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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.

Orgelbewegung in north London

Our Lady & St Joseph, Balls Pond Road, London N1

I recently found my way to the church of Our Lady and St Joseph located on the Balls Pond Road in north London. The road is said to have been named after a pond owned by a John Ball who in much earlier times ran the Salutation Tavern (aka the Boarded House), which provided facilities for bull baiting and – on its pond – duck hunting.

The parish was established in 1855 by Fr William Lockhart of the Rosminian Order. The first parish church (1856-c.1960) was located at the corner of Culford Road and Tottenham Street, Hackney. This church was converted from a disused warehouse by W. W. Wardell (1823-99), with further adaptation by E. W. Pugin (1834–75) completed in 1860.

The current buidling is designed by William C Mangen (1884-?) and was opened in 1964.

The pipe organ

The organ here is by J. W. Walker and Sons (1964).

It is a very nice English interpretation of the organ reform movement or orgelbewegung, a twentieth-century organ design tradition that began in Germany. Here no concessions are made to ‘romantic’/’symphonic’ organ design, although the temperament is equal.

The instrument is beautifully crafted and more than 50 years on is still lovely to play. Works by the Baroque masters and Paul Hindemith ‘et al’ suit it very nicely. Sadly, I had no opportunity to record the instrument. Next time maybe.

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