A Brief History of Christ Church, Radlett


A Brief History of Christ Church, Radlett

In Roman times the road from Londinium to Verulanium (St Albans), now known as Watling St, passed through the site of present day Radlett. Roman pottery kilns existed near Loom Lane just south-west of the church. In the same area clay was more recently extracted for brick making.

The name Radlett appears to be derived from the Old English rad-gelaete meaning junction of roads. But although there were clusters of dwellings, Radlett did not become a real community until the 19th Century when the Midland Railway was built and the population began to grow.

Christ Church was not the first place of worship in Radlett. A Chantry chapel was erected on Cobden Hill in 1510 for the old and infirm who lived far from Aldenham (home of the parish church of that time). Although it survived the Reformation it was dissolved under Edward VI in 1552. For the next 300 years Radlett church goers old, infirm and able-bodied walked the three miles to the parish church Of Aldenham. Then in the 1860’s the directors of the Midland Railway decided to complete the link between St Pancras in London and Derby and there was an influx of railway workers into the are to carry out this work.

In 1864 the original Christ Church (daughter church to Aldenham) – less than half the present size (just the side aisle on the Watling St side) – was consecrated to serve the new population of Radlett. This parish was now separated from the ancient parish of Aldenham. The church was endowed principally by the owners of the Newberries and Kendals estates, the Bagnall and Phillimore families, whose names appear in memorials in the church. The church is remarkable in its disposition as it is aligned on a north-south axis, unlike the usual east-west orientation with an alter at the south end. This was designed this way deliberately so that the longest aspect of the building would lie parallel to the railway line and thus could be clearly seen by those travelling by train. During the 1880’s the vicar at the time visited the railway workers in their huts beside the line and he also set about beautifying the interior of the church – unfortunately the intricate painted designs have not survived.

As the Radlett community expanded a burial ground was necessary. Lord Phillimore gave the ground for the graveyard, (across the road from the church) which was consecrated in 1887. The Lych-gate was a gift of the Vicar of Aldenham, the Reverend Kenneth Gibbs.

By the turn of the 19th century Radlett had grown further. The church was too small for the community that had grown up around it so it was decided to enlarge Christ Church by adding the now main aisle and chancel. This was consecrated on the 14th November 1907. Part of the cost was provided by the St Albans Diocese – on condition “that all seats be made free” instead of the previous pew-rent system, whereby seats were only available to those who paid.

The original Church Hall was built in 1930 to serve the church needs and also provided a valuable facility for the wider community, it was extended in 1972 and has now been replaced by the ‘new’ church hall build in 2005. The hall, is now, as it was then, a great asset to the both the church and the community.

Over the years various re-orderings of the interior of Christ Church have resulted in the present more open, carpeted style with movable chairs in place of many of the original pew seats, and the forward nave altar bringing worship leaders and communion table nearer the congregation. The latest development, completed in 2005, was the demolition of the old parish hall and its replacement by the splendid Christ Church Vision Hall joined to the church by the Rotunda entrance lobby.

Other features to look out for as you take a look around include the Clayton and Bell and other stained glass, including 2 new stained-glass windows, the beautiful modern glass Angel Doors on the south side, the tiled wall patterns and painted roof in the Chancel, the carved stone font with its angels, and the statue and modern painting in the little Meditation Chapel on the south side.

In 2014 Christ Church celebrated its 150th anniversary year.