St.Alban's is a living church which serves the community and on this blog and its attached pages you will find details of the church both past and present and how to contact us. Some pages are still under construction so please bear with us for a while.

When you click a link on this page it will take you to another page with the same heading. You will need to scroll down to find the information you require.

Another purpose of this blog is to provide a genealogical guide to the church of St.Alban the Martyr which is situated in St.John's Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex. Like many churches it contains a wealth of material of interest to people studying local history and family history. It is our intention to provide, as best we can, information about the many people who are commemorated in this beautiful church. Obviously this is a work in progress and the project has only just begun so we ask for your patience. If you have, or think you might have, historical connections with the church, we'd love to hear from you.



The visitor on first entering the District (formally Parish) Church of St. Alban, Westcliff-on-Sea, is immediately struck by its devotional atmosphere, its homeliness and its matchless beauty.   Tucked away almost out of sight through the growth of the town around it since it was built  in open fields, it stands far enough away from the clatter and turmoil of the busy street to form a quiet oasis for the Christian wayfarer.   Its newness as a Parish Church has long since departed for its walls are now hallowed by the prayers and gifts of four generations of worshippers whose continuous spiritual presence provides that indefinable sense of solemnity and holiness which one associates with our more ancient parochial foundations and cathedrals.

Southend-on-Sea has grown out of four ancient ecclesiastical parishes all mentioned in the Doomsday Book; Leigh, Milton, Prittlewell and Southchurch.   Southend began to develop rapidly as a sea-side resort in the closing years of the 19th century, and the church true to its ancient mission, began to cater for an increasing population by establishing mission churches, many of which in course of time became separate parochial foundations.   It is in this way that the Parish of St. Alban the Martyr, Westcliff-on-Sea (now a District of the Southend Parish), arose out of the ancient Parish of St. Mary the Virgin, Prittlewell.

The story begins on 23rd September 1890, with the formation of the St. Mary's Prittlewell Church Extension Committee which held its first meeting in St. John's Parish Hall under the chairmanship of the then Bishop of St. Alban's.   It was a strong committee containing  men honoured in the history of Southend.   Mr. Frederic Gregson who was to take such an active part in the subsequent development of the Parish of St. Alban was also an original member of this committee and acted throughout as its treasurer.   After its inaugural meeting under the Bishop of the Diocese (Chelmsford Diocese had not then been created)   Canon T. O. Reay, Vicar of St. Mary's Prittlewell, was elected as Chairman of this committee.   A generous offer of £20 per annum for five years by  Canon Heygate for Church Extension in the west end of Southend-on-Sea had provided the chief stimulus for the formation of the committee. The committee met twice in 1890, eleven times in 1891, and nine times in 1892. Up to the 21st March 1892, that is until St. Alban's Mission Room was built,  the committee usually met at the offices of Messer's. Gregson in Alexandra Street, although occasionally we find it meeting at the private house or business premises of one or another of its members.   From 21st March 1892 the meetings took place in St. Alban's Mission Room.
Canon T.O. Reay, Vicar of Prittlewell

The committee's early meetings were naturally largely concerned with the twin problems of securing a site for a new mission room and church and the raising of the necessary funds.   By June 1891 two plots of land had been purchased from Mr. Dowsett and Mr. Scudder for £360.   This land now forms the site on which the church and Parish Hall stand together with the churchyard, but did not include the site of the old vicarage (rectory) which was purchases for £150 in 1897.   Having secured the site, the committee's next task was to erect a mission room for temporary use until such time as the permanent church could be built.   Accordingly in August 1891 an appeal was launched for £700 to cover the cost of the site and building the mission room.   This appeal at the same time gave information about further plans for church extension after the mission room had been built.   Messer's. Humphreys & Co's contract for £198 for the building of the mission room was accepted in January 1892 and on 30th March of the same year the new building was opened for Divine Worship.
 Thus a centre was created to meet the spiritual needs of a growing population at Westcliff, estimated at the time to be 2000 people to whom the mother church at Prittlewell was too inaccessible.   The Rev. A. E. Briggs, Curate of Prittlewell who had been elected a member of the committee in May 1891, was the first priest to be put in charge of this new mission centre.   The total cost of the site, the mission room with its furnishings and fittings and miscellaneous expenses amounted to just under £700.   Of this sum grants amounting to £110 had been received from the Incorporated Church Building Society, the S.P.C.K., and the Additional Curates Society.   With Canon Heygate's gift of £100 this left about £500 to be raised locally.

A regular congregation of worshippers began to gather around the new mission room and various parochial organisations such as Sunday School and Women's Fellowship began to appear.   The need for a permanent church and an independent parochial existence began to assert itself.   The Church Extension Committee did not meet between September 1892 and February 1894, during this period subscriptions were steadily coming in to meet the expenses of the site and mission room and by October 1893 all debt had been repaid. 

On 26th February 1894 a combined meeting of the Prittlewell Church Extension Committee and the "congregation who usually worship there" was held in St Alban's Mission Room.   The meeting agreed to use every means in its power to provide a permanent church on the site, a Ladies Sub-Committee was set up "to collect funds".   There was one further meeting of the committee in 1984 when it was decided that £1000 should be raised before building started.   The committee did not meet again until February 1896, this meeting is interesting as the Rev. E. Kimber was elected to the committee.   He was the third priest placed in charge of the mission centre replacing the Rev. B. H. Verdon in 1895, he was destined to become the first Vicar of St. Alban's.   The treasurer reported at this meeting that the amount in the bank towards the fund for the new church was £26.   The need for a permanent church was stressed and arrangements were made to approach the inhabitants of the neighbourhood for subscriptions to the building fund.   There was only one further meeting in 1896 at which it was reported that  subscriptions and promises amounted to £258.   A bazaar was held later in the year and produced £70.

The year 1897 was an active one for the committee; it met no less than eleven times.   Early in the year the building fund amounted to £600.   In July an anonymous donor gave £300 on condition that another £500 was raised within a reasonable period, and that the St. Alban's Mission District be formed as soon as possible into a separate and distinct ecclesiastical parish and further that the first part of the building to be put in hand be the nave.   The conditions were accepted, the Vicar of Prittlewell raising no objections to the demand for separation.   By October 1897 the building fund had reached a total of £1,290.   Advertisements had appeared in the best building papers inviting architects to submit plans for the building of a church to accommodate 400 people, 500 if possible, at a maximum cost of £3,000.   Sir Arthur Bloomfield was invited to undertake the duties of assessor and examined the designs of nine architects who had submitted plans.   He advised acceptance of the design of Messrs. Nicholson and Corlette of 2 New Square, Lincoln's Inn, London.   Six building firms were invited to submit tenders for the construction of the nave, aisles and transepts of the church.   Mr. F. Dupont of Colchester was the successful competitor with a tender of £1,899-10-0.

St.Alban's roof under construction.
On 17th June 1898 the foundation stone under the West Window was laid by Bishop Festing of St. Albans amid scenes of great rejoicing.   It is difficult in these days with our church situated in a thickly populated built-up area to imagine the conditions that surrounded our predecessors at this ceremony a century ago.   We have to imagine a large expanse of land, mainly agricultural, lying between Prittlewell and Leigh, Hamlet Court Road being nothing more than a country lane.   The importance of the ceremony lies in the fact that St. Alban's was the first Parish Church to be built in this empty space between the two ancient parishes

The work goes on...still no tower
The committee at the time the building was begun held a balance of £1,803.   That part of the building that was then in hand was completed by the end of 1898 and on 5th January 1890 was opened for Divine Worship by the Archdeacon of Essex.   The legal act of consecration was postponed until the building was free from debt, this was reached by the first Sunday of 1900 and the act of consecration of the nave and aisles was carried out by the Bishop of the Diocese on 31st July that year.   The first portion of the church to be built had, with its fittings, cost the committee approximately £2,500.   The committee continued its separate existence until the District of St. Alban's became a separate Parish early in 1901.   Its last tasks as an independent committee were to arrange the delineation of the boundaries of the new Parish, to clear off the debt of the first portion of the Parish Church to be to be erected and to establish an endowment fund, it was then merged into the St. Alban's Church Committee, a body equivalent to a Standing Committee of the Parochial Church Council. In the Autumn 1903 Messr's Davis & Leaney who tended £2202 to build the Chancel tower transcepts and vestries the final bill was £2700. The new additions were solemnly consecrated in the summer 1904.
The Prittlewell Church Extension Committee had had a life of ten years.   In that period it had accomplished five important tasks; the acquisition of sites for the permanent Church, mission room and vicarage; the building of a temporary mission room; the completion of the nave and aisles of the permanent church; the establishment of an endowment fund; and finally the constitution of a separate ecclesiastical parish.   The constitution of a separate parish was effected by an Order of Council dated 30th January, 1901, and printed in "The London Gazette" dated February 8th 1901.

The great west window under construction
An account of our beginning over a hundred years ago by L. E. Britnor and G. E. Smith published in 1948.


As early as 1903, a year before the completion of the Parish Church, St. Alban's had established a mission centre in the northern part of its Parish.   A modest beginning was made in that year by renting a house in New lands Road, where services were held and a Sunday School established.   The success of this venture led to a desire for a larger and permanent home for St. Alban's Mission, as it was then called, and in 1905, largely through the munificence of Sister Agnes, one of the Parish's greatest benefactresses, a site was secured at the junction of Salisbury and Cliff Avenues for the erection of a permanent mission building.
An iron structure on a concrete and brick foundation was built at a cost of £1000 it had accommodation for 160 people and was consecrated by the Bishop of St. Albans on 11th November 1905.   This new Mission, known as "The Mission of the Holy Name," at once became the centre of a vigorous and active religious life.   In the early days the Mission was directed entirely by the Rev. F. E. Rance, a sincere and courageous Priest who attracted all classes to a spiritual life by his fearless teaching of the Catholic Faith, his intense human sympathy and self-sacrifice in the cause of winning souls to Christ. 

 His task at first was not easy.   He had to struggle against bands of young hooligans who infested the northern area of the Parish and periodic visits from the Kensitites who came annually into the Parish in an attempt to disturb the Good Friday Procession of Witness.   It is recorded that when he first launched a club for young lads, when the new Mission Room had been completed, the hooligans in the Parish turned up in strength to take a rise out of him and wreck the whole concern.
Fr. Rance had apparently learnt the art of boxing in his student days and the first man to start wrecking tactics was promptly stretched out on the floor.   The reputation of "the fighting parson" was made.   Those who had come to scoff remained to pray and the gang leaders some twenty in all were eventually baptised and confirmed becoming some of the keenest supporters of the Mission's social and religious activities. 

 Henceforth the young lads of the club were known as "Miss Simpson's Lambs"  Miss Simpson was the church worker at the time and a very loyal supporter of Fr. Rance's work.   Her enthusiasm and magnetic personality drew large numbers of men, women and children to God and in particular those very hooligans who at first had seemed such hopeless propositions.   The Mission Room became self-supporting and held a full complement of services which were always crowded.   The intensity of its spiritual life may be gathered from the fact that once a week an Early Mass was celebrated at 4.30am  this was attended by early workers such as road menders, gardeners, tram drivers and conductors, milk men and post men.
All the fittings of the Mission Room, including the altar rail and pulpit were made by the men of the Mission in their own time and were given.   Only the altar came from elsewhere, this being a gift from Sister Agnes, it had formerly belonged to the Community of which she was a member.   It is this altar which now stands in the North Aisle (Holy Name Chapel) of the Parish Church**
The debt on the Mission building was cleared by 1908 and the Mission continued to do excellent work down to the year 1922.   In that year owing to the increase in population in Westcliff-on-Sea the new ecclesiastical Parish of St. Paul's was created out of the parishes of Prittlewell and St. Alban's, Westcliff-on-Sea, and the Mission of the Holy Name found itself within the newly created Parish of St. Paul's.   It was therefore impossible to continue it as a parochial activity.   Some people had hoped that the Mission might be transferred to a site in Station Road at the southern end of the Parish, but the Parochial Church Council accepted the decision of its General Purposes Committee which unanimously recommended that the best interest of the Parish would be served by centralizing the spiritual work of the Parish around the Parish Church. 

 This decision was partly due to the fact that expert evidence had decided that the Mission Room would not survive dismantling and re-erection and partly due to the excessive price demand for a new site.   The sale of the building was transacted through the Charity Commissioners who agreed that the proceeds should be devoted to St. Edward's Hall and the purchase of 6 St. John's Road***.   Sister Agnes agreed to this arrangement.

The Holy Name Chapel

** Since this article was first published  in 1948 the altar in the North Aisle from the Mission Room has been replaced, I believe the original Mission Room altar was moved to the platform in the Nave, the Sunday Mass is conducted from this altar.

*** In 2003 the Parochial Church Council of Southend Parish agreed to the sale of 6 St. John's Road following the death of our Verger Len Eastland who lived there for over 40 years.

Len Eastland, last verger of St.Alban's
Most the information shown above is taken from "Saint Alban the Martyr St. John's Road Westcliff-on-Sea The First Fifty Years 1898 - 1948" by L. E. Britnor and G. E. Smith published Easter, 1948. 


By the 21st March 1892 there was a mission room on land bought from Messrs Dowsett & Scudder for £360 the site of the present church and parish hall. The Reverend A E Briggs was the first priest in charge of the mission room followed by the Reverend B H Verdon in 1893 and the Reverend E E Kimber in 1895. In 1906 he took up the less demanding appointment of rector of Great Whitcombe before becoming rector Ulay and Owlfen, Gloucestershire he died in 1911.

Rev. E.E. Kimber
He was followed by The Reverend C H Rogerswho came from Holy Trinity Harrow Green where he had also been Vicar and was to serve until his death in 1929. then came Reverend L Stokes he had been honorary Chaplain to the forces in World War 1 and then became Vicar of St Barnabas Walthamstow. He became Rector of West and East Hanningfield in 1943 and Canon of chelmsford before being appointed Vicar of Brentwood.

Rev. Leonard Stokes
 The Reverend J D Mann in came 1965 (The Window Dedicated to him cost £288 in 1971designed by John Hayward) he was suceeded by Father George Watson then by Father Ivor Hancock (1976-1980) then Father Bob White. In 1982 the Parish of St Albans  joined with the United Parish of Southend which had established in 1974 incorporating St Johns St Marks All Saints and St Erkenwalds. In the 90s The Reverend Roderick Hamer came and was followed by Fr. Kurt K. Barron. The present vicar, Fr.Phil Roberts came to the church in 2002.

Fr. J.D. Mann

Pictures of more recent clergy associated with St. Alban's will appear on the Photo Gallery Page.

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