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14. PLANNING FOR EXPANSION

In the summer of 1926 the subject of preparing plans for continuing the building of Church House was raised again, and the Secretary later presented a lengthy memorandum on the matter to the Council. The state of the foundations of the original houses was found to be 'very insecure, and the Dean's Yard front in particular seems to be slipping at each end. . . There is hardly a door or window in the Dean's Yard front which is still exactly regular.'

Canon Partridge expressed the view that there was a need for an architect to be appointed, and added that 'the new buildings must include a properly designed Debating Chamber for the Church Assembly'.

In 1930, the Council reported to the members of the Corporation:

At the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee [of 1887] it was realised that with the passage of years the Church House then erected would become the business house of the Church of England and would of necessity require enlarging. Therefore, it was that an ample freehold site was purchased covered with buildings, held upon leasehold tenures, the longest of which expires with the year 1932. Consequently, it was not too soon, in 1929, to begin preparation for further building by the appointment of an architect to study the problem, advise the Council, and eventually proceed to the execution of the work.

Sir Herbert Baker 1862-1946, by Sir W Rotherstein 1925
Sir Herbert Baker 1862-1946,
by Sir W Rotherstein 1925.

After full deliberation the Council appointed as architect Sir Herbert Baker, ARA, FRIBA, who has already given much thought to the whole matter. It will take some time for the plans of the Council to be matured, but it is hoped in the next Annual Report to give further information than is possible now and, meanwhile, it may be well to state that while the Council look forward to accepting gladly gifts in money and kind for the enrichment and adornment of portions of the new buildings, its present view is that money necessary for building can be provided in other ways than by issue of an appeal for funds.

By May the following year, the Council had come to the conclusion that, in order to make the best possible use of the site, it would be necessary to demolish all the buildings then existing on the site and to erect a completely new building.

The world financial crisis of 1931-32 caused plans for redevelopment to be postponed, but the Council expressed the view that 'it would show a lack of faith in our country and its resources if we believed that by 1934 the financial situation would not be clear enough to start the work'.

Plan of the property changes in Dean's Yard
Plan of the property changes in Dean's Yard.

To round off the site for any new buildings, it was necessary for the Corporation to obtain the freehold of 6 & 7 Dean's Yard, belonging to Westminster School. An Act of Parliament was required to give full force to a four-party agreement between the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, The Governors of Westminster School, the Corporation of the Church House and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

Many members of Parliament were concerned about the proposal that the Corporation would buy 20 Dean's Yard from Westminster Abbey to provide a new rectory for St Margaret's, Westminster (the church of the House of Commons). The Corporation would then also buy the old rectory, 17 Dean's Yard, and on the adjacent site rebuild the gateway on the south side of Dean's Yard (above which would be part of the chapel of the new House), and, next to this in Great College Street, build a new boarding house for Westminster School in place of Nos 6 & 7 ('Busby's') at the other end of the Terrace.

Plan of the first floor of the new House
Plan of the first floor of the new House

The sketch plans for the whole building, including the plans of every floor, were exhibited at a special meeting of the members of the Corporation on 11 December 1933 (held to give consent to the presentation of a Bill into Parliament) and also during the 1934 spring session of the Church Assembly. As with Sir Arthur Blomfield's plans, the main halls were to be situated on the first floor, with the principal entrance in Dean's Yard.

The proposed New Church House, by P D Hepworth 1933
The proposed New Church House, by P D Hepworth 1933.
Click for larger image (180Kb)

P.D. Hepworth's drawing of the proposed Dean's Yard facade was widely published at the beginning of the year. In March the portico was officially rejected by the Council following objections from many, including Members of Parliament, and replaced by 'the figure of deliberative consultation' or 'the Prophet, the Foreseer, of the Deliberative Church Assembly', sculpted by Charles Wheeler, who was to work closely with Sir Herbert Baker on the new House.

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year