A decade of parish life: from the magazine, 1923-34
(2) Clubs, Societies and Activities
1914 the Rector's confidential report
to the Bishop of Stepney listed the many parish clubs, societies and
activities. Some of these did not survive the war, but by the 1920s a
wide, and constantly-changing, programme of weekly or monthly
activities for young people and adults stretched to the limit the
parish facilities - the Mission Hall, the Parish Room behind the
Rectory (later demolished), the church vestries, and Rectory itself.
Those listed below are in addition to the various bible classes, and
the Scouting and Guiding groups (described here).
The Sunday School met each week at 3pm; from 1925, when Mr Beresford became Rector, on the fourth Sunday of the month it took the form of a Children's Service. There were also special Children's Services on major festivals, and days such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (At Christmas 1927 the children had to be sent home from the afternoon service because the lighting failed.) Miss Edith Palmer had organised Sunday School for some years, and was officially made Superintendent in 1924; she set out to ensure that it met the standards expected by the deanery association, such as that all teachers should be confirmed (one was not, but this was 'being rectified'). The children took exams in the autumn - written tests for the older ones (in 1923 Jimmy Warncken, aged 8, was the youngest child to take this) and orally for the younger ones. There was a weekly preparation class for teachers on Thursday evenings, followed once a month by a service of intercession (introduced in 1926).
The magazine regularly exhorted parents to ensure that children attended regularly, and also came to the 11am morning service. In 1923, when Sunday School temporarily closed while the Mission Hall was repaired, stamps were issued for morning attendance, but only a small proportion attended: a great pity; no habit of worship can be established unless they come to church in the morning, and with a service lasting only an hour, they can help at home before and after and so not interfere with their mother's arrangements. The Rector (Mr Pringle) pointed out that in all local churches, and generally elsewhere, morning church and afternoon Sunday School were the expectation. Again, in 1925, he said The members have not increased as much as could be wished. On the whole the children are very regular, though it would be well if a few parents realised that, if there is to be any real value in the work of the Sunday School, it is essential that the children should be at school every Sunday - except of course in case of illness. Would parents please also take to heart Miss Botterill's words at the prize giving, on the subject of Sunday worship. The attendance at Sunday School cannot take the place of worship in Church, and it is very grievous to see no parents and very few children in Church on Sunday morning. [It was, of course, common in those days - and not just in the East End - for parents to send children to church and Sunday School but rarely to attend themselves.]
successor, Mr Beresford, echoed this; in 1926, having paid tribute to
Miss Palmer and her team, I
want to say also how disappointingly small the number of children in
the school is. It is somewhere about a hundred*, instead of the five
hundred that it might well be, and I would earnestly urge all parents
who read this to see that their children attend, and attend regularly.
You want to do the best for your children. Do try to see that they have
a chance of being trained in religion! But in 1928 he
reported we do not seem to be
making very great progress, but we go steadily on; and the
following year, numbers have not
increased, but regularity of attendance is good.
A number of experienced teachers had left, but new ones had been
recruited from among former scholars, and Miss Stone, the parish
worker, was re-organising the infant department as a Kindergarten
School, with all the members of the former Girls' Bible Class (for
girls over 14, meeting on Sunday afternoons in the Rectory) assisting
as teachers. Miss Stone left the parish the following year for less arduous work, and Miss Palmer
handed over her leadership in 1929; she later became churchwarden.
[* A 100-strong Sunday School today would be regarded as a success, but the context is very different....]
There were occasional plays, for children and adults - for example, the Girls' Diocesan Association performed a morality play 'The Two Pilgrims' in 1931 - free, no children unless accompanied - and (non-talkie) missionary films from SPG: on Zululand in 1931, and 'Japan Today' in 1932 - 2d. for the children's showing, and 6d. or 1s. for the second showing for adults.
Although in his 1914 report the Rector had said that we are trying to do away with prizes and treats in our Sunday School because parents shopped around the various local churches for the best inducements, this policy obviously did not succeed. In the 1920s there was an annual treat in early January, with one or more donated Christmas trees from which all received presents, prizes given for the exams the previous year, tea, and an entertainment. This took various forms: 'lantern entertaiment', conjurors from Hoxton and a ventriloquist are mentioned; in 1924 the Girls' Diocesan Association presented a nativity play 'The Three Roses' (repeated in 1933 by the teachers); in 1929 the White Diamond Minstrels performed (see below on The Corinthians). Prizegivers included Miss Botterill, Mrs Pringle, wife of the former Rector (twice), bishops' daughters (Nancy Curzon, daughter of the Bishop of Stepney, and Dr Bertha Turner, daughter of a former Rector and later Bishop of Islington), and Miss Palmer. In 1931 the Rev R.W. A. Ward, a protégé of the Rector from his SPCK college days who had preached here from time to time, brought toys and books from his church in Purley. In 1934 an invalid lady from Derby who had heard something of St George's over the Wireless had the kind thought of sending a gift of money to buy presents for the children. But it was not all one-way: on the first Sunday of the year, children were asked to bring gifts of toys for sick children at St George's Hospital. And the children had missionary boxes. In 1928 the teachers discovered when they came to empty them that they had been stolen from the Mission Hall, with a loss of about £7; a certain friend made up the deficit, but the contribution to SPG that year was reduced.
A junior Band of Hope had been established in the parish before the war (perhaps in the time of the keenly-teetotal Rector Charles Turner?) In 1924, of the many who studied the syllabus for the Church of England Temperance Society's exam last Febrary only four entered the exam; one won best East End district prize, two others first class, and one only missed the certificate by three marks; what a pity the others did not keep up the study and enter.
In 1925 the new curate Mr Ball-Knight set up a Guild for children over 7 which will be something like a Band of Hope, but instead of using every evening for Temperance work, we shall have some evenings for talks on Missionary work, and some for talks on Kindness to Animals [an interesting trio of themes!] There will also be songs and games. It met on Tuesdays in the Mission Hall.
November 1926 Mr and Mrs Ball-Knight organised a fundraising concert
party entertainment with the Belfrie Players, who presented two scenes
from 'As You Like It' and other short dramatic episodes; there were
also songs and excellent
from Dorothea Mayall. The event raised £3 5s. The players enjoyed
themselves, and returned a few months later for another fundraiser,
with a larger audience; sketches included 'Followers' and 'Acid Drops'
(set in an old-fashioned workhouse). Miss Mayall's recitations brought the house down, and she was
encored again and again, while the kiddies thoroughly enjoyed
Thirty three children went on an excursion to Theydon Bois in July 1927 (this was later to become the regular venue for the Sunday School outing - see below). They caught the 9.04 train from Shadwell; after lunch they had free tickets for the swings, roundabouts, cycles and helter-skelter; after bread and jam, lettuce and cakes they had a stroll through the forest, and Mr Ball-Knight told stories on the grass; lemonade and cake followed, and they were back at 9pm. This was to be Ball-Knight's farewell, as he left the parish soon after. Later that year it was announced that the Guild would become a Junior Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society, (affiliated to the London Diocesan CETS), worked on the lines of a Band of Hope, for children between 6 and 14. Subs were a halfpenny a week. But it seems that the group did not survive after the re-organisation of the Sunday School in 1929. [CETS medal pictured - it features St George and the dragon.]
St George's and St Matthew's Girls' Club
Pell Street Girls' Club (on the premises of the former St Matthew's, was run by Miss Jeffrey until her resignation in 1923, when the combined 'St George's & St Matthew's Girls' Club' was created, with Miss Savage-Armstrong as Club Leader, assisted by the indefatigable Miss Lavinia Botterill. By 1928, Miss Annie Krebs was in charge; she resigned for health reasons in 1932.
There were three regular classes - singing (30 members in 1928, but discontinued four years later), drill/physical exercise and Saturday afternoon dressmaking (to which adults were also welcome; this was popular, and an assistant mistress was appointed in 1929). Class members over 14 were also welcome to attend the recreation evening, which continued to be held at Pell Street for a few more years; for a time there was also a junior club session (10-14) in the parish room. The committee included members, and they were affiliated to the National Association of Girls' Clubs, and attended events of the Stepney Association of Girls' Clubs, including the winter rally). A hockey club started in 1924, but does not appear to have continued for long.
Fundraising socials (dances and games) and concerts were held; among visiting groups were the Guild of St Martin-in-the-Fields who presented a play 'The Mollusc' in 1923 (poorly attended), and Excelsior Girls' Club who presented a nativity play 'The Way to Bethlehem' in 1931 (free admission). In 1931 the girls joined with students of Fairclough Street Institute in presenting a shortened version of 'The Bohemian Girl', with scenery and costumes.
Girls' Friendly Society
The GFS is an Anglican society founded in 1875 by Mary Townsend, and many parishes had branches; only a handful remain today, but the society continues to use its funds for other projects. The parish branch, established before the First World War, met on Monday evenings; members were expected to attend 8am Holy Communion on the second Sunday of the month, and new members were admitted each year by the Rector at a service in the side chapel. Whist drives were held to fund activities; in January1926 it was reported that the proceeds were sufficient to provide a (belated) Christmas treat for all members. The following Christmas 20 members were taken to the pantomime. In March 1927 'some friends from West London' provided a musical entertainment, with three local members disguising themselves as Three Old Maids of Lee*.
There are three old maids of Lee,
They are as old
as can be, And one is deaf and one cannot see, And they are all as
cross as a gallows tree, These three old maids of Lee - the
second verse of 'A Bird in the Hand', a song by the
English lawyer and lyricist Frederick Edward Weatherly (1848-1929):
picture from The
The Mothers' Union, an Anglican organisation to support family life, was created by Mary Sumner in 1876 and became national in 1896; it is now a worldwide organisation with ?m members and has a proud record of past and present achievement. The parish branch was long-established, and met monthly in the Mission Room or Rectory for a devotional service with a speaker. Members assisted with many parish activities, organised regular working parties to clean and scrub the church and ran their own choir.
The Enrolling Member in 1926 was Mrs Mordaunt (incumbents' wives often filled this rôle, but our Rector was unmarried); she arranged a trip to the MU headquarters at Mary Sumner House [pictured] in Westminster, which had opened two years earlier. That year they shared a char-a-banc trip to Windsor with the newly-formed Women's Fellowship (see below).
They regularly entertained other branches - for example, in 1927 St John Limehouse, when the Rector's Stepney Orpheus Choir sang - and in turn were invited by others. In 1928 they were guests at Stanmore, where they found a lovely rectory garden with lake. There were curious competitions in the church institute: It required some courage to put your hand into a tub full of mixed bran and needles and see how many needles you could get out at one go, and it required considerable skill to light a dozen candles with one match or to throw fifty-two cards into a hat singly, without sending one astray! When the rain stopped, they went boating on the lake, had a service in church, and returned with bunches of flowers.
But their annual trip for the next six years was by motor-coach to Staplehurst in Kent, where they were the guests of the Misses Hallward at Scarden, Frittenden Road - sisters of Margaret Hallward, parish worker here until her death in 1926 (MU gave a chalice, and Sunday School a paten, in her memory - still in use at weekday services). Here they spent the afternoon in the garden and had short excursions round about. In 1931 some members were invited to Cobham through the kindness of Lady McAlpine [who opened the parish fête that year] and Miss Stericker; and in 1934 their excursion was to Westcliff-on-Sea.
June 1933 the branch was present at the great
Thanksgiving at the Albert Hall, which was repeated the following day
at Limehouse for all East London branches, where with two other
branches they provided the choir.
In 1925, perhaps because a year or so previously Miss Leggatt had, after many years, given up her little monthly meetings for women, and perhaps to cater for those beyond the scope of the Mothers' Union, Miss Turner and others set up a monthly afternoon Fellowship. The first meeting was a social with a 'mothers' bible class'. The next month, despite a thunderstorm, a good number came and a choir sang Old English Songs, and a few months later the Rector's Stepney Orpheus Choir provided entertainment. In 1926, they shared a trip with the MU, and the following year went to Southend, to which there was also a parish trip on a different date: both parties returned safely after various hair-raising adventures in the Kursaal [pictured].
But there are no further reports until December 1934, when the newly-arrived Church Army Sister A. Reason relaunched the Fellowship with a jumble sale, jointly for Church Army and the group's funds; they were to meet every Tuesday afternoon except the week when MU met.
Apart from the Cubs, Scouts and Rovers, activities for boys and young men were fewer and less enduring than those for girls: initiatives came and went. In 1923 there was a Saturday afternoon 'lads' working party', for window cleaning and the like, and the Rector announced that he would be glad to receive for a sit-round informal chat after service on Wednesday evenings all or any of the lads who have been confirmed, but this does not seem to have taken off. For some years there was a football team, captained from 1923 (when they lost one of their key players) by Sid Kelly. Mr Ball ran a junior boys' club on Tuesdays, but did not re-open in 1925 because he had eye trouble and was forbidden to take on extra work, and no-one was found to take his place. Attempts the previous year to establish a 16+ club, meeting straight after the junior club, seem to have foundered, though a successful fundraising dance was held. Successive curates led bible classes at various times - among them C.H. McKie, until his resignation on health grounds in 1932.
It was no doubt to fill this gap that in 1928, some months after Cecil Barrett stood down as Scoutmaster (because it was too time-consuming) he started a 'boys' Bible Class Club', The Corinthians, to keep the lads together and to give an opportunity for them to improve their health. The class was on Sunday at 3.30pm and club night was Tuesday, when they had exercises, boxing, punchball and pyramids, and aimed to start morris dancing. He explained that this was a less demanding commitment than the Scouts, but invested a good deal of energy into this work, and reported regularly in the parish magazine. (And two years later when the Cubmaster left he took on the leadership of the pack as well.)
The Corinthians' first project was a 7-mile cross country run through the roughest land in Epping Forest.
|How we enjoyed our Easter holidays
by a Corinthian
For the past two months we have all been in strict training for the great event on Easter Monday. We have had trial runs of 2 miles, 3 miles and 4 miles; also many strenuous walks to St Paul's and back to keep fit.
Well, the great day came and we met at 9a.m. outside the Church, and then proceeded to Mile End Road to board a Loughton 'bus. We arrived at Loughton at 10a.m. Our Headquarters for the day was a delightful Tea Gardens, and by the kind permission of the owners we had the exclusive use of a hut, to change our things and leave our parcels, etc.
Well we changed and started our cross country run in great style. The weather as you know was glorious, and at this hour it was not at its full heat, so it was just right for the task. Our route was along Loughton High Street to Warren Hill, and then across forest to Connaught waters, and on to The Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. Here we came to the first real test in the form of a gradual slope for about a mile to Gilwell Lane, and I am sure some of the Corinthians will never forget Gilwell Lane [the national Scout Training Centre is now located here].
MUD! never seen so much in all our lives! However, we could not turn back so through we went, and this did not damp our ardour. Looking back I noticed that some were putting their hands down to help the feet out, and you can guess the rest! We were all like plum puddings when we managed to get clear of the mud. Then we went down the lane to The New Essex Golf Course, and were were very thankful to find there a nice large pond of water, so we got some of the mud off. Then we went along the road to High Beech without any mishap and all within a hundred yards of each other. From here we proceeded to Staples Hill, the last of our track. This was a good test for the stamina of the lads and I can say that all stuck the course very well.
No one dropped out, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the first, and by no means last, of our Cross Country Runs. We had been running for one hour and forty-five minutes. Over a track of more than seven miles of hills, marshy land, roads, not all in repair, and forest land. Arriving at our Headquarters we found a bath of water and towels, which our Hosts kindly provided. After a delightful tea in the First Prize Garden of Loughton we made for home, arriving back at 6pm., and then wound up by a visit to the Plaza Cinema.
In November 1928 Barrett reported
The summer being over we have now to resort to indoor work, and as the Club now numbers over twenty, we shall have rather a cramped time for the next six months. However, we shall keep smiling and pull through! One way we get over our difficulty is to send half the members out running, while the rest practice in the Parish Room. Two members have just attained the honour of clearing five-foot-two in high-jump, and it is surprising to see many turning somersaults now whose dignity would never have let them try this particular feat before! We hope to add parallel bars to our equipment.
Barrett announced a plan to take members to Lucerne for a fortnight the following year, at a cost of £5 a head, and started a bank to enable them to save 2/- a week, but nothing seems to have come of this.
We are a bible class club, and as the senior class in the school keen to help the younger folk, he wrote the following month. So he organised a Minstrel Concert (political correctness was many years off) to help fund the Sunday School excursion. It was a sell-out and raised £9 3s 6d. There were songs, choruses, dialogues and sketches; the members of the Troupe were real 'natives' in the sense that they were bred and born in St. George's and belong to one of our own Clubs, but it required careful scrutiny to identify them under their black faces and many-coloured wigs.
In October 1929 Barrett wrote
Corinthians on Holiday
Many look forward to their holidays, The Corinthians look twelve months ahead, and save up in the club bank until the time comes when we pack our bags and set off to Paddington for a fortnight in delightful Cornwall.
I had booked two compartments on the 12.30am on Saturday 10th August, travelling all night (a new experience for the boys), and arriving at Hayle at 11.30 Sunday. The advantage we had travelling by the night train was that some of us had a little sleep, and arriving to put up tents and get into working order is easier in daylight, than if we had travelled by an early morning train and arrived late the same day.
Our first view of Hayle was a Dock and the Gasworks. Our faces dropped and our minds went back to Stepney. Was there another place like dear old Stepney? However we were soon put at rest for after a walk of 30 minutes we were on the delightful Towans, which are sandbanks covered with grass. The view took our breath away. Instead of a Gasworks there was four miles of lovely silver sand, Godrevy lighthouse on our right hand side and St. Ives, Carbis Bay on our left, a delightful cove and caves, and miles of sand on which we were told we could go just where we liked. There was nowhere the boys could go where they could not get into trouble (not saying that they would), but it was a relief to know that they would be safe. The next point was bathing. So many accidents happen through carelessness that I made enquiries and was told that it was safe anywhere along this part of the coast except near the mouth of the river which was about a mile away to our left, and as only one girl had been drowned there for the last ten years my mind was again at rest.
Well, as the space for this account will not permit me to give all the details, I will run quickly through 14 fine days and one wet night. Hardly had we finished putting up tents, than the call of the sea was so great that off we went and had the first taste of the salt water. Many of us, in fact had more water than we wanted, for the Atlantic rollers need some negotiating. After bathing we went back and had a rest and a sun bathe till dinner. After dinner we decided to explore the place, and so off we went in all directions, and it was surprising to me how the boys found our all about Hayle in one day. During the fourteen days that followed we had Tennis, Clock Golf, Putting, Cricket and also Kum-Bak Tennis [a tennis trainer from the USA, recently-patented by the Multiple Utilities Company; it comprised two wooden poles connected by a rope, to which a tennis ball on strong elastic was attached - pictured], which saw good service with J. Smith, who had a total of 300 hits consecutively. We found some very good friends, and a party of Cornwall Scouts, who came and joined in our games. Then the local campers entertained us at a sports meeting, and we had a bun and a cup of tea. We expected a bun like we get at Lyons, but instead they gave us a cake each, and I believe Eric is still eating his! Mine lasted three days. However we thanked them, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Dr Thackery Mudge, the resident Physician, was extremely good to us. He sent up to us a large hock of ham, vegetables, two dozen bananas and 200 cigarettes for the boys [!!!}. We all thanked him very much and shall remember the many other kindnesses shown to us by other campers. Well, to finish, we had a real good holiday, the best party I have ever taken away; not a grumble, not a fight; good comradeship is a marked development among the Corinthians. Then, to finish a good holiday we came home smiling, brown and ready for another year's work with stored up sunlight to help us on, and we thank God for bringing us all home safely; for letting everyone have such delightful weather and a real happy holiday.
November 1930 Barrett reported a successful opening of the football
season: the team beat St Mary's 6-0 in the Hackney & Stoke
Newington Deanery League, and took part in a swimming gala arranged by
the Stepney Federation. In August 1931 a number of club members, and
several scouts, camped again at Hayle.
In Corbett's time there had been a branch of the Church of England Men's Society, but this did not survive the War, which disillusioned many men. Those who were involved with church had Sidemen's duties and practical work maintaining the church and mission hall to keep them busy. There was an Ex-Service Men's Committee, which in 1923 organised a dance to fund a war orphans' outing. In 1926 the Curate, Mr Ball-Knight, set up a men's bible class, on Sunday afternoons in the Rectory parish room (Miss Turner had one for older girls at the same time.) But increasingly those who were married preferred to participate in social and other events with their wives and children, as seen below.
events for adults
Despite the regular round of fundraising dances and socials, and whist drives (Mrs Govett, the warden's wife, arranged these on alternate Saturday evenings from 1924), there was always an appetite for social gatherings. in 1924 it was reported that the Monday night club is flourishing and well attended. Readers who join will find they can spend a pleasant evening at it. In 1929 the Parochial Church Council suggested a 'social hour' after Evensong, once a month, which was tried as an experiment. In October a good many came, despite wet weather; Mrs Weldon sang, the Rector played violoncello solos, and there was community hymn singing. In November Mrs Bright, Mrs Ephremsen and Thoré Ephremsen sang, gramophone selections were played, and there was community singing of favourite English, Scottish and Welsh songs. A string orchestra was promised for the following gathering. Did this continue?
More enduring was the Badminton Club, set up in 1925, with Mr Judd the warden as treasurer, and Mr Ball-Knight the curate as secretary; the next few weeks will be an American Tournament of badminton and table tennis for which the Rector promised prizes; this continued to meet regularly. In 1926 Mr Ball-Knight also set up a Rambling Club for over-18s. The first ramble was in April - to Leatherhead by train then on to Box Hill for tea, returned another way and catching the 8.47 train 'by winter time' to Waterloo 9.30. They were a small party because of other church things, and some were put off by the weather, but it only rained during tea - when one member drank twelve cups. Please come, said Mr Ball Knight, but only if you're prepared to walk, and run if necessary.
Every January there was a party for the congregation, to which the Rector and Miss Beresford issued invitations. (This caused problems in 1931, when some claimed not to have received an invitation; thereafter, notice in the magazine and in church was regarded as sufficient.) It was explained that the party is not meant to include children under 14 except when it is not possible for parents to come without them. The range of entertainments included:
Each year from 1932 a Rectory Garden Party was held for the congregation, linked to the annual Anniversary of Dedication service in July.
In 1923 two senior classes of boys from the Sunday School had a 'long half day' at Cranbrook Park and the smaller boys were taken by Captain & Mrs Burton to the Zoo; the girls went to Cranbrook and Valentine Park. From 1924-26 Miss Palmer organised a joint outing to Southend (chosen by vote by a majority of parents) for the Sunday School and the congregation, by train from Fenchurch Street. Sunday School children paid 9d, Sunday School teachers 1s. adult members of the congregation 3s and all others full price, 4s 6d. In 1925 100 children and 56 adults went. There was some doubt in 1926 as to whether cheap tickets would be available.
Thereafter separate trips were held. The parochial trip was again to Southend in 1927 and 1928, but in 1929 to Oxford: the exact time-table cannot be issued until the Railways publish their Summer tables, but there was a choice between a full-day or a half-day trip if you don't mind a late train back. The cost was 7s, to include tea at St Edmund Hall. The excursion is not intended for children, but if they go, the cost is 4s. In the event, it was sunny enough to show Oxford at its best, but not so hot as to make sight seeing a burden. In 1930 they went to Windsor.
In 1927 the Sunday School went to Boxhill, but from 1928 to 1933 they went each year to Theydon Bois [pictured] - in 1929 it was noted that the country seems preferred to the seaside. Here they enjoyed nature study in the forest, especially frogs and tadpoles, went on donkey rides and roundabouts, and had buns and ginger beer at Theydon Retreat. In 1933 they tried Eastcote, but returned to Theydon Bois the following year. The younger children did not go on these trips; instead they had tea and games in the Churchwardens' Garden (or Mission Hall if wet).
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