people as the Side-Chapel. Both are panelled to a height of 7′ with Oregon pine, the floor being covered with cork in order to deaden the sound of footsteps. The choir vestry is entered through a porch from the path at the back of the Church. The servers have a room to themselves and the thurifer a tiny room apart where the incense is prepared without any trouble or hindrance to other people. The verger rejoices in a room of his own and the whole of the rooms are connected, which is an advantage. In fact few Churches are so well off in this respect as our own.


The space left in the south aisle, where the old sacristy used to be, was filled by a beautiful Calvary, a memorial of Fr Fitzgerald’s Mission. His first visit was in 1906, and his re-visit in 1908 coincided with its dedication. The Figure was carved at Ober-Ammergau, and is admitted by all who have seen it to be one of the most devotional to be found in any Church. It was the gift of four friends. The Cross, made of English oak, and the tapestry hangings behind it, were also an anonymous gift. Fr Fitzgerald admired the Calvary very much, and said he hoped we should never have the Figure painted. So it has been left as it was originally, and we think that is best.


So far we have told the story of the building of the Church, and given a description of its windows. Later on we shall speak of the various gifts which have been added to beautify it, as the years went on.

This chapter, however, will tell how from the first the need also of a room for parochial meetings and entertainments was thought of and provided for. The Mission House at 5a Camden Road was used for this purpose from 1877 to 1883. When this was given up, a room was taken at 8 Union Terrace (now Dewsbury Terrace). But in 1885 the ‘Church Room’, so dear to the hearts of the early members of St Michael’s, and still remembered by some of use, was erected outside the Church, close to where the Side-Chapel now stands. This was opened with great ceremony on 25th January of that year, by Lady George Hamilton, the President of the Parochial Mission Women’s Association, who was for many years a very good friend of St Michael’s, and until quite recently a regular visitor at the Monday Mothers’ Meetings.

The Church Room at once began to be used for choir practices, Confirmation classes, Guild meetings, Bible Classes, Mothers’ meetings, temperance meetings, teachers’ meetings etc. It cost £140, and lasted for 9 years, when it had to be taken down to make room for the building of the chancel of the Church. During those years it was quite invaluable, and its corrugated iron walls and roof have left tender memories behind them and also their dripping reminiscences for those who rubbed their arms against them during a crowded entertainment or after a frost.


Meanwhile plans were being formed for larger accommodation than the little Church Room could possibly afford. A site was obtained from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at the corner of York Street and York Place (now Greenland Street and Greenland Place). A great Bazaar was arranged at the Athenaeum in Camden Road, which was opened on 9th May 1887, HRH Princess Christian, who died only last month after a long life spent in good works. An address of welcome to the Princess was read by the senior choir boy, George Hoddy, now gone to his rest, and a bouquet was presented by one of the Sunday School girls. This took place opposite the Church, where a halt was made on purpose. On the arrival of the Royal party at the Athenaeum, an Address was ready by the Rev E B Penfold, thanking the Princess for her interest in the social welfare of the neighbourhood; after which the Princess declared the Bazaar open. Then Mrs Kendal, the famous actress, very kindly gave two recitations. On the second day, the Bazaar was opened by Lady George Hamilton, and on the third day by Lady John Manners (afterwards Duchess of Rutland), when Mr Toole, the great comedian of days gone by, gave his celebrated monologue, entitled ‘Trying a Magistrate’. The net result of the Bazaar, after paying somewhat heavy expenses, amounted to £350. This made it possible to begin building, and a year and a half later, on 18th December 1888, the Mission Buildings, designed by Mr Lacey Ridge, which cost just over £2,000, were opened to the great satisfaction of the parishioners, by HRH Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, the mother of our present Queen. After an address of welcome had been read by Mr Penfold, the Duchess rose and said “I have much pleasure in declaring this building open, and I trust that it will be of use to the neighbourhood, and that a blessing may rest upon it.” We may say without fear of contradiction that these words have been amply fulfilled during the 35 years that the Mission Buildings have been in existence. It is impossible to say how useful they have been in numerous ways. We have had there Industrial Exhibitions, Concerts, Social Gatherings, Temperance Meetings, Soup Kitchens, Men’s Benefit Society, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, Savings Bank, Clothing Clubs, Mothers’ Meetings, not to mention Sunday Schools, and most important of all, the Services on Sundays and weekdays during the three months that the Church was closed for the building of the chancel and the cleaning and decoration of the nave.

The first caretaker appointed to the charge of the Buildings was Mr Marsh, who was loved and respected by all who knew him. He held the post for 16 years, when he resigned, after the death of his wife, and in 1916 he passed to his rest.

By the kindness of our faithful friend, Mr C H Challen, whom we lost in 1921, a piano was obtained for the hall from his factory at a comparatively small cost, which has been of immense value to us at all our Social Gatherings, and is still ‘going strong’ after a life of over 30 years.


It has taken many years and much money to make St Michael’s what it is today, and even now, a stranger coming into it might regard it as somewhat severe, and in need of much additional colour and ornamentation. But those of us who can remember what it was like when it was first built realise how great a difference the years have made.

To begin with the Chancel. There was no stone screen except on the north side, where the chapel is. The screen on the south side, where the organ now is, was given by Mr and Mrs Blaiklock in memory of their only son, and was dedicated on Easter Eve 1898. It is a beautiful piece of open stone screen work, and on the outside, close to the sacristy, runs the inscription in carved letters:

In loving memory of Cecil Stanway Blaiklock, 6th September 1883. ‘Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.’

Next came the marble steps in the Sanctuary. When the chancel was built it was only possible to lay down ordinary stone steps temporarily. However, in 1903, Mr J Green and his brother gave the five marble steps nearest the altar, in memory of their aunt, Mrs Lynn, ‘to beautify the place of the Sanctuary’. These steps added wonderfully to the dignity of the altar. The next step, given by the Vicar as a thankoffering for the completion of 10 years’ service at St Michael’s, and the Chancel or Confirmation Step, given by the Congregation, were added in 1908, and dedicated by the Bishop of London on 2nd June, along with the memorials to the Rev E B Penfold. The chancel steps are all of black Belgian marble.


In 1911, three of the stone steps nearest the altar were replaced by marble steps, and dedicated on 24th January, the Eve of the Conversion of St Paul. The step nearest the altar is of white marble, symbolical of purity from the Pentelican quarries in Greece; the middle step of red marble, symbolic of redemption, from Italy; the communicants’ step of black Belgian marble, symbolical of penitence. The white and the black steps were provided by the Million Farthings Fund; the red step was an anonymous gift. The last marble step in the chapel, at the entrance gates, was given by the Women’s Ward of the Guild of St Michael, and was dedicated at the Guild meeting on 28th January 1915.


The little old font, described in Chapter 1, came to an untimely end on the last Sunday in November 1901. It was not very steady on its legs, and an accidental push overthrew it and broke it into fragments quite beyond hope of restoration. Nearly 4,000 children had been baptised in it since it was given to St Michael’s. Mr Bodley, the architect, was commissioned to design a new font, of Polyplant marble from Cornwall, which was dedicated on Easter Eve 1902. It is certainly substantial and dignified, though it can hardly be considered beautiful. But it was much improved by the cover, which was presented by the Sunday Kindergarten, and dedicated on Easter Eve 1913.


Another addition to the Church which made it look more seemly was the erection of the beautifully wrought iron gates in the Chancel and Side-Chapel, all executed by Messrs Elsley’s firm. For many years there was only a little wooden door at the entrance to the chapel, while the chancel was only protected by a rope of red material, which had to be renewed when worn out. The gates at the entrance to the chapel, given by Mr J J Kennedy, and those leading from the chapel into the chancel, one being given anonymously and the other by various subscribers, were dedicated on the Eve of the Ascension 1911. Thus the chapel was made to look complete and self-contained. The gates leading into the chancel were dedicated at Michaelmas 1913, the cost of these coming out of the large sum subscribed for the choir stalls and the chancel screen. The last pair of gates, on the south (vestry) side of the chancel, were given by the members of the Million Farthings’ Scheme, and were dedicated at Michaelmas 1914. The marble step on which they rest being presented by Mrs O T Phillips, a cousin of the First Vicar. Thus the chancel became entirely protected, and its whole appearance more reverent and dignified.


Of the old furniture of the Church which has now happily been displaced, nothing was quite so hideous as the old pulpit, with its appalling sounding board. And yet it had tender associations for all the worshippers who were privileged to hear the First Vicar’s sermons. And we know how he would have rejoiced to see the new pulpit which we have now. A playful objection to the removal of the old one was made by one now gone to her rest, who said ‘What’s the good of having a new pulpit? It won’t make the sermons any better!’ Anyhow, it has made the Church look vastly better, for it is a real work of art, and, along with the east window in the chapel and the memorial Figure, formed the memorial of the First Vicar’s work. It was designed by Mr Hare (Messrs Bodley and Hare), and executed in carved oak by Mr Turner. In order to avoid the noise of hammers in the Church during Holy Week, it was dedicated on the Eve of Palm Sunday, 1910. A carved canopy takes the place of the old sounding board, and round it are the words ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’, in gilded letters. The Figure which originally hung on the stone pillar is now fixed to the oak panel beneath the canopy. A small brass tablet since placed on the wall at the side bears the following inscription:

In loving memory of Edward Bainbridge Penfold, First Vicar of this Parish, this Pulpit is given by his parishioners and friends. A.D. 1910

The newly carved oak lectern, which took the place of the old unsightly structure, was dedicated at Michaelmas 1910. It was designed by Mr Hare and executed by Mr Turner, the funds being provided partly by Guild collections and partly by subscriptions.


The choir stalls, screen, servers’ stalls and new altar rails were dedicated at Michaelmas 1913. The altar rails were the gift of the members of the Million Farthings Scheme. The choir stalls were subscribed for as a memorial to Mr G F Bodley, the architect of the Church. The cost of these, and the servers’ stalls, which were adapted from the former altar rails, and the screen, amounted altogether to £350, which took three years to raise. They were all designed and executed, in carved oak, by the same artists who had been responsible for the pulpit and lectern, and the beautiful linen fold pattern, to be seen in many of our old cathedrals and churches, is a great feature of the work. When the screen in front of them was in its place, it was possible for the first time to realise the great size of our chancel, which is about one third of the length of the whole Church. Before then the chancel was all one with the nave, but when enclosed by the screen and gates it appeared in all its beauty. With these additions, the necessary furniture for the services of the Church was now complete.


We pass now from the history of the Church itself to tell of some of the great events in the parish, among which the most important are the Missions which have been held from time to time. This is of special interest in view of the General Mission which is being arranged for the various parishes in the St Pancras Deanery (our own among the number) to take place in November of next year.

The first Mission was held in February 1885, when the Missioners who came to us were Canon Rhodes Bristow, the Rev G O F Griffith, and the Rev H Russell Wakefield (now Bishop of Birmingham). The Mission services included two celebrations of Holy Communion each day, with a meditation between them; services for Intercessory Prayer; short addresses at mid-day; Bible readings; addresses to men only, also to shop assistants, servants, mothers, young women and children; and a Mission service and after meeting each night. The factories were visited, and where possible addresses were given to the workmen. The sick and dying were also visited; and several services were held in the N W London Hospital (now, alas! No longer existing), where the patients were seen daily. The Holy Communion was celebrated for the sick, and services were held for the Baptism of infants in the Church. At the closing services, memorials of the Mission were distributed to those who had made some definite resolution for spiritual progress, or had undertaken some definite work in the parish. There can be no doubt that this first Mission did an enormous amount of good, and opened the eyes of many of the parishioners to the power of the Church, and above all to the need of personal devotion to the great Head of the Church, our Lord Himself.

The second Mission took place ten years later, in February 1895, and was conducted by the Rev W I Carr Smith, The Rev E S Carpenter, and Brother Ellard, of the Lichfield Order of Evangelists. The methods adopted were much the same as before. The congregations on this occasion, though good, were not so large as had been hoped for, chiefly owing to the terribly severe weather which prevailed throughout. But the outdoor processions, headed by the cross bearer, followed by the choir and clergy in cassocks and surplices, made an impression in the streets of our parish, and the earnest words of invitation addressed at different points by the Missioners were instrumental in bringing in some who seldom, if ever, had been to Church before.

The third Mission was held in November 1906 and was conducted by two Fathers of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, Fr Fitzgerald and Fr Murray, assisted by the Rev C L Weatherburn. This was also well attended, in spite of very wet weather, which however ceased in a most providential manner during the outdoor processions each night. At the special services for men on the two Sunday afternoons over 100 men were present both times. One of the striking features of the Mission was the number of people who came forward night after night at the invitation of the Missioner, to renew their baptismal vows.

Fr Fitzgerald also paid us a revisit of a week’s duration in November 1908, giving an address and an instruction every night, and also an address at an intercessory service each morning.
Besides these Missions, which lasted for ten days, we have had other shorter Missions. A Mission to men only was conducted by the Rev E V Burridge in April 1888, lasting for 5 days. A Church Army Mission was held from March 10th to 18th 1901, conducted by Captain Carter and Nurse Jennett, in the Mission Buildings. A Temperance Mission, with the object of arousing deeper interest in the work of the Church abroad, was conducted by the Rev E C Pritchard, of St Cuthbert’s, Winnipeg, Canada, from February 3rd to 7th 1912. And lastly, we had the National Mission, conducted by the Rev C R Cotter, from 25th to 27th November 1916.


This chapter contains some brief reminiscences and a few items which we think will be of interest.


In the autumn of 1883 a serious outbreak of typhoid fever occurred in the district, and nearly 100 persons were affected in our parish alone. Special nurses had to be engaged from the nursing staff of St John the Divine at Kilburn, who came over every day and continued their labour of love for six weeks, until the epidemic was over. Out of all the number who were attacked with the fever only two died, the remainder being saved by the unwearied efforts of the nurses. A large number of those who recovered were afterwards sent to the seaside and to convalescent homes to regain their strength, a special fund being raised for this purpose. On 11th December 1883, a unique service of thanksgiving was held at which 72 people, whose names were read out, came to give thanks to God for their recovery.


In 1904, by an Order of the King in Council, the boundaries of the parish were considerably extended, at the Bishop’s desire, in order to equalise the population of the parishes of St Michael’s and St Mark’s. The population of St Michael’s was thereby increased from 5,000 to over 8,000, by the addition of James Street, Wellington Street, Oval Road, Regent’s Park Terrace, and Gloucester Crescent, besides an additional piece of Arlington Road and the remaining side of Park Street. The Vicarage thus came to be for the first time within the parish and, what was far more important, St Michael’s came into possession of the Church Schools, which had originally belonged to St Mark’s and had been built by the generosity of St Mark’s people. What a privilege the schools have been to us in spite of the heavy financial responsibility of maintaining them, we cannot adequately express.

Our devoted teachers many of whom help us so much in the Church and other ways, and the children too, whom we love and look on as our own children, we simply could not do without them, and we will never give up our Church schools.


The Daily Eucharist began on All Saints’ Day 1887. Up to that time the Holy Communion had only been celebrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays (besides Sundays and Holy Days). Now for nearly 40 years the Daily Sacrifice has been offered each morning and it is the most priceless possession of our worshippers. We could not do without it, and the communions made on weekdays are an evidence of its value, besides the daily prayers offered for the sick and the departed at the time when we commemorate our Lord’s own Perfect Sacrifice on Calvary.


Since the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, the Blessed Sacrament has been perpetually reserved in a tabernacle on the north side of the Side-Chapel, which has since been enriched by additional stone-work in memory of Annie Pike, and by a beautifully carved canopy in memory of Camilla Dollman, and Godfrey Tarn, one of our former servers. What a difference this has made to our church during the last nine years! How instinctively we feel, and know, that God is really there is a very special way, as we enter the church and genuflect before the sacred Presence of our Lord! How thankful we are that at any time, night or day, the Blessed Sacrament can be taken to the sick and given to those who cannot come to the service; and how thankful, too, for the special Service of Adoration which we are permitted to have every week.


In Finchley Cemetery, a few yards beyond the so-called church, is to be found a grave with a marble cross at the head, which is dear to the hearts of those who still remember St Michael’s in former days. In this sacred spot, close to and on the right-hand side of the road, are laid to rest two of our former choir boys – George John Dowsett (28th July 1887), aged 17, and George Rolfe Hoddy (9th December 1892), aged 20. The third name on the steps of the cross is Alice Edith Ford (10th October 1890), aged 19, one of our regular communicants. On the arms of the cross are the words ‘Grant them, O Lord, eternal rest’. At the foot of the grave is a small stone bearing the words, St Michael’s, Camden Town – the grave belongs to us, and there is still one vacant space left.


The chapter may fitly conclude with an extract from an old Magazine, showing the self-denial by which the work of the Church was built up:

We received last month a touching contribution to the Building Fund. A poor woman who had been prevented for three years from coming to church was in the habit of laying aside every week what she would have put in the offertory if she had been able to come. This she carefully wrapped up and put away in her Church-box. It seemed quite sacred money to touch after her death. It amounted to £1.0s.10d.

[PLAQUES, ARTWORKS AND FITTINGS] We have now come to our last chapter, and our space is limited. But we should like to mention some of the many other things which have been given from time to time to beautify the church, and also some of those who have gone to their rest to whom St Michael’s owe so much.

Among the former are the pictures of the Stations of the Cross, which greatly relieve the bareness of the walls, besides providing us with an opportunity for Devotions on Fridays in Lent. The tablet on the south wall is in memory of Private George Roberts, one of our former choir boys, who died in South Africa during the Boer War. This was unveiled by Major-General Mackinnon, CB, on 17th May 1901, at a special service attended by 200 men of the 17th Middlesex, who were present in uniform. (We hope some day to have some additional tablets on the north wall.) The gilded cresting, above the altar in the Side-Chapel, the gilding of the stonework behind, and the tapestry wings on each side, as well as the pictures on the wall, have all helped to brighten the chapel. The seven specially designed sanctuary lamps, provided by the Million Farthings Scheme, have made an enormous difference to the dignity of the chancel, and added a mysterious beauty to the whole church. The oak-rails in front of the nave and Calvary were also a great improvement. The crosses on the high altar and chapel altar, and the processional cross, were all greatly enriched by the beautiful figures given to them. The statue of our Patron Saint on the west wall was designed and executed by Mr C W Jewitt, a former member of our choir, who also designed and executed our much-loved War Memorial Calvary. (We hope these may be followed by a statue of Our Lady.) The finely illuminated Missal used at the sung Eucharist on Sundays was the work of his father, the late Mr W H Jewitt, who also designed and presented us with the Censer. This Missal was the fruit of twenty years labour of love. Besides this we have another exquisitely bound Missal, used at the early Masses on Sundays, which was given in memory of one who fell in the Great War. The four additional candlesticks on the high altar were presented by four sisters in memory of their father, and the six funeral candlesticks were the gift of the members of the Million Farthings Scheme. During the last few years our stock of vestments, which were getting worn out, has been enriched by gifts of white, red, and green silk burses and veils, and numerous gifts of white linen for use at the Altar, also the two beautifully worked upper-frontals for the two Altars. The best white cope and the red altar frontal were given in memory of the late well-known architect, Mr Norman Shaw, who was at one time closely connected with St Michael’s. (We are still without a black cope.) The church now possesses two really good banners, one of our Patron Saint, the other of the Blessed Sacrament. To these gifts must be added the silver ciborium given for the tabernacle, and the silver Communion service for use in ministering to the sick. Nor must we forget to add the Christmas Crib with its artistic figures, and the Paschal candle given to glorify the great Easter festival. We may mention here that our former choir stalls are now in use at St Michael’s, Golders Green, and a formal Missal, which we no longer required, is in use at St Paul’s, Shadwell.
[BIOGRAPHIES] Among those who have gone to their rest to whom St Michael’s owes much are, first, Harriet, Mother of the Community of the Saving Name, and Sister Ellen who, together with Sister Agnes (who is still living), did wonderful work in the early days. Next in honour come the six ladies who for many years ran the North West London Hospital in Kentish Town Road just at the back of the church, Mrs Dixon, Mrs Menzies, and their four sisters, the Misses Learmouth, all of whom are now departed except Miss Susan Leramouth (“Sister” as she was always called). We can never forget the devotion of our first three organists, Mr G O Dace, Mr T P Atchison, and Mr C J Smith; or our first verger, Mr A Acland; or the first caretaker of our Mission Buildings, Mr W J Marsh; or our Mission women, Miss Thorly, Mrs Crook, Mrs Hodges and Mrs Jarnes. May they rest in peace. Among our churchwardens who have gone to their rest are: Mr Elliott, Mr Hall and Mr Challen whom we shall never forget. We owe much to Mrs Ffoulkes and Miss Buss for their unwearying effort in carrying on the Mission School, and Mr G P Wight who was an unfailing help in the Sunday School and Boy’s Club. Of our servers the War deprived us of dear William Tuttle, and the death of Godfrey Tarn was a great loss. The picture in the Side-Chapel will always remind us of the former, and the Canopy over the Tabernacle of the latter. Charlie Bean, who had the sweetest voice that St Michael’s choir ever possessed, will never be forgotten by those who heard him. The greatest help of all in the very early days was Mr E J Dalby, who was the first Vicar’s right-hand man, acting as churchwarden and verger (before churchwardens and vergers existed), also as a server, Sunday School teacher and secretary of the building fund. And Mrs Bunch, how shall we ever forget her? She was the most loyal and generous supporter of both Vicars of St Michael’s. Of the assistant clergy who have passed beyond the veil the Rev E H P Carter will be most affectionately remembered, and the Rev G H Tovey. But, above all, this brief Parish history must end with the name with which it began, Edward Bainbridge Penfold, Priest, Vicar and Founder who ‘fed his people with a faithful and true heart’, as his memorial on the floor of the Chancel so truly says, for 226 26 years26 years and passed to his well-earned rest on 29th July 1907. R.I.P.

  1. As Bishop of Bedford, a see switched from London to St Albans Diocese in 1914.
  2. Bishop of Kensington (set up in 1911), Bishop of Willesden (set up in 1911) and Bishop of Stepney (set up in 1895). There had also been a Bishop of Marlborough from 1888 to 1918 and a Bishop of Islington from 1898 to 1923. As of 2017 the Diocese of London has four area bishops (Edmonton, Kensington, Stepney, Willesden) and two other suffragans (Fulham and Islington).
  3. Probably St Mary’s Woodford, which was enlarged in 1891
  4. Possibly St John the Baptist, now known as Croydon Minster.