A decade of parish life: from the magazine, 1923-34
(5) Maintenance & repairs, parish finance, the Fête

Church maintenance and repairs
The church, mission hall and parish room were all in need of renovations after the war, and as much as possible was done on a DIY basis by members of the parish. (See here for documents in relation to the sale of some historic church plate in 1920.) In 1923 the cost was £32 11s. 11d. - a light year for repairs - and the Rector thanked everyone for restoring paintwork in the sanctuary, cleaning the transept mosaic, belfry redecoration, church steps effectively scoured, and added all the brass and communion vessels shone with a brilliancy hard to meet with outside St George's. In that year, the lath and plaster ceiling of the belfry was restored, then the mission hall was cleaned and repaired, including replacing the electrical fittings (it was closed for several weeks); and finally the Royal Arms in church were cleaned (these were in the version displayed from 1816, when the Electorate of Hanover became a kingdom and the 'electoral bonnet' was replaced by a crown, until 1837).

The following year, the heating of the parish room and morning chapel was improved, draught-proofing the furnace chamber, and Mr Govett, one of the churchwardens, made and installed new electroliers in church in time for the confirmation. Electricity had only recently been installed in the church; when the parish sought to separate the mission hall and church supplies, to secure the lower 'restricted supply' rate for the church, the Borough Council inspection showed serious and urgent leaking of current  which cost £61 to rectify. In 1925 the chapel was decorated, the clergy vestry and portico cleaned and painted, and work began on the choir vestry, and Mr Govett has been applying his skill to the making of oak covers for the two fonts. In 1927 further work was need on the mission hall, which was out of use for three months: the platform was rebuilt by Messrs Govett and Degerlund (with timber given by Lord Winterton from the Chapman Estate Office), and the team undertook work on the roof, and repainted the outside (Mr Judd, one of the wardens, provided the paint). The parish accounts fell into deficit, though the Rector pointed out that the cost of £400 would have been much greater if contractors had been called in. by December it was reported to be fresh and bright. Two years later, the parish room was also out of use while repairs were done.

But problems beyond the abilities of the home team were looming. In 1924 the church roof was inspected to check for the spread of death watch beetleno easy job: the roof is dark, very dirty indeed from the liberal supply of soot delivered continually from our neighbours' chimneys - and advice was sought from Professor Maxwell Lefroy of the Imperial College of Science, the authority on the subject. His recommendation was clean all the timber with a vacuum cleaner and then paint it over with oil containing a volatile poison which will diffuse itself at once through the wood and kill and grubs at present alive in it, and a permanent poison which will kill any grubs coming out in the beetle form, as well as any beetle which tries to lay eggs in the wood or any eggs laid. Professor Lefroy has a fly farm - the only one, happily! in England - on the roof of the College of Science, where he tests insect killers and everybody who has a brain-wave on the subject brings it to him to be tested. He is therefore the right man to recommend a good lotion for our timber and he has done so. But the first thing is to get hold of a vacuum cleaner and get busy.

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners promised a grant, and approved an architect, W. Charles Waymouth FRIBA (1872-1967) [pictured], who  wanted the gutters lifted so that damage where the roof beams met the stonework could be inspected (for which dry weather was needed). He did not complete his full examination until early 1929, and reported that much urgent work, at an estimated cost of £3000, was needed.  As well as the death watch beetle, the lead roof was leaking, and stonework of the towers and cupolas needed repointing and strengthening. We can't do all the work ourselves, but are ready to do our share, said the Rector, and he hoped that grants would be forthcoming. A wider appeal would be needed, for which the bicentenary that year was a first opportunity.  In October that year, the Architect assures us that the roof is is really in a serious condition, and is likely to 'let the weather through' at any time... A grant of £500 had been promised, £32 had been received in donations, and £100 was earmarked from the proceeds of the fête. Collecting boxes for the Bicentenary Restoration Fund were introduced the following year, which produced about £12 a month. By July 1930 £1000 had been raised or promised.

Work did not start for another year, when the architect insisted that the most urgent repairs, costing £1900, must be done. The Bishop of London had negotiated a further £500 grant from the City Parochial Charities Fund, and Dove Bros of Islington were appointed as the contractors. They found matters worse than expected - the main beams were seriously damaged by death watch beetle and needed to be cased in steel; the lead roof was so bad that it had to be removed, and replaced with copper; one turret had been repaired and others must be done before they fall into ruins. The Commissioners guaranteed a further £1000 so that work could continue, on the understanding that we do our best to raise the money or some considerable portion of it.  They persevered with the boxes, but they only produced £109 that year, to which some donations (including one from Lord Winterton) were added.

Eventually, the Bishop of London negotiated a further £1000 from the Commissioners in early 1932, which came as a great relief to the parish, and they began to plan a service of thanksgiving. Work finished in June 1932, and the final bills were paid by the end of the year: £4,121 12s. 11d., of which the parish had provided £923 6s. 4d., and the diocese £300; the rest was from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Restoration Fund was closed, though there is more we would like to do if money allows. Attention then turned to the bells!

Parish finance
The main expenses for parish churches in the 1920s were the maintenance of the church and other buildings, and the financing of parish activities, including paid staff such as layworkers (for which grants were available - though in 1923 there was a deficit of £188), vergers and organists. As seen above, poor parishes like St George-in-the-East simply could not cope when there was major building work to be done. Parish activities were expected to be self-financing, and so each club and society organised fundraising activities, in addition to those for the whole parish, of which the annual fête (see below) was crucial.

Parishes did not have to contribute towards the stipends, housing and pensions of their clergy, as they do today, through quota or common fund payments to the diocese: endowments, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, took care of most of these costs. However, incumbents continued to be responsible for paying assistant clergy and layworkers if other funds were not available, in some cases for the pensions of retired predecessors (though a national clergy pension scheme had been introduced in 1907), and in particular for 'dilapidations' on their parsonages, which since most no longer had private means was a major burden. In 1923 Mr Pringle had to borrow £800 for dilapidations payments on the Rectory, to be paid off in instalments, and this, plus paying for 'cover' while he was working temporarily in India, meant that he personally contributed over £400 to the running costs of the parish in that year.

But there was an annual quota payment, albeit more modest than nowadays, to the diocese. This is how Mr Beresford explained its workings in November 1927:
It may be useful to explain what this word means. The London Diocesan Fund exists to provide additional clergy and other Church-workers for the poor parishes of London. It does its best to provide for some other necessary works too, but these are what mainly concern us here. It has no funds expect what it gets from voluntary offering, and its work therefore grows, or stands still, or fails, according as Church people give or do not give it what it needs. Its plan for some years has been to make an estimate at the beginning of each year as to what money is needed and to let each Rural Deanery know what it is felt fait to ask it to give towards this. This amount asked from a Deanery is the 'Deanery quota'. On receiving notice of this quota the Ruri-Decanal Conference in its turn, and guided by its Finance Committee, decides what each parish in the Deanery may fairly be asked to give towards this sum. This is the 'parochial quota'. This year the estimated sum for the Diocese is £88,500, and the Deanery of Stepney (which means the parishes in the Borough of Stepney) are asked to provide at least £705, and if possible £823 towards this. The share asked from our parish is at least £13 10s. and if possible £15 15s. This share is our 'quota'; what we should at least provide is called our 'quota of obligation'; what we should if possible provide is our 'quota of ambition.' It has been our practice for some years to pay the 'quota of obligation' out of our ordinary Church funds, and then to let the offerings of the Week of Prayer make up the 'quota of ambition'. Last year and the year before we went beyond our 'quota of ambition', and gave more than we were asked. I hope we shall do so again, for every penny we can gives is needed and goes to help good work. I may add that our parish receives from the Diocesan Fund very much more than we can possibly give to it. Our grants from the Fund are £200 a year. Last year we gave to it £19 8s. 5d.

So what were the sources of income? The parish relied on Sunday collections and the fête, each of which produced about £100 a year, plus collecting boxes for special efforts such as the restoration fund (1930-33), fundraising efforts for parish activities and missionary work and donations from well-wishers outside the parish (for example, in 1932 the Rothschild family sent 10 guineas 'for convalescent parishioners',  Earl Winterton 12 guineas for general parish needs, and the Mercers Company £10).

There were therefore lots of 'restricted funds' for particular purposes. In 1927 half the parish's savings of £260 (down £60 on the previous year) were earmarked in this way; weekly giving was £2 a week, which the Rector regarded as wonderfully good for a parish like ours. In 1929 expenditure exceeded income by £76, and money was put on deposit to meet the deficit. By 1931 all the savings had gone, and the free will offering scheme was revived. It made a good start, and by 1933 had 60 contributors, but some started and gave up after a few weeks; times have become very much harder for some in the past months, but perhaps some started too generously. Please start again, with a smaller amount.  By the end of that year, just a few have got behind; they may like to try to make up their payments before the end of the year or, if this is not possible, make a fresh start so as to do better next year. By the following year, there were only 30 regulars; the scheme raised £53.

The Week of Prayer and Self-Denial mentioned above culminated in a diocesan Service of Offering at the cathedral, when chosen representatives from each parish presented a purse with their contribution. In 1925 at St George's there were daily intercessions at 9.45pm each day during the week - always some came, and on one occasion it had to be transferred from chapel to church; £10 8s. was raised, towards the diocesan total of £14,198. In 1931 the parish gave £3 12s., while St Mary Abbot's Kensington gave over £2000, but the Diocesan Secretary wrote at least equally precious were the gifts from East London our of its poverty.... The figure in 1932 was £3 19s.; in 1933 it was £5 6s. 10d, bringing the parish's total contribution to £23 3s, exceeding its 'quota of ambition' of £22. In 1933 the parish target was £10, as the diocese was appealing for an additional £7000, to help its ambitious programme of building 45 new churches for the suburbs. (After the war, fixtures and fittings from various redundant East End churches were gifted to these new churches.)

In 1934, the London Diocesan Fund decided, as a 1-year experiment, to restore the cuts in grants to parishes, as a venture of faith, in the expectation that parishes would keep up their contributions; this was good news for St George's, as it meant an extra £12 in grants.

The annual three-day fête, usually in June, was the parish's major fundraising event of the year. Most of the fête proceeds went into the general account, with smaller amounts to some of the organisations which ran stalls. The accounts were printed each year in the magazine.

Once the date was fixed, a committee was formed - in 1934 it numbered no less than 38 members, with an executive of 15. Stallholders were recruited, and an appeal made for new 'stunts' and ideas. 'Openers' for each day were invited, from among the great and the good; these included
  • Lord or Lady Winterton (on a regular basis)
  • Lady Mary Trefusis (a woman of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary and also President of the English Folk Dance Society (founded in 1911 by Cecil Sharp) - which is how Rector Beresford knew her)
  • Lady Burnham (whose husband's family owned the Daily Telegraph)
  • Lady McAlpine (her husband Sir Robert was a public works contractor, whose Manchester-based firm built many council estates in the 1920s; in 1931 she invited MU members to her home in Cobham)
  • Lady Walford Davies
  • Mr and Mrs William Martineau who represent a family and an industry of peculiar importance to St. George's, and we heard with great interest how his family started sugar-refining here in 1797, and carried on for exactly 100 years, and how when he closed down he opened for himself the business in Whitechapel he is now conducting (1924)
  • Mr Bollanack, a constant and kind friend as well as a humorous and breezy speaker - he gave oak and other wood to the parish for repairs to the belfry and mission hall)
  • bishops' wives, including Mrs Turner (widow of a former Rector) and Mrs Curzon (wife of the Bishop of Stepney)
  • Harry Gosling MP 
  • The Mayor of Stepney

Music was provided by choirs from the parish, the Stepney Orpheus Choir, the Old Templars Choir, and various local schools including Cable Street Central School Orchestra and Plashet Boys' Schools band [the former workhouse school linked to St George's]. In 1934 they managed to provide music all day. There were displays of drill and dancing by girls' clubs from the parish and elsewhere, and plays and concerts - for example, in 1924 The Mollusc by the Guild of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and in 1925 Mr Len Tunk's Concert Party.

Some comments
1923Do not forget what a wonderful view of London and the Thames is obtainable from the top of the Church Tower, where Mr Warncken, the steeplekeeper, will take you in safety and comfort and lend you a telescope at the top.
1925: planning was delayed by the wait for the new Rector, so takings were down; he commented that far from interfering with Sunday attendance, communicants were up, and he expressed particular thanks to the Misses Hoare who brought to Town as much of the country as they could for the purposes of the sale.
1927: wet weather, but cleared up by noon on each of the three days so no goods got wet
1929: the fête was on Thursday and Saturday, leaving Friday free for the bicentenary service. The grounds looked their best, and the illumination which our electricians devised for the evenings was a great boon to the later hours. Saturday ended with a thunderstorm
1932: more successful than some of us had dared to hope in these depressing days - attendance was never large, but people spent generously
1933: the fête was linked with a Thanksgiving Service for the completion of restoration work; it was beset with thunderstorms and torrents of rain - and did not open until 6pm on the Saturday; surplus goods were sold 'privately' over the following weeks, but profits were reduced to £85. Mr Schneider kindly exhibited his wonderful model of the church for funds.

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