St Wilfrid's Church

Photo:The former St Wilfrid's church: now private accommodation

The former St Wilfrid's church: now private accommodation

Photo by Tony Mould

A choirboy in the 1930s

By Robert Green

A shilling a quarter for choirboys

In 1935 I was ten years old, living in a council house at 7 Firle Road, up near the racecourse, off Freshfield Road. My friend joined the choir at St Wilfrid's that year, and I went along with him to get the shilling per quarter that new choirboys were paid. Choir practices and services were held in the Parish Hall halfway down Whippingham Road, because the old corrugated iron-roofed church was being demolished.

Last in and first out

I remember being the smallest boy, and so being the last to enter in the procession that preceded the service. That meant that I was the one to lead when the choir came out and because I was always keen to get out for a game of street footer, I was always in a hurry, so I ended up several yards in front of the group. That is, until I learned better. We wore long, fusty-smelling black cassocks, and white surplices with lacy edges, and had to polish our shoes before the service, often by rubbing the toes against the legs of our trousers. 

Consecration of the new church

I was still in the choir when the new church was consecrated, earning one shilling and sixpence per quarter by that time. Choir practice was in a long room at the end of the church nearest to Elm Grove and I had the greatest difficulty in chanting of psalms which went along with the High Church services that were then conducted. I disliked the smell of the incense that was burned in the censers that were swung by the priests during the services, and never learned the reasons for this practice. Soon after I became 13 years old my voice started to break so the choirmaster dispensed with my services and I started to go to St Luke's in Queen's Park Road which was a lot nearer home.

This page was added on 26/03/2013.
Comments about this page

John Betjeman called it "about the best 1930s church there is". Apparently, the Church Commissioners had wanted to destroy it after it fell into disuse, but it was listed, and saved because of the quality architectural design of that period. It is certainly eye-catching, and is now sheltered accommodation for the elderly. The service described above sounds almost Catholic to me?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (27/03/2013)

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