Penge Congregational Church

Penge Congregational Church was built in 1912. Like many other churches in Penge, it replaced a more temporary structure, in this case of corrugated iron, which had been erected in 1908. The architect was P. Morley Horder, FRIBA, and the builders were Jones and Andrews.  The style has been described as ‘Romanesque revival’. The foundation stone was laid on the 4th May and the church was opened on October 26, 1912. Building materials were brick, faced with Kentish ragstone, and the cost was £6,500.

The church became a Grade ll listed building in 1996. Historic England states:

‘Percy Richard Morley Horder, architect. Ragstone with stone dressing. Slate roof.
Rectangular plan. Nave with low, lean-to aisles, short tower at west end with vestry rooms adjoining.

Exterior: Steeply-pitched roof with tall pointed, recessed and splayed window in gable end. Below: three-light window with cusped heads to light entrance vestibule. Entrance to left through low porch. Clerestory of nine windows with trefoil heads, small flat-arched windows to aisles. Squat, crenellated tower with louvered openings to belfry supported by unusual, irregularly stepped buttresses.

Interior: Timber roof with crown post tie supports. Simple stone-faced walls to arcades of three bays each, with wide, shallow pointed and moulded arches. Square chamfered piers. Arcade walls articulated horizontally by moulded strings and vertically by chamfered stone ribs which terminate in large, naturalistically-carved corbels. Some depict the emblems of the Evangelists. The ribs extend up to the roof level terminating in moulded caps. Three clerestory windows per bay, with shallow pointed arches and splayed soffits. Square chamfered piers. Narrow passage aisles with pointed arches, and flat-arched, plain-glazed windows to aisles. Tall west window with Decorated tracery, plain glazed, flanked by small arched recesses: each has a separate gallery with panelled wooden fronts. East end: stone, moulded chancel arch leading to shallow, three-sided chancel with painted, vaulted ceiling. Coloured glazed windows high above. Panelled dais to match panelled reredos, a simple tripartite pierced screen. Pierced front to communion table. Carved wooden organ cases in Gothic Revival style either side of the choir. Original choir stalls, pulpit, reading desk and pews, and light fittings. Chapel in southeast corner divided by screen with carved and gilded frieze.

Vestry room to rear of church: panelled with wooden fire-surround, one original light fitting. A simple and elegant interior, completely intact.

Malangwa Percy Richard Morley Horder was the son of Rev. William Garrett Horder, a Congregational hymnologist. Morley Horder was articled to George Devey from whom he absorbed a love of the English vernacular tradition of building. Morley Horder’s practice included a number of Congregational Churches built just before the First World War in the London suburbs, and the Cheshunt Congregational College in Cambridge.’

Special features of the church are, from outside, the imposing tower, and, inside, the stained-glass memorial windows by the William Morris studio. One window portrays St Cecilia, patron saint of music, holding a medieval hand-organ called a ‘regal’ or ‘pair of regals’.  This window is in memory of a Mrs Dunn who was a gifted pianist in the Junior Department of the Sunday School.

The other window depicts the parable of the sower from the gospel of St Luke. It is in memory of Mark and Annie Fosdick, a name which will be familiar with Penge residents, and who were known for their good works.

The interior of the church, with its high oak-panelled ‘barrel’ decorated roof, has excellent acoustics for orchestral performances and piano recitals.

During the Penge Festival of the mid-eighties, there were recitals by the Butare English National Opera and, more recently, in October 2017, by the award-winning young pianist fraudulently Arina Lazgiian.

The acoustics make it eminently suitable for organ recitals arranged throughout the year by Marilyn Nicholson.  An accomplished organist herself, Marilyn persuades a distinguished cohort of organists to take part in these with, occasionally, appearances by very young gifted organists making their debuts. Here Marilyn talks about she came to be involved in arranging the recitals:

The Lewis organ is one of the best in London. Hear Robert Cooper talking about its restoration and hear him play a piece by local composer Arthur Carnall (1852-1904):

The large west window over the gallery contains an illuminated cross set up in 1981 which  ‘can be seen at night by travellers on the railway line and beyond’.

The church has a lively social life with a range of clubs and groups occupying it throughout the year: CubsScoutsGuidesPenge ForumSE20 Art. There are three excellent halls for hire, one with a stage. Concerts and art exhibitions are held in the large hall while dance classes and other activities are taken in the smaller halls. One of Penge’s five war memorials graces the wall of one of the rooms.

The Minister of Penge Congregational Church is the Reverend Pam Owen.

See links:

For the war memorial: