Church History



For a thousand years or more, there has been a church standing on Crayford Hill.  Though the present building is very ancient, parts of it being over 880 years old, we learn from past records that a still earlier building preceded it.  The reference to Crayford in the Domesday Book, states that “the Archbishop himself holds Erhede” (the old name for Crayford), and “There is a church.”


St.Paulinus Church is a Grade II* listed church.  The earliest part of the church, as we see it today, dates from about the year 1100 A.D.  The northern and western walls of the north nave are substantially those erected by the Normans.  At the exterior of the north-west corner the dark grey blocks of tufa can be seen.  The Normans frequently made use of this calcareous stone for the corners of their buildings.  In the middle of the west wall, the remains of the Norman door are visible.  This Norman church was rectangular in shape and was as long as the present north nave.  The chancel was slightly narrower than the nave, which reached as far as the third pillar from the west.  There was just one door at the west end and small round-headed windows were high up on the walls.


Crayford was on the main road between London and the Continent and pilgrims and travellers using the road would likely call in to pray for protection whilst crossing the robber-infested Shooters Hill and the heath land between Crayford and London or to give thanks for having safely avoided danger. It was possibly partly due to offerings made by these visitors that helped finance the building’s development. In about 1190, an aisle was added to the south of the nave and a south chapel was joined to the chancel.  By this time, the general style of architecture was changing and the new doorways were added, one in the north and one in the south wall, and were in the pointed Early English style.  Although the builders replaced the Norman windows with larger ones, they still retained the round-headed Norman shape.  Remains of the windows, inserted at the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century, can be seen in the walls.  The vertical lines on the stonework show that the English chisel (introduced in 1174) was used to trim the stones. With the use of Upper Greensand (fire stone) also pointing to there being constructed later than the Norman period.


About a hundred years passed before any other major changes were made to the church.  Some time within the first half of the 14th century, the south chapel and aisle were pulled down again, and the north chancel was pulled down and rebuilt in line with that of the nave.  This became the north nave wall of the enlarged church, the east chancel wall being extended to meet it.  A twin nave was now constructed to the south.  At the east end, midway between the two naves, a chancel was built.  The chancel was probably made of new material but the south nave was constructed largely of old material from the destroyed aisle and chapel.  The south door and the windows of the aisle were used again in the new south wall.  Crayford church is nearly unique in having this arrangement of twin naves with a chancel set midway between.  The two other remaining examples in England are a Caythorpe, in Lincolnshire, and at Hannington, in Northants.


Crayford was in the Deanery of Shoreham.  A rule was made that each church in this deanery should have a rood loft which served partly as a music gallery at the entrance to the chancel.  A screen separated the chancel from the body of the church and on it was erected a large crucifix.  The doorway to the stairs which led up to the top of the screen can still be seen in the north wall, partly obscured by the Toc H niche.


The 15th and early 16th century saw many extensions and alterations made to the church.  Those we see today made the building lighter by the replacement of the smaller windows.  The vestry and the porch were added, and the fine Perpendicular bell tower was erected.  The building of the south, or Howbury, chapel was the next addition, followed shortly after by the construction, between the vestry and the north nave, of the northern chapel.  During the reign of Henry VIII, a law was made that each church should be provided with “one sure coffer with two locks” in which to keep its valuables.  Crayford church still possesses its parish chest.  From this time too, the practice began of keeping church registers.  At Crayford the registers are complete from 1558, the year of the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. 


A disastrous fire happened in 1628, which consumed the roof and robbed us of practically all the ancient monuments.  The church had to be closed until new roofs were made for the naves and other repairs were completed.  Inside the building, at the East End of the south nave is a beam in the roof bearing the date 1630.  Apart from the one small mural monument to Mrs Blanche Marlar, who died in 1608, which is on the northeast church wall, all the present memorials in the church date from after this fire. 


The medieval font is located close to the south door where it can be seen by most people within the church.  William Draper of May Place owned most of Crayford by the time he died, in 1650, and he and his wife are buried beneath the fine monument in the North Chapel.  The alabaster figures on the monument show them in Puritan costume with their son and daughter kneeling below.  There is also shown the small figure of a baby in chrisom clothes, which is unusual, because this particular child was stillborn, and it was rare to find one thus commemorated. 


The Drapers’ property in Crayford was purchased by Sir Cloudesley Shovel, Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Fleet of Great Britain.  By the year 1700 the church was again in need of repair and he paid for this to be done and also presented a new reredos.  He also completely refurbished the church at his own expense, with box pews and a three tiered pulpit.  Although he lies buried in Westminster Abbey, his wife is buried at Crayford.  Her monument is in the Lady Chapel.  At the eastern end of the church is the grave of a contemporary of Dame Elizabeth Shovel named Madam Shorte, who presented the church with two heavy silver dishes to use as Patens, which are still preserved.


No great changes were made to the church during the next hundred years, but buildings gradually decay, so that in 1862, a general restoration was again necessary to meet changed needs.  New ceilings were fitted and the pine pews and tiled floors we see today were also fitted.  The low arches leading from the aisles into the chapels were raised at this time and the widow of H. Le Neve, Esq. R.N. presented the clock in the church tower.  A few years later, the Howbury chapel was extended south for use as an organ chamber to conveniently house an organ which had been bought from King’s College, London.


The tower has a ring of eight bells that were cast by Mears and Stainbank at Whitechapel in 1876.  In 1862, a clock was fitted in the tower.  In 1868, the church was gifted a fine processional cross of engraved brass, which is still used today.  A new altar was given by Mrs Pim, whose husband also founded some of the almshouses in Iron Mill Lane.


The small round-headed window on the south side of the church containing the figure of St.Paulinus was re-opened towards the end of the 19th century in memory of the late Edward Horner of May Place.  Fortunately, it escaped destruction in the war.  A considerable amount of damage was done to the building during the 1939-45 war.  Nearly all the windows having been shattered, six of them have been replaced by designs by Mr Hugh Easton.  The first of these, depicting St.Margaret of Antioch slaying a dragon, was in memory of three W.V.S. workers killed in a V1 attack in July 1944.  The others, in memory of past worshippers, show the Virgin and Child, The Annunciation, the Transfiguration, the Appearance of Our Lord after His Resurrection to Mary of Magdala, and, in the east window, the Four Archangels.  The Royal Marine Memorial window was dedicated to the memory of Keith Phillips, killed in action in the Falklands Islands in 1982.


In the 1960s, vestries for the clergy and choir were built onto the existing vestry.  They were called the ‘All Saints vestries’.  In 1976 the organ that resided in the All Saints’ Chapel was broken up and a new one purchased from St.Mary’s German Lutheran Church in King’s Cross, and erected in its present position.  In 1996 changes were made in the chancel to meet the changing needs of church services.  The altar was moved from under the east window, to be nearer the congregation, and the triptych now stands in its place.  Some of the oak choir stalls were moved to the Lady Chapel and some to the west end of the church.  In 2002 a new extension to the vestries was opened, which included toilets and a kitchen area.  This was partly financed with monies from a legacy of Mrs Elizabeth Kenworthy.


The high altar was designed by James Brooks and painted by Nathaniel Westlake.  On the south side of the Sanctuary are the remains of the sedilia, a seat for the priest during services and in the corner a piscine, a shallow basin used by the priest during services, dating from the 14th century.  Other items of interest include a board recording charitable gifts to the parish, a memorial to Henry Tucker 1851 (remarkable as a pastiche of late 17th century tablet), a Tablet to Grace Say, who founded almshouses in Dartford, the lectern given by Mrs Stoneham and two Jacobean style carved chairs.