Detailed History


Addiscombe was originally 'Adgecomb" or Adscomb; meaning "Edge of the Coombe". When Elizabeth I reigned in England, Addiscombe was a country estate just a mile from Croydon on the Shirley Road, owned by the Heron family. Sir Nicholas Heron, who died in 1586, was interred in Heron's chapel in Croydon Parish Church. After the death of the last of the Herons, the estate became the residence of successive benefactors.

The Cherry Orchard

In the 15 Century, a large area (280 acres) of Common Land extended from Selhurst to Broad Green (E to W), and Whitehorse to Cherry Orchard Road (N to S) which was used for grazing. The Parish (of Croydon) employed a herdsman and charged rates appropriate to the animal (e.g. a horse: or cow; 1/-2d, Entry to Croydon Heath (or Croydon Common: was controlled by gates. Newgate stood near Spurgeon+s Chapel and the present Wellesley Road was called Newgate Lane, becoming New Lane. Middleheath Gate stood near St James' church, and Cony Lane Gate stood at the junction of Cross Road and Cherry Orchard Road (then called Cony Lane. In later centuries, a large cherry tree orchard covered the southern part of the common and extended north of the line of George Street and when the fruit was ripe, a Cherry Fair was held near where the NLA Tower now stands. Cony Lane was renamed Cherry Orchard Road as a result.

With the advent of the railways in the 1830's, Cherry Orchard Road ceased to be a quiet rural lane and railway workers+ cottages sprang up, many with the still-visible date of 1838.


Towards the end of the 18th Century, the area was still heavily wooded, with pleasant lanes and hedgerows .Between Addiscombe and Cherry Orchard and Lebanon Roads, Captain John Brickwood built his mansion 'well back from the road amongst stately trees which shielded his property from the gaze of the vulgar' (to quote the Parish magazine of 1947). There was a prospect toward Penge and Beckenham over a lake to pleasantly wooded hills. Captain Brickwood was notable for his organisation of a local militia (a forerunner of the Home Guard) in readiness for any Napoleonic invasion. Subsequently, the house was owned by Sir Benjamin Hallowell, one of Nelson's admirals at Trafalgar. (Brickwood grounds can be sen at the left hand side of the 1850 map below).

The estate was eventually sold off in 1907/8 as lots for building development, and the area became traversed by roads, such as Lebanon, Cedar, Blake, and of course, Brickwood Road.

Addiscombe College and the East India Company 1809 to 1861

The Heron mansion house (at the corner of Outram Road and Mulberry Lane) was rebuilt in 1702 by the Draper family, who were well known in high society. In 1809, the then owner, Emelius Henry Radcliffe sold the house to the East India Company and the mansion became surrounded by other college buildings. Pembroke Lodge now stands on the site of the original mansion. The house was leased at one time~ to one of Pitt's ministers. George III and Prime Minister Pitt frequently stayed at the house. The estate can be seen at the centre right of the 1850 map above.

The Mansion: the house was reputedly very finely detailed internally, with intricate plasterwork, fine staircases and fireplaces.

Other sites locally are connected with the College: Addiscombe House in Mulberry Lane had an underground passage to the mansion. Its garden contained the stump of a Mulberry tree - the first ever imported into England by Peter the Great who stayed here. The tree gave the name to Mulberry Lane.

"The Elms" on Addiscombe Road is a very old cottage and was probably used as a master's residence during the college era.

Havelock Hall was the college gymnasium . It was used as the early meeting place of the breakaway St Paul's congregation; the precursor of St Mary Magdalene. This building was converted into flats in the 1990s.

The gymnasium of Addiscombe College now at the lower end of Havelock Road - the first venue for St Paul's.

At the top of Northampton Road, where "Sandy Bank" now stands, used to be Ashburton Lodge, named after the family. Lady Ashburton was associated with Dickens, Ruskin, Carlyle, Moody, Sankey and other public figures of the day. In the grounds of 'Hazelwood' is a wall where cadets of the college inscribed their names in 1857 while enjoying an 'out of bounds' smoke.

There was a small chapel attached to the college and to this, cadets paraded each morning and evening for a service conducted by the chaplain. On Sundays, cadets went down to the Parish Church in Croydon. By 1827, it became clear that Croydon Parish Church was too far away to minister to the college needs and St James' Parish Church was built and consecrated on 31st January 1829. The population of Addiscombe at this time was about 1000.

Following the Indian Mutiny, Sandhurst and Woolwich were considered adequate for future training of cadets so the college closed in 1861.The estate was sold to the British Land Company and broken up. Speculators built houses, naming the streets after famous British leaders in India: Canning, Clyde, Elgin, Havelock, Outram, Grant, Nicholson, Warren and Hastings, although none of these appear to have had any real connection with the College itself.

A New Church

The increase in the local population as the houses were occupied meant that St James' was also too distant and a movement began to found a new church. St Matthews church (on George Street, where Church House now stands, was consecrated in 1866 and the first assistant curate, a Rev Maxwell Ben Oliel, was a brilliant Jewish scholar who had become a rabbi at the age of eighteen and had been converted to Christianity. He was a brilliant theologian and preacher. After his conversion and training, he was ordained by the Bishop of Carlisle and was subsequently Chaplain to the Duchess of Northumberland. Through influence he was appointed to the Croydon Deanery. His preaching attracted great crowds and a number of Addiscombe people conceived the idea of securing him to be curate in charge of a new church. The vicar refused to cooperate although conceding support for the idea of a new church in principle.

Disappointed local people approached Ben Oliel himself with the idea of establishing a new church outside the authority of the Church of England. In August 1866, Ben Oliel left St Matthew's and a new Church began in Havelock Hall, the old College gymnasium, which was converted. The new Church was called St Paul's. It is thought the name was chosen as a reference to the erudition of its Minister, who was compared with the apostle! Services there began in the finished conversion in January 1867. The church grew and flourished.

St. Paul's, Canning Road

Ben Oliel's brother in law, Robert Parnell, was a wealthy man and guaranteed the money for a new church building to be erected in Canning Road. He and Oliel worked together on the design by the architect, Edward Buckton Lamb. Features were introduced by Oliel inspired by Jewish tradition.

The original design for St Paul's, by "Rogue" Architect Edward Buckton Lamb

Building commenced in June 1867 and the building opened in September 1868. The west end was not finished and a timber structure was substituted for lack of funds. Only the first 30' of the tower at the east entrance was built to Lamb's design. The church was not recognised by the Church of England. However, an Anglican priest agreed to dedicate it; an event which lead the local paper to comment on the 29th September,"the consecration by a deacon in Holy Orders is a circumstance without precedent since the time of St Augustine+. The name of St Paul+s transferred to the new building and Havelock Hall sold.

The Anglican Response

The Church of England were not entirely idle, however. The Archbishop twice refused to license St Paul's and he, together with the vicar of St James, set up a new District and appointed the Rev Morse. The District tried to raise £400 to construct an -Iron Church+ (made with corrugated iron sheeting) which was built at the top of Elgin Road and was called St Mary Magdalene (the reason for the name is unknown). Only £200 was raised and the new Church struggled, especially with such a powerful neighbour. Relations between the two churches were appalling and the press made the most of the situation.

The Iron Church of St Mary Magdalene (C of E)

This Church can be seen in this map of 1870's at bottom right. In December 1870, the curate of St Matthews, the Rev. Henry Glover, was appointed curate in charge of St Mary's.

About Face

In June 1872, Ben Oliel mystified his congregation by announcing that those attending the following Sunday would experience a change in the nature of the service, which had been to date informal and evangelical. A large and duly expectant congregation on 23rd June were horrified to find that henceforth the services would be high Anglo-Catholic and ritualistic. The very evangelical congregation left en-masse for St Mary Magdalene's iron shed, leaving St Paul's virtually deserted. The latter struggled on and despite Ben Oliel's invitations to famous preachers, his former congregation steadfastly refused to return. St Mary's was bursting at the seams with so large a congregation, and Havelock Hall was rehired to take the overspill. St Paul's finally closed in December and stood empty for two years during which bitter controversy raged. Oliel bought out the freehold of the church from his brother in law and in 1874, Oliel put the building up for sale, valuing it at £15,000. Negotiations began with the Anglican Church, concluding with the sale of the building for £7000 in June 1874.

The controversy that surrounded the situation was not lost on the local Press. The Advertiser (forerunner of the Croydon Advertiser) stated on 18th July 1874, "It would take an Archangel from to please the entire people of Addiscombe."

Further reading on the Rev. Ben Oliel can be found in an article available on the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society's website.

St. Mary Magdalene, Canning Road

On 5th August 1874 the church building was opened and dedicated according to Anglican rite. The Archbishop of Canterbury was expected to take the service but did not appear due to an important debate in the House of Lords. His son, Rev Crawford Tait, performed the ceremony and the name of St Mary Magdalene was transferred from the iron church to the stone one. Rev Glover remained curate in charge: living at 2 Shirley Villas, Upper Addiscombe Road. Rev A.W.H. Lefroy was Assistant Curate. The people of Addiscombe raised £4000 towards the cost of the church very quickly. The Archbishop would not consecrate the church until the debt had been cleared, which took a further four years. So, in July 1878, the Archbishop consecrated St Mary Magdalene, Canning Road. Among the congregation were the Bishops of Montreal and Queensland.

In October of that year, Henry Glover was licensed vicar, and a new parish formed in June 1879.

Key Dates in Our History

1880 - 1899

1880 (February): The Vicarage (at 17 Canning Road) was purchased at a cost of 3070, including alterations. The debt was not paid until 1885.

1884 (June) : The reredos (carved screen in the Eastern apse above the Table) was given by Mr Theodore Lloyd, a Churchwarden.

1885 (December): St Mary's Hall, Oval Road, was opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, following the laying of the memorial stone by Sir William Muir in July. The hall cost £2500.

1891: The brass Eagle Lectern was presented as a gift by the Sunday School teachers at a cost of 100. Rev Glover brought the rare black and white marble base block back from the Pyrenees. The 42 marble columns surrounding the piers were polished at the cost of 15 shillings each. A new organ by Messrs Beale was installed: its dedication followed by a recital by Dr Bridge from Westminster Abbey.

1900 - 1920

1904: A memorial window to Mrs Glover was unveiled.

1906 (December): The West end of the church was found to be no longer weatherproof (constructed of slate and render) and was finished in brick and stone at a cost of 1988, to a design in the idiom of Lamb's: a cheaper plain version was rejected.

1907 (March): Ben Oliel died and was buried at Aldrington, Hove, after continuing his ministry in London and Brighton, during which time he was author of a number of theological treatises.

1912/13: Rev Glover delegated pastoral car·e of the east end of the parish to Rev T. Bentham, and a chapel of ease was constructed in Bingham Road at a cost of £2000.

1917 (October): Rev Glover retired after 46 years as vicar. Rev James Wright appointed in December.

1920 (April: An investigation reported that the organ was in very poor condition. The first Annual General Meeting held. Rev Glover died on 16th October and was buried in Shirley churchyard.

1921 - 1940

1921 (July): The War Memorial was unveiled. In September, a house was purchased at 85 Elgin Road as 'The Glover Memorial Clergy House'. A hall in Bingham Road, called St Mildred's Hall, was opened.

1922 (April) : A Union Jack, carried through the East African Campaign was presented to the church by Miss Flint, a parishioner. The flag was hung above the War Memorial. St Mildred's became a separate parish; its first incumbent was being Rev. Thomas Bentham. A window in memory of Rev Glover and his daughter Florence was unveiled.

1923: The organ, which up to now had never been satisfactory, was rebuilt, enlarged and electrified by Messrs Hill, Norman and Beard, at a cost of £2000.

1924: Roof ' extensively improved ' with a layer of waterproof felt.

1925: Electric lighting was installed.

The Church was built with only the first 10 metres of the tower and it remained like this for 50 years.

The 50th Jubilee and the Tower

1926: Plans begun to celebrate the church's Jubilee. Several options were suggested to improve the fabric: build the tower, abolish pew rents, build a new parish hall behind the church, add a Porch to the West end and improve furnishings or enlarge the Vestries. The raising of the tower obtained more votes than the rest combined, followed by a clear second favourite of abolition of pew rents. The proposals were then put to the parishioners+ meeting and a similar endorsement for the tower obtained. An architect, Hugh Macintosh, appointed to report on existing tower base foundations. On receiving a satisfactory report, the Council approved the tower proposal, subject to satisfactory design and cost (It is not known why Lamb's original tower design was adopted). The vicar's son, Capt Theodore Wright, killed flying accident on army manoeuvres.

Hugh Mackintosh's design for completing the tower.

1927/28: Money raised by various efforts to build the 80 foot tower, intended to have bells, at the East Porch to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the church's consecration: £4000 required. By January 1928, £2300 promised, rising to £3800 by May. However in March, the contractor announced an increase in tender to £4800, which was approved.

On 31 July 1928, The Jubilee Day celebration and ceremony was held, with the memorial stone laid by Miss Tait (daughter of the Archbishop who consecrated the church) and Mrs Mason (wife of the then Vlcar's warden), using the silver trowel that had been used to lay the original foundation stone of the church by Mrs Parnell (wife of the chief contributor of funds, Robert).

The memorial stone laying ceremony, 1928

(This trowel had had a chequered history, having been sold off and rediscovered by chance by the vicar in a London second-hand jewellers shop and bought back for the church. The trowel is now kept in the Church safe).

1929: The vicar travelled to Loughborough to witness the casting of the bell "Gabriel".

1930 (January): The Tower and its bell were dedicated, together with choir desks and screen, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pictures of the procession and a recording of Gabriel in voice were shown in cinemas all over the country. 'Gabriel' was sounded every day at noon to call parishioners to prayer:- this continued until the tolling of all bells was prohibited in the war. The organ was modified by the addition of Pedal Trombone and Great Tromba. The organ now had 37 speaking stops and a total of 48 stops. Shortly after the tower was completed, the South Gable began to slip and was repaired at a cost of £1000.

The 10 tonne bell, 'Gabriel'

1931 (December): Stained glass window given in memory of Mrs Mary Bidmead.

1932: The Glover Clergy house was sold and the money placed on deposit at the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

1936: A carved screen in the Baptistry and a carved canopy to the font were given in memory of Frances Wright; wife of Rev J. Wright. A parish family gave marble for tiling to the aisles and chancel steps.

1939 (September): Microphones and hearing aid system installed.

1939/40: East end windows removed for safekeeping during the war. The West End and north and south transepts windows were damaged during the war, and the original yellow and green glass had to be replaced with the present clear glass (some of the original may still be seen at the tops of the transept windows and in the Baptistry).

1940: Gabriel silenced by the Ministry of Home Security's edict that church bells could only be rung to warn off invasion.

1941 - 1960

1945 (July): Rev James Wright retired after 28 years as vicar. In addition to the above items, other alterations to the fabric were made during his term; including spiral stairs to the bell chamber, brass railings to the chancel, two tennis courts at the rear of the church.

1946 (February): Rev H. E. Frankham appointed as vicar. In June, James Wright died. In December, the East windows rededicated after their repair and replacement after the war. Also dedicated was the ancient carved oak communion table was given from a collector's estate in memory of Stanley Turner Fretwell.

1947 (September): The Glover and Bidmead windows installed in position and the roof overhauled (the lining was producing a great deal of dust).

1948 (July): Removal to new Vicarage on Havelock Road from old Canning Road building.

1949 (October): The Baptistry window in memory of Rev James Wright, and designed by Hugh Easton, was dedicated by Bishop of Croydon.

1951: E. F. Soward (Churchwarden), contributed the first of three windows depicting the Gospel Writers, also designed by Easton, in memory of his wife.

1952 (March): Rev and Mrs Frankham leave for Middleton, Lancashire. Rev Gordon Strutt appointed vicar in June.

1953: Plans announced to buy the Congregational Hall on Canning Road, for which £10,000 needed. The Bell Gabriel and the tower are discovered to have developed major structural cracks: Gabriel to be recast as a smaller replica.

1955 (March): Plans drawn up for new hall at rear of church instead of the purchase of the Congregational Hall: Hugh Macintosh & Partners the architects. Money to be raised by selling Oval Hall and bank loan. In June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer tightens fiscal policy, and bank loan of £3500 has to be replaced by personal loan scheme.

1956 (June): the new hall dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

1958 (December): The Strutts leave for Maidstone where 'Canon' Strutt to be Archdeacon.

1959: Rev Chris Lefroy appointed to be vicar but falls ill and is unable to take up his appointment. Rev Neville Cryer appointed in November in his place. The organ further modified by Kingsgate Davidson & Co Ltd by placing Great Tromba on separate sound board to give more room for Diapasons. The Choir Vox Humana and Clarinet were replaced by a Tierce and a Nazard.

1961 - 1990

1967 (May): The Cryers leave: Rev David Banfield appointed vicar in September.

1973: George Pace RIBA, architect, commissioned to design a reordering of the worship area of the church, moving the main Communion Table down into the crossing, raising the floor to one level, and forming an 'in-the-round' arrangement. Heating and lighting systems replaced.

1977: Bookstall to the design of George Pace erected near east door, incorporating the carved baptistry screen.

1981: Rev Banfield appointed vicar of Luton Parish Church. Rev Peter Price appointed as Priest-in-Charge of St Mary's (some parish restructuring was likely at the time, so that full appointment as vicar deferred).

1982: Bishop appoints Peter Price as Vicar.

1983/4: Existing rear hall extended and extensively adapted, adding new meeting rooms, forming a new fitted kitchen, and removing the stage in the hall. New hall dedicated 11th September 1984. The balance of money for the work raised by two gift days, realising £12,000 an £8500. A new Vicarage constructed at the rear of the old Vicarage on Canning Road, and the Havelock Road house sold. Church and hall boilers both replaced and become gas fired. Old oil tanks are removed from the north side of the Church.

1987: Lantern and roof repairs carried out by Steeplejacks. Weather vane added. Public address system replaced by Keith Monks Ltd. The church survives the October 1987 hurricane with little damage, other than the gardener's shed, which is destroyed.

1991 to The Millennium

1992: Following discovery of rot under the floorboards of the crypt, extensive remodelling undertaken to form a refurbished meeting room, choir robe and music store, and toilet, designed by the Inspecting Architect, Patrick Crawford of Caroe & Partners.

1998: Theft of the public address system and office equipment leads to installation of an alarm system and replacement of PA system.

1999: Merv McKinney leaves to become Vicar of St Francis West Wickham

2000: An English Heritage grant of over £27,000 is awarded to part-fund the conservation work on deteriorating stonework. Plans put in hand to carry out the first phase of work: funds are raised by a "Cornerstone" Appeal to the congregation which raises £30,000 in 3 months. Further grants are received from Historic Churches Preservation Trust (£6000) and the Diocese of Southwark (£3000 with option of a £7000 interest free loan). The Vicarage is refurbished in preparation for arrival of the new vicar. A new vicar is welcomed – Revd Richard Williams along with his wife, Anna, and three children, Sally, Becka and Ben. Richard was formally assistant curate at Holy Trinity, Wallington. In November, work on the east facade stonework commences by contractor Eddie White. Caroe & Partners are Architects. Sharon Wallace commissioned as Southwark Pastoral Auxilliary.

Beyond the Millennium

2001: Pilgrim Trust and Marshall's Charity helped fund the stonework repairs.

2002: Assistant Curate Heather Nesbitt leaves to become team vicar at Sutton, near Hull. New Non-stipendiary Curate Revd Art Barron arrives from training at SEITE with his wife Brenda.

2003: New Curate, Revd Mark Powley and his wife, Ailsa, arrive from college training at Ridley Hall.

2005: June Norma Schofield commissioned as Southwark Pastoral Auxilliary.

2006: Revd Mark Powley leaves for St Paul’s Hammersmith, now with the addition of two children, Jonah &  Zacaraiah. Revd Art Barron leaves to continue with his chosen whole time ministry  as a Hospital Chaplain.

2007: New Curate Revd Louise Ellis, her husband Nick and two children, Jessica and James arrive from training at Ridley Hall.

2008: June - Gillian Perrins and Marion Padgham commissioned as Southwark Pastoral Auxilliaries.

2009: The second phase of the conservation work relating this time to the stone work of the Tower over the main Church entrance, and adjoining area is put out for tender following the receipt of a Grant from English Heritage, work started in June when a new Tower development appeal was launched to raise the necessary funds along with additional grants. May - Colin Chatten, a Reader at St Mary’s for 30 years, leaves us on retirement, for pastures new in Dorset. September - Revd Richard Williams leaves us for St Dunstan, Cranbrook in Kent.

Ministers of the Church


Rev. Maxwell Ben Oliel 1869 - 1872 St Paul's, Havelock Road, then St Paul's, Canning Road

Vicars of St. Mary Magdalene


Rev. Henry Glover 1874 - 1917 retired: died 1920
Rev. James Wright 1917 - 1946 retired: died 1946
Rev. Harold Frankham 1946 - 1952 became Vicar of Middleton, Lancs
Rev. Gordon Strutt 1952 - 1958 became Archdeacon of Maidstone
Rev. Neville B. Cryer 1959 - 1967 became President of the Bible Society
Rev. David Banfield 1967 - 1981 became Archdeacon of Bristol
Rev. Peter B. Price 1981 - 1990 became Canon of Southwark Cathedral, director of the Society for Propagation of the Gospel, Bishop of Kingston and then Bishop of Bath & Wells
Rev. Merv McKinney 1991 - 1999 became vicar of St Paul's West Wickam, Kent
Rev. Richard Williams 2000 - 2009 became Priest in Charge of St. Dunstan, Cranbrook in Kent
Rev. Amanda Johnson 2010 - appointed Vicar

St. Mary's today

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