St Mark Whitechapel (Goodman’s Fields) 1839-1925
also known as St Mark, Tenter Ground                                                curates  ~  baptism & wedding statistics


For the earlier history of Goodman's Fields see here. The 1755 map [left], from an edition of John Stow's Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, shows the area as the southern part of the parish of St Mary Matfelon, the original 'White Chapel' which gave the district its name. (That church was rebuilt several times, blitzed in the war and its site is now Altab Ali Park; much has been written about its history). By the mid-19th century houses had been built around the edge of Tenter Ground, as North, South, East and West Tenter Streets (a few of which remain) and it was bisected by what became Scarborough and St Mark's Streets. It had become a poor and populous district, and the decision was made to create a new parish. The 1868 map right, shows the location of the church; further south, the school hemmed in by the railway, and to the east, on Backchurch Lane, the mission chapel mentioned below.

The church was built in 1838 by the Metropolis Churches Fund, at a cost of £5,265 11s 1d to designs by Thomas Henry Wyatt and his collaborator David Brandon (their first London church) and consecrated on 30 May 1839. By Order in Council of 1 April 1841 a parish area was carved out of St Mary's parish, but the incumbent remained a 'Perpetual Curate' until 1863. The Dowager Queen Adelaide provided £25 towards the building of a Sunday and infant school. National Schools were established that year between Chamber Street and Royal Mint Street, where a parish hall was also built. A vicarage, in neo-Tudor style, was provided in St Mark's Street, near to the Jews' Orphan Asylum described here.

The 1851 census lists the population of the parish as 15,790, in 1,757 'households' - an average of 9.09% per household, the highest in East London, and with the highest percentage of Irish and foreign-born residents (primarily from Germany, Holland, Poland and Prussia). Those who were not in 'seasonal employment' worked in tailoring and dressmaking - especially women and Jewish men who were increasingly settling in the area. They worked from home, on a piecework basis, so needed to live near their suppliers. In 1858 the parish was described, at a committee of the House of Lords, as ‘utterly unmanageable’. 

Under a faculty of 23 September 1874 William Alexander Longmore of Aldgate removed the north and south galleries to throw open the roof, rebuilt the east wall six feet further east to allow a chancel to be formed, partially reseated the church and did various repairs; the Incorporated Church Building Society made a grant (see their plan 07698, drawn by another architect, G.H. Simmons). In 1879 the organ, a 17-stop 2 manual instrument by Gray and Davison, ordered in 1839 and installed in 1846, was moved from the west gallery and rebuilt in the old vestry at the north-east by T.R. Willis. (It was further rebuilt by Robert Slater & Son of Forest Gate in 1904 or 1906, with 20 speaking stops. The organist in the 1920s was Charles F. Willson. When the church closed, the organ was moved to St James Alperton, but was later replaced by another instrument). Two years later the interior was brightened by some wall paintings.The exterior is pictured right in the 1920s.

An 1863 Guide to the Church Services in London and its suburbs lists the pattern of worship (though it is probably incomplete) as:
Sundays 11am & 6.30pm; weekdays (except Saturday) and holy days 11am, plus Wednesdays at 1pm; HC first Sunday and greater festivals

Other institutions within the parish

For a few years In the 1850s the Working Tailors' Association had a small co-operative factory in Tenter Street, one of a dozen such experiments copying the French self-governing workshops (les associations ouveriers) launched by Christian Socialists under the leadership of J.M. Ludlow and largely financed by Edward Vansittart Neale. (F.D. Maurice, on whom see below, was the titular head of the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations but was curiously lukewarm about practical projects, perhaps fearing that they would become movements of protest rather than change.) Much has been written about this movement, and the reasons for the projects' failures.

By the end of the 19th century, there were various hostels and clubs in the parish, including


An intriguing mix of clergy served this church during its near-century of existence, some drawn by commitment to the urban poor, some to the possibilities of mission among those of other faiths, particularly the Jews who came to make up the majority of its population, several distinguished scholars and national figures, and a few who hit the headlines in other ways. After an initial 'protestant phase', most of them were broad church and liberal, though there were a few high-church ritualists. Here are details of the incumbents ('Perpetual Curates' until 1863, then Vicars); see here for the many curates.


The first incumbent, from 1839, was Neville Jones (formerly of the Episcopal Floating Church), of St Catharine's College Cambridge, ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1832. In his time the parish received a grant from the 'Metropolitan Society', whose full name was 'The Association for Promoting the Relief of Destitution in the Metropolis, and for Improving the Condition of the Poor, by means of Parochial and District Visiting, under the superintendence of the Bishop and Clergy, through the agency of Unpaid Visitors [later adding and without reference to religious persuasion]'. It was founded in 1845 and was one of a network of agencies which believed that charitable relief must be accompanied by a systematic programme of district visiting to address the social and moral causes of poverty. (It was also active at Trinity Episcopal Chapel.) Neville Jones wrote to them:

We held a meeting of influential inhabitants yesterday, and formed a committee of ten gentlemen, with hope of adding to their number. Sixteen other persons volunteered to act as visitors, and I doubt not, in a little while, considerably to increase the number, as we all were encouraged by your kind promise of pecuniary aid to relieve the vast amount of distress which naturally prevails in such localities as mine; and I now find that a want of means to relieve the misery to be encountered was the circumstance which kept many of my people from the work of district visiting, That objection will now be obviated by the assistance of your society.

In 1847 he swapped posts with John Lyons at St George Bolton (a curious iron-framed church). This pleased neither the congregation at Bolton nor Mr Jones - he had been assured that the benefice was worth over £330 a year, but he could only manage to scrape together £97. He wrote I am sorry to find, I have been so sadly misinformed by Mr. Lyons in this matter....all the affairs of St George's seem to be in a sad state of Confusion. Nevertheless, he remained there for 44 years, retiring after 58 years in ministry (when he was presented with a portrait and a purse of gold), having seen his populous parish divided by the creation of St James Little Bolton in 1862, and St Matthew Bolton in 1874 when he 'lost' 8,000 of his 20,000 parishioners. (St George's has long been redundant - for a time it was a craft centre - and the central Bolton parishes are now grouped together.) In 1859 he aroused the wrath of the legal profession by announcing, in the Bolton Chronicle, that despite the creation of the new Court of Probate he was still entitled to grant probate and letters of administration without recourse to solicitors!

John Lyons (1847-52), was born in Ireland in 1804 and ordained there. Briefly minister of Long Acre Chapel in London (where he was active in the Irish Society of London) and from 1833-38 of All Saints Chapel, Grosvenor Street in Liverpool (created from a former tennis court in 1798, licensed by the Bishop of Chester in 1832 - and sold to the Roman Catholics in 1845), he was involved in various Protestant associations, and debates with Roman Catholics, including this marathon six day session, harmoniously conducted, on 'The Rule of Faith' and 'The Sacrifice of the Mass' at Downside College, Bath in 1834 [title page right]. After his time in Bolton, and his exchange with Neville Jones, he became vicar of Tillingham in Essex (eliciting a pious ode on his departure - right - published in John Osborne A Poetic Miscellany 1866), then in 1859 of St Bartholomew Wednesbury, where there is a memorial marking his death in 1883.

A 'Rev J. Lyons' wrote this poem [left]  in The Ladies' Repository of 1849; if it was not him, it's worth including anyway as a pious response to new technology! [Compare the famous example of bathos by the Poet Laureate Alfred Austin, fifty years later on the illness of the Prince of Wales: Across the wires the electric message came: 'He is no better. He is much the same.']

Sunday services in 1851 were listed as at 11am and 6.30pm, and Wednesdays at 7pm, with the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday of the month:  Seats to be had at the School-house, Rosemary Lane, or after service, Wednesday evenings.

Then came John Llewellyn Davies (1852-56), born 1826, a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, who came to St Mark's after a year's unpaid curacy at St Anne Limehouse. He was a Broad Churchman and lifelong friend and disciple of F.D. Maurice (as were several of his successors), working with him on the establishment of the foundation of the Working Men's College in 1854. A frequent letter-writer to The Times and The Guardian  he corresponded with many leading liberal figures of the day - you can read some of their replies, edited by his son as A Victorian Postbag. This appeal [right] from The Evangelical Magazine vol 32 (154) shows his willingness to work ecumenically. (See here for his friend and unpaid curate Robert Hebert Quick.)

The first of his many scholarly publications was his joint translation with D.J. Vaughan [see below] of Plato's Republic (1852), followed by Saint Paul and Modern Thought, a response to Jowett's commentary (1856). In that year he became Rector of Christ Church Marylebone, remaining there until 1889. There were two collections of sermons -The Work of Christ, or the World reconciled to God, with a Preface on the Atonement Controversy (1860) and Sermons on the Manifestation of the Son of God, with a Preface addressed to Laymen on the present position of the Clergy of the Church of England, and an Appendix on the Testimony of Scripture and the Church as to the Possibility of Pardon in the Future State (1864). He wrote or co-wrote three of the Tracts for Priests and People, produced by a range of Broad Churchmen in the wake of Essays and Reviews (vol 1 1861, vol 2 1862). In 1866 came The Epistles of St. Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon, with an Introduction and Notes, and an Essay on the Traces of Foreign Elements in the Theology of these Epistles; and in the same year The Poor Law and Charity,  a paper published in Macmillan's Magazine which foreshadows the approach to welfare that was to characterise the work of the Charity Organisation Society. Other works included Morality according to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Three Discourses on the Names Eucharist, Sacrifice, and Communion (1867), The Church of England and the Church of Rome (1870),Theology & Morality (1873), and The Gospel and Modern Life, Sermons on some of the Difficulties of the Day, with a Preface on a recent Phase of Deism (1875). 

Leaving London with a 700-name testimonial to his influence, he became Vicar of Kirkby Lonsdale from 1889-1908 (where in 1891 he produced Baptism, Confirmation, and the Lord's Supper, as interpreted by their outward Signs, three Expository Addresses for Parochial use), retiring to Hampstead at the age of 82. He was a Chaplain to the Queen (and then the King) from 1876. An original member of the Alpine Club, he was one of the first to climb some of the Swiss peaks.  He was a strong advocate of women's rights, and his sister Emily was one of the founders of Girton College. He had one daughter and six sons; his son Arthur's five boys were the inspiration of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan He died in 1916, aged 90; here is his obituary in The Times.

David James Vaughan (1856-60) was Davies' exact contemporary (and joint Bell's Scholar) at Trinity, and in 1852 they produced together a translation with scholarly notes of Plato's Republic, the most widely-used version until eclipsed by that of Benjam Jowett, and still well-regarded. Influenced by Maurice, Ludlow and Campbell (who dedicated his Evidences to Vaughan) he had moved from Tractarianism to a liberal, broad church position which embraced the emerging Christian Socialism. He joined the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in 1853. At Rugby School and Cambridge he had become 'surrogate brother' to T.H. Green, the philosopher of social justice. He was the third of his High Tory father Edward Thomas Vaughan's six sons (there were also eight daughters) to succeed him as vicar of St Martin Leicester (now the Cathedral), following Charles John (1841-44, who became Headmaster of Harrow but left after a well-concealed sexual scandal, which also prevented him from becoming Bishop of Rochester - he became Master of the Temple and Dean of Llandaff) and Edward Thomas Jnr (1845-59). Apart from his time at St Mark's he spent the whole of his ministry in Leicester - turning down the living of Battersea although it was worth £1200 a year, as against his Leicester stipend of £140. The Vaughan porch to the cathedral's south door (designed by J.L. Pearson) was a memorial to the brothers, and especially to David's adult education work.

In The Health of Towns (1882) he advocated vaccination, better housing and fewer premature marriages. He was an assiduous visitor at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, despite the personal risks. In The Church and Socialism (1889) he raised the issue of poor employment prospects for men over 40: when brain and strength are at their best a man is liable to be regarded as past work. In 1894 he supported an international move to limit conscription to a single year, in the cause of peace. But he opposed non-sectarian teaching in Board Schools, as weakening morality. He is most remembered for founding - after Maurice's example - the Leicester Working Man's College, now Vaughan College (Leicester University's Adult Education Centre). He died in 1905.

Robert Edward Bartlett (1860-66 - Vicar from 1863) was a student first of Balliol then of Trinity College Oxford where he became Fellow and Tutor prior to his appointment here. (He had been President of the Oxford Union, and years later commented on a debate in which W.E. Gladstone, future Prime Minister, had spoken for a particular motion but then voted against it.) The family home was at Rainsford Lodge, in the centre of Chelmsford; while still a student, he was involved in the development of the Chelmer & Blackwall Navigation Company [see this 1852 deed, left]. Throughout his life he corresponded with leading figures of the liberal world - among them E.A. Freeman, a Trinity contemporary who became Regius Professor of Modern History - see examples here. Three children were born at the parsonage in Goodman's Fields - William, who became a priest, Frank who became a civil servant in Ceylon, and Grace (one of the first women to study at Oxford). See here for the evidence he gave in 1862 to the Select Committee on the Ecclesiastical Commission, on the funding of poor parishes.

He then became Vicar of Pershore, in Worcester diocese. See here for the text of the paper he gave at a Social Science Congress in 1869, arguing for non-denominational, undogmatic religious education in schools. The choice, he said, was between ignoring religion and ignoring religious difficulties. A really good secular system would be better than none at all, and it would at, least remove the great obstacle to all improvement - dense stupidity. In 1873 he became Vicar of Great Waltham, north of Chelmsford but then in Rochester diocese, where be became a council member of the Essex Field Club (incidentally, along with the Revd W.S. Lach-Szyrma from Barkingside, who had led a mission at Christ Church Watney Street).

Bartlett was the Bampton Lecturer in 1888: his eight philosophical lectures on St Paul were published as The Letter and the Spirit [right]. In 1893 he was one of ten contributors to a series of lecture-sermons Christus Imperator, on the 'Universal Empire of  Christianity', edited by Charles Stubbs, Dean-designate of Ely (Macmillan 1984), his topic being 'Christ in the Realm of Philosophy'. (Fellow-contributors included Llewelyn Davies [above] on 'Christ in the Realm of Ethics', Brooke Lambert [below] on 'Christ in the Realm of Science', Samuel Barnett - by then Warden of Toynbee Hall - on 'Christ in the Realm of Sociology' and Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust, on 'Christ in the Realm of Art'.) There were other publications, including an article on 'The Limits of Ritual in the Church of England' (Contemporary Review 1890), and chapters on 'The Holy Catholic Church' in ed. Henry Wace and F.W. Farrar Church and Faith (Blackwood 1899) and on 'The Relations of the Church of England with Modern Nonconformity' from the 1899 Christian Conference of the Church Congress (A & C Black 1900) - a body established in 1881 which included fellow-liberals such as Brooke Lambert and Harry Jones.

died aged 75 of 'cardiac exhaustion' in 1904 at Rainsford Lodge, which was sold in 1918 (and later became the site of Essex County Council staff car park until it was redeveloped for housing). Grace became a leading light of the Chelmsford Girls' Aid Society, to help young women and girls who are unsteady or in dangerous surroundings - a shelter was named Bartletts in her memory. She was also one of the first probation officers appointed when the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 created this new profession.

Brooke Lambert [right], from a titled, originally Huguenot, family, came from Brasenose College as Bartlett’s curate and then became Vicar (1866-71). Along with Samuel Barnett at St Jude Whitechapel, he was described as one of the 'squires of the slums'. (See Nigel Scotland Squires in the Slums (I.B. Tauris 2007) which traces the impact of Lambert, Barnett and others through to the establishment of university settlements and missions in the latter years of the century.) Influenced by F.D. Maurice, he was heavily involved in social action, serving on many committees and researching poor law administration, producing statistics that anticipate the work of Charles Booth. Seven Sermons on Pauperism, preached at St Mark's in 1870, were published. He founded a soup kitchen, a mutual improvement society and a working men's club, and campaigned for a public mortuary in the area, in the light of cases such as that reported in The Lancet (30 October 1860) of a child who had died of scarlet fever lying for seven days in a single underground room where his parents and three other children lived and slept, in a house in Tenter Street shared by several families. He became a member of the Guild of St Matthew, and one of his lectures on their behalf was 'The Republic of Plato and the Republic of Christ'. 

He was also an ardent vegetarian, writing about the local slaughterhouses:

If any one wishes to know whether the nuisance be real, let him turn out of the Whitechapel Road at the entrance to the London and North-Western goods station, and pass down the streets leading thence to Mansell Street. He will then know what the smell of blood is. And yet he will probably often boldly encounter the smell of blood in preference to the worse sights he will risk in Whitechapel Road. The carts laden with fresh skins, the pails full of blood and brains, are sights to which a long experience does not harden one.
Anna Bonus Kingsford The Perfect Way in Diet, chapter 8a Vegetarian Society publication that went through several editions.

He left because of poor health; after a year in Rainhill, Lancashire in 1872 he became Vicar of Tamworth, and then from 1880 until his death in 1901 Vicar of Greenwich, where he worked with schools, founded the Greenwich Provident Dispensary, and chaired the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants. He published widely, and his papers were bought by the University of Iowa libraries.

In 1866 the curate W.R. Scott established a mission chapel, named St Clement, at 69 Backchurch Lane. It is shown on this 1868 map, but was short-lived; more detail here.

George Davenport was Lambert's successor as Vicar (1871-99), and also Lecturer at St George-in-the-East from 1871-75, and he continued these social projects: the Charles Booth archives contain an interview (B222, pages 78-89). He trained at Queen's College Birmingham (founded in 1828) and served a brief curacy at Tamworth (see previous paragraph) in 1857, followed by five others in various parts of the country, the last at St Mary Whitechapel. He was also 'some time' domestic chaplain to the Marquis of Lansdowne. His brother-in-law, George Frederick Carlson, was a missionary in Zululand for 35 years. In his latter years curates conducted most of the occasional offices.

Work among the Jews, and beyond

As the parish population became overwhelmingly Jewish, St Mark's attempted for a time to offer a Christian witness to the diverse diaspora which had settled here (many living in extreme poverty, but with a rich cultural life). Four clergy who were Jewish converts* served here - as did two others at Christ Church Watney Street, and one at St John the Evangelist Grove Street; their stories are told in more detail here.

* Hermann Hirsch was curate from 1868-70, and Alexander William Schapira from 1887-90 (and later at Christ Church). A decade later, Albert Elias Abrahamson was curate (1896-1900), and Secretary of the Hebrew Christian Message to Israel.

Michael Rosenthal was Vicar from 1899-1907 (curiously, he only became a trustee of the parish's National School in 1904 - incumbents are normally ex officio). He was given a dispensation to preach in Hebrew. In 1885 Charlotte M. Yonge, sometimes described as 'the novelist of the Oxford movement', wrote to her cousin Mary about a meeting with Rosenthal at which he explained Jewish customs to her. The Booth Archive contains an interview with him [B222 pages 108-125].  His memorial tablet (in dark marble), which was moved to St Paul Dock Street when St Mark's closed, says formerly a Jewish rabbi, he was converted in early manhood to the Christian religion, and enduring much persecution thenceforth laboured unceasingly to bring to his Jewish brethren the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  More on his later ministry here. (His son David became the vicar of St Agatha Sparkbrook, an inner-city anglo-catholic parish in Birmingham, until his sudden death in 1938. Descendants remain active in the Church in Wales, and we are grateful for information that they have provided.)

But this focus petered out. Rosenthal's successor from 1907-21 was Lionel Smithett Lewis. Ordained in 1891 from Queens' College Cambridge, he had been a curate in Cheltenham, Pimlico, Clifton (Bristol) and Mile End New Town before coming here. He was a keen member of the Church Anti-Vivisection League (founded in 1889), whose first annual report stated the torture of God's sentient creatures is a sin. This was one of many of societies campaigning against animal experimentation; others were the Society for United Prayer against Cruelty, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, the Electoral Anti-Vivisection League, the London Anti-Vivisection Society, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the Society for the Abolition of Vivisection, the Victoria Street Society, and the Working Men's Association for the Suppression of Vivisection. (See Wilkie Collins' anti-vivisectionist novel Heart & Science 1883.) A crabby comment in the British Medical Journal of 14 July 1906 says of his sermon at the League's annual service at Christ Church Endell Street:

....The general dreariness and banality... seems to have been only relieved by his concluding statement of a belief that animals not less than man are included in the scope of the Redemption. It is a doctrine which may be commended to the study of theologists; when they have settled it, possibly those who share Mr. Lewis's prejudices might observe with some advantage the general scheme of Nature, note the general preying of animal upon animal, of insect upon insect, and ask themselves whether, apart from physical suffering, the standpoint of nearly all Christian sects is not that we are all here in pursuance of a vast experiment, being sent into the world with free wills, and inoculated at birth with the toxins of good and evil. Unfortunately, however, there are no controls, and the result can never be known to any of us in mundane life.

Vivisection became a local issue in Lewis' time with demonstrations in 1909 at the London Hospital against animal experimentation undertaken to improve the practice of anaesthesia; other less progressive hospitals in poor areas, such as Battersea and the Old Kent Road, were established which opposed both vivisection and vaccination. At the 1908 AGM of the Metropolitan Hospital Sunday Fund (which had raised £80,000 that year, half of it from churches) Lewis protested, unsuccessfully, at the exclusion of the Battersea Anti-Vivisection Hospital from the list of recipients. The hospital collection at St Mark's that year had raised 3s 3d (British Medical Journal 26 December 1908).

However, Lewis' major passion of his 86 years was the Holy Grail. When he left Whitechapel he became Vicar of Glastonbury, and wrote St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury: or the Apostolic Church of Britain (first published in 1922, and much-reprinted - described as queer but carefully-documented); Glastonbury, the Mother of Saints: Her Saints AD 37 - AD 1539and many other books and pamphlets, based on his belief that the Grail legend had a factual basis. He died there in 1953, having devoted much of his energies to the annual pilgrimage (from which, sadly, women priests remain excluded). He also acquired for the parish, after an impassioned plea at its auction, one of two medieval priests' chairs (the other, at the Bishop's Palace in Wells, is pictured right): the pattern of the so-called Glastonbury chair has been widely copied by church furnishers over the last century.

See here for some comments on the baptism registers from this period: Rosenthal (in relation to Jewish converts) and Lewis (including an exchange across the years on the subject of 'private baptism').


In the early part of the 20th century, extreme deprivation and poverty continued, and the church struggled to survive. The congregation continued to dwindle, and missionary work among the Jews came to nothing. After the First World War the decision was made to close the church. The school, however, despite various difficulties, and a petition for closure in 1921, remained open until the Second World War.

Ernest James Crosby became
Curate-in-charge from 1922-26 (when the church closed), and Curate of the united parish (with St Paul Dock Street) from 1926-28 - no doubt a depressing 'closure' ministry. He had previously served in Norfolk, Kent and Cornwall and as a chaplain in the First World War. He went on to become Rector of Prieska in the northern Cape Province - then a remote farming area (its name means 'place of the lost goat') at a ford crossing the Orange River, which had featured in the Boer War - the fort, decorated with locally-mined semi-precious stones including tiger's-eye, survives [pictured]. More recently copper, zinc and asbestos were mined there.

An Order in Council of 30 April 1926 united the parish to St Paul Dock Street, and the building was eventually demolished in 1937. Later the site was sold for £6,000 and the money given to help the building of St Francis, Dollis Hill. The bell, pulpit and two fonts were given to St Alphege, Hendon, and the wall paintings to Wragby Church in Lincolnshire. A warehouse, by Moore-Smith and Colbeck, incorporating the former parsonage as offices, was built on the site; it is now flats.

A memorial to 29 men from St Mark's parish who were killed in the First World War - a ceramic crucifixion, with wooden shutters listing the names - was transferred to St George-in-the-East (via St Paul Dock Street) but was stolen a few years later in 1991; it has not been recovered [better picture needed].

See here for statistics of baptisms and weddings during the lifetime of the parish.

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