Until the Enclosure Act of 1814 the population of the Heath, which lay in the Parish of Bexley, was small, living in a very few houses and temporary dwellings used by squatters. After the enclosure settlement the population rapidly increased in the area now known as the Clock Tower.
The Parish Church of St Mary's, Bexley proved to be inadequate for the needs of the growing community on the Heath. In 1829 the Vicar, Dr Goddard, agreed to use a disused Mission Hall in MW Lane (now Mayplace Road) which was duly licensed for Divine Service, but in 1834 this too became inadequate to meet the increasing population. Dr Goddard's successor, the Rev Thomas Harding, instigated the building of the first Anglican church known as the Chapel-of-Ease on a site in Oaklands Road (now known as Albion Road). The chapel was designed by Mr Robert P Browne, a Greenwich architect, and had seating for 500. The foundation stone was laid in 1835 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A large celebration was held on the Heath. Records show that about 3,000 adults and 294 children took part in the procession and were entertained to tea afterwards. the builder was Thomas Charles Strong, son of a social reformer Thirteen months later the chapel was consecrated and services were conducted by a curate from St Mary's Bexley. A burial ground was consecrated beside the chapel in 1842 but was full after only 14 years. Some of the graves may still be seen to this day. By 1851 the population of the 'Heath' had reached 2,574 and the Chapel-of-Ease was extended to provide 178 extra seats and a steeple was added. In 1866 the Bexley Parish was divided and the Parish of Bexleyheath was created, covering about 2,500 acres. in the same year The Rev William Henry Pincott came from Dartford Parish Church to Bexleyheath as Perpetual Curate; thus began a new chapter in the life of the church in Bexleyheath.
The continual increase in the numbers of the congregation convinced the Rev Pincott that a new and larger church was needed. A site was provided by a grant of one and a half acres of land from the University of Oxford. On Sunday 14th June 1868 The Rev Pincott informed the congregation of this sensational news, an announcement which cheered every member, for it meant that the chief difficulty had been overcome. In the Spring of 1871 a building committee was formed, under the chairmanship of the Vicar, to raise money and organise the building of the proposed church. A subscription list was opened and within a short time had reached £3,000, which was a very large sum in those days, but unfortunately this was not enough
Eleven designs were submitted which were exhibited at the Upton Hotel. The selected design in English Gothic was that prepared by William Knight, a Nottingham architect. Work began in 1871 and the foundation stone was laid in the East wall of the chancel on 16th September, 1872 by Catherine Tait, wife of Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Vicarage which stands at the rear of the church on the north east side was built first. A stone can be seen on the inner porch wall detailing how the building was privately funded. The building is now occupied by a firm of solicitors.
Work proceeded on the church until the completion of the nave and chancel, when the building committee found themselves in financial difficulties. There followed three years without progress, and the building was dubbed "Pincott's Folly". Despite this, Mr Pincott did not rest until he had accomplished what he believed he had been commissioned to accomplish. Although many expressed doubts, the Vicar was not without sympathetic friends. Interest was revived and a building committee was reconstituted. The committee itself subscribed a further large sum, and the University of Oxford granted £500. The Archbishop of Canterbury sent a further second contribution of £50. Two sisters residing in the parish gave £450 between them. A special offertory taken in the church amounted to nearly £200.Within a short space of time, the committee was able to order a resumption of work. Messrs Dove Brothers, well known church builders of Islington who had already built the chancel agreed to finish the work within eighteen months. At the end of this period Christ Church was not completely finished, but the Vicar felt he could leave both the completion of the fabric and the decorations to those who would come after. Sufficient work had been carried out to enable the church to be consecrated for worship by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 25th September 1877 amid scenes of great rejoicing.
In February the following year the driving force behind this ambitious project, the Rev William Pincott, suddenly died. There are several different reports as to the way he contracted his fatal illness. Some say it was at a funeral during very bad weather, or perhaps while inspecting the work of construction in similar weather. On Wednesday 8th February 1878 he passed away at the age of 43. His demise caused consternation in the parish. The Editor of the Bexleyheath Observer wrote a touching tribute - "a gentle spirit is gone from among us and a sweet voice is silent.---He was laid in a grave under the shadow of the old steeple of the Chapel-of-Ease. A memorial was erected by public subscription on a site in the Market Place, and was opened in April 1879. The memorial consisted of a drinking fountain, in the form of an obelisk and a cattle trough.
In July 1912 the George V Coronation Clock Tower was inaugurated. The Clock Tower stood alongside the Pincott Memorial for two years. During this period It was decided to move the memorial in order to widen the road. It was also recognised to be a hazard to children who had to cross the road in front of trains to drink from the fountain. The then Vicar of Christ Church, the Rev F.G. Sibree, granted the council facilities for the erection of the memorial on the East side of the Avenue forming the approach to the cemetery and recreation ground which then existed at the junction with the Broadway. At the same time the cattle trough was removed, and for many years this stood in Watling Street opposite the 'Woodman Inn." The trough has now been removed.
After William Pincott's death the fabric and internal decorations were finally completed. but without the spire shown on the original plans. In 1878 the Chapel of Ease was demolished leaving the steeple which remained until 1928. A commemorative stone has been erected to mark the spot. In 1882 a South transept and choir vestry were added. In 1887 a rose window was inserted in the gable end of the South transept to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. This was the outcome of a movement initiated by the Rev G Graham. The Pincott Hall on the North side of the church was erected in 1894 and has been in use ever since for many church and public events. The North transept was added in 1913, Including a vestry, lavatory and heating chamber below ground level.
Interior of Church
The plan The church is a cruciform building of well balanced proportions, approximately 47m long by 24.6m wide. Its height, from the nave floor up to the central ridge, is 2 1 m.
The external walls
All external walls are constructed of stone faced with random coursed Kentish Ragstone; the dressings are in Bath Stone.
The main entrance to the church is by two porches, North and South of the West end. Above the entrances are four sculpted scenes from the gospels. At the East end on the outside there are also sculpted representations of the four evangelists and the symbols of their gospels.
The nave has an open timber roof consisting of deep-archbraced collar trusses supporting the purlins and rafters. The trusses are supported on carved caps and shafts. The space between the rafters was originally lath and plaster, but owing to damage by enemy action during the Second World War it became dangerous and plasterboard was substituted. North and South aisles
The aisles are covered with single slope timber roofs known in the past as "catslides". All roofs are covered with Welsh slates on boarding.
The length of the chancel Is approximately 17.9m with a curved ceiling and moulded curved ribs that go down past the pierced cornice alongside the walls reaching to a point near the floor.
A WALK AROUND THE INTERIOR
The floor of the chancel is paved with ornamental tiles. The floors to the West end and aisles were originally boarded, but in the 1980's the West end was covered with pvc tiles and the aisles carpeted to a design by Mr David Cosedge LRIBA.
The holy table was provided by special subscription from among the ladies of the parish. The frescoes, representing the recording angels, around the sanctuary were painted in 1903 by Henry V Brewer. The work was executed at the expense of a parishioner, Miss Morris, in memory of her sister late Lydia Tabor Morris. The scroll work above was copied from an ornamental border in Ely Cathedral. The ten Commandments above the altar were painted in oil at the expense of a churchwarden, Mr Francis Dollman, despite some opposition from several parishioners The oak communion rail and prayer desks were installed during October 1942 in memory of a parishioner, Maud Mary Tapp.
After the First World War the South transept was converted to a memorial chapel consisting of an altar and brass tablets to perpetuate the names of the parishioners who died during the war. The two oil paintings - 'The cleansing of the temple" and 'The last supper' - were given by Mr Pullman, a local businessman. The chapel was consecrated in May 1921 during The Rev William Reid's vicariate. After the Second World War the Royal Air Force and the Air Training Corps dedicated a new stained glass window unveiled by Air Vice Marshall Sir Conrad Collier on 21st September 1952 (Battle of Britain Sunday). The main theme of the window is St Michael, the patron saint of airmen, and an ATC boy holding a signalling lamp. The window was designed by Rupert Moore for Whitefriars Glass Works.
A Book of Remembrance In a lectern on the South wall was donated by the Air Training Corps In June 1958 and contains the names of residents of Bexleyheath who died in air operations during the Second World War.
The memorial chapel was refurnished during Easter 1991.
The North Chapel
The North chapel, originally known as the Children's Chapel, was consecrated in 1929. It was remodelled in 1984 and a communion rail was added in memory of WillIam, Alice, Harly and Lucy Goodsell. The rail was designed by David Cosedge LRIBA, former Reader at Christ Church.
For thirty-six years music In the Chapel-of-Ease was provided by a barrel organ which was replaced in September 1872 by a pipe organ build by Mr G.M. Holdich, himself a capable organist. The first organ in Christ Church was the Holdich transferred from the Chapel-of-Ease. The instrument was replaced in 1891 by the present organ by Hunter and Sons of Clapham, London, at a cost of £450. Wind was originally supplied by two manually activated pumps, but according to reports It was more than two strong men could do to provide sufficient wind for long periods of full organ passages, and on 2nd November 1916 an electric blower was installed. This plant consisted of a belt-driven fan which served well but was noisy. Eventually it was replaced in June 1950 by the present "Discus" two stage direct coupled blower in a fire-resisting silencing cabinet at the back of the organ.
In 1952 the organ was completely overhauled and repaired, and several changes were made to the tonal design. The work was carried out by Messrs Gray and Davison Ltd of London. This firm, established in 1750, is the oldest company of organ builders in England and they have built many notable organs. In 1975 a further overhaul, partial electrification and tonal changes were carried out by Messrs Hill, Norman and Beard. We now have a magnificent, well toned instrument. Lectern
The eagle lectern was purchased with contributions from the children of the National Schools at the time of the consecration of the church.
The oak pulpit rests on a base of Caen stone which has sculptured "Agnus Dei- symbols. The oak carving was originally dark - almost black- Soon after the Second World War the woodwork was dismantled, stripped and repolished to a light oak colour by a local firm of furniture restorers. Originally it carried a brass lectern stand which was replaced by the present oak stand during the vicariate of The Rev Angus MacFarlane.
The font is rectangular in plan with recesses on four sides bearing sculptures of the four evangelists, supported on a central stein with four marble angle shafts. The oak font cover was the work of a Lay Reader, Mr S.B. Goslin, as a memorial to John Thomas Ratcliffe, a churchwarden and superintendent of Sunday Schools for many years. A mobile font is more often used now at baptisms. This has a wrought iron pedestal stand, but is not kept on display. The stand was designed by Andrew Snell, son-in-law of The Rev Angus MacFarlane, Vicar from 1971 to 1979, and was made by Mr Turner, who presented it to the church.
Memorial book and case
The memorial book and case at the West end of the church was the work of F.G. Marshall Ltd, cabinet makers of Banstead, Surrey. The items were consecrated during September 1960, the cost being shared between two parishioners, Mrs Vera Clark and Mrs Lilian West.
Stained glass windows
Originally, the six windows on the South side depicted six of the apostles, but all were destroyed during the Second World War and temporary windows were installed. During the reconstruction the original scheme was abandoned.
On entering the South door and turning right is the children's corner. The stained glass window above this area was installed on 16th November 1948 in memory of Rose Marie Howes, 1927-43, and illustrates the verse "Suffer little children to come unto me."
The next window depicts St Phoebe with the words "Heal the sick' to illustrate the medical work of the church. This window was designed by C.R.Moore.
The third window is a memorial to Henry W~ Southgate Burge, 1888- 1951, and pictures the risen Jesus.
The fourth window is dedicated to St Paul with the words 1nto all the world" to depict the missionary work of the church, and was installed on 1st March 1954. It was also designed by C.R. Moore. The fifth window is of St George and is a memorial to Owen Giles Somes Wade who died on 8th September 1944.
The last window is a Royal National Lifeboat Institution memorial window, and shows Jesus stilling the storm, with the words "He giveth his angels charge over thee.--
Also on this side of the church can be seen memorial tablets to Richard Anderson Mayne MA, 24 years Headmaster of Upton College, who died on 19th August 1929; George Riddle, 19 years master at Upton College, died 10th September 1931; William Woodward (1890-1956) the first Town Clerk of the Borough of Bexley, and The Rev Edwin Raynor, 40 years Curate of the parish, who died on 24th July 1927.
Crossing to the North side, and starting from the North chapel, there are six windows depicting St Andrew, St Peter, St Bartholomew, St Matthias, St James the Less and St John. The faces of the saints are modelled on those in the painting of 'The last supper' by Leonardo da Vinci.
The memorial tablets on the North wall are to Walter G Sadler, 1876-1935; Lt Albeit Victor Patrick Davey, killed on active service in the Royal Flying Corps 2nd June 1918, and John Thomas Ratcliffe, sidesman and churchwarden, who died 15th January 1909 in his 90th year. This memorial was erected by public subscription. At the North-west corner of the church is a memorial to perpetuate the names of five parishioners who lost their lives in the Boer War in South Africa 1899-1902.
The stained glass windows beside the font in the West wall were destroyed during the war and their replacements were installed in October 1955. The designs depict the "Baptism of Jesus- and "Baptism today." Above them is a picture of the Chapel-of-Ease referred to above.
The three stained glass windows at the East end of the chancel commemorate the ministry of the Rev W.H. Pincott - reading from left to right: The birth of Jesus; The Crucifixion; The Ascension.
THE WAR YEARS
During the war there were 1336 incidents in Bexley Borough, and 2050 were killed or injured; 8216 homes, shops and offices were damaged, and Christ Church was not spared,
The first incident of enemy action which caused damage to the church was a bomb which fell on the lawn outside the North-eastern corner of the church and damaged the Vicarage. Another air raid occurred on a weekday afternoon when shops opposite the church were demolished, and shoppers and shop assistants killed. Some of the casualties were taken to the church, which was used as a mortuary. At one stage, an iron girder was hurled across the road onto the church lawn near the choir vestry.
In further incidents the "Rose and Crown" public house opposite the South-western corner of the church was demolished. The final incident was caused by a V2 rocket which fell on the Eastern side of Oaklands Road near the Broadway,
The repair of war damage included the re-roofing of the church, and redecoration of the interior. The building repairs were carried out by a local firm of building contractors, R.B. Butler Ltd. VICARS OF CHRIST CHURCH