St Nicholas' Church - A History
A New Parish Church
In 1957 the Church Council had decided that the St. Katherine's Church was too small to cope with the needs of the Island's growing population and that it was on the edge of the community when it needed to be in the centre and so the search for a new site began. Originally the site of the new Parish Church was farm land which had been acquired by the local Council in partnership with the London Boroughs of Barking, Dagenham and Walthamstow for Council Housing. The partnership agreed to sell it to the Diocese and so it became the new Church site.
The Church Council had to raise the cost of a new Church and the original plans, drawn up by Stanley Bragg and Associates, was for a Church with a barrel vaulted roof. However these were rejected by the Diocese. The revised plans were for a more imposing Church and they included the provision for a belltower but this never came into being. The Church was triangular in elevation with concrete buttresses which extended from the ridge of the roof to ground level. The ends of the Church comprised large triangular windows some 40 feet wide and 35 feet high each being made up of 36 panes of glass in a reinforced latticed concrete frame.
The Contractors, Barvis and Co. Ltd., were appointed with an 8 month completion time. The Foundation Stone was laid on 19th May 1960 by Mrs. Dorothy Glennie and the Church was Consecrated by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Bishop Faulkner, on 10th December 1960. The cost of construction was £16,675.
The Church Council had to agree on a name for the Church and after a ballot of members decided that it should be St. Nicholas.
The plans provided for a Lady Chapel as an extension on the north side of the Church, for an organ loft and choir gallery at the west end and Vicar's and choir vestries at the east end. Second hand pews were bought by the Girls Life Brigade from a Methodist Church in Croydon and these were renovated and installed by Mr. F. Slater of Maldon. Some furnishings from St. Katherine's Church were transferred, namely the font, the bell, the Bishop's chair, the processional cross and the Altar cross and candlesticks. The organ at St. Katherine's was considered to be not worth moving and a second hand organ was obtained from the Chalkwell Methodist Church. The single bell was considered to be inadequate after it had been installed in a bell room above the west window and a loudspeaker system was installed. This was used to relay from each end of the Church recordings (L.P. records) of peals of bells from various famous churches and of hymns particularly for divine worship, weddings and carols at Christmastide.
In the 60's the Church had a choir of mixed voices under the leadership of the Choirmaster Mr. Harold Spearman and from time to time it performed cantatas such as J.H.Maunder's "Olivet to Calvary", "Song of Thanksgiving" and "Bethlehem" and John Stainer's "Crucifixion.
In 1964 the Church Hall was built alongside the Church. It had a large stage and was used by all the Church Organisations and for parish events.. It was designed by Mr. R.C.Foyster and built by Mr. C.J. Hollingberry. In the same year the St. Nicholas Vicarage was built on the site next door, replacing the old Vicarage in Haven Road and having the same Architect and Contractor as the Hall.
In 1979 it was found that the west window concrete had deteriorated , allowing the ingress of water , thus rusting the metal reinforcing. The whole window had to be replaced using Plyglass in a metal frame with the shape of the windows being changed from triangular to rectangular.
In 1982 the east window similarly needed replacing. The design of the window meant that during morning worship the sun blinded the congregation, which of course faced east. The Architect Mr. Tim Venn was called in and he redesigned the east end of the Church, dispensing with the vestries and infilling most of the window. The exterior was embellished with a large cross fashioned in concrete and the interior was decorated with a bas relief incorporating various buildings on Canvey Island, the seawall, shipping and a large cross surmounted by storm clouds and a rainbow. The Vestries were re-sited at the west end with the choir vestry now positioned in the gallery.
In 1982 it again became necessary to replace the organ, this time with a secondhand organ from St. Peter's, Harold Wood. Unfortunately the afternoon sun shining through the west window was too much for the organ and it was constantly going out of tune. It had to be protected by installing a white polystyrene lining to the window.
Inside St Nicholas Church
St Nicholas' Centre
In 1987 the Rector, the Rev. Tim Stevens, (now the Bishop of Leicester), felt that there was a need for a centre for the use of Aid Agencies in trying to reach those members of the community who needed help. An appeal was launched, together with the County Council's Social Services Department and the Children's Society as partners, for £280,000 and this, together with a loan of £30,000 from the Castle Point District Council, enabled the St. Nicholas Centre to be constructed.
A project was launched in 1999 to mark the Millennium. Local artists, schools and other organisations were invited to submit paintings depicting what the Millennium meant to them. Each painting measured 5ft by 4ft (20 square feet) and they were all installed during the week ending 31st December 1999 so that the whole of the roof lining was covered in paintings, 44 in total, together with several more around the walls, all of which can be seen in the church today.
All historical images of the Churches on Canvey Island have been reproduced with the courtesy of the
Canvey Island Community Archive.