Welcome to St Elphege’s
120 Stafford Road, Wallington, Surrey  SM6 9AY

The Story of St Elphege

AND THE EARLY YEARS OF OUR CHURCH AT WALLINGTON   1908-1972

St Elphege was born in the year 953, at little Weston, two miles from Bath. He entered the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire and became a hermit at Glastonbury. He was appointed Abbot of Bath by St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury in 972. He was made Bishop of Winchester in 984, then the Capital of the country. The Danes and Norwegians invaded Britain. Elphege was sent to Olaf, King of Norway and confirmed him and he promised not to invade again and he returned to Norway. The introduction of Christianity to Norway is largely due to him. In 1006 Elphege became Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1012 the Danes had returned and St Elphege was also martyred by them, at Greenwich on the river near the Millennium Dome. He was buried in the Old St Pauls Cathedral in 20 years later his body was removed and transported by barge, which took 7 days to arrive at Canterbury. On the way his body was rested over night at the local Churches and each Church was renamed St Elphege. One of the Churches was pulled down and a block of office s built, however they are still know as St Elphege House, this is at London wall. The other churches are at Greenwich and Whitstable. Sometimes St Elphege is spelt Alphage.

HOW ST ELPHEGE WAS FOUNDED IN WALLINGTON

St Elpheges was founded in 1908 by Canon Caffarata when he moved from the Holy Rosary parish in Sutton. At the time the presbytery was built attached to the Church.

St Elpheges was one of over 20 churches built in the early years of the 20th Century under the financial patronage of Miss Frances Ellis (1846-1930), an heiress who converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church in January 1901. Miss Ellis, after inheriting a considerable fortune from her parents, dedicated her life to founding, new churches, also hospitals, hospices, orphanages and nursing homes. As in all the Ellis foundations there was to be a monthly Mass for the Holy Souls, Miss Ellis died at The Daughters of the Cross Home at Hayle, which she had been instrumental in having built in 1930.

Her vision in building so many churches in South London, at a time of enormous population increase, created new parishes and facilitated attendance at Mass for thousands of people who otherwise would have had no local parish church. During the 1890’s, Miss Ellis began to buy sites from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company, and St Elphege’s church opened in 1908.

Below are the churches that were built:

  • St. Benet’s, Abbey Wood

  • St. Gertrude’s, South Bermondsey

  • Our Lady of the Rosary, Brixton

  • St. Helen’s, Robsart Street, Brixton
    (since merged with Corpus Christi, Brixton)

  • Holy Cross, Carshalton

  • Holy Cross, Catford

  • Our Lady of Grace, Charlton

  • St. Vincent de Paul, Clapham Common

  • St. Bede’s, Clapham Park
    (Miss Ellis lived next door in the house that is now the presbytery)

  • St. Gregory’s, Earlsfield
    (since replaced)

  • St. William of York, Forest Hill

  • Ss. Philip and James, Herne Hill

  • St. Wilfred’s, Kennington Park

  • St. Bartholomew’s, Streatham/Norbury

  • St. Matthews, West Norwood

  • St. Thomas the Apostle, Nunhead

  • St. James the Great, Peckham Rye

  • St. Francis de Sales & St.Gertrude, Stockwell

  • Ss. Simon & Jude, Streatham Hill

  • Our Lady of the Assumption, Links Road, Tooting
    (since replaced)

  • St. Boniface, Tooting

  • St. Elpheges, Wallington
    (since replaced, the original church now acting as a parish centre adjacent to the new building).

These churches started life as missions rather than parishes, underlining the precarious — and hopeful — circumstances of their foundation. Miss Ellis particularly favored a Romanesque style with a single large rose window, but as money was short, they were mostly without ornament. Usually, Miss Ellis insisted on employing an architect whose normal line of work was designing railway sheds, and this utilitarian approach is in evidence at Norbury and a number of other churches in Southwark.

Frances Elizabeth Ellis, after being given her considerable fortune by her father, devoted much of her adult life to caring for her blind mother and infirm sister. She seems to have been drawn to the Catholic faith while staying at Ramsgate in Kent. It is said that she was particularly impressed by the piety of a Mr. Leahy, whom she observed walking to Mass at St. Augustine’s abbey every day and in all weather. However that may be, Mr. Leahy does seem to have been instrumental in introducing her to prominent members of the Southwark clergy, including Canon St. John, who was closely involved in fund-raising and gave money to found new churches in the Southwark diocese. Although few records remain, her method seems to have been to find a core group of the faithful in a “frontier” area, and then to work with them and with the diocese to establish a new church. Miss Ellis herself, generally bought the sites, as well as giving generously to the construction to the buildings The prospective parishioners also contributed, as did the diocese. Financial provision was made in every case for a presbytery, but never for a school.

Next to the Church was a large house called Castlemead and in those early days until 1940 it was the parish school. After this it played a part in the parish as a meeting place and in Ross road the building, now called ‘Jancett’ and is a day nursery for children, was used as the school until 1954 when the school closed the children were dispersed to schools in Mitcham and Carshalton.

In the 1960’s Wallington began to grow, and a new development was built known as Roundshaw. This led to a new school being built on Roundshaw in 1969 and the new Church in 1972, which left the old Church to become the parish Centre. The reason our church is called St Elphege is because St Elphege came to say Mass as Bishop of Winchester at St Marys in Beddington from 984-1006. Bishop Amigo had a strong devotion to the old English saints and it was his prerogative to choose the name of the church.

Each year to celebrate our patronal saint we say a Mass in St Marys Beddington which was built about the year 700.

The Tapestry behind the Altar in the Church at St Elphege emphasises the Resurrection which is the theme of the Church built after the Vatican Council. It shows St Elphege who was martyred on Easter Sunday 1012. It also shows St Mary’s Beddington.