History of St Paul's Egham Hythe
St. Paul's Church, like most of Egham Hythe, has links to one of the earliest Christian Foundations in England, sitting as it does on land which once belonged to Chertsey Abbey. The great Foundation exisited in various structures between AD 666 and 1537, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. But for centuries this land suffered constant flooding which the 13th century Causeway did little to prevent. There were a few raised footpaths for the monks but very little settlement. Those few folk who did venture to live here, maybe to work in gravel raising, needed to trek to Egham to attend church.
First Settlement in the Hythe
Significant settlement only began when the building of locks (such as Bell Weir in 1818) limited flooding and the railway (which reached Egham in 1856) brought more trade. By 1885, although still little more than a hamlet, Egham Hythe could support a school, initially with just 30 children; but not a church. Then, over a relatively short period, this small settlement grew beyond recognition, with housing developing alongside agriculture such as Wapshott and Royal Hythe farms, and (on the Causeway) new industries, notably Lagonda motorcycles and cars from 1904. By the end of the 1914-18 war the population was already apporaching 4000, served by several shops and no fewer than eight public houses.
St. Paul's Mission Hall
The increasingly urgent need for a church was particularly clear to two key local men, the Vicar of Egham and the provisions merchant Mr. Edward Budgen. So it was that in 1919-20 the neccessary land was acquired and the Vicar of Egham started conducting services in the Sunshine Hut then on the site, renaming it St. Paul's Mission Hall in honour of the first and greatest of all Christian missionaries to take the Gospel to new territories.
Then, in 1928, a resident Curate-in-Charge - the Revd PFL Burgess - was appointed to Egham Hythe, and the Sunshine Hut was moved bodily to the site of the present Church Hall, thus freeing land for a permanent church. The following year a new Church Building Committee was formed and an Appeal for Funds was launched, claiming;
St. Paul's Mission Room is totally unworthy of the title of God's house. It is made of two wooden huts, and is unlike a church. Then, on Monday morning it ceases to be a church. The East End is screened off and the remaining room becomes in turn a Girl Guides centre, a Men's Club, headquarters of the Church Lads' Brigade, and the Sunshine Club, and the scene of medical and dental clinics run by the County Council. Conequently, to the greater number of people, St. Paul's is a hut, ugly to look at, bare and forlorn within, in which tonsils are inspected, teeth extracted, bugles blown, drums beaten, billiards played and boxing gloves used with effect.
The first and major contributor to the Appeal Fund was Mr Edward Budgen.
Building of St Paul's Church
The Foundation Stone - Dei Gloria - was laid on 21st July 1930, and with the consecration of the new Church by the Bishop of Guildford on 10th May 1931 St Paul's became a parish in its own right, with the Revd PFL Burgess, who remained here until 1943, as its first Vicar.
An attractive and unusual design feature by the architects, Messrs John and Paul Coleridge, is the lighting of the church by windows in the tower high up over the arches of the transept and choir. This tall tower, topped by what some have called a pyramid in the sky, could - and still can - be seen from considerable distances, even from stretches of the Thames, so it is not perhaps surprising that in the early days St Paul's was popularly known as The Cathedral of the Gravel Pits.
The Chancel, Lady Chapel, and Vestries were added and consecrated in 1935, and an organ donated by Mr Edward Budgen in 1936. Later (1999), the Vicar's vestry became today's parish office.
Within four years of the consecration of these final stages of the building the country was at war, and the Lagonda Works, which had gone into receivership in 1935, was turned over to war production again, just as it had been between 1914 and 1918. Employment increased, as did the population. Despite the terrible floods of 1947, both employment and population increased even further in the post-war years, especially with Petters taking over the old Lagonda Works and employing over 1000 people at its peak. Fortunately, St Paul's was ready for the influx, but adequate housing and local school facilities lagged behind. It was not until the 1950's that the Local Authorities were able to acquire the extensive Royal Hythe Dairy Farm resulting in the building of more housing and - in 1957 - of the Magna Carta School immediately next to St Paul's. The Church thrived.
Lady Chapel Window
In 1962 St Paul's acquired its one stained glass window, money having been bequeathed for the purpose by Mr Moody, the Vicar's Warden. This fine window, designed and made by EJ Dilworth of Twickenham and installed in the Lady Chapel, depicts the Annunciation of the Virgin, while at the base of the design you will see the figures of Isaiah and King David, linking the Old Testament to the New. More about the Lady Chapel window.
By then the old Sunshine Hut had become too dilapidated to serve any useful function and had been replaced in 1957 by the current Church Hall. The community of Egham Hythe has changed radically in recent years with the development of service industries such as Sainsburys (1991) on the site of Petters which closed in 1989, and computer-based employment which often relies on staff commuting from afar. As our community changes, so does St Paul's and like many churches we now have a smaller, but deeply committed, congregation.
Vicars of St. Paul's Egham Hythe:
1928-43 The Revd PFL Burges
Adapted from the Outline History of St Paul's written by Colin Archer for our Millenium Weekend visitors on 6/7th May 2000, an account which itself was deeply indebted to the fuller 1977 history by Kay Young.