LIVING WATER: THE LIFE OF GOD WITHIN US TODAY
Welcome to All Saints’ Parish Church of Isleworth; a church that has survived great adversity but is as strong and vibrant today as ever. It is rich in its beautiful surroundings, the generous nature of its congregation and benefactors, and its history.
The Domesday Book records Christian worship at Isleworth. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, this parish has borne witness to many royal and monastic trials and tribulations. The parish boundaries stretch from the Grand Union Canal at Brentford End on land originally known as Old England along the Thames frontage to St Margaret’s. It was on this stretch of water that the Royal Barge took Queen Katherine Howard on her fateful journey to the Tower of London and King Henry VIII’s bier rested overnight at Syon on its way to Windsor. It also saw the embarkation from Isleworth stairs in the Royal Barge, of Lady Jane Grey, the 9 day Queen, on her journey to the Tower.
As you walk through the 14th century Kentish ragstone tower which is the oldest part of the present building and into the courtyard, you will see the fountain, a powerful reminder of 1000 years of history and worship echoing the ebb and flow of living water today.
A LEAP OF FAITH
By the end of the 17th century, the mediaeval church no longer met the Parish needs. Sir Christopher Wren’s plans to expand proved too costly but a legacy of £500 from Sir Orlando Gee, whose monument you can see in the church’s south gallery, enabled Richmond architect, John Price to start work in 1706 modifying Wren’s original design. Local brewers the Farnell family funded the addition of a gothic chancel in 1867.
However you will not see this chancel, for in 1943 the whole church save the tower and parts of the stonework was burned to the ground; not as you might think by a WWII bomb, but by two boys. The fund to rebuild proved inadequate and was further depleted by indecision as to how to proceed with the restoration.
Nonetheless, worship continued in temporary buildings on the site and around the parish for 20 years. The congregation and local community kept the faith and rallied round with a variety of ingenious fund raising schemes such as selling marmalade, Christmas postcards of the Joshua chapel and the option to buy a brick. Such was their determination to succeed in raising the funds that architect, Michael Blee designed and started building the church you see today even before the full cost was reached.
The Joshua Chapel was built first, donated by parents in memory of their little boy, who used to come to church with his father but sadly died aged two and half.
A local schoolmaster and historian, Mr G E Bate, gathered up nails from the fallen roof of the old church and had them made into the Cross of Nails that we use in the church. It is a powerful symbol of both the physical resurrection of All Saints’ and the resurrection of Christ, and stands testament that the power of God will conquer all.
The church itself was completed in 1969. The four separate roofs, carried on columns quite independent both of each other and the walls, are panelled in Columbian pine. The central lancet window of stained glass is by Keith New and given in memory of Martin Waterston. In the mid 1980’s a window and dedication was placed in the west wall of the church in memory of David Waterston, Martin’s father, who was Churchwarden for many years. At the west end of the church are two galleries which are extensions of the roofs of the courtyard rooms.
On the north side are the office and meeting rooms. On the south side, there is one long room which is used for all manner of church group activities.
Along with the faithful congregation, there have been many generous donors in and around All Saints’, many of whom are buried within the churchyard. John Robinson who died in 1802 left money for distribution annually to the poor and asked that the vicar should, on each anniversary of his death, preach a sermon on charity.
Ann Tolson, whose memorial can be seen in the church in the north gallery, left money to build the Tolson almshouses. Anne Oliver, widow of Peter Oliver the miniaturist, was also connected to All Saints’ and left an endowment for the Isleworth Charity School – now the Isleworth Blue School. This school, founded in 1630 and one of the first charity schools in this country, has been associated with the church since 1715 and the link is still strong today.
The ornamental sundial which you can see on the front of the Joshua Chapel was first erected in 1707 in memory of Susanna, wife of Col. Nicholas Lawes who was Governor of Jamaica. Its markings are arranged to show the time in Isleworth, Jamaica, Jerusalem and Moscow.
These are just a few examples of the generous love that has contributed to this church’s long and varied history.
OUR LIVING CHURCH
The history of All Saints’ continues into the 21st century, as we fill our church with new memories and activities, marking all the stages of life, with worship and praise, celebration, comfort in sorrow, and reflection. As well as our Sunday services, many groups meet together at All Saints’ throughout the week, from the very young through all ages, for friendship, for learning and play, for music and laughter and joy.
We hope you enjoy your visit and will be refreshed and inspired as you spend time here. And we invite you to join us and celebrate the love of God which has always sustained All Saints’. You are most welcome.