St Mark Whitechapel (Goodman’s Fields) 1839-1925

also known as St Mark, Tenter Ground                                                curates  ~  baptism & wedding statistics

The church and its parish ...

For the earlier history of Goodman's Fields see here. The 1755 map [left], from an edition of John Stow's Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, shows the area as the southern part of the parish of St Mary Matfelon, the original 'White Chapel' which gave the district its name. (That church was rebuilt several times, blitzed in the war and its site is now Altab Ali Park; much has been written about its history). By the mid-19th century houses had been built around the edge of Tenter Ground, as North, South, East and West Tenter Streets (a few of which remain) and it was bisected by what became Scarborough and St Mark's Streets. It had become a poor and populous district, and the decision was made to create a new parish. The 1868 map right, shows the location of the church; further south, the school hemmed in by the railway, and to the east, on Backchurch Lane, the mission chapel mentioned below.

The church was built in 1838 by the Metropolis Churches Fund, at a cost of £5,265 11s 1d to designs by Thomas Henry Wyatt and his collaborator David Brandon (their first London church) and consecrated on 30 May 1839. By Order in Council of 1 April 1841 a parish area was carved out of St Mary's parish, but the incumbent remained a 'Perpetual Curate' until 1863. The Dowager Queen Adelaide provided £25 towards the building of a Sunday and infant school. National Schools were established that year between Chamber Street and Royal Mint Street, where a parish hall was also built. A vicarage, in neo-Tudor style, was provided in St Mark's Street, near to the Jews' Orphan Asylum described here.

The 1851 census lists the population of the parish as 15,790, in 1,757 'households' - an average of 9.09% per household, the highest in East London, and with the highest percentage of Irish and foreign-born residents (primarily from Germany, Holland, Poland and Prussia). Those who were not in 'seasonal employment' worked in tailoring and dressmaking - especially women and Jewish men who were increasingly settling in the area. They worked from home, on a piecework basis, so needed to live near their suppliers. In 1858 the parish was described, at a committee of the House of Lords, as ‘utterly unmanageable’. 
Under a faculty of 23 September 1874 William Alexander Longmore of Aldgate removed the north and south galleries to throw open the roof, rebuilt the east wall six feet further east to allow a chancel to be formed, partially reseated the church and did various repairs; the Incorporated Church Building Society made a grant (see their plan 07698, drawn by another architect, G.H. Simmons). In 1879 the organ, a 17-stop 2 manual instrument by Gray and Davison, ordered in 1839 and installed in 1846, was moved from the west gallery and rebuilt in the old vestry at the north-east by T.R. Willis. (It was further rebuilt by Robert Slater & Son of Forest Gate in 1904 or 1906, with 20 speaking stops. The organist in the 1920s was Charles F. Willson. When the church closed, the organ was moved to St James Alperton, but was later replaced by another instrument). Two years later the interior was brightened by some wall paintings.The exterior is pictured right in the 1920s.

An 1863 Guide to the Church Services in London and its suburbs lists the pattern of worship (though it is probably incomplete) as:
Sundays 11am & 6.30pm; weekdays (except Saturday) and holy days 11am, plus Wednesdays at 1pm; HC first Sunday and greater festivals

Other institutions within the parish
For a few years In the 1850s the Working Tailors' Association had a small co-operative factory in Tenter Street, one of a dozen such experiments copying the French self-governing workshops (les associations ouveriers) launched by Christian Socialists under the leadership of J.M. Ludlow and largely financed by Edward Vansittart Neale. (F.D. Maurice, on whom see below, was the titular head of the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations but was curiously lukewarm about practical projects, perhaps fearing that they would become movements of protest rather than change.) Much has been written about this movement, and the reasons for the projects' failures.
By the end of the 19th century, there were various hostels and clubs in the parish, including


An intriguing mix of clergy served this church during its near-century of existence, some drawn by commitment to the urban poor, some to the possibilities of mission among those of other faiths, particularly the Jews who came to make up the majority of its population, several distinguished scholars and national figures, and a few who hit the headlines in other ways. After an initial 'protestant phase', most of them were broad church and liberal, though there were a few high-church ritualists. Here are details of the incumbents ('Perpetual Curates' until 1863, then Vicars); see here for the many curates.

The first incumbent, from 1839, was Neville Jones, ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1832 and serving curacies at Burton Penwardine and St Cuthbert York before being licensed to the Episcopal Floating Church from 1834-39. In his time the parish received a grant from the 'Metropolitan Society', whose full name was 'The Association for Promoting the Relief of Destitution in the Metropolis, and for Improving the Condition of the Poor, by means of Parochial and District Visiting, under the superintendence of the Bishop and Clergy, through the agency of Unpaid Visitors [later adding and without reference to religious persuasion]'. It was founded in 1845 and was one of a network of agencies which believed that charitable relief must be accompanied by a systematic programme of district visiting to address the social and moral causes of poverty. (It was also active at Trinity Episcopal Chapel.) Neville Jones wrote to them:
We held a meeting of influential inhabitants yesterday, and formed a committee of ten gentlemen, with hope of adding to their number. Sixteen other persons volunteered to act as visitors, and I doubt not, in a little while, considerably to increase the number, as we all were encouraged by your kind promise of pecuniary aid to relieve the vast amount of distress which naturally prevails in such localities as mine; and I now find that a want of means to relieve the misery to be encountered was the circumstance which kept many of my people from the work of district visiting, That objection will now be obviated by the assistance of your society.

In 1847 he swapped posts with John Lyons at St George Bolton (a curious iron-framed church). This pleased neither the congregation at Bolton nor Mr Jones - he had been assured that the benefice was worth over £330 a year, but he could only manage to scrape together £97. He wrote I am sorry to find, I have been so sadly misinformed by Mr. Lyons in this matter....all the affairs of St George's seem to be in a sad state of Confusion. Nevertheless, he remained there for 44 years, retiring after 58 years in ministry (when he was presented with a portrait and a purse of gold), having seen his populous parish divided by the creation of St James Little Bolton in 1862, and St Matthew Bolton in 1874 when he 'lost' 8,000 of his 20,000 parishioners. (St George's has long been redundant - for a time it was a craft centre - and the central Bolton parishes are now grouped together.) In 1859 he aroused the wrath of the legal profession by announcing, in the Bolton Chronicle, that despite the creation of the new Court of Probate he was still entitled to grant probate and letters of administration without recourse to solicitors! He was a surrogate for the diocese. He died in 1891 aged 82.

John Lyons (1847-52), was born in Ireland in 1804 and ordained there. Briefly minister of Long Acre Chapel in London (where he was active in the Irish Society of London) and from 1833-38 of All Saints Chapel, Grosvenor Street in Liverpool (created from a former tennis court in 1798, licensed by the Bishop of Chester in 1832 - and sold to the Roman Catholics in 1845), he was involved in various Protestant associations, and debates with Roman Catholics, including this marathon six day session, harmoniously conducted, on 'The Rule of Faith' and 'The Sacrifice of the Mass' at Downside College, Bath in 1834 [title page right]. After his time in Bolton, and his exchange with Neville Jones, he became vicar of Tillingham in Essex (eliciting a pious ode on his departure - right - published in John Osborne A Poetic Miscellany 1866), then in 1859 of St Bartholomew Wednesbury, where there is a memorial marking his death in 1883.

A 'Rev J. Lyons' wrote this poem [left]  in The Ladies' Repository of 1849; if it was not him, it's worth including anyway as a pious response to new technology! [Compare the famous example of bathos by the Poet Laureate Alfred Austin, fifty years later on the illness of the Prince of Wales: Across the wires the electric message came: 'He is no better. He is much the same.']

Sunday services in 1851 were listed as at 11am and 6.30pm, and Wednesdays at 7pm, with the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday of the month:  Seats to be had at the School-house, Rosemary Lane, or after service, Wednesday evenings.

Then came John Llewellyn Davies (1852-56), born 1826, a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, who came to St Mark's after a year's unpaid curacy at St Anne Limehouse. He was a Broad Churchman and lifelong friend and disciple of F.D. Maurice (as were several of his successors), working with him on the establishment of the foundation of the Working Men's College in 1854. A frequent letter-writer to The Times and The Guardian  he corresponded with many leading liberal figures of the day - you can read some of their replies, edited by his son as A Victorian Postbag. This appeal [right] from The Evangelical Magazine vol 32 (154) shows his willingness to work ecumenically. (See here for his friend and unpaid curate Robert Hebert Quick.)

The first of his many scholarly publications was his joint translation with D.J. Vaughan of Plato's Republic (1852), followed by Saint Paul and Modern Thought, a response to Jowett's commentary (1856). In that year he became Rector of Christ Church Marylebone, remaining there until 1889. There were two collections of sermons -The Work of Christ, or the World reconciled to God, with a Preface on the Atonement Controversy (1860) and Sermons on the Manifestation of the Son of God, with a Preface addressed to Laymen on the present position of the Clergy of the Church of England, and an Appendix on the Testimony of Scripture and the Church as to the Possibility of Pardon in the Future State (1864). He wrote or co-wrote three of the Tracts for Priests and People, produced by a range of Broad Churchmen in the wake of Essays and Reviews (vol 1 1861, vol 2 1862). In 1866 came The Epistles of St. Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon, with an Introduction and Notes, and an Essay on the Traces of Foreign Elements in the Theology of these Epistles; and in the same year The Poor Law and Charity,  a paper published in Macmillan's Magazine which foreshadows the approach to welfare that was to characterise the work of the Charity Organisation Society. Other works included Morality according to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Three Discourses on the Names Eucharist, Sacrifice, and Communion (1867), The Church of England and the Church of Rome (1870),Theology & Morality (1873), and The Gospel and Modern Life, Sermons on some of the Difficulties of the Day, with a Preface on a recent Phase of Deism (1875). 

Leaving London with a 700-name testimonial to his influence, he became Vicar of Kirkby Lonsdale from 1889-1908 (where in 1891 he produced Baptism, Confirmation, and the Lord's Supper, as interpreted by their outward Signs, three Expository Addresses for Parochial use), retiring to Hampstead at the age of 82. He was a Chaplain to the Queen (and then the King) from 1876. An original member of the Alpine Club, he was one of the first to climb some of the Swiss peaks.  He was a strong advocate of women's rights, and his sister Emily was one of the founders of Girton College. He had one daughter and six sons; his son Arthur's five boys were the inspiration of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan He died in 1916, aged 90; here is his obituary in The Times.

David James Vaughan (1856-60) was Davies' exact contemporary (and joint Bell's Scholar) at Trinity, and in 1852 they produced together a translation with scholarly notes of Plato's Republic, the most widely-used version until eclipsed by that of Benjam Jowett, and still well-regarded. Influenced by Maurice, Ludlow and Campbell (who dedicated his Evidences to Vaughan) he had moved from Tractarianism to a liberal, broad church position which embraced the emerging Christian Socialism. He joined the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in 1853. At Rugby School and Cambridge he had become 'surrogate brother' to T.H. Green, the philosopher of social justice. After his time at St Mark's, he became the third of his High Tory father Edward Thomas Vaughan's (1777-1829) six sons - there were also eight daughters - to succeed him as vicar of St Martin Leicester (now the Cathedral), following Charles John (1841-44) and Edward Thomas Jnr (1845-59). He spent the whole of his ministry there - turning down the living of Battersea although it was worth £1200 a year, as against his Leicester stipend of £140. The Vaughan porch to the cathedral's south door (designed by J.L. Pearson) was a memorial to the brothers and their father, and especially to David's adult education work.
In The Health of Towns (1882) he advocated vaccination, better housing and fewer premature marriages. He was an assiduous visitor at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, despite the personal risks. In The Church and Socialism (1889) he raised the issue of poor employment prospects for men over 40: when brain and strength are at their best a man is liable to be regarded as past work. In 1894 he supported an international move to limit conscription to a single year, in the cause of peace. But he opposed non-sectarian teaching in Board Schools, as weakening morality. He is most remembered for founding - after Maurice's example - the Leicester Working Man's College, now Vaughan College (Leicester University's Adult Education Centre). He died in 1905.
[His brother Charles John Vaughan, also a product of Thomas Arnold's Rugby School, was appointed Headmaster of Harrow in 1845 where he sought to achieve a similar programme of public school reform, and pointed several hundred young men (his 'doves') towards ordination - eighteen of them became bishops, and two archbishops. Highly regarded as a preacher, and by such as Benson, Davidson, Westcott and Jowett, he left Harrow after firteen years (as he claimed had always been his plan), returning to Leicester before becoming Vicar of Doncaster, and then (in plurality) Master of the Temple and Dean of Llandaff, and also Deputy Clerk of the Closet to maintain his connections with Queen Victoria. Why  he did not himself become a bishop remains a matter of some pseculation. In 1964 Phyllis Grosskurth claimed it was because of a well-concealed sexual scandal: misconduct with a pupil, Alfred Pretor, who revealed this in a letter to fellow-pupil John Addington Symonds. Symonds, though by then part of the Oxford homosexual 'network' (he later married and had children. but remained a writer and commentator on 'male love', as well as an enthusiast for Italian travel - see here for a tribute after his death by the local county court judge A.R. Cluer) was encouraged to tell his father, who is it said prevented Vaughan's appointment as Bishop of Rochester. (Pretor never spoke to Symonds again.) But Canon Trevor Park, who has published Vaughan's 300 surviving letters (out of an estimated total of 300,000 - the rest were burnt at his request) claims, in Nolo Episcopari: A Life of C.J. Vaughan (St Bega Press 2014) that, although there were certainly 'romantic friendships' with pupils past and present (Vaughan was married, but childless), there is no clear evidence of misconduct, and that he declined episcopal offers because of his understanding of vocation rather than because of the threat of exposure.]

Robert Edward Bartlett (1860-66 - Vicar from 1863) was a student at Rugby under Dr Arnold, and at Balliol, then Trinity College Oxford where he became Fellow and Tutor prior to his appointment here. (He had been President of the Oxford Union, and years later commented on a debate in which W.E. Gladstone, future Prime Minister, had spoken for a particular motion but then voted against it.) The family home was at Rainsford Lodge, in the centre of Chelmsford; while still a student, he was involved in the development of the Chelmer & Blackwall Navigation Company [see this 1852 deed, left]. Throughout his life he corresponded with leading figures of the liberal world - among them E.A. Freeman, a Trinity contemporary who became Regius Professor of Modern History - see examples here. Three children were born at the parsonage in Goodman's Fields - William, who became a priest, Frank who became a civil servant in Ceylon, and Grace (one of the first women to study at Oxford). See here for the evidence he gave in 1862 to the Select Committee on the Ecclesiastical Commission, on the funding of poor parishes.

He then became Vicar of Pershore, in Worcester diocese. See here for the text of the paper he gave at a Social Science Congress in 1869, arguing for non-denominational, undogmatic religious education in schools. The choice, he said, was between ignoring religion and ignoring religious difficulties. A really good secular system would be better than none at all, and it would at, least remove the great obstacle to all improvement - dense stupidity. In 1873 he became Vicar of Great Waltham, north of Chelmsford but then in Rochester diocese, where be became a council member of the Essex Field Club (incidentally, along with the Revd W.S. Lach-Szyrma from Barkingside, who had led a mission at Christ Church Watney Street).

Bartlett was the Bampton Lecturer in 1888: his eight philosophical lectures on St Paul were published as The Letter and the Spirit [right]. In 1893 he was one of ten contributors to a series of lecture-sermons Christus Imperator, on the 'Universal Empire of  Christianity', edited by Charles Stubbs, Dean-designate of Ely (Macmillan 1984), his topic being 'Christ in the Realm of Philosophy'. (Fellow-contributors included Llewelyn Davies [above] on 'Christ in the Realm of Ethics', Brooke Lambert on 'Christ in the Realm of Science', Samuel Barnett - by then Warden of Toynbee Hall - on 'Christ in the Realm of Sociology' and Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust, on 'Christ in the Realm of Art'.) There were other publications, including an article on 'The Limits of Ritual in the Church of England' (Contemporary Review 1890), and chapters on 'The Holy Catholic Church' in ed. Henry Wace and F.W. Farrar Church and Faith (Blackwood 1899) and on 'The Relations of the Church of England with Modern Nonconformity' from the 1899 Christian Conference of the Church Congress (A & C Black 1900) - a body established in 1881 which included fellow-liberals such as Brooke Lambert and Harry Jones.

He died aged 75 of 'cardiac exhaustion' in 1904 at Rainsford Lodge, which was sold in 1918 (and later became the site of Essex County Council staff car park until it was redeveloped for housing). Grace became a leading light of the Chelmsford Girls' Aid Society, to help young women and girls who are unsteady or in dangerous surroundings - a shelter was named Bartletts in her memory. She was also one of the first probation officers appointed when the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 created this new profession.

Brooke Lambert (curate 1864, Vicar 1865-71) - right - was born in 1834 into a titled family of Huguenot origins - Sir John Lambert, the first baronet (d.1723) had come from the Ile de Rhé and settled as a merchant in London soon after 1685. He was the fourth son (and fifth of eight children) of Francis John Lambert, son of the fourth baronet; his Welsh mother was the daughter of a Peninsular officer. The family lived in Kensington. After home schooling, and a time at a school run by James Chase, an evangelical clergyman, he went to Brighton College in 1849, and from there to King's College London to study for ordination. He became a lifelong 'disciple' of F.D. Maurice who was ejected from his King's professorship in 1853. From there he went to Brasenose College, Oxford, as a commoner, choosing a pass degree to enable him to pursue his own programme (which included Stanley's lectures on ecclesiastical history); he graduated in 1858 (MA 1861 and Bachelor of Common Law 1863), and was ordained that year to a title at Christ Church Preston, moving in 1860 to St John Worcester. After some months at Hillingdon, near Uxbridge, he offered himself as Bartlett’s curate, and on his departure became Vicar (1866-71) - the year when a cholera outbreak hit the area and, as elsewhere (notably St Peter London Docks), clergy performed heroic service. He circulated parish directions, organised the distribution of medicine and visited the sick assiduously; on one day he buried forty-four corpses.

Along with Samuel Barnett at St Jude Whitechapel, he was described as one of the 'squires of the slums':  see Nigel Scotland Squires in the Slums (I.B. Tauris 2007) which traces the impact of Lambert, Barnett and others through to the establishment of university settlements and missions in the latter years of the century. He
joined the Whitechapel board of trustees and the Vestry and became a member of the Board of Works and a guardian, for which, as an obituarist noted, his force of character and business capacities admirably fitted him. At the general election of 1868 he arranged a course of sermons at St Mark's on the duties of electors: among the preachers were Hugh Reginald Haweis, Stopford Brooke (an Anglican cleric who later became a Unitarian - and was the chronicler of the great Brighton preacher F.W. Robertson, F. D. Maurice, and the historian and cleric John Richard Green. Lambert undertook a thorough study of poor law administration and local government - anticipating the 'scientific' approach of Charles Booth and the tactics of the Charity Organisation Society (with whom in later life he was to disagree over their opposition to state pensions). This work, including a census he made of a portion of the parish with calculations on earnings and the cost of living, resulted in the publication of Seven Sermons on Pauperism preached at St Mark's in 1870 together with another preached in Oxford with a Preface on the work and position of clergy in poor districts (1871). Indiscriminately-given charity led  to 'pauperism', he believed, and the marvel of Christ's life is his suppression of benevolence - which one commentator has described as an astounding twist of theology. Yet he was by no means inactive in doing good: in addition to renovating the church, he founded a penny bank, a soup kitchen, a working-man’s club, a mutual improvement society, and campaigned for a public mortuary in the area, in the light of cases such as that reported in The Lancet (30 October 1860) of a child who had died of scarlet fever lying for seven days in a single underground room where his parents and three other children lived and slept, in a house in Tenter Street shared by several families. He became a member of the Guild of St Matthew, and one of his lectures on their behalf was The Republic of Plato and the Republic of Christ.
He was an ardent vegetarian. Samuel Barnett had written to The Times on 2 July 1874 about the local slaughterhouses:
It is impossible for any but those who live and work near here to understand all the suffering which the Whitechapel and Aldgate slaughter-houses entail. To reach these houses the cattle have to be driven along a street crowded with trams, omnibuses, and general traffic. The drivers are almost of necessity cruel, as they hasten the brutes through such a thoroughfare; the animals, excited by shouts and blows, frequently make frantic rushes, and endanger the lives of the foot-passengers. From these slaughter-houses, too, the blood flows across the pavement, and there arises a close smell which seems to thicken the air and make breathing a pain .... We know that life here is not vigorous; the air has no refreshing power; and we are well able to understand why so many resort to drink. Dr. Liddle, our medical officer, has spoken and written strongly on the harm done to the health of our neighbourhood by means of these houses. The medical officers of the Health Association have, I think, agreed unanimously on the injurious effect of the trade. Those who crowd our courts, the passers through our streets, the little children who see the cruelty, the cattle who suffer, all want a voice to tell their needs. It is out of my power to do more than ask your help. By your means the House of Lords may learn the meaning of an Act which establishes slaughter-houses in the City. I trust we may not have a law directly injurious to health passed by a Government whose motto is sanitas sanitatum.
and Lambert (who by then had left the parish) added
If any one wishes to know whether the nuisance be real, let him turn out of the Whitechapel Road at the entrance to the London and North-Western goods station, and pass down the streets leading thence to Mansell Street. He will then know what the smell of blood is. And yet he will probably often boldly encounter the smell of blood in preference to the worse sights he will risk in Whitechapel Road. The carts laden with fresh skins, the pails full of blood and brains, are sights to which a long experience does not harden one.
Anna Bonus Kingsford The Perfect Way in Diet, chapter 8a Vegetarian Society publication that went through several editions

He left St Mark's because of poor health. After a trip to the West Indies (where his family owned property) with
John Richard Green, Vicar of St Philip Stepney before he became Librarian at Lambeth Palace, he returned to a brief - and judging from this account, fraught - curacy in Rainhill, Lancashire in 1871. In the following year was appointed as Vicar of Tamworth. Here he was involved in the restoration of the parish church, and the setting up of two new district churches (incomplete by the time he left) and a school board under the 1870 Act. He became involved with the English Social Science Congress of 1872. It was also here that he became a freemason, in which movement he became prominent (serving as Grand Chaplain of England): more detail of his time in Tamworth here. But he felt constrained by 'provincial' attitudes, and family income from West Indian sugar trade was in serious decline, so he resigned at the end of 1878. Back in London, he became involved in voluntary work with the London School Board and other educational issues: he helped establish the London University Extension Society, and in 1879 became organising secretary. For part of that year he was curate-in-charge of St. Jude Whitechapel, while Canon Barnett was out of the country. In 1880 Gladstone appointed him as Vicar of Greenwich. This gave him enormous scope for public work of many kinds, detailed here. He continued to publish widely, including Ten Sermons on Lord's Prayer (preached at St Mary Greenwich in 1883) and regular contributions to The Contemporary Review. (After his death his papers were bought by the University of Iowa libraries.) He travelled widely in his vacations. His health failed in 1900, and a long journey to South Africa and then up the Nile to Khartoum failed to restore it. He died, unmarried, at Greenwich vicarage on 25 January 1901, and after cremation was buried at Old Shoeburyness parish church. A marble bust, executed towards the end of his life by Joy, a sculptor of Tamworth, was presented after his death to the Roan Schools at Greenwich.

In 1866 the curate W.R. Scott established a mission chapel, named St Clement, at 69 Backchurch Lane. It is shown on this 1868 map, but was short-lived; more detail here.

George Davenport was Lambert's successor as Vicar (1871-99), and also Lecturer at St George-in-the-East from 1871-75, and he continued these social projects: the Charles Booth archives contain an interview (B222, pages 78-89). He trained at Queen's College Birmingham (founded in 1828) and served a brief curacy at Tamworth in 1857 (where his predecessor Lambert had later been incumbent, but after his time there), followed by five others, at St Luke Birmingham (1858-62), St George Newcastle-under-Lyne (1862-63), Calne (1863-66 - where he was also demostic chaplain to the fourth Marquess of Lansdowne), St James Hampstead Road (1866-68) and St Mary Whitechapel (1868-70, where he was also Lecturer). His brother-in-law, George Frederick Carlson, was a missionary in Zululand for 35 years. In his latter years curates conducted most of the occasional offices. Some of his sermons were published in The Pulpit.

Work among the Jews, and beyond
As the parish population became overwhelmingly Jewish, St Mark's attempted for a time to offer a Christian witness to the diverse diaspora which had settled here (many living in extreme poverty, but with a rich cultural life). Four clergy who were Jewish converts* served here - as did two others at Christ Church Watney Street, and one at St John the Evangelist Grove Street; their stories are told in more detail here.

* Hermann Hirsch was curate from 1868-70, and Alexander William Schapira from 1887-90 (and later at Christ Church). A decade later, Albert Elias Abrahamson was curate (1896-1900), and Secretary of the Hebrew Christian Message to Israel.

Michael Rosenthal was Vicar from 1899-1907 (curiously, he only became a trustee of the parish's National School in 1904 - incumbents are normally ex officio). He was given a dispensation to preach in Hebrew. In 1885 Charlotte M. Yonge, sometimes described as 'the novelist of the Oxford movement', wrote to her cousin Mary about a meeting with Rosenthal at which he explained Jewish customs to her. The Booth Archive contains an interview with him [B222 pages 108-125].  His memorial tablet (in dark marble), which was moved to St Paul Dock Street when St Mark's closed, says formerly a Jewish rabbi, he was converted in early manhood to the Christian religion, and enduring much persecution thenceforth laboured unceasingly to bring to his Jewish brethren the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  More on his later ministry here. (His son David became the vicar of St Agatha Sparkbrook, an inner-city anglo-catholic parish in Birmingham, until his sudden death in 1938. Descendants remain active in the Church in Wales, and we are grateful for information that they have provided.)

But this focus petered out. Rosenthal's successor from 1907-21 was Lionel Smithett Lewis. Born in 1867, the son of the Revd Gerrard Lewis (who had been ordained in 1854 to a curacy in Liverpool - then in Chester diocese - but since 1874 had been Vicar of St Paul Cliftonville, in Margate), Lionel was ordained in 1891 from Queens' College Cambridge. He had been a curate in Cheltenham, Pimlico, Clifton (Bristol) and Mile End New Town before coming here. He appeared to have been a popular Vicar: in 1911 the press reported that when he married Lilian Isolda Vereker (1883-1977) parishioners hired windows overlooking the church for the occasion.

A major preoccupation during his time here was the anti-vivisection cause - one that other local clergy supported, but less determinedly; matters came to a head with a Royal Commission, at the time of his arrival in the parish. Then, when he left Whitechapel to become Vicar of Glastonbury, the Holy Grail and the legends of Joseph of Arimathea became his abiding passion, until the time of his death in 1953, aged 86. Both of these issues are more fully dealt on this separate page.

In 1918 he said I cannot agree with those who conscientiously objected to fighting in this war ... yet  a man who will really suffer for conscience sake is always admirable and one of the nation's greatest assets, even if he be utterly mistaken in his views.

See here for some comments on the baptism registers from this period: Rosenthal (in relation to Jewish converts) and Lewis (including an exchange across the years on the subject of 'private baptism').


In the early part of the 20th century, extreme deprivation and poverty continued, and the church struggled to survive. The congregation continued to dwindle, and missionary work among the Jews came to nothing. After the First World War the decision was made to close the church. The school, however, despite various difficulties, and a petition for closure in 1921, remained open until the Second World War.

Ernest James Crosby became Curate-in-charge from 1922-26 (when the church closed), and Curate of the united parish (with St Paul Dock Street) from 1926-28 - no doubt a depressing 'closure' ministry. He had previously served in Norfolk, Kent and Cornwall and as a chaplain in the First World War. He went on to become Rector of Prieska in the northern Cape Province - then a remote farming area (its name means 'place of the lost goat') at a ford crossing the Orange River, which had featured in the Boer War - the fort, decorated with locally-mined semi-precious stones including tiger's-eye, survives [pictured]. More recently copper, zinc and asbestos were mined there.

An Order in Council of 30 April 1926 united the parish to St Paul Dock Street, and the building was eventually demolished in 1937. Later the site was sold for £6,000 and the money given to help the building of St Francis, Dollis Hill. The bell, pulpit and two fonts were given to St Alphege, Hendon, and the wall paintings to Wragby Church in Lincolnshire. A warehouse, by Moore-Smith and Colbeck, incorporating the former parsonage as offices, was built on the site; it is now flats.

A memorial to 29 men from St Mark's parish who were killed in the First World War - a ceramic crucifixion, with wooden shutters listing the names - was transferred to St George-in-the-East (via St Paul Dock Street) but was stolen a few years later in 1991; it has not been recovered [better picture needed].

See here for statistics of baptisms and weddings during the lifetime of the parish.

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