Christ Church

Christ Church was built in the mid-19th century to serve a fast-growing local population. These days most of our worship and events take place here, with a diverse and active congregation that reflects the community around us.

The delightful villages of Snaresbrook

From the 1820s, the Snaresbrook end of the parish started to become fashionable and grow rapidly, especially once the railway arrived in 1856. “Snaresbrook…is a delightful village on the confines of the Forest, not far distant from the river Roden… it contains some capital houses, the residences of gentlemen’s families…and selected as a suitable situation for numerous elegant seats and country villas.”

A shift in the parish

With a growing population came the problem of insufficient church accommodation. St. Mary’s, the original parish church, had been very convenient for Wanstead House. But it was now looking rather isolated, situated at the far end of a lane away from the centre of things. So a petition was laid to build a new chapel of ease closer to the heart of the community.

Keeping it in the family

It became the personal project of the Rector, the Revd William Pitt Wigram. His family appears to have paid a third of the building costs, while the foundation stone was laid by Wigram’s brother, the Bishop of Rochester, on 18th May 1860. The completed building was consecrated on 19th July 1861 by the Bishop of London.

A fine example of Gothic revival architecture

Christ Church was designed by George Gilbert Scott, the architect behind the nearby Infant Orphan Asylum – now Snaresbrook Crown Court. Built at the height of the Gothic revival in the geometric style of the late 13th century, it was originally a chancel with the north aisle and a nave of four bays. In 1867 a south aisle was added and the church lengthened by a bay. A tower and spire were then added in 1869 and vestries in 1889.

Interesting features of note

The east window above the altar shows a stained glass window of Christ in majesty surrounded by angels. Donated by Mary and Gertrude Nutter in memory of their sister Jessie, the maker’s signature wheat sheaf and tower can be seen in the left-hand corner. The angels around the high altar were brought over from Ely theological college, although they originated in Nuremberg. The 1920s rood comes from Salisbury Teacher Training College and incorporates a particularly fine figure of Christ.

Ready for the 21st century

Christ Church was reordered at the beginning of the 21st century. The vestry and sacristy were renovated and a nave altar installed. The organ was replaced and re-sited at the east end of the northern arcade, allowing it to project music directly into the main body of the church. Finally, the old organ chamber was converted into a parish office.

Discover more

Christ Church and its beautiful gardens now host a wide range of activities all year round, from regular services and classical concerts to picnics and even the annual parish dog show! Everyone is welcome to join us.

The Church of St. Mary the Virgin

St. Mary’s is our original parish church and considered one of the finest Georgian churches in the country. Its virtually unaltered state includes the original pews and a host of architectural features.

Designed by Thomas Hardwick

St. Mary’s is the third church to stand on a site dating back to 1200. The current building was designed by architect Thomas Hardwick, also responsible for St. Mary’s, Marylebone Road as well as the renovation of both Inigo Jones’ St. Paul’s (Covent Garden) and Wren’s St. James’ (Piccadilly).

Consecrated in 1790

The foundation stone was laid on 13th July 1787, after which “numerous gentlemen and ladies were elegantly entertained with cold collation at Wanstead House”. Once completed, the church was consecrated by the Rt Revd Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London, on 24th June 1790. The interior has remained virtually the same ever since.

Seating arrangements

The consecration committee also drew up seating arrangements for the congregation. Men and boys were directed to the north side of the church, women and girls to the south. Old men and women were to sit in the window seats. Maidservants and female housekeepers were allocated the south gallery. And men in livery and other men and boys would be directed to the north gallery.

We’re a little bit more flexible these days…

An architectural treasure still open to the public

The iconic white building, with its green slate roof, wooden clock tower, open belfry and cupola, stands on Overton Drive close to the remains of Wanstead House, once belonging to Sir Josiah Child. Original features include the portico main entrance and steps, high box pews, and pulpit with sounding board. Above, the surrounding gallery is occupied to dramatic effect by a brass band at the famous annual Christmas carol service. And the impressive monument to Sir Josiah Child, Chairman of the East India Company, has been ascribed to John Nost. A recent redecoration has brought this historic interior back to former glories.

The churchyard

Several Grade II listed structures can also be found within the three-acre church grounds, from the boundary railings and gates to the monuments to Admiral Robert Plampin and Joseph Wilton RA.

50 of the tombstones date from the 18th century or earlier, with the earliest being that of James Waly who died in 1685. Thomas Turpin of Whitechapel, thought to be the uncle of Dick Turpin, also lies here. The stone sentry box, a memorial to the Wilton family, provided shelter for the armed guard employed to keep watch for body-snatchers.