ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH
Church Hall, Leamington Avenue, Orpington
On the cessation of hostilities in 1945 throughout the country, many building projects which had lain dormant during the war years were re-commenced and many new ones embarked upon. The estates that resulted brought with them numerous problems, not least important being those connected with spiritual, cultural and social activities.
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It was realised by the Rector and Parochial Church Council that the completion of the Davis Estate and Crofton Park Estate would considerably increase the number of people in that part of the parish and, furthermore, that the by-pass, with its heavy traffic, would tend to separate the residents (and especially the children) from their parish church.
It was felt essential therefore that the Church should go to these new parishioners and establish itself in their midst. After due consideration it was decided that the provision of a dual-purpose hall would best suit all the requirements; a hall that could be used for secular purposes and yet, quickly and easily, be transformed for dignified use in Services and Celebrations of Holy Communion.
Little, however, could be done in designing the hall until a suitable site had been acquired, or at least earmarked, and the necessary planning permission obtained. This took considerable time and gave cause for many disappointments. As building costs were constantly rising the Church Council was faced with the problem of raising an ever-increasing sum of money. Eventually, in December 1954, the plot of land in Leamington Avenue was obtained and purchased by the Rochester Diocese on behalf of the Church Council. The cost of the new hall now became a matter of major concern. However, about the time that the ground was acquired, the Rector announced that an anonymous donor had made an extremely generous gift of £10,000. This enabled plans to be considerably speeded up but, even so, building costs had risen so much that the original conception of an architect-designed hall had to be abandoned. It was ultimately decided to purchase a pre-fabricated hall from Messrs Rema Ltd. of Salisbury.
After the extremely slow (and sometimes negative) progress that had been made during the past years, events now moved with almost breath-taking rapidity. The ground was quickly cleared and on Sunday, 8th December 1957, at a simple but inspiring ceremony witnessed by a large assembly, the Foundation Stone was laid by Mrs. Guy Warman. This was a most happy choice as it gave the Rector and Church Council the opportunity of showing their appreciation for the counsel and guidance so freely given by the late Bishop Guy Warman during his residence in the parish.
Steadily, in the hands of Messrs. J. Cauldwell Ltd., the building took shape, was completed and finally decorated. On Sunday evening, June 22nd 1958, the New Church Hall was opened and dedicated.
After a shortened form of Evensong in the Church, the Clergy, Choir and Congregation (which included the Chairman of the Orpington Council, Councillor C.H.E.Pratt) processed to the Hall. With the many others, including Mr. Donald Sumner, O.B.E. M.P., who had already assembled, they witnessed the Dedication of the Sanctuary by the Lord Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Christopher M. Chevasse. It would be an impossible task to mention all who had worked towards the erection of the Hall but some, by virtue of their office in the church or by special personal qualifications, were able to render especial service. Among those were, the Rector, the Revd. A.A. Chapman, Rural Dean of Orpington; Bishop Guy Warman; the Churchwardens, Mr. L.J. Newling and Mr. D.K. Fairbairn; the Treasurer and Secretary of the Parochial Church Council, Mr. K. Deals and Mrs. S. Stead; Mr. J.W.W. Sachs (legal matters) and the Secretary of the Appeals Committee and the Church Hall Committee, Mr. P.J. Reeves. To all who helped by labour or by gift, the Rector and the Council offer grateful thanks.
The erection of the New Church Hall is not the end however, it is merely the beginning for if it is to fulfil the functions for which it was designed it must become the focal point for the spiritual, cultural and recreational requirements of all those who dwell in that part of the parish. With God’s Help and Guidance it will be so.
Canon Aidan Chapman recalls in his article in the Parish Magazine June 1997. "A plot for a centre had been reserved but some difficulty was experienced in stopping the estate builders from encroaching on it. Strong feelings were expressed over the question of a small church or larger hall-cum-church and opposing views were firmly but courteously held. St. Nicholas (as it came to be named) was consecrated by Bishop Chavasse with Bishop Warman present."
Ten Years On
As the Church Hall celebrates its tenth anniversary this December,
we have felt it right to give the Church that meets there its own
name, and the name we have chosen is ST. NICHOLAS.
(from the Parish Magazine 1967)
Therefore, from the beginning of December, we shall think of the congregation that meets there as the "Congregation (or Church) of St. Nicholas". The building we shall call St. Nicholas’ Church Hall.
You may ask why the name St. Nicholas was chosen. There were two reasons. First, a large proportion of those who use the building are children, and St. Nicholas was particularly associated with children and was a giver of gifts. Secondly, the building was dedicated on December 8th, and St. Nicholas’ day December 6th falls very close to this day.
On January 1st 1968 St. Nicholas finances were separated from St. Giles.
The Building of Church House
During the early months of 1980 the P.C.C. considered the
possibility of building a Curate’s House next to St. Nicholas Church
Hall. The ground was available as it had been purchased when the
Hall was built, with a view to, one day, building a CHURCH next to
(from the Parish Magazines 1980/81)
In July 1980 tenders had been examined and under our Hon. Architect, Mrs. Doreen Norris A.R.I.B.A., Mid-Kent Homes Ltd. commenced work. The tender price was £49,066.90 and with the sale of 1 Harley Gardens (which had been the curate’s house for many years) and money already raised, another £15,000 was needed.
Various schemes were examined and two were immediately adopted: a) buy a brick and/or tile, b) interest-free loans repayable by ‘draw’ over a 5-year period.
The Social Committee and other organisations held special functions for raising money and the whole parish ‘pitched in’.
On February 8th 1981 the Archdeacon of Bromley, the Ven. Edward Francis, dedicated CHURCH HOUSE after preaching at the St. Nicholas Family Service.