All Hallows Church

The Mission of All Hallows was founded in 1875 by Mrs Hunt of Godstone, a widow, who in the aftermath of the death of her only daughter, desired to bring relief to the most destitute. She actually came to live in the parish, an area lying between Southwark Bridge Road and Blackfriars Road that was jointly formed from the mother parishes of St Saviours and Christchurch. Revd. G W Berkeley was appointed vicar of the parish and was assisted by some sisters from the Clewer Community. It was said the first church was formed by roofing over a small piece of garden behind the temporary vicarage, alternatively it has been said that the first services were held in a room that had once been a carpenters shed and it was on this land that a temporary chapel was built in 1877.

The permanent church was designed by GG Scott Jnr and the foundation stone for the church in Orange Street (now Copperfield Street) was laid in May 1879. Progress was painfully slow and work frequently ceased as money ran out. By December 1883, the chancel had been finished and the nave built up to 12 feet but little progress had been made a year later. Revd. Berkeley acknowledged potential criticism that perhaps they might have been too ambitious in their plans and might have been content with a smaller and humbler church but, he argued, may not the poor have one place which by its grandeur and beauty shall take them from their misery and squalor into another world.

All Hallows Mission Hall

Interior of All Hallows Mission Hall

At last the church was completed and consecrated in 1892. The church was greatly admired, and the vicar of the neighbouring parish of St Michael's confessed to envying his neighbour his church. The church was in the 13th century style, constructed from red brick with stone dressings with a bell cote above the chancel arch which still remains.

While the church was under construction relief work was carried out in the parish. A pawnbrokers shop had been converted into a temporary Mission House where Mothers Meetings, Bible classes and sewing classes were held. During winter months, soup was given away to all large and needy families, and on other days, dinners for 12 sick people were provided. For 10 months of the year in 1883, breakfasts were provided for between 100 and 150 children, a year later this figure had risen to 250. On Christmas day, 1110 people, regardless of creed, received meat toward their dinner and where possible an article of clothing. There was a crche where children under 4 years old were cared for from 8 am to 8 pm for threepence (3d) a day and it was estimated 5517 children had been taken care of at the crche during 1883.

In 1880 the parish opened a Home for Factory Girls, for the reasons described here by Revd Berkeley:

In working amongst the factory girls of the parish it was soon found impossible to make any real impression on them so long as they remained amid the evil influences of their own homes. Living day and night in the same small room with the other members of their family, they grew up coarse and brutal, and regardless of decency Houses where they could be taught to lead more civilized lives were an imperative necessary, and in 1880 first attempt to start one. [This consisted of] two rooms for six girls, so successful now two houses accommodating 40 girls and 2 matrons.

A similar Home for Working Boys was opened in 1883.

The Revd. R H Duthy was the incumbent interviewed by Charles Booths investigator in 1899. He told the interviewer that when the Mission started the area had been notoriously bad, both for vice and crime, and the scenes of shamelessness in the streets was incredible the parish is altogether more respectable. He believed there was now no pronounced criminal element in the parish and that the district had greatly improved. There were now three clergy working within the parish still strongly assisted by a contingent of Clewer Sisters 12 living in the parish with 7 working entirely in the parish.

The church suffered great damage during World War II and in 1957 the lady chapel and the north aisle and crypt were restored to form a smaller church that seated 150. Access was given to the churchyard as a public space and has been in use as a Community Garden ever since. The church closed in 1971 and the Mission Hall has been used since then as a recording studio and offices. Southwark Cathedral had plans to demolish the remains of the church and replace it with a residential building but the local community opposed the plans. Now the Cathedral and community are working together in the hopes of reaching a solution that will benefit from Cathedral and Community.


All Hallows Church and Community Garden


H E Malden (Ed) A History of Surrey Vol 41912
The Diocese of Southwark being a short account of the history, character and needs of South London and other parts of the Diocese, 1906

Interviews with Revd W H Longsden, St Michael's and Revd R H Duthy, All Hallows, Charles Booth Notebooks District 31 Books No. C1, 1899

'Ecclesiastical Intelligence' John Bull, 31 May 1879
Monthly Packet, 1 March 1882
G W Berkeley 'Occasional Paper No. 9', Monthly Packet, 1 December 1883
G W Berkeley 'Occasional Paper No. 12' Monthly Packet, 1 December 1884