Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.

[81] Fishers of Men


I need to start a series of posts about St Andrews Church, which I have been putting off because I wanted some pictures of the building. I have found some on the Internet and it’s clear that the outside of the church now is virtually unchanged – and probably much of the inside.

It may help to read [3] Religion first, especially for those more familiar with modern worship.


This picture shows the main church building, with the very distinctive dome at the front. Even the noticeboard and fence railings look exactly how they were in my time.

To the right in the picture you can see the Church Hall. In the following description I may talk of the past but I think much is unchanged since the sixties. I will use a whole blog post just to describe it as it was – as background to what was a significant part of my life for about ten years.

Church Building

The inside was the same as most churches of the time, a large single room with a high roof. As is traditional, the altar is to the east. [It’s not an altar, it’s a communion table or the Lord’s Table, but everyone always called it the altar.]

The two main entrances, seen in the picture above, were used for weddings. To the right hand side. Not visible in the picture, is a smaller entrance, which we usually used. Just inside on the wall was a metal box to take donations towards church expenses.


This quite modern picture shows inside, facing the altar, and is very familiar to me, almost unchanged. I used to love that ceiling with its wooden beams. At the far end the altar, stained windows, pulpit and lectern look the same. (You will need to click on the picture to enlarge it.) The choir section is not clear from this picture. The boxes along the sides (lights, heaters or sound?) are new.


This view shows the other end. One main door is open and in the centre is the font. Again it’s very familiar.

The main nave of the church was full of pews, which used to be very common in churches. It was said to hold a congregation of 800. It was only full for the last Sunday before Christmas – the Nine Lessons and Carols – and sometimes one or two chairs were added to seat everyone.


The pews had hassocks, kneelers for prayers, like those in the picture above but embroidered to indicate St Andrew’s Great Ilford. (This was the only context in which I heard it called Great.) Hassocks were kept under the pews. They were used during services.

[There was a group of ladies, with a name I can’t remember, which met for sewing and embroidery. They probably did other things as well but they did some of the hassocks.]

Service Books

In the back of each row of pews was a rack to hold books and Orders of Service. Two sets of books were kept right at the back of the church, to be handed out by sidesmen as we came in.


We used the Book of Common Prayer. It was virtually standard then with no alternative options. This was a little black book, most of which was never used. It had the liturgy for Matins and Evensong, also Holy Communion, and the words of all the Psalms.

But for those of us with nothing exciting to do during the sermon, there were pages of useless information to leaf through – several tables detailing the incredibly complex process of working out the date for Easter; the list of close relatives not allowed to marry; and various other services including the Churching of Women – already obsolete then, this was a sort of ritual blessing and purification for women after childbirth.


We always used Hymns Ancient and Modern, with its archaic language. In spite of its name, the hymns were mostly of Victorian origin. This was snother small, pocket-sized book – with a maroon cover. (Pictures are almost certainly more modern versions.)

Church Hall and other buildings

You can see the Church Hall to the right of the first picture. It was used for many activities and was ideal as a theatre with its large stage. I suspect that this building has also changed little since I was there. Apart from the actual hall there was a smaller hall behind it, the Wilson Room, and toilets. Upstairs, above the Wilson Room were two smaller rooms – the Chamberlain Room and another smaller room now known as the Office. I am pretty this other room used to have a name (the Erskine Room?) and was used sometimes.

The Church Hall building was linked to the main Church through the vestry – where priests and choir put on their robes.

Behind the church was the vicarage, where the vicar lived.


In those days services were defined inflexibly. For Sunday morning it was always Matins and in the evening Evensong, both as in the Book of Common Prayer. There were also Holy Communion, and Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals, all as per Common Prayer. I will look later at services through the Christian year.


Vicars and Curates

I remember Rev Samuel Erskine for the early part most of our time (1952-60) He was Irish, with an Irish accent. With his first name he was amused by the existence of the SAMS, St Andrew’s Men’s Society.

After him, as shown in the picture above, were Charles Porter (1960-66) and John Martin (1966-76), who officiated for my wedding. [Porter left suddenly in circumstances best not described here.]

We also had curates coming and going. It was long before the time of women priests.

The Church Today

I have not been back for fifty years but there are some changes. They now have a woman priest and regularly have services in Urdu. I my day the only minority ethnic groups of any significance in the area were Jewish.


Lots to come about my early life and St Andrew’s but I have to end with this picture again, drawn just over 500 years ago by Albrecht Dürer. I remember it from the wall of the Chamberlain Room – not the original! I am told that is no longer there.

The title of this blog comes from the Gospel according to Saint Mark, Chapter 1 (Authorized Version):

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.










Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

10 thoughts on “[81] Fishers of Men

  1. As usual, I enjoyed reading the blog. Thanks for posting.


  2. Alan…when was Mr. Porter the vicar? David Clark was the handsome curate:)


  3. I have corrected this blog to identify the vicars correctly. Apologies for wrong names earlier.


  4. Charles Porter was the vicar from 1960 – 1966


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