St Nicholas Church

Nearly 50 years of history

The story of St Nicholas Church starts in 1957 when the Church Council realised that St Katherine’s Church was much too small for the growing population. It was decided to build a much bigger church in a more central position. The site chosen for the new Church was farm land owned by the local Council in partnership with the London Boroughs of Barking, Dagenham and Walthamstow who had hoped to use the land for Council housing.

The building of St Nicholas Church in 1960 from the West Elevation

The original plans for the church were rejected by the Diocese so instead of a barrel vaulted roof the revised plans were for a more impressive Church and they included the provision for a belltower but this never came into being. St Nicholas Church website describes the new plans:

  • The Church was triangular in elevation with concrete buttresses which extended from the ridge of the roof to ground level. The ends of the Church comprised large triangular windows some 40 feet wide and 35 feet high each being made of 36 panes of glass in a reinforced latticed concrete frame.

The foundation Stone was laid on the 19th May 1960 by Mrs Dorothy Glennie. The builders were Barvis and Co Ltd and although I had no connection with Canvey at this time by coincidence my later to be brother-in-law was a scaffolder on the site.  The Church was finished within the allotted eight months and was Consecrated by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Bishop Faulkner on the 10th December less than seven months later at a cost of £16,675. (The cost of a two bedroom bungalow at this time was about £2,250)The name of St Nicholas for the new Church was decided after a ballot of members.

St Nicholas Church website goes on to describe the internal plans and the work carried out to install the furniture:

  • The plans provided for a Lady Chapel as an extension on the north side of the Church, for an organ loft and choir gallery at the west end and Vicar’s and choir vestries at the east end. Second hand pews were bought by the Girls Life Brigade from a Methodist Church in Croydon and these were renovated and installed by Mr. F. Slater of Maldon. Some furnishings from St. Katherine’s Church were transferred, namely the font, the bell, the Bishop’s chair, the processional cross and the Altar cross and candlesticks. The organ at St. Katherines was considered to be not worth moving and a second hand organ was obtained from the Chalkwell Methodist Church. The single bell was considered to be inadequate after it had been installed in a bell room above the west window and a loudspeaker system was installed. This was used to relay from each end of the Church recordings (L.P. records) of peals of bells from various famous churches and of hymns particularly for divine worship, weddings and carols at Christmastide.
  • The Church was heated by electric tubular heaters controlled by a time switch. It was intended to have three levels of heaters, at ground level (round the walls and below each pew), above the side windows and below the windows in the roof. The first two were installed but the third was not proceeded with.

Showing the South Elevation during building work in 1960

The Church Hall which was designed by Mr RC Foyster and built by Mr CJ Hollingberry was added a few years later in 1964, with its large stage it was in constant use by the Church Organisations and for parish events. Indeed I have been there on many occasions with my children attending St Nicholas Playgroup in the late 70’s early 80’s and again later when the WRVS used to hire the hall for the Christmas parties, not to mention the many Jumble Sales I have attended over the years. To replace the old Vicarage in Haven Road a new one was built next to the Church Hall again by Foyster and Hollingberry.

By the late 1970’s the West window was found to be leaking water and upon investigation it was found that the concrete had deteriorated and the metal reinforcement was rusting. It was decided to replace the window with Plyglass in a metal frame and change the shape of the panes from triangular to rectangular. In the early 80’s similar problems occurred with the West window. Because of problems with the morning sun blinding the congregation it was decided to take the opportunity to address this problem at the same time. Tim Venn the Architect called in to redesign the window also redesigned the East end of the church. Instead of the large expanse of glass most of the window was filled in, the vestries were moved to the West end of the Church. Internally the area was decorated with a bas relief showing Canvey buildings, the seawall, shipping and a large cross surmounted by storm clouds whilst outside was a large concrete cross.

St Nicholas Church website continues:

  • In 1982 it again became necessary to replace the organ, this time with a second hand organ from St. Peter’s, Harold Wood. Unfortunately the afternoon sun shining through the west window was too much for the organ and it was constantly going out of tune. It had to be protected by installing a white polystyrene lining to the window.
  • In 1987 the Rector, the Rev. Tim Stevens, (now the Bishop of Leicester), felt that there was a need for a centre for the use of Aid Agencies in trying to reach those members of the community who needed help. An appeal was launched, together with the County Council’s Social Services Department and the Children’s Society as partners, for £280,000 and this, together with a loan of £30,000 from the Castle Point District Council, enabled the St. Nicholas Centre to be constructed.
  • The pipe organ was once again struggling to provide the standard of music required by a Parish Church and the Church Council invested in an electronic organ, a Makin Digital Classical organ, which has a sound which compares favourably with a pipe organ.

To mark the Millennium local artists, schools and other organisations were asked to submit paintings showing what the Millennium meant to them. These were hung in the Church, initially these were to remain there until December 2001 but eight years later they are still there and are now a permanent feature of the church. You can see some below in the gallery.


1961 – 1974 Rev. John Fleetwood

1974 – 1980 Rev. Geoffrey Wrayford

1980 – 1988 Rev. Timothy Stevens

1988 – 1992 Rev. David Thomas

1993 – 1997 Rev. David Ella

1997 – Present Rev David St. C. Tudor.

A video of St Nicholas can be found HERE courtesy of ITNsource (Clip 18)

Comments about this page

  •  I have just seen that St Nicholas church was opened late 1960  and I realised that my wife and I must have been one of the earlier marriages to have taken place there during 1961 having been married by The Rev .Fleetwood on 7th September of that year.

    How time flys, it will 54 year ago this September.

    Alan & Cynthia Hardy

    By Alan Hardy (01/07/2015)

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