A Pictorial History of St. Luke’s Church, Millwall

This is what St. Luke’s church looked like early this morning (14th October 2014), in a photo taken by Peter Wright.


It’s just a question of cleaning up the rubble now, and work can start on building the newest incarnation of the church.

The first St. Luke’s church (which was also a school) was on the west side of West Ferry Rd, the later location of St. Luke’s School, and now the location of a restaurant and supermarket. The school’s old memorial stones has been mounted on the wall here, and the zebra crossing at this spot was originally placed for the schoolchildren).

Built in 1865 to serve the Anglican district chapelry of St Luke, the first building was meant to be temporary; and, as it was made from iron, it was known locally as the iron church. Apparently they were not so unusual in Victorian times – this is an iron church in Lancashire.

The Iron Church, Padiham

No photo exists of the St Luke’s iron church, unfortunately, but it is clearly marked on maps of the time.

1870 stl

1870 map showing St. Luke’s Church (Thomas St was later renamed to Havannah St).

In 1873, a permanent church and vicarage were built on Strafford St, on ground given by Lord Strafford and Lady Margaret Charteris. The congregation moved there, while the school remained on West Ferry Rd (also in new premises, built by the same firm that built the vicarage).

A drawing of time shows how the church was expected to look (however, the small tower on the right would never be built).

Scan0081 14879660289

A large church. it could seat 700.

St Lukes Church Seating Plan

From Alpha Grove….

alpha-rd 15066363555

It was also visible in the background of this photo of SS Endurance being refitted in Regent Dry Dock for Shackelton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition. The photo shows also a row of houses on West Ferry Rd, and Byng St centre left.byng-st-st-lukes-ss-endurance 14845238608


St Luke’s was damaged during the Second World War. People who lived in the area in the 1950s do not recall there being too much visible damage, but evidently the damage was bad enough to require church services to be held in a side-chapel. Jim Charnley made this drawing in 1950, showing some dilapidation. The wall, with its recognizable pyramid-shaped pillar-tops (I’m sure there’s a proper architectural name for them), survived the later demolition.1950 St Lukes

B. M. Nash painted a similar view around the same time.


Later photos, courtesy of John Salmon, show the 1960 demolition in full progress.

img_20140611_111205 15063332441

St Lukes 14879779488

St Lukes(2o6u) 14879779468

St Lukes(lkp6) 15063332541

St Lukes(xs53) 14879809937

stlukes 3 15181840399

At the same time, a new chapel was built. In the early 1960s documentary, Portrait of Queenie, Queenie Watts walks around her old haunts on the Island, including a stroll down Havannah St past the recently-opened church.havannah-7- 14876786750

Like all churches on the Island, St. Luke’s also played an important social role. In this 1980s photo, mothers are talking on Havannah St outside the toddler’s playgroup in the church hall.

capture 14876851088

Photo copyright (c) Mike Seaborne

Peter Wright took these photos of the church and vicarage  in the mid-1990s.


St Lukes(g9ef) 14879809767

st-johns-hse-2 14878164498

Disaster struck when the vicarage was destroyed by fire in 2009. At the time there were discussions about what should be done with the building, with interest from property developers to redevelop the land. Unsurprisingly, there were rumours that the fire was started deliberately.

860386_590798347616476_1471006295_o 14878036489

The space left after the remains of the vicarage had been cleared….

Site of St Lukes vicarage 15036204779

And the inevitable flats that were built on the spot (good to see that the two large trees survived all this)……


The church not long after the vicarage fire….

967104_10201086497226114_304498764_o 15066363805

1396995_10201086505386318_2023114232_o 14879810207

img_5916-east-end 14879717530

stlukes 2 15365429111

By now, it was  becoming apparent that the church itself was no longer fit for its purpose. In the words of the St. Luke’s fundraising appeal:

Sometimes it takes a long time for the scars of the past to heal. St Luke’s Church, Miilwall (in the Isle of Dogs) was bombed out during the Second World War. Since then the community has carried on with a make-shift chapel, tacked on to the church hall. This was never meant to be a permanent solution. The whole complex is nearly derelict, and the many areas of flat roof all leak in the rain.

The plan was to raise enough funds to build a new church, community centre and six homes. Enough money was raised for the new-build, and at the end of September 2014 the church was fenced off in preparation for stripping and demolition.10620435_10202997038948463_6588340455100372041_o

The previous photo was taken by Peter Wright, who regularly visited the church in the following days in order to take photos of the progress.

St Lukes Demolition, 2014 15230732849

1st October 2014

St Lukes Demolition, 2014 15414311951

1st October 2014. The demise of one of the pyramid-shaped pillar-top thingies.

According to the demolition workers, the war memorial was so firmly fixed in place it took them longer than expected to remove it (it is being moved to Christ Church).

St Lukes Demolition, 2014 15394440476

1st October 2014


2nd October 2014, interior.

St Lukes Church Demolition, 2014 15257769387

4th October 2014, War Memorial removed.

6th October 2014

6th October 2014

14th October 2014

14th October 2014

14th October 2014

14th October 2014

I am not aware when the construction will start proper, but I bet Peter Wright turns up frequently to record it. It will be the third St. Luke’s church on this spot that Peter has seen with his own eyes. If he says he saw the iron church, then he’s either been at the sherry, or he’s a lot older than I thought!

By the way, a few days ago the Isle of Dogs Life blog also had an article featuring St Luke’s church this week. Obviously I need to get out of bed earlier, but I suppose its inevitable that two Island bloggers will eventually, accidentally post on the same subject. You can find it here: http://isleofdogslife.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/farewell-to-the-old-st-lukes-church-millwall/

In the mean time, a few architect’s impressions of the new church and community centre.

From Alpha Grove

From Havannah St

Hall Interior

Church Interior at its Smallest

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A Pictorial History of St. Luke’s Church, Millwall

  1. Melanie says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I live in the building which was put up on the site of the vicarage and had been meaning to write and ask you to post about St Luke’s church. I’ve only been on the Island since the flats were built but already the area has changed so much.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for posting this also. I was married in the church just a few years ago and moved away shortly afterwards. I was wondering how the work was progressing, and it’s really interesting (though sad!) to see the old building come down. Looking forward to the new one though.

  3. Ian J Armstrong says:

    I have a Victorian Photograph Album containing Cabinet cards etc. There is one card of St. Lukes Church anf three of pupils at St. Lukes School. None of the cards have been taken out to see if any have notations. I would say they relate to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Album holds many portraits and family group cards, possibly from the same area. This of course would need more research. Thank you.


  4. Roger Wood says:

    Two of the vicars from my parish Churches Stanley St Andrew’s church and All Saints Church Stanley Common, Derbyshire were past vicars (Rectors) of St. Luke’s church, Millwall. Could anyone advise if list of the clergy board which I have been informed was once displayed in the old church survived? I am looking for a photograph of the board. The two vicars were the Reverend Ernest Frank Scofield (1909-1916) and the Reverend Thomas Williams (1916-1919). Dates in brackets are the number of years they stayed at St. Luke’s.

    Roger Wood

    • jay lash says:

      Hi Roger, I was involved with the 150th anniversary of Christ church and state Luke’s in 2004, and was heavily involved with researching the parish. Unfortunately only the lectern and altar rails and the war memorial survived the bombing of the church. The same applies to photographs of at Luke’s as well. All of the parish registers survived and are held at the London metropolitan archives. I do however believe some Bibles belonging to early priests of at Luke’s are now in Christ Church. The Lbth ( London borough of tower Hamlets ) archives hold lots of press cuttings.

  5. lori paton says:

    This is a wonderful article. My father’s family all went to school here in the early 1900s. Fabulous information for us.

  6. Linda Parker nee Loaring. says:

    Having wonderful time going down memory lane.Great article,I lived in 32, Alpha Grove , moved to Liverpool in 1960.Remember St Lukes church really well.My teacher Miss Pat Warner lived opposite the new church.Remember the big white cross. Looking also at the old pubs my dad went to the Pride , off Tooke St.Does anyone remember the Loarings….from all over isle of dogs, Grandad William John Dodson Loaring lived at 45, Tooke St.Thanks for great journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.