St Alban’s Church, Becontree
A Brief Account of its Beginnings
St Alban’s Church started life simply as a Mission Church of St Martin’s Dagenham. The congregation met first in a building called “The Hut” in the grounds of St Martin’s. Little by little towards the end of 1928 the name “St Alban” (after the first recorded British Christian Martyr) was secured for this congregation and land was found on Urswick Road, Becontree, to build a temporary Church.
The new temporary Church was dedicated by the Bishop of Chelmsford on Saturday May 17th 1930 at 8pm. By then 1,400 new houses had been occupied and the population increased by 7,000. Sister Hine and other Deaconesses visited every house and left a letter inviting people to Church. The Revd Frederick Bayley, Curate of St Martin’s, conducted most of the services at St Albans from May 1930 until July 1931.
The Revd Fred Smith was appointed Priest in Charge of St Alban’s in 1931 and took over the conduct of services. Fred’s vision for a permanent Church building was realised by the generous donation of Miss Violet E Wills.
Dame Violet Wills, born into one of the first UK families to manufacture tobacco, donated £14,000 of the £18,000 needed to build the new Church. The Foundation stone for the new building was laid on Saturday 22nd July 1933. Underneath the foundation stone, in an airtight glass case, is a Bible. On the title page are written these words:
The Church of St Alban, Becontree.
I have given them Thy Word: Preach The Word
The entrance of Thy Words giveth light: The word of the Lord endureth for ever
Fred Smith, Vicar.
V E Wills, Donor
Miss Wills also donated the John Compton Organ, the Stained Glass Window above the High Altar, the peal of ten bells in the tower, altar ornaments and Bibles for the congregation. The font was provided by the children of the Sunday School. Scouts and Guides donated the baptismal ewer and the baptism shell made of silver and pearl. Fred Smith presented a carved oak table for the vestry.
Miss Wills later paid for the building of the Church of The Good Shepherd & Parish Hall in Collier Row and a new Church at Mile Cross in Norwich. In 1935 she gave a further £10,000 toward the stipends of the Vicars and Curates of St Albans and The Church of the Good Shepherd.
St Alban's Church was consecrated on Saturday 5th May 1934 at 3pm by Henry, Lord Bishop of Chelmsford. The very next day Fred Smith baptised 9 babies, one child and one teenager in the new Church.
The Nave of the Church is 87 feet 6 inches long. This means that everyone can see the Sanctuary and Altar. White brick was used for internal facing and the tall, gothic three-light windows and roof trusses have a slightly modern treatment. The Chancel is 41 feet long. The tower, containing the 10 bells, measures 90 feet from the ground to the top of the weather vane. North and South porches were provided to give access from Urswick and Vincent Roads. Externally the building has been faced with Clipsham as Miss Wills wanted a stone Church in an area consisting entirely of brick buildings. One observer in 1934, when he saw the new church, exclaimed that this was the Cathedral of Becontree!
I am called Alban,
and I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.
Curate with particular responsibility for
St Alban’s Church Becontree
1929 -31 - The Revd Frederick Ernest Bayley
Vicars of St Albans’ Church, Becontree
1931 – 1953 - The Revd Frederick Smith
1953 – 1956 - The Revd George Arthur James Townsend
1956 – 1960 - The Revd Edward Harry Steele
1960 – 1973 - The Revd Ronald Gordon Paisley
Priests- In- charge of St Alban’s Church, Becontree
1974 – 1978 - The Rev Kenneth Borwell Robinson
1979 – 1989 - The Revd David Ainge
Team Rectors of Becontree South
(St Alban and St John The Divine)
1989 – 1991 - The Revd David Ainge
1992 - 2000 - The Revd Paul Haworth
Team Rectors of Becontree South
(St Alban, St John The Divine and St Martin)
1994 - 2000 - The Revd Paul Haworth
2001 - 2009 - The Revd Geraldine Ann Clarke
2010 – 2016 - The Revd Penelope Sayer
2019 - present - The Revd Faye Bailey