The history of KCM Potters Bar
by the Revd. A. D. Hencken (written in the 1970s) with additional material by John Rowley 2001
Many people have asked why the Church in this parish should bear such an unusual Dedication since there are only six other Churches in this country which have this title and one of those is a ruin and stands as a War Memorial on the outskirts of Plymouth. I suppose that it all stems from the mind of the Reverend Allen Hay, Vicar of the Mother Church of St. Giles, South Mymms, who incidentally, was Vicar from 1898 to 1954.
Potters Bar was expanding rapidly in the 1930’s and another Church was urgently required in the new Estates being built in his parish. He therefore enlisted the help of the Reverend Trevor Basil Woodd, a fellow member of the Royal Martyr Church Union, and it was proposed at the A.G.M. of that organisation that it would further the cause of the R.M.C.U. , which had been founded in 1906 for the purpose of honouring the name of Charles I, and to restore it to its proper place in the Anglican Calendar, if a new Church was built and dedicated in his name. The resolution was passed and a Fund started to raise the necessary money.
There are six other churches dedicated to King Charles the Martyr:
- In 1641 Charles I agreed to the division of the parish of Plymouth and ordered that the new church should be called Charles’ Church. This was the outcome of quarrels between the Vicar, appointed by the Puritan Corporation and the Lecturer, appointed by the King. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Seth-Ward of Exeter in 1663. In 1941 Charles, Church was destroyed by enemy action and in 1964 the parishes of Charles with St. Luke and of St. Matthias were united. When Charles’ Church was destroyed, the vestry remained intact so all the old registers and documents were preserved.
- Charles II when driven out of England at the end of the Civil war left Falmouth. On his Restoration, he ordered a church to be built in memory of his father, and in 1665 King Charles the Martyr Church was consecrated by Bishop Seth-Ward of Exeter.
- Newtown-in-Wem Shropshire. The Church of Charles King and Martyr was consecrated in 1656.
- Peak Forest, Derbyshire. In 1657 the Royalist Duchess of Devonshire built King Charles Church for the use of the Royal Foresters and in defiance of Parliament. The Church was restored in 1964.
- Tunbridge Wells. In 1678 a chapel dedicated to Charles, King and Martyr was built when Tunbridge Wells had become a fashionable “watering place” where Charles II’s men drank the healing waters of the wells. Among the subscribers were John Evelyn, the diarist and Samuel Pepys, who subscribed £1.1s.6d
- Shelland, near Stowmarket, Suffolk. In 1760 the Church of King Charles the Martyr was rebuilt. No one knows why the church existed unless it had been built by a Royalist family who lived at some long-vanished manor house nearby. In the church is the only “chyme barrel organ” still in use today. This is operated by a handle and there are three drums each playing twelve hymn tunes. This remote little church is well worth a visit.
Interestingly, in the U.S.A. and Canada there are some 120 parishes bearing King Charles’ name. At first sight this may sound strange in a Republic but, of course, Charles I was accepted as the King, the war of Independence not coming for some years later.
Before going into more detail about K.C.M. in Potters Bar, we ought to answer the original question about Charles being a martyr. Of course, he was not a martyr in the same sense as St. Stephen or St. Alban, for he did not give his life for his Christian Faith. Yet he did give his life for his beliefs. A Martyr is not necessarily a Saint. He is simply one, who of his own free choice lays down his life for a cause that he considers worthy. Charles understood that his Coronation, or more properly, his Anointing in that Service, had bestowed upon him an Authority and a Responsibility to care for the people of England. For such a task he had received the Grace of the Holy Spirit. It is akin to the Grace of Holy Orders received by Priests and Bishops at their Ordination or Consecration. It was no arrogance that led him to claim the Divine right of the King.
He had been called to the Office of a King and had accepted the responsibility of that requirement in both Church and Nation. Up to the last, he could have saved his life by agreeing to the abolition of the Episcopate in the Church. The Church of England would have lost its status as the Catholic Church of the nation and become Presbyterian or Independent. To return to K.C.M. in South Mymms, which is the official title, even though it is in Potters Bar. On Saturday 25th November 1939 at 3pm the Foundation Stone was blessed by the Bishop of Willesden and laid by The Reverend T. Basil Woodd, who is descended from Captain Basil Woodd, Gentleman-at-Arms to King Charles, and who was with him on the scaffold and who received his Garter Star (which is still a treasured possession of the Woodd family), just before his beheading. Incidentally, the High Altar Crucifix bears an emblem of the Garter, and there are several others in various parts of the Church.
The Site was generously given by Viscount Cranborne . The R.M.C.U. provided £5,300 and the Bishop of London’s Forty-five Churches Fund met the rest of the cost of the building, £3,700. (Total cost £9,000) The Church was designed by Messrs. Eden and Marchant and built in the style of a Jacobean Barn, with a roof coming down to within a few feet of the ground and making the windows like Dormer Windows. It is spacious, light and has a dignity which evokes an atmosphere of worship and reverence.
Gifts to the Church
Gifts for the Church came from many people, particularly the R.M.C.U. The High Altar Cross is unique, since it bears the date of the Martyrdom (1649) as well as the Garter symbol. That, and the Candlesticks were given by Mrs. Hamilton in memory of her husband.
The Lady Chapel Sanctuary Lamp was the gift of Fr.Hay and the Church of St. Giles. The St. John Chapel Lamp was given by Elizabeth Larcombe and her daughter in memory of Walter Fisher Larcombe. The stone Altar came from the Nursing Sisters of St. John the Divine, then in Hastings, when their old Chapel was demolished.
There is a silver Chalice set with amethysts together with a Paten, in memory of Sarah Hawkins which was given by Mr. and Mrs. Holden
A very fine Chalice and Paten, inscribed “in memory of a Sister” in which a diamond ring is set in the stem of the Chalice, is quite unusual. The matching Ciborium was the gift of the Revd. F. G. Etherington, the first Missioner here. The bell was given by the Reverend Basil Woodd and came from St. Saviour’s, Maple Street, London. He also discovered the Jacobean Pulpit which was being used as the panelling around the fireplace of a Victorian Farmhouse. He bought it and had it restored, as far as was possible, to its proper use. The Church also possesses a Silver-Gilt Chalice which was on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum but is now on display in the treasury display in St Albans Cathedral. It is unique and therefore priceless. It has embossed figures of the Saints on the bowl of the Chalice and marvellous engravings on the foot. The V&A tell us that it was made in Paris about 1860 by F. Pousseliegne Rusand, but no-one knows the donor.
Miss Nora Hipgrave remembers its arrival. ‘It was during the incumbency of Revd. Joscelyn Fellowes-Brown (1947-53). One weekday, Mrs Violet Sheen and I attended the early morning Eucharist. After the service the vicar came back into the church carrying the chalice, and said “Look at this: it came by post yesterday,” He said it was poorly wrapped in brown paper and was addressed to King Charles the Martyr Church London. It came from America and inside was a slip of paper with the words:- “This will probably be of more use to you than it is to me.”That was all – no name or address and no explanation.’
The Font is much older than the Church. It bears the inscription “The offering of Ellen Clifford, Beatrice Elizabeth Henrietta and Rose Alice Schneider,
The Banner of King Charles was made by the Royal Schools of Needlework for an exhibition and when the late Queen Mary saw it, she said that it ought to be in one of the King Charles Churches and so it came to us. It is unique, as is also the Statue of Charles by the St. John Chapel.
The Tapestry picture on the South wall of Charles taking farewell of his children, was probably given by Colonel Stuart Houston. A fine display case (given by Mr. D. J. Beale in memory of his wife Irene) houses some of the books bequeathed to the church by the Reverend Basil Trevor Woodd, and from Major Stuart Houston who was secretary to the Royal Martyr Church Union. The books include “Eikon Basilike”, King Charles’ own book of prayers and meditations; the “Book of Common Prayer” of 1669, “Memories of the Last Years of King Charles” by Sir Thomas Herbert, Major Huntington, Colonel Edward Coke and Mr. Henry Firebrace. These gentlemen were in attendance on King Charles and were his close friends. The accounts make very interesting reading and all emphasise his courtly manners and his dignity and calm in distressing circumstances
Other books include “The Works of that Great Monarch and Glorious Martyr, King Charles”, published in 1776. “Memorials of English Affairs”, 1682. Three volumes of John Fox’s “Acts and Monuments of Martyrs” written in 1641 and listing all martyrs from the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus to those killed during the reign of Mary I. These books contain vivid and horrifying illustrations of various forms of torture inflicted on martyrs. Another case was made by Mr. Appleton (who will be familiar to many of the pupils at Wroxham school in the 1980’s and 90’s). This contains the Chantry Book wherein are the names of those who have worshipped in the church or been closely connected with the parish. These are remembered each week on the anniversary of their deaths. The Chantry Book was lettered and decorated by Miss Barker. (3) A “modern” Chalice with a tubular stem and conical cup was made by David Jarman (Scoutmaster) who was killed in a road accident in France on the way to a scout camp in 1972.
The organ came from the bombed Church of St. Faiths, Stepney and was rebuilt in 1985
Stained glass panel
The stained glass panel depicting Christ In Glory in the east window was given in 1956 by Captain Allan Clarke.
More recent history
Based on research by Gareth Randall
The church of King Charles was initially part of the diocese of London. In the reorganisation of local boundaries in 1965 , Potters Bar became part of Hertfordshire. In June 1980, after some deliberation, the church became part of the diocese of St. Albans – a more logical arrangement. The position of the altar reflects some of the theological controversy of the past. Initially, it was against the East wall and, being an Anglo- Catholic foundation, mass was celebrated with the priest’s back to the congregation. After Vatican 2, the pressure was on to bring the altar forward and to celebrate facing the congregation. This was done in Father Grainger’s time with the encouragement of Revd Paul Oestricher who, working at the time for the B.B.C. , used to assist with services. When the next priest was appointed (Father Hencken in 1968) the altar was firmly replaced to its former position before he was inducted. With the appointment of Revd Ray Williams, the first evangelical vicar of the parish, the altar was once again brought forward. The middle class housing of the 1930s has been added to by the building of a 1950s council estate. In the 1980’s, to reach the present unchurched inhabitants of the parish, it was decided that a bridge needed to be established between them and the normal Rite A Eucharist (ASB) which was the main Sunday service. This was initially tackled in two ways. Firstly, on the first Sunday of each month, a simplified Rite A was introduced called the Open Door Service since its aim was to open the door to Christianity for people who were not used to Anglican Liturgy. The other way was to have an evening service with the emphasis on informality: songs accompanied by guitars, drums and keyboard, a time for open prayer, words of knowledge, and a prayer and healing ministry led by a pastoral team.
In January 1989, a weekly service of an informal nature called Morning Worship was established in the Small Church Hall. It was to start at 10.30a.m. and was geared to finish at 11.15a.m., approximately the same time as the Eucharist which started at 10.00a.m.. Both congregations then had the opportunity to meet over a cup of tea or coffee in the Large Hall. This proved to be a major growth area and the numbers attending soon outgrew the Small Hall. Eventually, it was thought a good idea to move the service into the church itself (January, 1990). This involved bringing the regular Eucharist forward to 9.15a.m. and the Morning Service back to 11.00a.m. Tea and Coffee was provided but at 10.30a.m. between services. To help link the congregations, the Open Door Service took place once a month on the First Sunday at 10.00a.m. instead of the other two. This practice stoped in the 1990’s, and our present worship pattern continued, complemented by regular weekday worship. Besides actual services in the church, a number of fellowship groups were been established to meet during the week on a fortnightly basis for bible study, prayer and fellowship. These groups provided a way of nurturing people’s growth as Christians and to provide practical help and support. By 1999 the second church hall was becoming expensive to maintain as it was nearing the end of its life. After deliberation it was decided to build a new community hall. The new halls complex was opened in 2003 and has provided a thriving hub for the local community.
Missioners in the Conventional District
- Francis G.M. Etherington 1937- 39
- John James Frank Scammel A.K.C. 1939- 47
- Eldred Joscelyn Fellows-Brown M.A. 1947- 53
- Henry Albert Whittingham B.A. 1953- 60
- Walter Noel Chatterton Grainger 1960- 67
- Alfred David Hencken A.K.C. 1968- 80
- Raymond Howel Williams M.A1981- 95
- Diana Mary Williams B.Sc 1995- 98
- Michael John Burns A.K.C. 2000-2017
- Atalie Clodia Gaines 2017-
- Mike Aston
- Gareth Randall
- Nora Hipgrave’s KCM Golden Jubilee Book
My thanks to Michael Burns and Jean and Robert Burt for their help in preparing this updated history. John Rowley July 2001 Updated Feb 2002