Picture of church


Contents of chapter

Other churches have existed at Cranham, but typically for only short periods of time compared to All Saints'. These other churches never had the legal responsibilities of the vestry. Consequently, whilst these other churches are very important today, from the point of view of the history of the parish, they are less significant.


St.Luke's is now its own parish, with a Vicar and Curate. It should not be considered as a chapel of ease of All Saint's. The boundary between St.Luke's and All Saint's parishes runs from east to west, roughly along the line of the Upminster to West Horndon railway.

The church is built of yellow brick, and may be found at TQ572(7)878(4), just to the south of the junction of Avon Road and Front Lane. There is a vicarage just to the south of the church, and a newer church hall adjoining the north side of nave. The church comprises only a nave. The bell tower is on the north side, and contains a single bell, hung for chiming. At the east end of the nave there is a stage, which functions somewhat as a chancel. A stone on the east wall records that the church was founded by the Bishop of Chelmsford on January 26, 1957. Building took less than a year. There is no churchyard.

The modern design of this church reflects its less formal style of worship, and a modern approach towards pastoral care. The congregation at St.Luke's each Sunday morning is far larger than that at All Saints', possibly because the church is situated in the heart of the population it serves. There are Scout groups, Guide groups, a Mothers' Union. and a Women's' Institute. Cranham now has a second, very vigourous Church of England parish.


It must not be forgotten that originally All Saints' was itself a Roman Catholic church, like the rest of England and much of Europe. In 1534, Henry VIII issued the Act of Supremacy, and took control of the church away from the Pope. The country was then excommunicated, paving the way for many decades of antagonism between England and Catholic countries such as France and Spain.

Persecution of those who chose to follow Rome instead of the King then began; those faithful to the Pope were known as recusants, being guilty of recusancy. One or two attempts were made to remove this injustice during the reigns of Queen Mary and King James I, who were both Roman Catholics. Their Protestant successors always reversed these compromises. It was not until the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 that discrimination was finally removed; this Act permitted the lawful opening of Roman Catholic schools and churches, and guaranteed freedom of worship to their members.

There were several very prominent Roman Catholics, who through almost incredible political skill, retained government posts of national importance whilst the monarchy changed from Protestant to Catholic and back again. The Howard family (including the Dukes of Norfolk) are probably the most famous example; they held the office of Earl Marshall, then as now, and Arundel Castle is one surviving result. The Petre family, were also great survivors, especially important in Essex, and Ingatestone Hall, then as now, has been their principal residence. We have seen above how a junior member of the Petre family became Lord of the Manor at Cranham Hall (Chapter 2).

Those who did not attend the parish church were reported to the church courts in the seventeenth century. Many were Catholics. Persecution at the local level often was referred to the magistrates and Quarter Sessions, when excommunication and penance was insufficient.

Three families at Cranham were reported to the Quarter Sessions. Edward Melford, his family and an unnamed servant were specifically identified as "Papists", on May 1, 1617 and April 8, 1619. Robert Draper and two maids (? daughters) named Katherine and Mary were similarly reported on January 8, 1618, and April 8, 1619 (216). Lastly, of course, Mrs.Thomas Petre, wife of the Lord of the Manor, was reported in 1621 (this is the principal piece of evidence that the family of the third son of Lord Petre actually lived on the Manor). How the Lord of the Manor himself avoided the interest of the Quarter Sessions is unknown. Perhaps Lord Petre's influence from Ingatestone Hall could extend to his son but not to his daughter-in-law. In spite of being reported to the Quarter Sessions, there is no record of any punishments being inflicted on the Cranham papists, for which we may be grateful. A century later, in 1706, Roman Catholics had disappeared from Cranham (218).

A renewal of recusancy at Cranham then took place. A Catholic mission, served by a priest called Richard Parkinson, was reported in 1733 (102). Mass was held regularly. Probably the mission was supported by the Petre family; certainly Msgr Parkinson had good connexions with Thorndon Hall. This Roman Catholic congregation numbered 150 in 1742, clearly drawn from the surrounding parishes.

The actual meeting place of the mission is not recorded; it could not have been based at Cranham Hall because Elizabeth Wright (Protestant churchwoman and eventual wife of General Oglethorpe) was already in residence. In 1773, Cranham was one of seven Catholic missions in the County, the others being at Kelvedon, Thorndon Park, Manby, Witham, "Fidlers" (location now unknown), and Ingatestone itself (217).

The Cranham mission may not have operated continuously, however. In 1765 Catholic babies were being taken to Thorndon Park for baptism. Further, in 1766, Rev.Woodroofe wrote to his Archdeacon (220):

"I know of no papists in my parish but one, who is a day labourer, and came hither 2 years ago, but has no legal settlement therein; he had a boy baptized last summer by Lord Petre's priest".

Woodroofe's disparaging attitude probably reflects differences in both religion and class. In 1767, another Cranham-born baby was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest; his father was called Bonningham, and he was probably Bonnigham's second son (219).

The Catholic mission seems to have closed sometime between 1773 and 1829, the year of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act. Revd.Ludbey, in 1829, wrote the letter with the famous seal (Chapter Four) in reply to an enquiry from a certain C.G.Parker of Springfield (near Chelmsford):


In answer to your letter received yesterday, I beg to inform that, in my parish, there is not any place of worship of any denomination whatsoever except of the Church of England.

Your obedient servant [signed]


In 1978, a Roman Catholic hall, which also serves as a chapel, was built on Front Lane (6). The chapel is near the junction of Front Lane and the Southend Arterial Road at TQ574(0)885(5). Mass is served there from Upminster. Many of Cranham's Catholic congregation now worship either at Upminster, or at the cathedral in Brentwood with its impressive new north aisle. Catholic education is available at St.Joseph's at Upminster for primary school children, at a convent school in Upminster for girls, the Ursuline School for girls at Brentwood, and the Campion School for boys at the end of Wingletye Lane, in Hornchurch.


The non-conformist churches are Protestant, but separate from the Church of England. Many of the churches, for example, the Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists, date from the puritan era. Their adherents could not agree with the ritual that was re-established by the Church of England at the Restoration.

Technically, during the times of Revds. Jourdaine, Watson, Harsnett, Josselin, Sanders, and Hardley (1645-1662), All Saints' was a non-conformist, Protestant, puritan church (see chapter 4, chapter 5, and chapter 6). The local effects of the Restoration, were the alterations to the position of the altar and the ejection of Revd.Hardley. The Church of England was then re-established after some turmoil, as evidenced by the gaps in the parish registers.

In 1676, the Archdeacon's census (12) reveals that there was a single non-conformist family in the parish. Their name and denomination are unknown.

Today, there are two non-conformist congregations in Cranham. The Baptist church is on Severn Drive (TQ571(5)882(2)), and dates from 1955. The Church bought land from the developer of the Avon Road estate and built their sanctuary privately. During the period of construction, the congregation met in a builders' hut on the construction site. A second, small non-conformist congregation meets at The Moor Lane Chapel. It, too, dates to 1955, and the hall (also known as Moss Hall) stands about 500 yards south of the Southend Arterial Road. This church now has a full-time pastor. The building is discussed further in Chapter 15.

Modern transport, better education, and greater religious tolerance permits more freedom of worship today than ever before. Religious persuasion is no longer as divisive in Essex as in previous centuries.