About our Church
Please note that in July 2013 there was an unexpected fall or roof slabs from the interior of the high glazed lantern. the church can still be visited and worship continues as usual!
For brief details of what happend and the slight restrictions which hold please see HERE
For full details of all that we have uncovered so far abou tthis problem please see HERE.
As churches go, we are still in our infancy! One of our neighbouring churches in Bow, East London, St.Mary and Holy Trinity, Bow, celebrated its 700th Anniversary of Dedication in 2011. A neighbouring church is the oldest church in East London, St. Dunstan's, Stepney, tracing its origins back probably to Saxon days.
St. Paul's, Bow Common was preceded by a large Victorian church, built in 1858 with a new parish carved out of the vast extent of St. Dunstan's parish, but was to last less than 100 years, suffering destruction by bombing in World War II. A radical Vicar found a radical young architect and an equally radical designer and the result was the radical building we now have, conceived from 1956, begun at the end of 1958 and opened for worship at the end of 1959 and consecrated in April 1960.
There has not been enough time for much history to have happened in such a 'young' church!
| Site plan
However, even in this short time, a lot has been happening. For many years it was really known only to those specialists who know about buildings and was regarded with some puzzlement, locally. 'It's not like a real church, is it?' was the comment made to the present Incumbent when he arrived in the parish in 1995. This was his first wedding enquiry and the comment was made by the sister of a woman who had been married in the church a few years earlier. The sister came to ask permission NOT to be married in the church, but elsewhere! This was the explanation of why she wished to be married elsewhere - it didn't have a proper aisle that a bride could walk up and be seen and it just didn't look like a proper church should look!
But, after the church had passed it's 40th anniversary or so, we noticed a lot more interest growing in the church building. Partly, this may simply have been because of the passing of time and the church no longer seemed to be some gimmicky new innovation. Partly, it may also have been because since 1998 we have been welcoming a host of events into the church, both connected with the local community and beyond - especially with community and other art. Perhaps word was getting around and as they attended events more and more people have become aware of the architecture and have had a chance to discover the building through its extended useage. The most common response now, on enytering the building for the first time, is the almost universal comment, 'Wow!' !
In this section there is an account of this journey of discovery, of how remarkable and flexible this building is, both for its primary purpose of worship and prayer and now for a wider use, as we still continue to discover this. None of this has involved alteration in any way of this Grade II* listed building, apart from works in 2005 to replace the whole of the ceiling (asbestos!) and the leaking roof. Perhaps the most radical visible change (but mostly reversible!) took place in 2011 when the rather user-unfriendly church hall (or 'Committee Room' as it was called originally - a good flavour of serious 1960's politics!) was refurbished in partnership with a local Housing Company, to become a wonderful community space, now much enjoyed by a number of groups. This partnership was perhaps the fruit borne of 15 years or so of being solidly part of the local community and of trust growing, to the extent that the church was trusted to be genuinely interested in the community and not just in its own needs. Images of the opening of the refurbished hall can be seen here and a summary of how it is used and those who currently used it can be found here.
The rest of this section mostly tells the story of how we journeyed from the quite precise definition and use which governed the design of this building for its first nearly 40 years, to a discovery of its wider potential, all within its founding principles in succeeding years - all of it a tribute to the genius of architect Robert Maguire and designer Keith Murray (R.I.P. 2005) and the presiding visionary, Fr. Gresham Kirkby (R.I.P. 2006).
Return to top of page.