The ‘Tin Church’   |   The First St Aidan’s   |   The ‘Gothic Revival’ Church
A New St Aidan’s   |   The Parish Hall

Pre-20th Century Coulsdon

While there is a reference to ‘Colesdon’ (Coulsdon) in the Doomsday book (where it is listed as being owned by Chertsey Abbey with assets of: 3 hides of land; 1 church, 7 ploughs, woodland worth 3 hogs and generating 7 of income) it is true to say that Coulsdon has remained sparsely populated for most of its history.

Even a hundred years ago, Coulsdon was still an area of scattered houses and farms. The Parish of Coulsdon included the areas now known as Coulsdon and Old Couldson, as well as parts of Reedham, Purley and Kenley.

The area called Coulsdon at that time is what is now called Old Coulsdon, centred on the (Anglican) Parish Church of St John. Coulsdon today was then an area called Smitham Bottom. There were no shops along the present A23. Instead, there was the ‘Red Lion’ Inn, the (then) newly build Cane Hill Asylum (or Mental Hospital, as it was later called), the Cane Hill Villas houses and Stoat’s Nest Farm. As the century began, the area began to develop, with more housing along the Brighton and Chipstead Valley Roads and the first shops. In January 1906, the Post Office announced that letters for Smitham Bottom should, henceforth, be addressed to Coulsdon.

The Catholic Church in Coulsdon

The ‘Tin’ Church

View of the 'Tin Church' on Smitham Bottom Road (now Woodcote Grove Road) circa 1920The ‘Tin’ Church, circa 1920

In 1909 Canon Roe founded the Coulsdon Mission, although Mass had been said regularly by priests from the ‘Sacred Heart’ church in Caterham for some two years prior to this.

In 1916, the ‘Tin’ Church was erected in what was then Smitham Bottom Road, now re-named as the lower part of Woodcote Grove Road. (Originally, the area now referred to as Coulsdon was called ‘Smitham Bottom’ and was only re-named at the beginning of the 20th century as it began to outgrow the original Coulsdon — now called Old Coulsdon.)

It appears that this church was predominantly of corrugated iron, which cannot have made it a very comfortable place, particularly in the winter!

The First St Aidan’s

The first St Aidan's Church after its conversion to the Co-operative HallThe first St Aidan’s Church after it became the Co-operative Hall

This church had a relatively short life, and in 1922 it was replaced with the “first St Aidan’s Church” built on the same site. This church was built of stone (known as ‘Merstham firestone’) salvaged from a barn on Stoat’s Nest Farm. This church remained in use for nine years. Thereafter it became the Co-operative Hall and remained the venue for many church bazaars and other functions. Most recently, the hall has become the Coulsdon Martial Arts Centre complete with oriental dragons adorning the façade!

The Gothic Revival Church

In 1930 the architect Adrian Scott was commissioned to build a church on Chipstead Valley Road, the site of the current church. The church was to be in the ‘Gothic Revival’ style and echoing the design of a medieval cathedral: a long, narrow nave with a line of pillars down each side. The church was to accommodate a congregation of 500 and construction was to be in three phases, to allow for the money to be raised to finance the work.

Interior of Adrian Scott's 'Gothic Revival' churchThe interior of Adrian Scott’s ‘Gothic Revival’ church

The first phase, comprising the Sanctuary, the Lady chapel and the first section of the nave, was completed in 1931 at a cost of £12 000. This debt was not fully paid off until 1945.

The church remained in this form for more than thirty years. The only alteration of note in this time was the addition of the sacristies to the rear of the church. These were built in 1953 at the instigation of the parish priest at that time, Father Hastings.

A New St Aidan’s

In 1961 the parish priest, Fr Allen, decided to complete the building of the permanent church. However, rather than complete Scott’s ambitious, large, gothic-style church, a modern design would be adopted instead.

The exterior of the new church, 1968The exterior of the new church, 1968

This design incorporated the permanent rear and sanctuary walls and the sacristies. In all other ways, however, it departed radically from the original gothic design. The design was formulated by the architect John Newton: 25 metres (80 feet) long and 20 metres (64 feet) wide, a high clear interior with no internal pillars and seating for 500 people.

The interior of the new church, 1968The interior of the new church, 1968

Work commenced on the new church in 1964. Prior the start of construction a temporary hall was erected to the rear of the sacristy. Mass was said here while building work continued over the following months. The new St Aidan’s church was formally opened on 18th May 1966 by Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy. The parish was left with a heavy debt: £87 000, was was not fully cleared until 1985.

Within the church, the furnishings are also modern in design, matching that of the church fabric. The altars, font, Tabernacle and lectern, together with the statue of Our Lady and Child on the right of the church near the font, are all the work of Brother Xavier Ruckstuhl of Engelberg Monastery.

The Parish Centre

As mentioned earlier, the Co-operative Hall was used for social and parish events for many years. With the completion of the new church in 1966, the temporary church became the new Parish Hall.

This hall remained in use for the next 30 years — not bad for what was a temporary building with a planned life of just 10 years! However, time and weather took their toll and in the early 1990’s plans for a new, purpose-built began to be formulated.

The exterior of the new Parish CentreThe exterior of the new Parish Centtre

In the summer of 1994 the old hall was finally demolished and work began on its replacement. Parish social events took on a nomad existence, being held in a variety of halls in the surrounding area. The new parish centre was opened in June 1995 and has hosted a range of parish events and activities, both spiritual and social.

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