19 November 2023

All Saints’ Church in
Berkhamsted, from
new church to local
ecumenical partnership

All Saints’ Church in Kitsbury, Berkhamsted, is a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) between the Church of England and the Methodist Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing last week about my two visits this month to Saint Peter’s Church, the parish church in the centre of Berkhamsted, one of the largest churches in Hertfordshire. But Berkamstead has a second Anglican parish church at All Saints’ Church on Shrublands Road.

All Saints’ Church is an early 20th-century red brick church and Grade II listed building on the corner of Cross Oak Road and Shrublands Road, in the Kitsbury area of Berkhamsted. It is a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) between the Church of England and the Methodist Church and part of the Berkhamsted Team, with five parishes and six churches in the Diocese of St Albans.

The rapid growth in housing in the Kitsbury area in the late 19th century created a need for a new church to accommodate the growing population. People in Kitsbury were attending services in a barn in Kitsbury Road behind the Berkhamsted Union Workhouse, now the Kitsbury Parade shops. Later they used a ‘tin tabernacle’ on Cross Oak Road, a temporary church made of corrugated iron.

The Revd Arthur Johnson, the Rector of Saint Peter’s (1883-1902), and Adelbert Wellington Brownlow-Cust (1844-1921), 3rd Earl Brownlow, then the patron of the parish, obtained permission to build a ‘chapel-of-ease’ to meet the needs of local churchgoers and to relieve the demand on Saint Peter’s Parish Church.

The foundation stone of All Saints’ Church was laid on 5 October 1905 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The foundation stone of All Saints’ Church was laid on 5 October 1905 by the Suffragan Bishop of Colchester, Bishop Henry Frank Johnson (1834-1908). Local volunteers helped to lay the foundations, and the main building was built by F Harrowell of Tring.

The new church was designed by the architect Charles Henry Rew (1842-1912), who had previously designed Berkhamsted School Chapel on Castle Street, and his son Noel Ackroyd Rew (1881-1971).

CH Rew was born in Exeter, Devon, the second son of James Rew, a leather merchant. He served jos articles with Thomas Whitaker, architect and county surveyor for Exeter, before joining the office of the Town Surveyor of Brighton, where he worked on the town’s drainage scheme.

For some years, Rew worked in the office of the architect George Edmund Street, working with him on the Law Courts, London, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Bristol Cathedral and other well-known church buildings. He practised for a while in London, and married Sarah Kate Lucas in Kensington.

The Rew family, including two sons and two daughters, moved to Great Berkhamsted in 1884, and lived in the Rustic Cottage. In Berkhamsted, Rew continued his interest in church buildings and designed All Saints’ Church, Kitsbury.

Inside All Saints’ Church designed by Charles Henry Rew, facing the original east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

In Saint John the Evangelist Church, Bourne End, Rew designed a fresco that is part of the memorial to Elca Rose Curtis of the Hall, Berkhamsted; in Sunnyside Church, he designed the memorial chair to Herbert Henry Cooper; in Saint Peter’s Church, Berkhamsted, he designed the Smith-Dorrien Memorial. He also worked in the parish churches in King’s Langley and Abbot’s Langley, and in Saint Mary’s Church, Hemel Hempstead.

Rew was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) in 1905, the year the foundation stone of All Saints’ Church was laid. In his later years, he brought his son, Noel Ackroyd Rew, into his practice. Their work included Berkhamsted School Chapel, school, buildings and libraries and numerous houses in the area. He died in Berkhamsted in1912.

His elder son, also Charles Henry Rew, was an architect with the Government of Hong Kong and with a shipping company in Shanghai. He was found dead in the Hotel Windsor on Victoria Street in Pimlico, London, in September 1906.

The younger son, Noel Rew (1881-1971), was educated at Berkhamsted School, the Slade School of Art and Regent Street Polytechnic’s Architectural Day classes. He was articled to his father and joined his father’s practice in Berkhamsted as a partner in 1904, a year before the foundation stone of All Saints’ Church was laid.

Noel Rew designed many buildings in Berkhamsted, including a new post office (1909). He worked with the Imperial War Graves Commission in France and Belgium in 1919-1928, designing 42 cemeteries. He designed memorial stall fronts in Berkhamsted School Chapel, several houses and schools in Berkhamsted. He was elected a fellow of the RIBA (FRIBA) in 1942, and died in Surrey in 1971.

Inside All Saints’ Church, facing the realigned altar and sanctuary at the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

CH and NA Rew designed All Saints’ Church in the Early English style. It is built in red brick, with a large tall nave, aisles and an apsidal chancel. However, the church was never completed as planned: the original plans included twin towers at an extended west end that might have rivalled even those of Westminster Abbey, but these were never built.

A number of fittings were brought from Saint Peter’s Church to adorn the new church, including a fragment of a Norman font that was mentioned in Cobb’s History of Berkhamsted and that was built into the chancel wall, and a marble font that was given to Saint Peter’s in 1662. A three-manual pipe organ built by Kirkland of London was installed in All Saints’ Church in 1915 after it was dismantled and brought from All Saints’ Church in Tufnell Park, London.

All Saints’ Church had a thriving congregation. But, despite this, the church closed in 1923 due to lack of funds. After considerable fundraising efforts, the church re-opened in 1938.

By the 1970s, All Saints’ church hall, then a separate building, was in need of repairs, and the Methodists were outgrowing their church on the High Street. It was agreed that All Saints should be a shared building, which could be modernised and enlarged. The Methodist Chapel on the High Street closed and was demolished. It later became the site of Domino’s Pizza restaurant. br />
Christ the King and the saints on the panels of the altar in All Saints’ Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

All Saints’ Church was re-ordered, with work beginning in 1974. The main altar was moved and the direction of worship was reversed, giving the church a west-east liturgical orientation rather than the traditional and original east-west alignment. This means the original chancel area at the east end of the church is now at the back of the church. A small worship area at the back of the church replaced the former Lady Chapel.

When the work was completed, it included upper and lower halls, toilets and a kitchen at the west end behind a new interior brick wall.

A legal sharing agreement was signed in 1980. The two congregations decided in the early 1990s to move from mutual co-operation to a new depth of commitment. A Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) was signed in 1993, but still as separate congregations sharing the building. Ater more time working together, a Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnership was formed in 2008, and a new constitution was adopted in 2013.

The original plan for the west end of All Saints’ Church, including two towers, was never completed

All Saints’ Church is part of the Berkhamsted Team, five parishes – Great Berkhamsted, Great Gaddesden, Little Gaddesden, Nettleden and Potten End – in the Diocese of Saint Albans and six churches: Saint Peter’s, Great Berkhamsted; All Saints’ Church, Berkhamsted LEP; Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Little Gaddesden; Saint John the Baptist, Great Gaddesden;; Saint Lawrence, Nettleden; and Holy Trinity, Potten End. Father Stuart Owen is the Rector of Saint Peter’s and the Team Vicar in the Berkhamsted Team Ministry.

All Saints’ Church is also part of the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit in the Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire Methodist District.

All Saints’ Church is a Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnership (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The church draws on a variety of traditions and the liturgy may be drawn from a variety of sources, including Common Worship, the Methodist Worship Book and Iona-style worship.

The main Sunday service is at 10 am and is either Holy Communion or Morning Worship. These services may be led by the Revd Rachael Hawkins, the Methodist minister, by an Anglican priest, a local preacher or a reader. Services on some Sundays include Holy Communion at 8 am, and ‘Messy Church’ or a Service of Wholeness and Healing at 4 pm. Other services mark the major festivals.

All Saints’ Church is normally open seven days a week, offering a calm space for private prayer.

The south porch of All Saints’ Church … the church is normally open seven days a week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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