A Brief History of St. Gabriel's Church, Aldersbrook

The parish of Aldersbrook came into existence on 16 October 1903 when the Bishop of Barking dedicated a new mission church to serve the new housing estate being built on a triangle of land in what was known, (to the developers anyway), as the Lower Forest area of Wanstead. To the locals it was known as the hamlet of Aldersbrook, named after a brook which still runs in various culverts under the houses and occasionally makes its presence known in their cellars.

The building of the estate commenced in 1899 and as more people moved into the area it became clear that provision would need to be made for a new church to serve the people of the Lower Forest. At that time Aldersbrook was a part of the Parish of Wanstead and Church of England people would have regarded St Mary's, Wanstead as their parish church.

 

Under the initiative of Canon John Corbett, the Rector of Wanstead, funds were raised and a parcel of land, (formerly a nursery), purchased on the corner of Aldersbrook Road and Park Road and a corrugated iron mission church erected and dedicated to St Gabriel the Archangel. The Reverend Arthur Chamberlain Green, (formerly curate at St Mary's), was appointed as priest in charge and continued in that office, (and that building), until 1909 when he was succeeded by The Reverend Bertram Layton Hirst who is rightly credited with the building of the present church and who subsequently became the first Vicar of Aldersbrook.

 

The population continued to grow as the Aldersbrook Estate expanded, by 1912 the population had increased to around 1500 souls and despite four services being conducted every Sunday, (at 8 and 11am and 3 and 6.30pm), it became clear that a larger and more permanent building was needed.

 

The architect Charles Spooner, who had already designed many substantial churches in East London, was asked to submit a design the result being the present church which is built in a modified early-English style built from red brick with dressings of Weedon stone and was dedicated on 16 May 1914  by the Bishop of Chelmsford.

 

The church internally is large, light and airy with a Lady Chapel on the North side and a baptistery at the West end. The church was from the outset furnished with chairs rather than pews which means that furniture can be moved very easily to vary the worship space as well as creating different spaces for concerts and exhibitions. A new nave altar and platform designed by Richard Pratley were added during the incumbency of the last vicar Fr Duncan Dalais which have considerably enhanced our liturgy as has a sound enhancement system with hearing loop.

 

Recently a new ramp was fitted at the South West door to make access easier for all. At present plans are being drawn to erect new glass internal doors at the main entrance replacing the original internal porch with a more welcoming and draught-proof narthex structure. We also hope to be able to make provision on the North West side for new facilities comprising a parish office, small kitchen and crèche in the near future.

 

St Gabriel's Church has been at the heart of the Aldersbrook community since 1903 though the community now numbers more than 6000 people. As it's present custodians, we intend to do our very best to make sure it is still here, well maintained and equipped and fit for purpose in another 100 years.

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