St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for more than 180 years
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The only direct communication between Leytonstone and the Parish Church at Leyton was by a path through the fields, where now stands Grove Green Road, and in bad weather this became impassable. Thus a request was made for the building of a chapel in Leytonstone for the holding of Divine Service. The first movement in this direction is seen in a series of letters and papers commencing about 1748.
The Rev. Dubordieu, then vicar of Leyton, was apparently visited by a Mr. Dunster and a Mr. Lewis, who laid before him a project for such a building and service and warm arguments resulted. He later wrote to Mr. Gansell, his patron, stating that he had told these two gentlemen that he considered "there could be no occasion for such a chapel where the gentry all kept coaches, and where the tradesmen, farmers and servants were none of them more than a mile-and-a-half from the Church, that Walthamstow and West Ham are more populous and yet are contented with the Mother Church".
In spite, however, of the violent opposition of Mr. Gansell, and apparently to some extent that of the Vicar also, Mr. Dunster and his friends persistently pressed forward to eventual success.
On the 31st August, 1748, Mr. Dunster wrote to Mr. Humberston, making proposals for the erection of a Chapel in the village of Leytonstone, on the plea that "the inhabitants in general find it very inconvenient, and many utterly impossible for them to resort thither (Leyton), at least so frequently as they ought for ye public worship of God". He stated that certain influential inhabitants agreed to subscribe towards the object, on condition that the Vicar and his successors provided an officiating minister, and that a reasonable stipend be paid for that service, to be raised by pew-rents and other means; that it should be in the hands of five of the principal inhabitants, as trustees, to be nominated; vacancies in the Trust to be from time to time filled up by seatholders, and contributors to the amount of 20/- per annum.
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He further writes "if the affair is put in execution it will be to the benefit of the Vicar, who is to supply the chapel upon a stipend to be settled, proportionable at least to ye additional attendance. Rev. Dubordieu, before we set forward, was show'd the contents of the writing, to which he made no objection".
No opposition was allowed to deter the carrying out of the project, and Deodatus Staverton agreed (8th June 1748) with David Lewis "to let his interest in a piece of ground, part of the premises held by him of the Poor of Bourne, intended for building a chapel in Layton Stone, at the same rate as the trustees of the said Poor of Bourne shall agree to let the same".
The little chapel was built and ready for use by 26th April, 1749, but evidently the Vicar still would take no part in holding services therein, as is shown by a letter from Mr. Dunster to him, in which he says "as you and the Rev. Capon have declined performing any duty in the chapel at Leytonstone, the subscribers pray you permission that Divine Service may be performed therein, when we can be so happy as to have at least the appearance of religion among us".
As the Vicar held aloof, service was commenced by a Mr. Carter, but the mode of his appointment is not clear, though the tacit acquiescence of the Vicar may be inferred from a paragraph in another letter; but the arrangement was still violently opposed by Mr. Gansell, as is evidenced by a letter (9th September, 1750) from Mr. Dunster to the Vicar, stating that citation had been issued by the Proctor against Mr. Carter, at the instigation of Mr. Gansell, for officiating in an unlicensed chapel, service having been performed for sixteen months, from July, 1749, and fully attended I 'many that before made no difference of Sunday" attending. "We have passed two Sundays without Divine Service, my horses, as well as my neighbours', being sick, 1 could not get to Leyton".
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It clearly appears that Mr. Gansell's oppositions temporarily succeeded. Mr. Dunster having interviewed the Bishop of London, certain proposals were made, and apparently approved, as to a person being appointed by the Vicar and licensed by the Bishop; but it would appear from other sources that service was not resumed till 1754. By that time, however, services had evidently recommenced, and, so far as can be gathered, they were then continued uninterruptedly, and with increased prosperity.
At a meeting of the trustees on 30th May, 1818, questions as to the enlargement of the Chapel, and having the Sacrament administered were discussed, evidently after being previously submitted to Mr. John Pardoe, in whom the advowson of Leyton was vested.
In explanation, it may be noted that one-third of the Manor of Leyton was sold in 1703, to David Gansell, Esq., who in 1709 purchased another one-third, leaving both to his heirs, who, in 1783 sold them to John Pardoe, Esq., one of the directors of the East India Company, and in 1794 he purchased the other share. Thus in 181 1, the whole Manor descended to his grandson, the above-named John Pardoe, and at that date the advowson was vested in him solely. (In 1800 he presented Rev. Mr. Laprimaudaye to the living of Leyton.)
The Patron made certain conditions and it was finally agreed that the Chapel should be so enlarged and additions made to the seating accommodation and consequent income as to produce a stipend to the Minister of not less than £120, casual repairs to be effected out of the annual receipts calculated at £160, extraordinary repairs to be provided for by the pew-renters.
An important meeting of Trustees was held at Leyton Vicarage, 8th December, 1818, when the necessity for the proposed enlargement and permission for administration of the Sacrament was strongly urged by the trustees, and after many points, ecclesiastical and otherwise, were fully discussed, the Archdeacon promised to lay the whole question before the Bishop and to advocate his consenting to the views of the Trustees being acted upon.
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At a meeting of Trustees (13th March, 1819) Mr. Bosanquet reported that the Vicar concurred in the proposed alterations, Mr. Cotton submitted sketch plans of modifications and new buildings by which 130 additional seats for adults were provided, making the total accommodation 580, 240 seats being free.
It was announced on 2nd May, 1819, that the Vicar had received the Bishop's authorisation to proceed, but expressing regret that the enlargement was not carried to a greater extent.
On the 23rd January 1820, the Chapel was re-opened and Divine Service performed both morning and evening by Rev. Dr. Sampson. On this day Dr. Sampson administered the Sacrament for the first time in the Chapel to thirty-five communicants. The silver communion plate consisted of a large flagon, two chalices, one large plate and one paten (supposed to have originally belonged to Queen Caroline's Chapel, the whole being the gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Bosanquet.)
Some readers may remember the Assembly Rooms opposite Barclay Road, in the High Road, which were pulled down a number of years ago, and which represented the Chapel when completed and enlarged.
In July 1830, the Vicar of Leyton issued an address on the subject of a new Chapel. He expressed his regret that in consequence of the existing Chapel having been erected on leasehold ground, though licensed by the Bishop for Divine Service, it could not be consecrated. He also felt that the building was inadequate for a population of 1,600 souls.