St Paul Shadwell - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Paul Shadwell

• St Paul's Church, Shadwell is a historic church, located between on the edge of Wapping, in the East End of London.

• The name ‘Shadewell’ was recorded as early as 1223, and could have derived from Shady (or Poisoned) Well, Shallow Well, or perhaps a corruption of St Chad’s Well.

• Most of the population made their living on the river, as mariners or watermen, while the rest were in trades reliant directly on shipping, such as shipbuilding or supporting crafts. 32 wharves lined the 400 yards of riverfront, while roperies, timber yards and smithies filled much of the land behind.

• The church has had varying fortunes over many centuries. The old parish church, traditionally known as the Church of Sea Captains, was built in 1656, and rebuilt in 1669 as the Parish Church of Shadwell. Shadwell was famous for its many master mariners; over 175 were registered as living in the parish at one time or another. Captain James Cook worshipped at the church; James Cook, eldest son of the Captain, was baptised there in 1763

• John Welsey used to preach there, although not one of the more missionary churches in the area, it was nonetheless the scene for five of John Wesley’s sermons between 1770 and 1790, including his very last.

• Shadwell’s maritime connections opened it up to the successive waves of immigrants that came to Britain from the later 17th century. Huguenots were among the first to arrive, and planted the ancient mulberry tree, which still survives in the Rectory garden, for their silkworms.

• The church was demolished in 1817 and the present building, a Waterloo church designed by John Walters, was erected in 1820.

• Having survived the depopulation of the parish resulting from the creation of Shadwell Basin and King Edward VII Memorial Park, the destruction of the Blitz, and subsequent policies of reducing housing density and removing industry, the Church in the 1980s and 1990s had to adapt to an increasingly non-Christian local population. Although the problem of a small congregation has greatly inhibited the religious life of the parish in the last few decades, the Church has nevertheless continued to be successful in reaching out to the local community. The Church has often been used for community purposes, and since 1984 the crypt has been used as a nursery and junior school.


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