History Feature: The fall and rise of Chingford's All Saints Church (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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History Feature: The fall and rise of Chingford's All Saints Church
All Saints in Chingford is one of the oldest churches in London but in the 1800s it lay abandoned and derelict. DANIEL BINNS explores its chequered history.
Sitting on the top of a hill overlooking Chingford, All Saints Church has long been a local landmark.
The first documented reference to a place of worship at the site was in 1181, but the Norman-era structure is thought to have been demolished before the 13th century when the current church was built.
It started out as a modest building with just a few rooms, but it was added to and developed in the centuries that followed.
According to the Chingford Historical Society, the church's tower of Kentish sandstone was built 150 years later, with a Tudor porch added in 1547.
But in the following years the building began to deteriorate. It also slowly became enveloped by ivy, which earned it the nickname 'The Green Church'.
The ivy became so out of control that by 1844 church elders reluctantly decided to abandon the building and move to the new church on The Green.
All Saints lay derelict and its sorry state was made worse in 1904 when the roof of the nave and south isle collapsed.
But, just as it seemed that the building would crumble away to nothing, it was saved by a last-gasp intervention by Louise Boothby-Heathcote, of Chingford's famous Heathcote family.
Ms Boothby-Heathcote was the youngest daughter of Rev Robert Boothby-Heathcote, who was a popular Chingford rector in the 1800s, and she was keen to leave a lasting legacy to the area from her family.
Aghast at its derelict state, she donated £6,000 to restore the church, which she described as the 'jewel of Chingford', and also gave an another large sum to restore the bells.
In 1930 the restoration was complete and the church opened once more.
Ten years later Ms Boothby-Heathcote died and was laid to rest in the family vault of the restored church, bringing the family's long association with Chingford to an end.
Keen to promote the church's rich history and architecture to the public, All Saints volunteers Gary Stone and Jane Mazalon are opening it up as part of London's Open House weekend on Saturday September 21 and Sunday September 22.
Mr Stone, 52, said: “It's a wonderful church with lovely people, and we really want to share its very interesting history with the community”.
It will be open from 10am until 3pm on the Saturday and 11am to 3pm on Sunday.
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