All's Well at All Saint's - Mike Dudding reports

The Parish Eucharist on April 23rd presided over the Revd. Robert Titley and the service of Evensong presided over by the Rt. Revd. Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark a week later, marked the practical completion of the first phase of the rebuilding of All Saint's Church, West Dulwich, which had been largely consumed by fire in June 2000. The former service also marked the departure of Robert Titley after 12 years in the parish to a new appointment, as a Canon of Southwark Cathedral and Diocesan Director of Ordinands.

The architects for the redevelopment were Thomas Ford & Partners of Sydenham and the builders were Killby & Gayford of Clapham. The main changes to this Grade 1 listed building were to build a new west end to the building to complete what was left unfinished when the church was built in 1881-91. The chancel has been restored to its original state and the nave allowed to show the 'scars' of the fire. The sixteen fine stone statutes which had stood in the chancel had to be removed as they were too badly damaged in the fire. Their replacement remains an aspiration for a later date. The stone chancel arch and screen have also been removed since the stone was no longer safe. The chancel and nave are now more unified in space terms, and the new wooden altar sits almost underneath the remains of the chancel arch. The former pulpit has been removed as it was very badly damaged, and its removal has enabled seating in the nave to be brought forward. The new west end now houses various parish offices, a choir gallery and a choir practice room. Stairs go up to the gallery and down to the crypt and a lift serves all three floors.

The building work cost well over £6 million, covered in large measure by insurance. While some may question the wisdom of spending so much on the building, the terms of the insurance prevented the money being used in any other way. Inevitably the work had to be pared down to reflect available funds and a number of items remain to be undertaken. The PCC now has the second phase in its sights, including provision of a pipe-organ to maintain All Saint's high reputation for good music. All told a further £1 million needs to be found.

One remarkable feature of the six years has been the way in which, under Robert Titley's leadership, the congregation has hung together in such adverse circumstances. This leadership ensured that potentially divisive issues were talked through by the PCC and the wider congregation and as a result key decisions were approved by large majorities. Anybody who has not yet seen inside the building should look, and take pride in what a Dulwich community has achieved.

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