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A Brief History


by by
Rev. Donald Elliott Bernard Pike



Dewsbury Terrace (formerly Union Terrace) was just behind the church.  It had some of the poorest housing in London.  The houses were on four floors, basement and three others, sharing two taps and one lavatory.  As many as 44 people might live in one house, with ‘the little tots playing in the gutter’. Later, Iris Woods wrote: ‘We used to say that nothing short of dynamite could cure the abominable conditions of the Terrace…. In the event it was bombs that destroyed [it].’ Most of the children came to the Sunday School.

Bernard Pike cartoon, 1969 

In 1933, a pioneering modern Nursery School was opened on the initiative of the Frasers, with the idea of using the flat roof at the back of the premises as a playground. Until very recently, big hooks under the gallery recalled the swing that used to hang there for the Nursery School.  In 1935 it was reported that  

‘The School has continued to fulfil a pressing need in the neighbourhood. Each week brings new applications, some recommended by the Welfare Centres, others by mothers whose children attend the school who thus show their appreciation of benefits which they themselves receive. The waiting list has over 30 names on it….. The health of the children has maintained a high level….. The school will now come within the care of the Council 's medical services, having been recognised by the Board of Education and the London County Council…..

‘The past term has been the most eventful one since the school opened. During the past year doubts and fears for the future of the school have been gradually overcome. The lack of sufficient open-air space and lavatory accommodation for a school of the size necessary for official recognition and support, made an acutely difficult problem in this poor and crowded district, even if the large sum of money needed to effect the change could be raised. 

The Committee were most fortunate in gaining, through the Presbytery, the voluntary help of Mr. T. P. Figgis, F.R.I.B.A., and his skill and imagination in giving effect to the Inspector's suggestions, provided an architectural plan of which the authorities could approve. For the following six months until the alterations were completed in October last, Mr. Figgis gave close and enthusiastic attention to the work, for which the Committee cannot sufficiently express their thanks. Now, with a roof playground of 900 square feet, an open-air shelter, better windows and more wash-basins, the school premises are delightfully transformed.

‘The collection of the necessary £700 was made possible by the generosity of Lady Astor and many other friends. For their ready kindness and encouragement the Committee express to all these friends their warmest gratitude.‘During September the school met each morning and walked to Regents Park, where the children benefited from the freedom and fresh air. In the beginning of October they were able to use the altered premises, and the numbers quickly increased to the maximum.

‘On October 31st, Lady Astor, who had promised to open the new premises, was unable to do so owing to Parliamentary duties, and Miss Doris Lester, of Children's House, Bow, very kindly and ably performed the ceremony. There was a large gathering of friends presided over by the Mayor of St. Pancras.

 ‘The Committee are very conscious of their indebtedness to Miss Mary Taylor who has carried on voluntarily her skilled and exacting work of Superintendent for two years. Now, on account of the altered position of the School and the support of the Board and Council, the committee are relieved to be able to retain Miss Taylor as Superintendent and wish to thank her very deeply for all she has done for the school. The Superintendent has been supported throughout the year by a faithful group of voluntary workers, whose invaluable help is here most gratefully recorded. ‘A film of the Story and Work of the Nursery School has been kindly prepared by Mr. Leonard Day and can be shown in different places to all interested.’

This delightful and vivid short film is still available, now transferred to a video recording.

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Several valued friends of distinction and competence gave voluntary service for long periods. Miss Lillie Dodge (‘Dodget’), a member of the congregation, gave up her skilled craft as a West-end dressmaker and served as Church Sister with devotion and success for many years. Her death by a tragic geyser accident in 1941 was a fearful loss and sorrow to the congregation.

From a Minute of the Session of  Trinity Church, Kentish Town 

The congregation of Trinity is filled with sorrow at the sudden death of its beloved Church Sister, Miss LILLIE DODGE, on December 17th, 1938. For thirty years her life was bound up with this congregation. Passing from the Sunday School into full Church membership and finally into the Eldership (she was ordained as Elder in 1923) she served the Church as a voluntary worker until 1924; when she was called to prepare for the work of Church Sister. After a period of training at Carey Hall and at the Presbyterian Settlement in East London, she was inducted as Church Sister in October, 1925.

The Session desires to place on record its deep appreciation of her loyal service. As Convener of the Sunday School and Leader of the Junior Department, and later of the Eldermote, she did constructive work which will continue to bear fruit in years to come. Her patient care with young people, her love of little children, her unwearied service in the congregation as a whole and in the district, will long be remembered. Above all the influence of what she was - self-forgetful, humble, joyous - will be an abiding inspiration

 Members of the church had this to say about ‘Dodget’: 

She was a real friend to whom we could confide our innermost thoughts.She was the first friend I had in London. I looked upon her as someone to whom I could take all my little worries, and I was always sure of getting the help and encouragement that she knew so well how to live. I shall always remember her for the happiness she brought to me.’

‘She loved and understood little children so well that she never used a harsh word to them: she was too fine a teacher ever to have to resort to dictatorial methods.’ ‘Towards our thoughtless young people her love was of the sort that suffered long and was kind.’

‘Her work at the church was never a job, it was her life.’

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All told, from 1916 to the 1950s, the following served as

Church Sisters:

Lesley Griffiths, who later became Mayor of Woodbridge

Iris McCrae

Lillie Dodge

Agnes Sandeman

Miss Anderson

Margaret Pixie Mann

Photo of the congregation, probably 1935