We are grateful to the Revd Canon L. J. Buffee, a former Minister in Parkeston, for
compiling this history in 1974
When I began to trace the history of the Church of England in Parkeston, so much
information became available that I realised it was to be a much bigger task than
I first imagined. There are still gaps, but I am confident that having put forward
this modest account, I may stimulate interest and remembrance, so that these gaps
may begin to close.
Many local people have helped in various ways. Luckily a great deal of printed and
written material still exists, and several people have been kind enough to lend it.
Mr. J. Howson of Valence Library, Dagenham, and Mr. R. A. Beasley, of Barking Library
have helped me by finding and copying sources. The British Library, The British Museum,
Ordnance Survey, The Essex Record Office and many other non-residents have taken
an interest and provided information, all of which has gone to produce this little
I hope that this will be the first of a series. So much of interest is available,
but cannot be produced in one booklet. Even though I have been engaged on this work
for some eighteen months, this still has not proved long enough to check some information
beyond all doubt. The checking still continues, so that should I have to modify some
information later on, I trust my readers will not be too unkind.
L. J. BUFFEE
I would like to dedicate this little book to the memory of all who over the years
have lived, worked or been stationed in Parkeston; to all who halve sailed from,
or arrived in her; and especially to all who have tried to serve God and teach his
commands and share his love in this place.
L. J. B.
I wish to acknowledge that the background information came from Philip Morant's History,
published in 1727; the Victoria History of Essex; Ramsey, a duplicated booklet by
J. W. Jones, of Skegby, Notts.; the Great Eastern Railway Magazine for 1912 & 1914
and various copies of the Ramsey and Parkeston Church Magazines since 1890. I have
also produced the pictures from life or from or from old photographs taken from glass
negatives originally taken by the late Mr. S. Greenfield or from some taken by the
Revd E. Pyemont and reproduced in the GER Magazine 1912. Maps are my own by my indebtedness
to old Ordnance Survey Maps for inspiration (and from the actual topography of the
area) will be obvious to the discerning eye.
Where does one start?
Parkeston was opened for shipping in March 1883. Work on the construction of the
Great Eastern Railway Quay began in 1879. Much of this was in the river Stour! Yes,
the quay was built out into the river itself.
That gives me the cue. Let's start with the Stour. Our village and quay are at a
spot where anciently a fairly fast flowing smaller river joined the Stour. Called
by the Saxons Witelebroc (White-ly (flowing) brook) it rises in the hills near Great
Oakley. Today's Dovercourt Bay was the main mouth, but, at least at very high tides
- for this river was also tidal - a secondary mouth flowed into the Stour to the
west of the other. The effect was to turn a small peninsula (a Ray) into an island.
Just at what point in history people began to use this island is not yet known. The
Saxons who lived at Witelebroc Manor probably had a few buildings there and one would
think that in later quieter times some part of the settlement would be a dwelling.
Witelebroc Manor seems to have been close to East New Hall along the old road to
Ramsey, but the lands stretched from the Ray to Wrabness parish boundary. With Ramsey
Manor and Michaelstowe it was numbered a Manor in Doomsday Book (1085) as having
been Aluric’s in 1063. Aluric the Saxon was a considerable landowner with properties
in Essex and Suffolk. At the Conquest (1066) the Ray was part of the lands given
to Ralph Banyard, a Norman. Dovercourt was taken from Ulwin the Saxon end given to
Aubrey (Alberic) de Vere. Somewhere about 1140 Ralph’s grandson was involved in a
conspiracy against Henry I and so it was taken from him. It was given by the recipient,
Robert Fitz-Richard, to his niece, Adeliza, (as a wedding present?) who married Aubrey
de Vere's son, also Aubrey, 1st Earl of Oxford. By this time it was the Manor of
the Ray, or Le Rey.
The later history of this property is complicated, but it appears that there existed
a Chapel at the Ray for some time in the mediaeval period. It was probably suppressed
about 1381. It was dedicated to Saint Peter.
All the maps I have been able to see or collect show that the Ray has for centuries
been a peninsula, but an island at high tides. There was a causeway in living memory
built on an embankment, yet folk-memory calls it Ray Island. Early in the 16th Century
the properties in this part of Ramsey parish came into the ownership of the Garland
family. Lewis Peake Garland - no doubt with Dutch help or influence had sea walls
built around the Ray putting some 1500 acres on to his property and considerably
improving the local conditions. One result of this work was to control flooding of
the main road from London and Colchester to Harwich.
About an hundred years later his descendent, Edgar Walter Garland, Esquire, was the
owner when the Eastern Union Rail way, later GER, built the line from Manningtree
to Harwich across the southern part of Ray island to Dovercourt. This line opened
in 1854 had originally been proposed as the main line from Colchester when first
prepared in the 1830s. It caused big changes in the topography, for the old dock
north of All Saint's Church, Dovercourt, was moved to a new site eastwards. The original
centre of the river (Ramsey Creek was its name then) formerly Witelebroc was blocked
and a new channel dug, providing for a new Dovercourt Dock. The blocking was caused
by the building of an embankment for the Railway. A further sea wall was built west
of the Dock, running northwestwards to join the earlier wall, at right angles. The
present A604 is built in part over this wall using it as its foundations. Delf pond
was finally split in two when this road was built. This pond was ancient and existed
after the seawalls were built in the 18th Century. (Was Delf the Dutch engineer who
built them ?)
Some twenty years later the board of GER decided to build their own docks. Negotiations
for land with Mr. Garland resulted in 50 acres being sold to the Railway Board for
this purpose. This land was outside the Borough of Harwich in the parish of Ramsey.
Part of the work included the provision of a village for those who would work at
the new docks. No provision was made for the spiritual side of the villager's life.
The vicar of Ramsey was a sick man. He died at the end of 1884 and was succeeded
in 1885 by the Reverend Reginald Cram. By 1887 enough money had been raised for a
Mission Church (£250) but there was no land - and none forthcoming. Eventually GER
agreed to the lending of a site at a nominal rent, This was why in 1973 the British
Rail Board was able to resume this property and the old Church (since 1914 used as
a hall) was demolished. Mr. Garland besides being the Landowner was Lay Rector of
Ramsey and had a great deal of power on all counts. No one could get far without
his help on all sides …
He and Cram quarrelled and continued their arguments publicly in the local newspapers.
In 1890 Mr. Cram left – he was considered High Church - he wore a surplice in the
pulpit and turned east for the Creed! Such Romish excesses! But if Mr. Garland disliked
Mr. Cram, I am sure he would often have wished to have him back over the next ten
years. The new vicar of Ramsey, Rev William Hugh Wood, was a Canadian with a great
affection for Parkeston. The only thing in his favour as far as Mr. Garland was concerned
was that he was an Evangelical.
He found a young man who was due to be ordained in the following February to come
and live at 24 Tyler Street at the end of 1890, and he stayed as an assistant curate
for two years. He was George Leafe, and he was the first Anglican clergyman to live
It looked like a good sign and Mr. Wood prepared a scheme to raise £15,000 to build
a Church, to build a vicarage and to endow a vicar. It is obvious from the writings
and the arguments that Wood expected Garland to provide the land and a good deal
of the money. After all he had got an excellent price for the marsh lands he had
sold to the Railway. Many years later Garland was to tell Wood publicly that he had
given most of the money away to Charities which he considered far more in need than
the villagers of Parkeston’s need for a Church and priest. He did agree to provide
land. When he did specify which, it was seen to be not immediately suitable to use
and he withdrew the offer.
When land for a permanent Church was ultimately obtained it was because of the Chairman
and shareholders of the Great Eastern Railway.
Wood tried everything to try to build what he called The Church of the Holy Memories.
This was to be provided by small and great gifts given in thanksgiving for God's
blessings to the donors. Each section, in size according to the size of the gift,
was to be clearly marked with wording provided by the giver. Can you imagine the
result had the idea been carried through? Some £850 was raised in this way.
Land was sold to Wood by Garland and he began to make bricks. Garland was opposed
to a brick Church and to the site acquired. He knew he held all the cards. Ultimately
he wore Wood down, and the latter went to the Bishop of St Alban's (the Diocesan)
with another scheme (the third).
After Leafe had left for a parish in Surrey, no successor could be found. Wood found
a retired vicar from the west country to move into the vicarage as his assistant
and moved into rooms over the Post Office in Parkeston. He seems to have been a missioner.
A second scheme was evolved and put to the Bishop. This was that Wood should resign
from Ramsey and be licensed as Mission Curate of Parkeston. The bishop accepted this
but the new vicar, the Reverend William Hurst did not think it could be done to exclude
Parkeston from his jurisdiction. This was 1895. Wood finally went in 1899. For the
third scheme put to the Bishop was to pay a man to act as a locum at Parkeston serving
as Hurst’s Curate, while Wood did deputation work to raise his £15,000. Garland approved
- it would give him a respite from Wood – but Hurst and the Bishop did not. Another
public row blew up. But Wood offered his resignation and went to Luton. (The money
seems to have gone with him.)
No doubt the Boer war took a lot of the fire out of things and the dust settled.
However, Hurst was not over popular. He too was High Church. He started a Morning
Holy Communion service once a month, whereas in the past it had followed Evensong
on one Sunday a month, and to cap that he sang the versicles and the people the responses.
Nothing vital was done until at the Easter meeting of Ramsey parish in 1901, Mr.
Walter Greenfield was elected Church Warden. One of the first to move into Parkeston
when the houses were built, Mr. Greenfield had served on the committee which built
the first Church in 1887. From then on it was a long haul through to October 31st
1914, when St Paul’s Church was dedicated by the first Bishop of Chelmsford.
A new era had begun.
It was decided to drop the “Wood” scheme, to recover the money and to consider the
future. Mr. Garland died and his heir did not find himself able to give money and
land, although he did give small gifts towards payment of a parson's salary. It took
awhile for the Bishop of Colchester to find the right man but on 4th January 1904
the Reverend James A. Telford was licensed. In the years he was in Parkeston an effort
was made to lay really solid foundations for a local Christian community and he did
in fact succeed in his aim. His successor, the Reverend Edgar Pyemont continued this
work and was able to see that it went on afterwards for he became Vicar of Ramsey.
Telford had gone to Harwich in 1908. During these first years many gifts were made
to St Gabriel’s (as the Mission Church was called). A cross and candles for the altar,
communion vessels, a processional cross, and in 1912 a pipe organ.
The one manual organ was given in memory' of the passengers and crew of the SS Berlin,
a GER ferry which had been wrecked within sight of the Hook of Holland in 1907. Today
this organ enlarged and modernised is the organ used at St Paul’s.
Mr. Greenfield worked steadily on. It had not been easy to do his part in finding
the money to help pay the priest. Most of the money raised by Mr. Wood was recovered
and repaid to the donors, but some was not located until 1912. Through his efforts
to interest the Chairmen of the GER, Lord Claud Hamilton, Mr. Greenfield persuaded
him to be chairman of a group of people dedicated to building a permanent Church.
There were more set-backs, including a serious illness of the Chairman, and a re-drawing
of plans for a smaller Church than was first intended, but finally, on Saturday,
May 2nd 1914, the foundation stone was laid at the west end of the site. The work
was due to be completed in August, but by the 31st October 1914, the day it was actually
dedicated, the world and Parkeston had completely changed. Soldiers were stationed
on the site of Ray Manor and St Peter's Chapel and the Royal Navy was taking control
of the Quay.
The first couple to be married in the Church were a sailor and his fiancée from London.
They had already arranged to be married when war broke out so the bride came to St
Paul’s her husband’s Church as a sailor stationed here! They paid a visit to us a
little while ago.
The most famous person who had lived in Parkeston was a hero of this world war. Captain
Fryatt had sailed regularly from the Quay until the war. The full story of the SS
Brussels is told in other places, but a little must be said here. He was called on
by an enemy ship to stop while sailing to Tilbury. He had earlier watched a ship
that had been stopped mown with machine-gun fire, and he sailed on. The enemy was
out to get him, and finally the ship was arrested and taken into port. The Captain
was tried at Bruges accused of unlawfully resisting attack, since he was a civilian.
Having no combatant status he had no right to resist. He was condemned to death,
and shot within the hour, on 26th July 1916. This was the second time in a year that
the nation was angered and full of sorrow, for Nurse Cavell too had been shot recently.
On July 8th 1919 his body was brought ashore in state at Dover and carried to London.
A procession through the streets led to a Memorial Service at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Then the cortege left for Liverpool Street Station and Dovercourt Bay. After a procession
through Dovercourt, where the family now lived, he was interred in the Churchyard
at All Saint’s. A Memorial was erected and stood overlooking the Quay from which
he had so often sailed. The local hospital is in memory of him and we at Parkeston
are at present working on our own suitable memorial, since his family still has strong
connections here. He was given full military honours. Posthumously, the highest Belgian
Award was presented.
A list of dates at the end of this booklet tells of the main special events that
are recorded in the archives. Before the end of the Great War, Lord Claud Hamilton
was approached to see if the Railway Board would consider selling the land adjoining
the Church so that a Parsonage could be built. The answer was no, and it was not
until 1947 that the successors of that Board offered the Church the chance to buy
it. The land was acquired, but building was still not allowed for that sort of thing
at that time, so it was not until 1961 that the present Parsonage was completed.
As early as 1927, the PCC had asked the Railway Board if they could buy the site
of the old Church of St Gabriel, and since St Paul’s dedication had been the Church
Hall. Again the answer was in the negative.
St Paul’s was dedicated as a Mission Church and permission to solemnise Marriages
granted under an act of William IV. When the question of a permanent parsonage was
under discussion in the late forties and fifties, the Church Commissioners were approached
to make the area a Parish in its own right. The reason given for refusal was that
the population (resident) was not large enough. So it was created a Conventional
District and its priest designated a MINISTER.
During the 1939-45 War, the Church Hall was a canteen for the forces stationed here
and run by local Church members under the Flying Angel Flag of the Missions to Seamen.
Also for some years a small Chapel and hall stood on the Quay for meetings and services
concerned with those at sea.
A plaque in Delft tiles records gratitude of the Dutch for the hospitality of the
British peoples during that war and hangs in the Seamen’s Chapel on the south side
of St Paul’s.
Sixty Years Ago
St Paul’s Church was erected by Messrs Fisher & Woods of Dovercourt, from the design
of Mr. E. Douglas Hoyland, architect, of John Street, Adelphi, London, W.C., and
measures 85ft by 40ft. It is constructed in terra cotta work on brindle bricks with
steel stanchions in each buttress to carry the roof, which is covered in Essex Roman
tiles. The land had been granted to the Church by the Great Eastern Railway Board
The Foundation Stone can be clearly seen under the west window both from the outside
and the inside of the building. On May 2nd 1914 the chief guests were given luncheon
at the Station at which the Chair was taken by Lord Claud Hamilton. These guests
included Sir Arthur Lawson, Mr. Wm Johnson Galloway, (Directors), Mr H. W. Thornton
(General Manager), The Bishop of Chelmsford, The Bishop of Colchester, The Mayor
of Harwich, Colonel Ward (Town Clerk), Mr. O. Busk (Continental Traffic Manager),
Mr. T. Chew (Assistant Solicitor), Mr. S. A. Parnwell (Land Agent), Mr. H. C. Amendt,
Commander Coysh and several local clergy.
Lord Claud welcomed the Bishop of Chelmsford. The Diocese had only been created that
year out of part of the St Alban’s Diocese. This was the first bishop’s first visit
to this part of the diocese. The bishop replied. Among other remarks he spoke of
his association with railway man in his work at Bow and Bethnal Green.
Everyone went then to St Gabriel’s Church in Hamilton Street and a procession was
formed, headed by the cross-bearer Hubert Warren. The Choir and clergy were followed
by the bishops and the other guests and congregation. Flags and bunting were flying
and onlookers lined the roads as they walked along Coller Road and Makins Road and
into the grounds. The cement laid, Lord Claud lowered the Stone into place with the
words, “In the faith of Jesus Christ we place this stone in the Name of God the Father,
God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost'”. He then the congregation. The Bishop of Chelmsford
preached and asked the people to try to finish raising the money - £300 – needed
to complete the work before the church was opened.
After the Service Lord Claud invited everyone to the First Class waiting room at
the station, to meet the new Bishop.
The Service of Dedication took place on Saturday, October 31st 1914. The Bishop of
Chelmsford dedicated it by blessings at font, lectern, pulpit, chancel and Holy Table.
He preached on the text St Matthew 16 v. 18 “Upon this rock I will build my Church”.
The choir sang Gounod’s Send out thy Light and the National Anthem was sung at the
end, since war had come between the Stone-laying and the Dedication. £180 was still
outstanding on the Building Fund.
The Bishop of Colchester thanked Lord Claud Hamilton for all his work put in on the
Church's behalf and the latter responded.
The principal people attending on this occasion were:-
the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Bishop of Colchester, the Vicar (Rev E. C. H. Pyemont),
the priest in charge (Rev Gilbert Salisbury), Rev T. Grey Collier, Rural Dean, Rev
C. M. Rae, Dovercourt; Rev J. A. Telford, Harwich, Rev G. A. Graham, Harwich, Rev
Wantner, Little Oakley; Rev A. D. Cope, Little Bromley; Rev W. Horne, Rural Dean,
Felixstowe; Lord Claud Hamilton M. P., Mr. H. W. Thornton, General Manager, GER;
Colonel Elliston, CB, Felixstowe; Rt Hon James Round PC, Mr W. W. Hewitt of Lower
Park, Dedham, Mr C. Busk, Mr S. A. Parnwell, and Commander Coysh, RNR.
The Anniversary of the laying of the Foundation Stone was kept on Thursday, May 2nd.
Since the Hall had been demolished it was not possible to retrace the steps of the
1914 procession, but the Choir, again led by the Processional Cross, carried this
time by David Greenfield, the great grandson of Mr Walter Greenfield, led the congregation
to the west end of the Church where the Minister read an account of the original
ceremony. Some of those who were present in 1914 were able to be present, including
one of the Choirboys of 1914, Mr H. Button.
At the Anniversary of the Dedication we hope to welcome the present Bishop of Chelmsford
and during the week after, the Bishop of Colchester and the Archdeacon, successors
of those who came before.
The local Church community is looking at its role in 1974. we believe we have to
try to continue the ministry to rail workers and sailors, passengers and visitors
as well as to those who live in the village. There is much scope and opportunity.
We are somewhat limited in what we can do for we are lacking as yet in some amenities.
In such an important port as Parkeston, there ought to be a real welcome for those
arriving and leaving. It means that a great deal more will have to be done by voluntary
workers such as Church members. Many Christians are already in places of importance
within the port.
So the history of Parkeston Church goes on. By no means all of it is told here. You
have just had a few glimpses of what has happened over the years. We hope to bring
you more and give details of what we have said here sometime later on.
List Of Clergy
GEORGE LEAFE assistant to the Vicar of Ramsey 1891-3
WILLIAM HUGH WOOD (Vicar of Ramsey) 1893-4 resigned to become Mission Curate of
JAMES ALDERSON TELFORD 1904-1908
EDGAR G. H. PYEMONT, 1908-1913
GIBSON SALISBURY, 1913-1918
ALEX. S. K. RYAN, 1918-1923
ARNOLD O. PALMER, 1923-1927
WILLIAM C. HARLING 1927-1934
WILLIAM D. TARLING, 1934-1937
E. JOHN G. BARNETT, 1937-1942
ALBAN RABSON, 1942-1947
THOMAS HARTLEY, 1947-1950
KENNETH E. C. WILLIAMS, 1950-1957
MINISTERS OF THE CONVENTIONAL DISTRICT
KENNETH E. C. WILLIAMS, 1957
ALLAN DAVIS, 1959-1967
HUGO WALLACE, 1967-1969
EDWARD T. STEVART, 1969-1972
LESLIE J. BUFFEE, 1972-1983
TEAM VICARS IN THE PARISH OF DOVERCOURT AND PARKESTON
LESLIE J. BUFFEE, 1983-1989
ROBIN M. C. PAXON, 1990-1995
March 18, 1912 ‘Opening ‘of the organ
March 20, 1915 Re-opening of the organ at St Paul's
Jan 5th, 1922 Re-opening of the organ
May 9th, 1923 3pm Lych-Gate (War Memorial) opened
May 30th, 1923 Dedication and unveiling of the Reredos
Jan 3rd 1935 Railwayman’s Service also Jan 19 1936, Jan 17 1937
Oct 13th 1950 Presentation and Unveiling of the Dutch Plaque
21 Nov. 1959 Royal School of Church Music Festival (Deanery)
18 Nov. 1961 Benediction of new Parsonage
2nd May 1964 Dedication of Sanctuary Gifts
1st Nov 1964 GOLDEN JUBILEE
30th Mar 1966 Rededication of the organ
Most of this is compiled from old magazines by our present organist, Miss I. May.
The original instrument was given anonymously by three shareholders of the Great
Eastern Railway Company and dedicated at a special service on Monday, March 18th
1912. It was built by Mr F. Halliday of Holloway, N. London. There were six stops
and one manual. After the dedication a recital was given by Mr G. E. Mott, of London.
Given as a memorial to the SS Berlin, it recalls the loss off The Hook of this ship
with all but a small number of passengers and crew when within sight of land in 1907,
she was flung against a breakwater and broke her back. The Captain, Captain Precious,
was a local man as, of course, were many crew members.
CHURCH NEWS March 1915
We look forward to the re-opening of our organ during this month of March, of which
full notice will be given as soon as the date is known. It will be found to be considerably
enlarged with two rows of keys, a complete set of pedals and three new stops. The
work is in the hands of Messrs Cartwright & Son, of London, and Mr Mott has promised
to give a recital.
THE ORGAN:- The re-opening Service took place on the Eve of the Epiphany. Mr G. E.
Mott of the Royal Academy of Music, London, gave an organ recital which was greatly
appreciated. Parkeston Church is to be congratulated on now having a valuable organ
which could not be replaced (at the lowest estimate) for less than £1,000. We owe
a deep debt of gratitude to Mr Mott whose generous interest on our Church has enabled
us to possess such a valuable instrument.
Alex S. K. Ryan
I am indebted to Mr George G. Mott for the following notes about the organ:-
The organ was originally erected in the old iron Church by the late Mr F. Halliday
under the supervision of Mr G. Mott, both of London, and it was opened with a recital
by the latter in March 1912.
After the present Church was built the organ was moved into it in 1915, and considerably
enlarged, first by the addition of a second key-board, and then In 1921 by a full
set of pedals and several new stops. This work (under the direction of' Mr G. Mott)
was undertaken by the well-known organ builder, Mr Rest Cartwright, with the result
that all can hear for themselves in the sweet tone of the instrument. Recitals have
been given from time to time which have testified to the beauty and variety of its
The organists have included:-
Miss E. Quinney
Miss E. G. Howlett
Miss G. Chapman
Mr H. Blowers
We are happy that the organ is being restored and provided with an electric blowing
We hope that the organ will be heard and seen in a new beauty, and we are grateful
to our organ builder for his work, and to all our friends who have made this Restoration
The last overhaul of the organ was in February and March 1966 by Bishop and Son.
Note: Completely overhauled in 1960 by Robert Ince of Holt,in whose care it remains.