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History of All Saints’

22 December 2013

The building of All Saints’ started life in 1853.  It was built by request of Sir Culling Eardley-Eardley, Bart. as a replacement for the wooden private chapel which had stood within his estate of Belvedere House (roughly at the top of Tower Road in Franks Park) and which had been severely damaged by fire in 1850.

He decided to build the new chapel on part of Lesnes (or Lessness) Heath just outside his estate boundary; and he erected a more substantial building of brick, faced with flint.  This chapel was open for public worship on 20th October 1853 and was merely the body of our Church as we know it today.  Sermons were preached by ministers of all denominations, including Baptist and Independent as well as the Established Church.

Late in 1855, the Parish of Erith was in need of more Churches for the Church of England, as the population was increasing rapidly.  The then Vicar of St. John’s, Erith, the Rev’d C J Smith, very diffidently approached Sir Culling Eardley with a view to the building becoming a part of the ‘Church of England’, and after much discussion this was eventually agreed with effect from May 1856, when Rev’d John Henry Bernau was licensed as the minister by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  However, there was much local feeling about the type of services that were conducted, which were not strictly according to the Book of Common Prayer used by the Church of England.  Sir Culling’s view was that he wanted all denominations to enjoy the services: ‘all individual members of the Church of Christ eager to hear the continued faithful preaching of Christ’s Gospel‘.

Sir Culling Eardley was married to Lady Isabella and when she died in May 1860, it was her dying wish that the Church be formally part of the Church of England.  Sir Culling Eardley agreed and so, in accordance with her dying wish, the Church was consecrated on 2nd August 1861 by Dr. John Bird Sumner, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  It became part of the Diocese of Canterbury, transferring to the Diocese of Rochester in the early 1900’s.  Rev’d J H Bernau became the Curate-in-Perpetuity for the next 20 years.

The Tower and the Clock (from Belvedere House) were added in 1861.  The Chancel was enlarged, the Pulpit added and by 1864, the two transepts were built, thus making it the shape of the cross and basically the Church you see today.

In the garden to the rear of the Church, there is a monument to Sampson Gideon, the great grandfather of Sir Culling Eardley which came from the garden of Belvedere House.  In the Church, there are memorial tablets to Sir Culling and Lady Isabella Eardley on the wall beside the pulpit.  The Schools referred to on the tablet were opposite the Church where the Police Station now is.  The cost of the Church was £3,236, the Schools £1,586, and the neighbouring Vicarage, which was built at the same time, cost £1,178!

The ‘village’ area of Belvedere grew up around the church, taking its name from Belvedere House, the principal residence of Sir Culling Eardley.  Belvedere House occupied the area where Heathdene and Elmbourne Drives in Upper Park Road are now, together with the houses on the right hand side of Upper Park going towards the station until it meets with Halt Robin Road.  The estate continued along Halt Robin Road and into Franks Park, which was also part of the Belvedere House estate.  The House was rebuilt in 1764 and the whole estate covered around 120 acres.  Sir Culling Eardley died in 1863 and the mansion was sold in 1865 to the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, which later became known as the Royal Alfred Home for Aged Seamen.  In 1920, the eastern part of the grounds became Frank’s Park and was purchased by Erith Council for public use.  In 1959, the old mansion was replaced by a large modern block, but this in turn was demolished in 1978 when the Society moved to Surrey.

VICARS OF ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH, BELVEDERE

CURATE

1856 – 1861  Rev. J H Bernau

CURATE-in-PERPETUITY

1861 – 1881  Rev. J H Bernau

VICAR

1881 – 1887  Rev H McNeil

1887 – 1892  Rev S Bickerseth

1892 – 1904  Rev F N Eden

1904 – 1911  Rev A Hawken

1911 – 1936  Rev W R Hartwright

1936 – 1941  Rev A S Harryman

1941 – 1947  Rev D Benbow

1947 – 1955  Rev J Clifford

1955 – 1961 Rev I C Maxwell

1961 – 1967  Rev W F Willoughby

1967 – 1980  Rev W R Barnes

1981 – 1989  Rev Colin D Elliott

1990 – 1996 Rev Gordon Lambert

1997 – 2002  Rev Irene Shaw

2003 – 2010  Rev Colin Terry

2011 –       Rev W Jane Edwards


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