Sunday, January 29, 2017

International Presbyterian Church, Ealing. The history of our building.

 In 1979 , the International Presbyterian Church, Ealing, purchased its first premises for the princely summon £250,000, an amount which now, 38 years later, might be sufficient to purchase a one bedroom apartment locally.

51 Drayton Green , now demolished, was a late-C19 institutional building in an Arts and Crafts Gothic style, built of red brick with Bath stone dressings, a tile-hung upper floor and a tile roof. It was set well back from the road, behind a boundary wall with stone-capped brick piers and spear-topped railings. The three storeyed main block was roughly square on plan, with side-wings projecting slightly to front and rear. To the north was a crenellated tower containing toilets and bathrooms. (Beyond this were the former laundry and chapel; these are now part of a separate property, the IPC church,  but were still connected to the main building via a copper-roofed quadrant-plan corridor.) The principal elevation, facing the Green, was dominated by a central chimney with twin-corbelled flues meeting to form a broad ridged stack bearing a stone cross in relief. The doorway beneath, and the three- and four-light mullioned windows to either side, had Gothic stone surrounds. The side and rear elevations were plainer, with timber mullion and transom windows under segmental heads. The internal plan was centred on a full-height top-lit circulation hall with galleries and flying stairs (both much altered), surrounded on three sides by a secondary circulation corridor giving access to the various rooms arranged around the periphery. The ground floor entrance lobby containsed an 1896 date stone; to the left were the former reception and superintendent's rooms with fireplaces and built-in cupboards, and to the right a toilet block and refectory. At the rear was a long room with twin bay windows overlooking the back garden, variously described in the original plans as 'dining room' and 'recreation room'; it was flanked by the former kitchen and staff dining room (or 'work room'). The first-floor plan reflected that on the floor below, with bedrooms and sitting rooms (some still retaining cupboards and fireplaces) at the front, and the much-altered former classroom and sick-rooms at the rear. The top floor had corner bedrooms, and in the right-hand wing a series of small sleeping cubicles that may be the original residents' accommodation. (These had been removed in the other wings.)

To the north and east of No.51, connected to it via a link corridor, are the former laundry and chapel buildings. These are now part of the International Presbyterian Church complex at No.53.
The building was constructed as a Home for Fallen Women run by an Anglican Religious Order, and
remained principally within their ownership until 1979. An English Heritage Report sets out a detailed description of the history of the building. It notes that:
“Drayton Green, now an open space surrounded by housing a mile west of Ealing Broadway, was until the late C19 a small hamlet of around twelve houses positioned around a long strip of common land. Its incorporation into the outer suburbs of London began around 1870 with the opening of a station on the GWR main line at West Ealing; the surrounding land was built up by the end of the century, although the core of the hamlet survived until the interwar years. One of the older houses around the Green, Cleveland Lodge, was acquired in 1884 as the premises of St Helena's Home, a women’s' reformatory founded that year by the Revd Richard Temple West, vicar of St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington. From 1892 the  running of the Home was taken over by the Sisters of St Mary the Virgin, an Anglican religious order founded at Wantage in 1848 that specialised in the rehabilitation of so-called 'fallen' women. Four years later it was decided to demolish Cleveland House and replace it with a purpose-built structure: this afforded an increase in residential accommodation, and also brought the Home and its large onsite laundry into compliance with factory legislation. The new three-storey building, designed to house nine staff and around 30 residents, was designed by the Westminster-based architect Ernest Pilkington, and was opened in October 1897 at a ceremony attended by the Bishops of London and Reading. A chapel, replacing an earlier temporary structure, was added around 1915 to the designs of Ninian Comper. The Home remained in the care of the Wantage Sisters until around 1940, when itwas requisitioned by Middlesex County Council for use as a girls' remand centre. In 1965 the main building reverted to the Sisters, who used it as a base for religious retreats; the former laundrybuilding was altered to gain extra residential accommodation, and the link to the chapel rebuilt in its present form. The Sisters finally left in 1980; the chapel and laundry buildings went into separate ownership (they are now the property of the International Presbyterian Church at 53 Drayton Green) and the Home itself saw a series of uses, firstly as the educational hostel of the Chinese Embassy.
The Community of St Mary the Virgin was founded in 1848 by William John Butler, then Vicar of Wantage. As Sisters, we are called to respond to our vocation in the spirit of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word." Our common life is centred in the worship of God through the Eucharist, the daily Office and in personal prayer. From this all else flows. For some it will be expressed in outgoing ministry in neighbourhood and parish, or in living alongside those in inner city areas. For others, it will be expressed in spiritual direction, preaching and retreat giving, in creative work in studio and press, or in forms of healing ministry. Sisters also live and work among the elderly at St Katharine's House, our care Home for Elderly People in Wantage.William John Butler (1818-1894) was  a High Church Anglican priest, Butler was Vicar of Wantage from 1846 and several of his curates became notable churchmen (e.g. H. P. Liddon). In 1880 he became a canon of Worcester and in 1885 Dean of Lincoln. He was nearly appointed to the bishopric of Natal in 1864 but did not accept it. He was the founder of the Community and continued as Warden until his death.

When the IPC moved to purchase all the properties and the four bedroom caretaker's house too, the church offered the sins £200,000.They acepted but the Charity Commissioners intervened saying the property was worth more. The bid was increased to £250,000 and the nuns told the Charity Commissioners they must accept for IPC were the only purchasers who would continue to use their consecrated chapel for Christian worship.

While the Chinese Embassy had the building, the events of Tienanmen Square took place. There was a defection and a suicide. Eventually the building was sold to developers who then sold to Notting Hill Housing Trust who planned to demolish the main building. The local Civic Society called on English Heritage to see if they would list the building so preventing demolition. But English Heritage saw no significant architectural merit. But they espied the IPC chapel at the rear and deemed it worthy of a Grade II preservation listing thus frustrating the initial plans o the church to develop their site, the chapel now being too small for a growing congregation.It is hoped that 2017 will see development of the IPC site, keeping the chapel but building a larger sanctuary to the rear with anciliary facilities. The old convent block had a cross carved into a stone above the front door. It remained in place under the Chinese ownership, surely the only communist embassy building in the world marked by a cross. The housing trust has kept the stone placing it now in the boundary wall of the premises next to the road. It bears the date 30 June 1896.

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