Old Dagenham

St Peter & St Paul, Dagenham, London RM10

On Tuesday this week I visited the parish church of SS Peter & Paul in Dagenham, way out east, along the north bank of the Thames. It is a place still thought of by my generation of southerners as Dagenham, Essex even though for decades now it has been under the aegis of the London Boro’ of Barking and Dagenham.

The ancient heart of Dagenham – a veritable ‘rus in urbs’ if cleverly photographed – is now just the Saxon-thru-late-Georgian church, the c16 pub and the c17 vicarage. The old and very large burial ground of the church is a prize-winning wildlife haven

The rest (for miles around) is modern, mass-produced housing from the 1930s up to the present, indifferently extending the London sprawl. The more recent of it covers the traces of defunct light industry that grew up round the now much shrunken Ford car factory.

But what about the pipe-organ? Well, on the face of it this 1939 instrument, by the organ builder Rutt is very modest indeed – no recital instrument this –  but it is ideally suited to its location and its purpose in leading a congregation in hearty singing.

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