The 20th Century

At the turn of the 20th century, the parish continued to be one of the poorest in London. When interviewed in 1899 for the Charles Booth Poverty Maps, the vicar stated that the parish was ‘difficult and at times an almost despairing one, with very little to encourage and a great deal to discourage. It is a work in which we cannot hope or expect to see much result’[1] Health problems and death due to poverty were rife in the parish. Ruby Bellamy died aged 15 months in 1914 brought on by malnutrition ‘the doctor said the child weighed 7lb 6 oz. instead of the normal weight of 18 or 20 lb. Death was due to pneumonia.’  The vast majority of the parishioners continued to live in overcrowded tenements ‘comprised of two rooms in a tenement block, shared by seven other families…lots of poor families lived there in tiny dingy ‘Mermaid Court’.’  However, a strong sense of community did prevail within the parish. A description of church life in the 1930s shows a poor but thriving community where ‘the extreme poverty, the Sunday school numbered in hundreds, the mass weddings (the church usually filled with an inebriated congregation)’ prevailed. Indeed, these mass weddings were commented on by Mary Pinder, a member of the congregation in the 1930s, and seem to have consisted of numerous couples lined up along the chancel arch and being married at the same time.

During the early 20th century, the church also had a close connection with the Ranyard Mission, set up to work with London’s poor. In 1935, a Ranyard Nurse and Ranyard Lady Worker were employed at the church, as well as the Rector, two curates and a Mr. Earnest Cook. In 1941, a Miss. Iris Dean was nurse at St. George’s and St. Michael’s Parishes. The parish continued to relieve the poor and look after the sick and elderly up until the creation of the NHS in 1948.

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