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Article researched and presented by Margaret Craddock

The Mission Room
As a Place of Worship

Mission Church Choir and Congregation c1930
Mission Church Choir and Congregation c1930

Mission Room Bookmark c 1930 showing Captain G W Atkins of the Church Army
The Mission Room was erected in Finedon Road at the junction with Higham Road in the late nineteenth century.  It was built through the generosity of two spinster ladies, the Miss Orlebars who came from Hinwick Hall originally.  They lived in a large brick house in the High Street that later became the Cottage Homes.  It was built to serve the people of “New Town” to the south of the town.  This area consisted of Finedon Street, Alexander Street, Duke Street, Rosebery Street, Spencer Street and Newman Street.  It was built as a branch of St Mary’s Church in the town to provide Sunday worship and social activities.  Services were conducted by the local curate or resident Church Army Captain.  (In addition to its use as a church, part of the building was also used as a school, known as Finedon Road Infants School.)

Mission Room Bookmark on the left shows Capt G W Atkins,
Church Army c 1920-30s

Harvest Festival 1920s Harvest Festival 1920s
Harvest Festival 1930s
Harvest Festivals 1920s and 1930s

In 1939 the building was closed for worship and used as an ARP post for the duration of the war.  In August 1946 a press report states that the St John Ambulance Brigade terminated their tenancy of the premises.  It was at this time that a Sunday School and Bible Class was reinstated to the Mission Room.  On the Sunday prior to Christmas 1947, the Sunday School and Bible Class held the first service there for eight years and it was well attended.  Early in 1947, members of the Bible Class redecorated the inside of the building and another service was held on the Sunday after Ascension and again the church was full.  This resulted in requests for more services.  A meeting took place, a committee was elected and regular weekly Sunday services took place conducted by Lay Readers.

VIP's at the Garden Fete c1949
Garden Party at "Broadview", Station Road c1949.
Left to Right: Mr Fred Fox, Mrs Watts, Mr Watson,
Mrs Phillips, Mr Bob Phillips (Chairman of UDC),
Rev R W Sharpley (Rector), Rev L H Lethbridge
(Rector 1920-1930), Miss Lethbridge,
Mrs Keith Coles and Mr Bert Mason.
Garden Fete Queen with attendants c1950
Garden Fete Queen and attendants at Broadview
c1950 Queen Sadie Williamson with Frances Muir (left)
and Jean Beeby (right), Page boys:(left) Peter Oram,
(right) unknown

The following years were often difficult with small congregations but money was raised for the chancel to be refurbished, a new electronic organ to be installed and new choir robes to be purchased.

Church Interior late 1940 Visit of Bishop Leeson late 1940
Interior of Church late 1940
Visit of Bishop Leeson late 1940 with l to r Bert Mason,
Herbert Tailby, Revd R W Sharpley

Early in the 1950’s the Church Army again returned and the Captains were responsible for the pastoral work at the Mission Room.  Under their guidance the work prospered and the congregations often numbered 50 – 60, together with a large choir.  The Sunday School was active with well over 100 pupils and there was a thriving Youth Club with a good number of young people attending services.

Bible Class Discussion Group 1963
Bible Class Sunday Evening Discussion Group 1963
Standing: Alan Shawcross, Phil Mason
Seated from Left: Roger Drage, Capt R Denniss, Marion Smith,
Robert Turner, Colin Mackintosh, Jackie Fox, Peter Oram,
Sylvia Joyce

Social activities at the Mission Room included Beetle Drives, Whist Drives, Concerts and Dances.  An annual pantomime was performed and a Christmas Day Party organised for those who lived alone.  The choir actively supported a local Dr Barnado’s Home and brought the children to the town for outings and parties.  The work in the East End of London by Father Joe Williamson was also supported.

Sultans Court Carnival Entry
Carnival float entry c1955

Back: Rona Muir, Ruby Muir, Roger Dodson,
Billy McGrath, Frances Muir, Pauline Talbutt,
Front: Pearl Richardson, Phil Mason,
Valerie Muir, Heather Patrick

Babes in the Wood pantomime c1966

Central characters: Jennifer Corstin and
Christine Turner

Pantomime cast Babes in the Wood

Photograph of Mission Room members manning a carnival stall c1954
Mission Room members manning a stall on Carnival Day c1954

L to R: Jennifer Corstin, Christine Turner, Brian Oram, Derek Smith,
Roger Whitmee, ? , Captain Cook CA, ?, Robert Turner, Phil Mason,
?, Colin Mackintosh, ? Joyce

Philip Mason who was organist, choirmaster and instigator of much of the work carried out at the Mission Room, also produced the monthly magazine for the last 16 years of the building’s active use.

A 1961 edition of the Mission Church magazine produced by Phil Mason
A 1961 edition of The Monthly News produced by Phil Mason

The Mission Room ceased to function for services in 1967 when the Rector at that time, the Revd Derek Hole, decided that for Sunday Evening services the whole Anglican congregation should worship together with their Parish Priest.  Two evening services taking place at the same hour meant that it was impossible for him to get to the Mission Room.   The Sunday School and certain parish activities were to continue at the Mission Room for the present time.  Monthly communion services took place together with meetings of Youth Groups, Mothers’ Union and various committees. (To read the Rector's letter relating to the closure click here)

In 1972, following a period when it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the structure and surroundings of the Mission Room, the Rector proposed the sale of the building in order to partially finance a new Parochial Hall and Office.  At that time it was hoped that the County Council would be interested in purchasing the site for a Youth Centre.  In the event this sale did not materialise and eventually the Mission Room was sold to a private developer.  Part of the main church area was demolished and a bungalow erected.  The remainder of the building was converted into a private house.

Photograph showing the Mission Room converted to a dwelling
The Mission Room converted to a dwelling
Photograph of Mission Room showing two dwellings
The Mission Room site showing two dwellings

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