St Margaret's Church was founded in 1919 but the present church building dates from 1930. The construction of the Fenchurch Street line railway encouraged the development of Leigh, which expanded from a small fishing village to a large residential suburb of London. St Margaret's, originally a mission daughter church of Leigh's historic parish church St Clement's, was built to be within walking distance of the new housing.

Canon Robert Stuart King, Rector of St Clement's founded a temporary mission church in the north-west corner of St Clement's parish in 1919. In 1925, with the foundation of the Conventional District of St Margaret the church became independent of St Clement's and in 1929 St Margaret's was given parochial status. The first priest-in-charge was Father Francis Hilditch.

The rapidly expanding population of Leigh soon outgrew the mission church and plans were made to erect a more permanent building. The foundation stone for the present church building was laid on 26th July 1930 by Henry Wilson, the Bishop of Chelmsford, and most of the church was built within 40 weeks at the cost of £8,500. The north aisle and Blessed Sacrament (Ascension) chapel was added later in 1938. The mission church became the church hall and survived for a further 34 years.

St Margaret's continues to bring the good news of the Christian gospel to all sections of the community within the parish. In many senses, given the social and cultural changes that have affected society in the past few decades, it finds itself once again a mission church, as it was at the very beginning, in 1919.

 

 

 

 

The joint architects of St Margaret's were Graham Lloyd and Sir Charles Nicholson, the diocesan architect. Mr Lloyd drew up the initial plans, which were subsequently developed in conjunction with Sir Charles, who supervised the construction of the building throughout.

The building is in an early Italian Romanesque style, with a basilica plan. St Margaret's pioneered a break away from the Gothic tradition in the district with outstanding success. It is now protected as a Grade II listed building.

St Margaret's is built of concrete, which is roughcast rendered with decorative brick bands and dressing around the windows and doors.

The plain, sober exterior contrasts strongly with the luminous, mainly white painted interior. The church is generously lit on all sides by round headed leaded light windows on north and south aisles, a high range of clerestory windows, three high small rounded windows in the apse at the east end and a large Venetian window in the south aisle chapel. Despite alterations to the height of the organ, light still comes in from the arched windows at the west end.

The interior plan is simple and harmonious, with an arcade of Tuscan columns dividing the Nave and Aisles, and an open kingpost roof.

In 1986 the Chancel was re-ordered and redecorated in red, gold and green to emphasise it as the focal point of the church.

In addition to his involvement in the building's architecture, Nicholson was also responsible for designing many of the original internal fittings for St Margaret's including:

  • the high altar, the chapel altars and the altar rails,
  • the original stalls
  • the pulpit (the original design included elaborately carved gilded panels to match the high altar but were never completed).

All other major furnishings were submitted to him for approval. Father Hilditch had great confidence in the judgement of Nicholson in such matters and was anxious that the harmony of his architectural creation should not be marred by the indiscriminate introduction of unworthy additions. Other features of interest include:

  • the stone font in the back right hand corner of the church. The base is made of black marble and the wooden cover depicts the waters of baptism, the gate of salvation and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
  • The small stained glass window in the north aisle depicting St Michael fighting the dragon, which commemorates a parishioner killed in the Second World War.
  • The stained glass window of the Lady Chapel, depicting the adoration of the Magi.
  • The statues of our Lady with the Christ Child in the Lady Chapel and Our Lady of Walsingham, by Anton Wagner, in the alcove to the right of the south door.

© The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Margaret, Leigh-on-Sea Charity Number: 113067. All Rights Reserved.