St Michael's Church

Mint Street

The houses shown above in Mint Street were purchased by St Michael's Church in 1898. The house on the left was a former lodging house and was refurbished to become the Vicarage, the remaining houses were converted to become the Mission House where various clubs met. At that time they faced onto the Workhouse; today, now owned privately, they face on to Mint Street Park. The church was located just round the corner in Lant Street.

The chapelry of St Michaels was established in 1867 under the patronage of St George the Martyr church in Borough High Street. Before that time, St Michael's had been a Free Church with ragged schools attached but in 1865, the incumbent Revd. Hibbert Newton wrote to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners asking that the district covered by the Free Church could be granted the status of a district chapelry within the parish of St George the Martyr. He wrote that there were upwards of 8000 within his district of "what are called the dangerous classes, and of the very poor". As such the chapelry was struggling financially and changes had occurred within the district in that the better off tradesmen had left the area to live in the suburbs. Donations received from the collection plate had ceased and all expenses and repairs to the church fell to him. "I have adhered to my post for six years, and have become by what I may call a succeeding struggle, attached to it, and unwilling to relinquish it."

The freeholder of the land that the church and schools were built on assigned the freehold to the Church Commissioners and the church consecrated in February 1867, and after protracted negotiations regarding boundaries, St Michael's was formerly assigned as a district chapelry in June 1867. Revd. Newton was awarded an annual stipend of 200. The parish of St Michaels was about three quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide and included the notorious Mint. Sited on the corner of Lant Street and Lombard Street (now Trundle Street,) the church was a small stone building in the 13th century style with a continuous nave and a bell gable containing one bell.

In 1873 Revd. Newton, applied to the Incorporated Church Building Society for financial help to increase the seating. The population of the parish the previous year had been put at 7079 who Newton described as All very poor or very low, mostly living in rooms or in lanes and courts whose occupations were described as operatives and labourers. By this time of the employers of those living in the parish paid contributions to maintain the church, and a later annual report of 1898 reported subscriptions were received from several Livery Companies in the city. In his letter to the ICBS, Revd Newton wrote:

that I have given the best years of my life and contributed private income and resources to founding in perpetuity a very fine Mission Establishment, such as much of London now needs, all forsaken, through Railways, by the rich and thriving.

Hibbert Newton died in 1892 and was succeeded by Revd. W H Longsden in 1893 who started a register showing payments and gifts made to the poor of the Parish. Beef tea, milk, eggs and clothes were frequently given to the poor and sick as were loans and cash payments. Help was also given towards medicine, convalescent and confinement expenses.

By 1899 there were two clergy serving the parish helped by one nurse, one bible-woman and 2 unpaid Grey Ladies, the latter described as very useful. The church had started up clubs and groups which included a Working Mens Club, a Lads Club, a Girls Club, a Mothers Meeting and a Gymnasium. A short row of houses on Mint Street were purchased in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victorias Diamond Jubilee and were repaired and refurbished to become Mission Rooms (Longsden: And the bugs! I thought I should never get rid of them.) A former lodging house at the end of the row of houses was also purchased at the same time and became the Vicarage. This row of houses is still standing see photo.

In 1898, Revd. Longsden described his parishioners occupations as City policemen, printers, iron moulders etc while half of the parish was out of work. From the 1880s on, many of the courts and alleys, slums in the parish had been cleared, the Marshalsea Road built and also some model housing built, in particular Douglas and Ilfracombe Buildings, today part of the Peabody Marshalsea Road Estate. All things considered, Revd. Longsden felt conditions within the parish had improved.

The two common lodging houses are the worst bits, one for women and one for men, quite near to each other, and all sorts of abominations go on the owner is a wretch named Levy, and he has just got hold of some houses in Little Lant Street I am afraid he will be letting them out furnished for the night. He lives out in the suburbs somewhere, drives down here in his carriage, and is quite rich, the blackguard! But on the whole things are improving just round here.

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Some time before 1912 the church became known as St Michael and All Angels. It was declared redundant in 1953 and converted into a church hall in 1956 for St George the Martyr. After being used as a Diocesan Training Centre from 1993 to 2002, the church was demolished around 2004, the site sold and new flats built.

Sources:

H E Malden (Ed) A History of Surrey Vol 41912
Church of England Records Centre: ECE/7/1/33901 St Michael's
ICBS File 07607 (Lambeth Palace Library)
Interview with Revd W H Longsden, St Michael's Charles Booth Notebooks District 31 Book No. C1, 1899
St Michael's Annual Report and Statement of Accounts, 1898

www.southwark-anglican.org/downloads/lostchurches/SOU21.pdf