Christ Church on Turnham Green is about to celebrate 175 years. As the introduction of the railway brought a huge new population to live in the area, so the only existing church, St Nicholas on Chiswick Mall, became full to bursting. Christ Church was the first of the Victorian era churches to be built to take the overflow, commissioned in 1841 and completed in 1843 at a cost of £6,900; designed by the architect Gilbert Scott.
Turnham Green was less salubrious in those days, says current vicar Richard Moy, as the area to the north of the High Rd was famous for its washerwomen.
These days some 16,000 people pass through the church’s doors each year for all sorts of reasons, from toddler groups and youth groups to social events for elderly people. One major claim to fame is that parishioner Andre Lee organised a coalition of 15 churches in 2012 to create the Shelter Project. The churches take it in turns to open their doors to provide shelter and meals for homeless men for three months during the winter and help them find employment and permanent homes.
The church has had a major refurbishment in recent years which gives it a cosy, modern feel inside. Hard to imagine now that in 1992 the Bishop of Kensington was minded not to renew the vicar’s living. He was persuaded otherwise and Jim Dainty from Manchester took over. Ironically the congregation grew in number in the interim period when they were without a vicar! It continued to grow and Jim, says Richard, was known for his “firm hand on the tiller” to the extent that he measured with a ruler the space that there should be between the chairs. His successor Matthew Boyes became the chaplain at Feltham Young Offenders institution.
Clearly discipline has lapsed since Richard took over in 2012 as people seemed to be sitting anywhere, in a very relaxed and informal manner when I went in to see him. On his watch the church has managed to reclaim two other churches – St Albans and the Mission Hall on Cunnington St, which came close to being redeveloped as flats. To celebrate the 175th Birthday, Christ Church will be holding a special service this Sunday, 25 November at 10.30am to which everyone is invited.