Christchurch House

19-20 Shroton Street is an impressive brick building with two large gothic doors and polychromatic brickwork, unlike any other buildings nearby. In the 1990s it was used as a storehouse for beer and other drinks, but clearly it had a more important past than that. From this building one can look straight down Stalbridge Street to the north door of Christchurch, in Bell Street. The building was, in fact, Church House, built in 1892 by Christchurch as a social and amenities centre. It is marked on the 1961 map as 'Christ Church Parish Rooms, Mission'.' This polychromatic style, reminiscent of Street and Butterworth, can also be seen at the other end of Bell Street, so the architect could be the same one.

When Christchurch was closed by the Church and sold off, the Parish rooms went with it, but the building remains as a reminder of the social work which used to centre on the church. The Parish Magazine of 1892 gives some interesting impressions of life in the neighbourhood at that time.

Extracts from The Parish Magazine

January 1892

  The Harewood Harriers have two packs, one fast and one slow. The slow have a four minute start.

March 1892

 

Worry about the Boys Club. The club is to be accommodated in the basement of Church House next winter. The Workers are becoming anxious lest they should have to give up their house before the rooms are ready.

Christchurch Cricket Club, Harewood Swimming Club, and a Temperance Society are also mentioned. It was a busy centre

Christchurch Needlework Society.
'The Society for more than 20 years has provided regular work for between 30 and 40 poor women during the winter months. Work is given out to widows, women with sick husbands, and elderly single women. Each woman is given work to the amount of 18 pence a week. They bring it to the School House at 11.30 a.m. when the work is examined and new given out. Sales are from 7-9 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Wages are paid by subscription.

July 1892

  £300 grant towards the building of Christchurch House.

August 1892

 

'The children's holidays are now in full swing and hundreds of our pale-faced little people are longing for the country and yet will be unable to go. Miss Kate Hart is doing wonders but it is impossible with the funds at her disposal to send more than 400 or 500 of these away,' (Presumably this is the Miss Hart quoted in the Booth Survey).

'Affairs in connection with the Church House under the able chairmanship of Mr W. Lawson, are progressing favourably. Gifts of £130, £25, £20 and £20. With these generous and unexpected gifts we shall have to raise only the trifling sum of £130 to complete and furnish the building.

'The building is being rapidly pushed forward and it is hoped that it will be ready for opening by the end of October.

October 1892

 

The last brick of the Church House was laid on September 19, and signifies that we are drawing within measurable distance of the opening.

November 1892

 

'I have made myself responsible for the sum of £2,12 shillings for the next three years to enable a crippled boy from the Parish to enter the Cripple' Home, Wright's Lane, Kensington. He will there be taught a trade and should afterwards be able to earn his own living. I should be grateful if anyone who feels able and disposed to do it, would take the responsibility off my shoulders.

'Judging by the number of applications already sent in by the secretaries of different societies and the Church workers, the Church House has not come a day too soon. It is quite obvious that it will not be a white elephant, but a thoroughly utilitarian institution.

December 1892

 

'The Duke of Fife has fixed Tuesday December 20 at 3 p.m. for the opening of Christchurch House.

In January 1893 the Magazine format and tone changed. There was less detail and I have not found an account of the opening. However, the 1892 entries show what a central part the church played in work that is today the respon­sibility of local authorities and central government.

 

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Updated July 5, 2011