Old All Saints & Dissenters Chapel

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The ‘old’ All Saints recently converted into apartments with a new and higher roof line but retaining the distinctive church stump of the original church spire. On the right down Trewsbury Road is the ‘new’ All Saints Church Hall & Church.

The former All Saints Church Hall, Sydenham Road (also called Dissenters Meeting; Episcopal Chapel; Chapel of Ease; Christ Church)

The earliest mention of this building refers to Mrs Quicke, the widow of a non-conformist minister, who “set up a ministry of the gospel, at her own charge, in a poor ignorant village, Sydenham, in Kent”. This was in a private house ca. 1706-1708. A chapel was erected before 1760 [Timpson, “Church History of Kent”]. The lease on this chapel expired in 1794 and the building reverted to the freeholder of the site, the Anglican vicar of Orpington. He leased the building to Hugh French who “fitted it up with some enlargement” as a living for his son, Rev Pinkstan Arundel French. In 1795 the Bishop of Rochester licensed the chapel for Anglican worship. It was to serve as a Chapel of Ease for St Mary’s, Lewisham. Rev. French remained here until about 1834.

Rocque’s map (1743) prominently marks “Dissenters Meeting” on or very close to the site of the present building. It is difficult to be sure which building he is indicating. The most likely is on an east/west alignment. As the present building is on a north/south alignment this suggests that it might have been built after 1743.

The 1851 Census referred to the “Old Episcopal Chapel of Sydenham”. William Haines was the incumbent from about 1850, until his death in 1862, and was responsible for completing the census return for the chapel. He said it was licensed about 1795 and that the chapel was erected by Mr French. He described it as “a very old Chapel needing repairs very often”.

The Times reported in 1813 that “the roof of the Sydenham Chapel, the property of Rev. Mr French, fell in leaving only the Pulpit and the Altar vestiges of the ruinous affects of the dry rot. Fortunately the building is detached from other houses, and no damage has been sustained by the inhabitants”.

In 1858 Clark’s Directory describes “the Chapel of Ease at Sydenham” as “a small and plain Gothic building. It was thoroughly repaired in 1845 when a small spire in the early English style was added”. [This was removed earlier this century].

It may be that some part of the present building dates from between 1743 and 1760. However major rebuilding and repairs have been carried out at various times (e.g. 1795, 1813, 1845). Also, the incumbent in 1851 implies that the church was erected in about 1795 by Mr French (it might have been rebuilt or simply enlarged). The present building is clearly shown on the Tithe Map (1843) so the building cannot be later than this date.

The site, if not the building, has been used as a place of worship, and thus an important focus of Sydenham life, for almost three hundred years. Parts of the building may date from before 1760, or from ca. 1795. Clearly the chapel wasn’t built to last, and the catalogue of repairs testifies to this.

This is the best I can do with the documentary information readily to hand – it would take close scrutiny of the fabric by an architectural historian to firm up the date of the various elements of the building

© Steve Grindlay
Historian to the Sydenham Society
First published as a part of Steve’s Jottings

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