The History of St. Etheldreda with St. Clement, Fulham

Above: Foundation stone for the new church building, 1975

St. Ethledreda with St. Clements


1965 - 1990: Union with St. Clements - A new hall & Ely Court

After a short interregnum under Fr Patrick Lingard, Fr Shirley was inducted in September. He was to remain in post longer than any other Incumbent of St Etheldreda's. His first challenge was St Clement's. By the winter of 1964/5 services were held in a chapel set up in the Vicarage, as the church proved impossibly costly to heat. A pastoral scheme to unite the parish of St Clement's, demolishing the existing church and replacing it with a smaller building was set in motion. Only when the scheme received royal approval in 1968 could plans begin for a new church. After several false starts, the old church and hall were replaced by flats by Shepherd's Bush Housing Association, and the new present church was dedicated in 1978. Worship had continued meanwhile in the chapel at Bishop Creighton House.

It is a tribute to Fr Shirley's vision that members now regard themselves as part of one parish, and numbers worshipping at St Clement's have grown slowly but surely.

Above: Tea after church, 1960s

Attention then turned to the state of the Hall at St Etheldreda's, which was showing signs of its age. The parish room was well-past its projected lifespan. The problem was funding. The PCC sought a similar arrangement to that at St Clement's - a new hall in exchange for housing. Such a scheme had been mooted under Fr Fox when it appeared that the Lygon Almshouses were to be compulsorily purchased, but had fallen through with the abandonment of the compulsory purchase threat. Throughout the 1980’s, the PCC wrestled with the problem, and it was not until the very end of Fr Shirley's long incumbency that it was resolved.

The third challenge facing Fr Shirley was the sociological change in Fulham. In 1965, the parish had contained many industries and a stable population, many of whom had been in it since the houses were first built. Well before 1990, house-prices in Fulham had soared beyond the means of young people wishing to live near their parents. All the industry had gone, to be replaced by often expensive new housing. In common with the whole country, people became much more mobile in work and homes, and religion ceased to have such an important part in lives.

A fourth challenge arising from this was the possibility of pastoral re-organisation in Central Fulham. It was a recurrent theme in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but little happened. St Oswald’s had been closed and amalgamated with St Augustine's, as later was St James’ with St John's, Walham Green. In 1995, St Augustine's was closed and amalgamated with St Alban's. Shortage of finance and manpower meant that on retirement Fr Shirley was single-handed where only thirty years earlier there were two incumbents and four assistant clergy, aided by lay-workers.

When Fr Shirley retired in 1990 there were ideas once more of amalgamating this parish with one of its neighbours, but it was not to be.

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