Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
include construction, lighterage, printing, engineering, power generation and baking, and there is also a window dedicated to motherhood throughout the ages. A full description of the windows can be found on the English Heritage website.
Christ Church in Blackfriars Road is a small church, not very old as churches go and simple in design. It comes as a surprise therefore to discover the church is Grade II listed, not for its modest exterior, but for the unique stained glass windows contained within which, although only just over 50 years old, reflect a local area that has already fast disappeared.
The parish of Christ Church was founded as a result of a will dated 1627. John Marshall owned many properties throughout Southwark and his will stipulated that should he die without heir, £700 should be spent on "one New Church for the worship of God, and a church-yard convenient for it in such a place as [the Trustees] in their discretion should think fit, but his desire was, that the same might be built in some part of St Saviour's parish." The will stated that the new church was to be called Christ Church and also provided for the maintenance of a minister for the church.
The manor of Paris Garden was within the parish of St Saviour's and formed into the separate parish of Christchurch by Act of Parliament in 1670 despite objections from St Saviour's. A plot of land for the building of the church was donated by William Angell, the owner of the manor, on the proviso that a vault was built in the chancel of the new church for himself and his heirs. The church was consecrated in 1671, but the foundations had been insufficiently drained and by 1721 the church was in a state of decay, both internally and externally. It was slowly sinking into the marsh and it was reported the ground level was as high as the windows. Graves filled with water as soon as they were dug. A further Act of Parliament enabled the existing church to be pulled down and a new one erected and paid for by the Marshall Charity. The new church was built between 1738 and 1741 and had a tower that housed eight bells.
The burial ground surrounding the church was closed for further burials in 1853 and in 1900 was laid out by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association and opened as a public open space. After 200 years the church suffered great bomb damage in World War II and was later demolished. Building work started on the current church in 1957, again paid for by the Marshall Charity, and the new church consecrated in 1959. Over the entrance are a stone niche that contains a statue of Jesus and four roundels representing each of the four apostles that were rescued from the earlier church.
The new church was opened as an Industrial Mission Centre and provided ministry to workplaces. As such it had strong links with industry in the area. To commemorate this, a set of unique stained glass windows were commissioned and installed that reflect the industry of the area at that time, unusually as stained glass windows in churches usually reflect the life of Christ or scenes from the bible. The Christ Church windows were designed by Frederick Walter Cole who had been apprenticed and then employed by William Morris & Co. Some of the industries represented are no longer in the area, others that do remain are no longer locally based or part of multi-national corporations. The industries represented
A further set of stained glass windows were commissioned and installed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the new church building and companies and organisations within the area at that time. These include J Sainsbury’s, Lloyds Bank, Sea Containers, Kirkaldy Testing and the Blackfriars Settlement.