MARGARET’S MEMORIES OF PARISH LIFE
by Margaret Pettit
Here is another wonderful recollection of life around Romford and the Parish by a parishoner.
I think I started Sunday School when I was five years old in 1939 just before the war started.
Fr. Stroud was our Rector often with two curates, as we covered St. Albans, St. Agnes and Rush Green. Sunday school was at 3pm and we were divided into year age groups down the church – each group had its own teacher. We sang hymns and said prayers together but split into our groups for teaching. We went up a year as we got older and had attendance pictures each week which fitted into an album and we also got a prize for good attendance. During the war attendance was sometimes difficult depending on the Air Raids and I was sent to relations in Suffolk for the last two years of the war.
The village school was C of E but as my Aunt was Methodist we went to the local Chapel three time on Sundays and it was there that I learned to sing all the hymns as they were great singers.
After the war I returned to St. Andrew’s and remained with the Sunday School until I was 14.
I remember the Sunday school outings each summer when they took us all on the trains to Thorpe Bay or Maldon, now I think they were very brave as we were quite a large group and usually someone had an accident.
Sung Mass was at 11am and I particularly remember my first Easter Sunday with all the fine vestments and the procession with the choir and banners.
I returned to Romford in 1945 and went back to church and Sunday School. I also joined the choir which I stayed with for a number of years. The choirmaster was Algenon Osborne and he was very strict. We attended choir practice every week, but the girls had to meet 15 minutes before the boys to do scales so that our voices matched the boys. There were usually four men and about 8 boys and 6 girls. The girls wore blue veils but we were not allowed in the choir stalls, we sat in the front row of the pews. On Sundays we had a full sung Mass at 11am, this included the Psalm, Creed and Lord’s Prayer, Gloria etc., in Advent we always chanted the Litany as a procession round the church.
Communion was only taken at a said mass at 7 or 8am and Baptisms were at 4pm on Sunday afternoons. I remember Midnight Mass at Christmas when we sang carols and Ave Maria while Communion was taking place. I used to go to bed for a couple of hours and get up for the service. We also sang Evensong at 6pm on Sundays, but this was not my favourite service and I did not always attend.
I was confirmed in November, 1947 by the Bishop of Barking. The service was on a Saturday afternoon and Elsie Porter made my Confirmation dress from parachute silk as clothes were still on rations and I took my First Communion on Advent Sunday. I left the choir when I was 15 and started work, but also at this time my Mother had a bad accident and had two long spells in hospital and I had to help run the house and look after my sister. Due to the war I never belonged to the Brownies and never joined the Guides but continued to attend church.
After the war we often had dances and socials in the old hall. Fr. Stroud and Mrs. Stroud were great dancers and in the holidays the two sons would be there. The Summer Fete was always held in the Rectory Garden as the old house had plenty of room in the garden to set it out. There were always stalls and games and often a baby show and I remember my sister being a living whist card in the Pageant and Tournament of Living Whist. John Jones and Molly were married here after the war. John was Scout Master and Molly always taught Sunday School. Other people I remember from those days are Mr. Rumsey, Mabel Metcalf, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Wright, Mary and John, also the Hawes family as they lived over the business in London Road and James was boat boy, and there are so many more.
Fr. Chown came to St. Andrew’s in 1960 and married my sister and John and Joan Wright in 1961. I only attended church during this time, but did not belong to any organisations.
In the late 1960’s the organ was rebuilt and for several weeks the pews on the pulpit side were covered in pipes. Fr. Chown and his wife had two daughters and it was during this time Mrs. Chown formed The Young Wives Group of The Mothers’ Union and this continued into Fr. David Paul’s time. We also used to have a lunch at St. Agnes’ after the Festival Service in January. This was started by Jackie Payne. By this time my Mother was getting very infirm and I did not always manage to get to church as I always worked full time in London. My Mother died during Fr. Oddy’s short stay and he took her funeral.
Fr. Brian Lewis joined us in 1988 and as I had more time, I joined Mothers’ Union as they had started evening meetings at St. Agnes. I joined the PCC and later became Churchwarden with Tony Pye and afterwards Peter Quinn. Fr. Lewis had only been here a short time when the well was discovered at the back of the church. This was a major piece of work as the bridge over the well had collapsed and the back pier was sinking. It had to be jacked up and the well filled in with aggregate. The new Rectory was built at this time and the old house pulled down and the site sold by the Diocese for development. The old hall was in very bad condition, so lots of fundraising was done and the new Parish Centre was built. Unfortunately as soon as the old hall was demolished we had a fire at St. Agnes and the roof was badly damaged, so for a time we did not have a hall of any kind. During Fr. Brian’s time the choir was disbanded and has only recently begun again. During his time with us, Fr. Brian Lewis was made Rural Dean and as this gave him much more work we had two different curates, first Fr. Robin Ward who is now at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford and then Fr. Paul Kennedy with his wife and sons. It was Paula Kennedy who started the Tiny Tots Group at Mothers’ Union.
In the late 1990’s, the East Window was replaced by John Jones in memory of his wife Molly. The window is of the Transfiguration and replaced the old one of the Last Supper which was destroyed during the war.
Fr. Brian Lewis left us in 1999 to go to Little Ilford and Manor Park. We had a two year Interregnum, but fortunate to have Fr. Jimmy Froud running the Parish for this time.
Fr. John-Francis joined us in 2001 and during this time there have been many alterations in church including a forward Alter. Our congregation has increased and consolidated.
Our world is always changing, and we must see what the future holds for us.