Church History

A brief history of St. Mary's

St. Mary’s Church, Becontree, celebrates the 80th anniversary of our Church building in 2015. The Church building on Grafton Road was built in 1935. There was a Church meeting on the site, which is now the Church Hall, before this. We know there were baptisms and an established Church meeting regularly on the site from 1927.

The current Church building was built in 1935 as a permanent Church to serve the community and provide a centre for the Church to give glory to God in Dagenham. The Church was built by a famous architect called Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day. Cachemaille-Day was an English architect who designed some of the most revolutionary 20th century Churches in the country. St. Mary’s is considered to belong to the more innovative of Cachemaille-Day’s buildings because of its tall lantern tower lighting the sanctuary and kneeled shafts emphasising the verticality of the building. St Mary’s is a Grade II listed building, built as one of five Churches to serve the Becontree estate, originally the world’s largest council housing estate and still the largest in Europe, following the First World War.

In September 1955, St Mary’s opened another centre at one end of the parish boundary. This centre was called Hartley Brook Church, after the first Vicar of St Mary’s. Hartley Brook continues as a centre of worship today. In the 1980’s St Mary’s opened a second centre on the opposite side of the parish boundary on the Heath Park estate. Heath Park Church was a vibrant centre of worship with many young families attending throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sadly, due to falling numbers, Heath Park Church was closed around 2002.

St. Mary's Vicars

Hartley Brook

Norman Cooper

Thomas Anscombe (1945 - 1952)

Tom Pownall (1952 - 1961)

Eddie Stride (1961 - 1970)

John Short (1970 - 1976)

Alan Kemp (1976 - 1990)

Ron Herbert (1990 - 2007)

Julie Fleming (2008 - 2017)

Katie Miller (2018 - present)

St Mary’s parish has also been served by a number of Curates including:

Christiana Asinguo

Princely Croos

Paul MacKay

Henry Martin

Ann Newton

Jim Perryman

Brian Kyriacou

Richard Avery

Cliff Cater

Tony Briar

David Wasdell

Moses Radcliffe

Marcus Nicklin

Chris Jones

Martin Short

Peter Searle

George Bartlett

Geoffrey Whitehead

Anthony Bryer

Kim Hitch

John Simons

Albert Must

Clive Brown

Frederick Nevell

Charles Waters

Alfred Bush

Deaconess such as:

Sue Saville

Iris Tillet

Dorothy Player

Pauline Hillier

Marie Groves

Dora Kerr

Lay Readers including:

John Brook

John Wallace

Cliff McLeod

John Browne

Betty Butcher

Nesta Harding

Joan Herbert

Ian Woodward

Tom Townson

John Dundon

Frank Deeks

St Mary’s has always had a history of significant lay people’s involvement in the running of the Church and in the outreach ministry. The Church of St Mary’s is not the building, although we celebrate the resources our buildings give us; the Church is the people. And the family of God at St Mary’s has always been faithful in serving our local community in practical ways. Our mission statement is to “Make Jesus Known” and we strive to fulfill the ministry that Jesus called all His believers to – tell people about the good news that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, came to earth and died on the cross to reconcile us to our loving Father God.

We continue to praise God at St Mary’s for His faithfulness and for His unconditional love for us.

And we continue to try and serve our community, pointing always to God and in glory to His name.

And we pray for many more years to serve Him in Dagenham