The Church Building
The original Holy Trinity Church, Rotherhithe was built between 1837 and 1838 to a design by Sampson Kempthorne and was in typical Victorian neo-Gothic style. The site had been given by the Commercial Dock Company. A parsonage was also built to the North of the church. There is very little evidence of either structure remaining. Before the opening of Redriff Road the church was quite isolated at the far end of Rotherhithe Street. In 1900 the then vicar was interviewed for Charles Booth’s survey into life and labour in London and seemed proud to claim that his was the most difficult church to find in all of London.
“A History of the County of Surrey” (1912) describes the original building rather dismissively:- "The church consists of a shallow sanctuary recess and a wide barn-like nave with vestibules and a tower at the west. The nave is lit by large lancet windows and the whole church is meanly designed in 13th-century style. The tower has an embattled parapet."
Holy Trinity School was run as a National School from 1836 on the site adjacent to the church and provided primary education for the poor of the parish. It closed in 1910 when the London County Council opened Redriff School close by. The school building survives and is now used as the Church Hall and as a day nursery. During the second world war London was blitzed and many of the dockyards took heavy assaults. The Rotherhithe peninsula was no exception.
On the afternoon of the 7th September 1940 many tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on the city – the majority of them fell on the Surrey Docks. The resulting conflagration was such that the fire services were unable to deal with the situation which was left to burn itself out. Families were evacuated by any means possible - often by boats from the river, or even by carrying them in a dustcart with curved sliding doors which were closed to protect them from the fires and falling debris.
The building of Holy Trinity Church Rotherhithe was destroyed in this raid. This made it the first church to be destroyed in the London Blitz. Nothing now remains of the original church except for a few grave stones and a memorial from the First World war now used for Remembrance Day services.
The school building next door was miraculously undamaged and services were held there until 1959 when the present church was completed. More recently a small crucifix picked up in the ruins of the original church has been returned and restored and is now known as the Holy Trinity Cross.
The modern Church building, designed by Thomas Ford in 1957, is a fine example of 1950’s architecture, with a distinctive curved ceiling and a copper clad roof. The interior is light and welcoming with a wonderful acoustic.