Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why there isn't a church between Kingsland Road and Stanley Terrace.

David Draper was a child round here in the 1940s and told the BBC this story:

'After the war, the bombed areas(we as kids called them debris)became our playgrounds. On them we attended concerts organised by the local "talents", built barricades and engaged in territorial gang wars, climbed into the attics and out onto the roofs of derelict rows of condemned houses, took the lead out of the windows of the burned out church and melted it down, etc.etc.

The burnt out church in question was Saint Paul's and once stood at the corner of Kingsdown Rd. and Stanley Terrace. It must have been a beautiful structure before the blitz but had been reduced by incendiaries, to a shell whose walls and internal pillars only remained. Its pulpit was filled with a small mountain of rubble which extended from wall to wall at each side.

St Paul's after the bombs.
Image thanks to Churchcrawler on Flickr.

The door of the church had gone and the brickwork so patiently and continuously erected by workmen to seal it off was constantly being removed, just as patiently, by us kids, so we could get in and play. The floor was usually covered by about eight inches of water from end to end and made an excellent obstacle course for traversing across on old milk bottle crates and other junk.

One day whilst playing there, I and my mates, for some inexplicable reason decided to dig away at the rubble near the pulpit. We started at the left side and before long to our wonder and awe, we realised we had uncovered an arched opening over a large concrete shelf, beyond which we could see what appeared to be a small room. We clambered over the shelf,into the room one by one and as I stood there, my eyes becoming accustomed to the dark, feeling like an explorer,as I imagine pyramid explorers might have felt, entering a mummies tomb, another, strange,familiar feeling came over me.

I was looking at the walls: They were patterned in gold diamond lattice over a purple background that I had seen somewhere before. I forgot about it and I and my mates continued on with our usual activities of getting thoroughly dirty and wet.Weeks, maybe months later, I was talking with my Nan and out of the blue I said to her: "Nan, have I ever been in the old church, before it was burned?" My Nan looked at me incredulously and said: "How did you remember that?" I said to her: "It was the pattern on the wall in a room we discovered next to the pulpit". My Nan was amazed, she said: "You were only a baby then, we went into that room in the church to get a food parcel".

This is what St Paul's had looked like before the Blitz:

St Paul's before the war
Image thanks to Churchcrawler on Flickr. 

And this is what that corner looks like now:


The flats seem nice enough, and places to live are important. I wish, though, that there were at least a plaque to record what was there before. 

Many thanks to Churchcrawler and the BBC People's War project for making this post possible. 


  1. Davids history and recollections of these times is very interesting and I wondered if he or anyone else can remember my late mother in law Grace Swan who lived in Thane Villas at a property occupied by the Harding family?

    I can be contacted as follows:

  2. Hi Johar (apologies if that's not your name - I'm guessing from your e-mail).

    Thank you for the comment - when did your mother in law live round here?