History of St. Paul's

The History of St. Paul's

St. Paul's Roundshaw in 1981

Christians of all denominations started to worship together as soon as the Roundshaw estate was built in 1967. First known as the Roundshaw Experiment, it subsequently became the Roundshaw United Church before receiving the present name when a purpose-designed church was built and dedicated on October 3rd 1981. It served the Local Ecumenical Project for 20 years but then had to make way for redevelopment.

The Roundshaw Estate lies at the eastern edge of Sutton, almost in Croydon. A 1960s development, it was built on what was once part of Croydon Aerodrome, famous in the second world war and as the first international airport in the world. Its soulless blocks of flats have recently made way to more "human scale" development.

The Church of St Paul's has a fairly unique history. In the mid-60s, two ministers moved on to the estate: Derek Jones (Anglican) and Keith Spence (URC). Their brief was to establish a community church. Their first services were held in people's homes - baptism at home was particularly popular. As numbers grew, Sunday services moved to the Community Centre. After a couple of years, some of the Centre users objected to the loss of bar opening time, so the church moved to the Senior Citizens Club. There they were welcomed and settled - although the ban on using candles, "because of the fire hazard", irked some of the congregation.

Eventually the time was right to build a church. Most of the money came from the Church of England but some came from other churches. It was built by Wickens & Son Ltd. to the design of Pickford & Rose (Chartered Architects) and on 3rd October 1981 the Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Michael Marshall, opened St Paul's Church. All the different denominations took part and as a sign of its ecumenical ethos, the preacher was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark, Charles Henderson.

Drawing of old St. Paul's

The building did not immediately shout "church". It was a squat brick building with its only distinguishing feature a tower with a cross made from propeller blades - a reminder of the area's previous role. This drawing of the first St. Paul's, Roundshaw, Wallington is by R. Warner, son of Melita Warner, aunt of V. Howes, wife of Revd. D. Howes, first vicar of the church (October 1981).

At the end of the LEP, St. Paul's had fallen into disrepair. To make way for a new shopping parade, the church was knocked down in December 2001 and rebuilt, just 10 feet or so from its earlier 'footprint'. The new building, designed by architects KC White of Chelmsford, is even more versatile than the old - it can be used for many community activities as well as worship. It was officially opened by Bishop Tom Butler on Saturday 25th January 2003. Reverend John Gould, without whom the rebuilding project might never have succeeded, retired soon afterwards and the church was reunited with St. Michael and All Angels under Rev. Patrick Grant to create the Parish of South Beddington and Roundshaw.

East End of the new St. Paul's showing propeller cross

East end of the new building, showing the famous propeller cross.

Grateful acknowledgement: much of the information in this article was taken from a Parish Profile published in The Bridge by the Diocese of Southwark in 1998. Other sources include the Harrow Times, the United Reformed Church and the Diocesan Lost Churches listing.