The History of St. Etheldreda with St. Clement, Fulham
|Above: St. Etheldreda
THE REVD. JOHN SADLER PHILLIPS
Vicar, 1897-1917. 'A Cathedral at my Gates': The first Parish Church, 1897-1899.
With services established in the Mission Hall work could begin on a permanent church. The architect chosen was A.H. Skipworth, who had already designed the Mission Hall. He produced a design, which had it been completed, would indeed have been a Cathedral at the palace gates. The design, however, was ingenious, and could be accomplished in stages. The foundation for the first portion, the western half of the nave, was laid in 1896, and completed in under a year, with a temporary east wall of wood and corrugated iron. It was consecrated on Friday, 2nd April, and Sadler Phillips instituted as first Vicar of what was now the new Parish of St Etheldreda, Fulham. The churchwardens were H.W.Williams and W.T. Patten.
In April, 1898, sufficient funds were in hand to lay the foundation stone of the second portion, the east end, which was consecrated on 30th June 1899. Until the First World War, Skipworth's drawing of the completed church, with enormous central tower and new halls continued to be published time to time, but funds were never sufficient. Skipworth’s final contribution was the Vicarage, built in 1900. Access to both Hall and Vicarage was from the Fulham Palace Road, as Cloncurry and Doneraille streets were not yet built.
Sadler Phillips was an energetic visitor and able preacher. He enlisted support from outside the parish - wealthy people who maintained an interest until their deaths, and as was common practice, the parish was "adopted" by a well-established one: in this case, St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road.
The Church kept just one step ahead of the house-builders, who had more or less finished by 1904, and the population grown to 17,000. Year by year, Sadler Phillips, aided by two or three assistant curates and by licensed lay-workers, built up the congregation. No mean preacher himself, the names of visiting preachers at this time read like a “Who’s Who” of the Church of England: the Archbishop of Canterbury (Temple), the Bishops of London (Creighton and Winnington-Ingram), Henry Scott Holland, W.H.Frere, Stewart Headlam, T.A.Lacey, W.C.E.Newbolt, Charles Gore, William Collins, J.Adderley, Robert Dolling, Lord Victor Seymour and Herbert Pollock, were among those who preached in 1901 and 1902 for example. Not surprisingly, there were sometimes 2,000 in the church at Evensong.
Sadler Phillips set a high standard of worship. He was secretary (and one of the founders) of the Church Historical Society and keeper of the Archives at Fulham Palace. The consecration in 1897 had been fully choral under the supervision of the Revd.W.H.Frere and the first organist and choirmaster was Wilson Sheffield of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. For a time there was a parish orchestra to accompany services, and although this did not survive the first war, the high musical standard continues to the present day.
On Sundays there were celebrations of Holy Communion at 7, 8, 9 (Plain) and 11.30(Choral). The Litany was sung at 10.30am and Mattins at 11, with Evensong and Sermon at 7pm. Daily the Eucharist was celebrated following Mattins at 7am, with extra celebrations at 8 and 11 on Saints' Days. The Litany was at 12 noon on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Great Festivals there was Choral Communion at 6.30am. In addition on Sundays there were four Sunday Schools, four children's services, two Bible Classes and a service in Lygon Almshouses. Through the week there were meetings of the various guilds and societies.
Not surprisingly offers of preferment came the way of Sadler Phillips, but he turned them down until in 1917, he accepted the living of St Matthew’s Ealing, where he was to die in harness in 1925. His grave is in Fulham Old Cemetery - the nearest but one to St. Etheldreda's.
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