We have celebrated two centenaries recently: 2010 marked a hundred years since the foundation of the parish and in 2015 we were proud to commemorate a hundred years since the present church was first opened for worship.
A Short History of the Building of the Church
1909 – 1915
The Church Circa 1916 drawn by Joseph Pike
The Early History
In tracing the” life and times” of St Edward’s Parish, we start with a look at the “prehistory “of the Church in this country from the 18th century. In 1780, there were only 60,000 Catholics in England. Several factors contributed to a recovery of Catholicism. They included a gradual removal of penalties for practising Catholics, and the opening up to them of learned professions. At that time, there was an influx of thousands of Catholic refugees from the French Revolution and of many skilled workers from Ireland to the industrial North of England – and there was the Oxford Movement led by John Keeble and John Henry Newman. (Newman was later received into the Catholic Church and became Cardinal Newman. He was beatified later in 2010.) When the English Hierarchy was restored in 1850, the Catholic population had risen to 750,000.
With the election of Leo XllI as Pope in 1878, a new era in the Church’s history began. The Pope was very learned; he had made a thorough study of the times and encouraged Catholics to enter public life and to influence social issues. With the introduction of further measures, such as permitting more frequent Communion, the spiritual life of Catholics in England received a most welcome stimulus.
In the early twentieth century, Henrietta Barnet, founder of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, feared that the building of the Hampstead Tube Station threatened the ruin of the sylvan restfulness of that portion of the most beautiful open space near London. The idea of the Garden Suburb grew out of the Heath Extension, for which the money was raised and the land handed over to the London County Council to be dedicated to the public as an open space for everyone.
In 1905, Henrietta Barnett, a visionary philanthropist, outlined her plans for a Garden Suburb with the highest ideals for a social experiment providing for people of all classes a beautiful and healthy place to live in. With the help of influential friends, she formed a company a year later for that purpose. The principal architects for the project were Sir Raymond Unwin and Sir Edwin Lutyens. One of the broad outlines of the scheme was that noise should be avoided, even to the prohibition of Church or Chapel or Institute bells. This explains why, as we are on the borders of the Suburb, St Edward’s has a Tower, but no bell!
The beginnings of the parish
This brings us to July 1908 when Fr William Bendon arrived at the small suburb in London called Golders Green. There were watercress beds at Henley’s corner and a few shops in Temple Fortune and trams passed the site of the present church between North Finchley and Golders Green. The arrival of Fr Bendon coincided with the development of the Hampstead Garden Suburb which was to be part of the parish. Fr Bendon was Chaplain to the Carmelite sisters who had moved from Isleworth In 1907. The Chapel in their Monastery in Bridge Lane was used as a Mass centre by local Catholics since the nearest Catholic Church was St Mary’s East Finchley. (The parish of St Philip’s at Finchley was not founded until 1919.) The new parish was dedicated to St Edward the Confessor because the land on which the new church was to rise was given by St Edward to the Benedictines for religious purposes when it was part of the parish of Hendon. The site for the new “Mission” (which is what the parish was originally called) was acquired in July 1909 and the first sod of turf for the building of the presbytery was cut on 8th September 1909 – Our Lady’s birthday.
The mission was opened on Christmas Day 1909 when two Masses were said in the presbytery by Father Bendon, the first parish priest with 40 people present. Mass was said on each Sunday at 8am and 10am after that Christmas morning and Fr Bendon moved into the new house on January 22nd 1910.
The Hall Used as a Church (Circa 1911-1915)
It was soon evident that the temporary chapel was too small so a larger building was soon decided upon, and St Edward’s Hall was built in 1911 to accommodate 300 people at a cost of £1,000. The building was opened as the second chapel on Whitsunday, June 4th 1911 and used as the temporary church until the present church was completed. The sanctuary was where the club room is now, with the sacristy at the side, and the choir were at the back of the hall where the present stage is located. The entrance was from Hoop Lane.
The newly built Hall
The entrance from Hoop Lane
Inside the Hall
The Sanctuary in the Chapel
A New Church
The mission was fortunate in having a very small debt, only £395 left on the hall representing its liabilities after a floral bazaar held in the previous May. When this debt was cleared in November 1912, Fr Bendon promised to start the new church as soon as the sum of £2,000 was in the Bank. This was achieved towards the end of 1913, and Fr Bendon, who had been occupied for three years on the plans, commenced the new church on March 25th 1914, the Feast of the Annunciation. His Eminence Cardinal Bourne laid the foundation stone, which is situated on the left hand side of the Sanctuary at the east end of the Church.
Architecture of the church
Architecture had been one of Fr Bendon’s studies and, in devoting himself to this work, he sought to attain those aspirations which a church should embody – beauty, strength, an atmosphere of worship, and the idealism of its sacred purpose. The style of architecture of the building is perpendicular Gothic, and the ideal has been the old pre-reformation parish church.
Fr. Bendon found a kindred spirit in Mr Arthur Young, the architect, and the result to be seen in the completed building is one that created more than a mere passing impression. Even those who confessed to no particular architectural taste were conscious of some compelling attraction which led them to take more than a cursory glance at the new building, and many visitors, including a large number of ministers of other communions, inspected the building with evident interest and pleasure.
The First World War was declared on August 4th 1914, and the building was carried on under the greatest difficulties and with unavoidable delays. Nothing but the goodwill and courage of the contractors, urged on by Fr Bendon, and his father who was a builder, enabled its completion. With so many young men called to serve in the First World War, the building was completed by an older generation of builders using only scaffold and ladders. Building materials were taken to the site by donkey and cart.
Building the Church (Circa 1912-1915)
Donkey and Cary carrying the bricks
Builders hard at work
Working on the foundations
Work on the Calvary Chapel
Looking down on the Church
Donkey and cart inside the Church
Nearly finished 1915
The Opening of the Church
The date for opening the new church was set for September 8th 1915, but that was the night of the first Zeppelin raid over Golders Green. The church was eventually opened on the Feast of St Edward the Confessor, October 13th, by Cardinal Bourne after the first Mass had been said privately by Fr Bendon. Its cost to the congregation was £10,000. Cardinal Bourne, speaking at the end of the High Mass on the opening day, congratulated Fr Bendon, the architect and all the others who had been associated with the raising of the splendid church.
Fr Bendon suffered considerably from ill health during his time as Rector and spent the latter years of his life in a wheelchair. He died on December 20th 1921, and was originally buried in Finchley Cemetery but was later re-interred in a special grave outside the church, over which was placed an inscribed stone, erected by the parishioners.
Fr Bendon’s Grave
Inside The Church (Circa 1915)
The inside of the newly built Church
The Nave looking towards the Main Door
The Sacred Heart Altar
Looking towards the Lady Altar
The Calvary War Memorial
Statue of St Edward over the door to the Sacristy
The Church through the Ages
1980’s before the ramp was built
Inside the Church today
Plaque to Fr Bendon inside the Church
The Church today
Photographs by Parish Archive, John Hoshimi and Cesar Rodriguez-Duran