The Story of St Catherine’s Church and the Telegraph Hill Centre

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The Story of St Catherine’s Church and the Telegraph Hill Centre
1892 The Haberdasher’s Company give land and £85,000 for a Church.

First vicar puts up the temporary “tin church”.

1893 The permanent Church is dedicated on 10 October.

1900 The Church Hall is built.

1913 Church is damaged by fire (alleged to be the work of the suffragette movement but there is no evidence for this). Publicity led to successful appeal to rebuild.

1914 The rebuilding is finished.

1933 The High Altar and Lady Chapel are refurbished.

1939 An aumbry for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is added to the North Wall of the Chancel.

1940 A fire bomb destroys the roof and pews on 9 September, the first night of the blitz.

The Church moves into Aske’s School Dining Hall as the Church Hall is used for the crew operating the RAF Barrage Balloon in the park. Less than a month later the School Dining Hall is hit and destroyed and the church moves to the School’s main Hall.

1945 The RAF move out, the school returns and the church moves back into the Church Hall.

1950 The rebuilding and refurbishment of the Church is complete and it is rededicated on 29 June.

1954 A new East Window is installed and dedicated in June.

The Church is restored to a plan left by previous vicar, Fr. W.H.J. Fenton.

1960 St Peter’s Chapel is made in the North Transept and dedicated in February. The organ is restored with a new console on the right of the nave.

1965 Large part of the church grounds is bought by the South Bank Housing Association to build the houses in St Catherine’s Drive. The Church Hall is demolished and the Choir Vestry extended to act as a hall

A Policy and Social Planning Committee is set up to look at ways to provide both the premises needed for the Church and the social amenities wanted by the Borough Council.

1968 A public meeting held at Samuel Pepys School (later renamed Hatcham Wood and then Telegraph Hill) elects a steering committee for the Telegraph Hill Neighbourhood Council.In November, Charles Jervis, headmaster of Samuel Pepys School is elected first Chair, with Lyn Moss, a member of St Catherine’s congregation as Vice Chair.


The Centre and Library are built and the Church redesigned to make up for the loss of space. While the work is in progress the congregation worship at the Methodist Church on Kitto Rd, now the Church of God of Prophecy. The congregation is able to return to the Church for Midnight Mass at Christmas.


The Telegraph Hill Neighbourhood Council runs the Centre in partnership with the Church, concentrating on youth work and work with the elderly and funded by grants from Lewisham Council and income from lettings.

1989 Grants to the Centre are cut by Lewisham Borough Council and the Telegraph Hill Neighbourhood Council withdraws.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) sets up a sub-committee, the Centre Management Committee, to run the Centre. The upper floors of the centre are let to the Carr Gomm Housing Association and the money used to replace the lost grants from Lewisham.

1993 The first Telegraph Hill Arts Festival is held, based in the Church and Centre, with a community performance by members of the congregation and local children as its heart.

1996 Lewisham Borough Council closes the Library and Child Clinic and plans to sell the building.

1996 The Library Space is leased to Carr Gomm as a day centre for residents.

Local artists begin a campaign to buy the Library space for community use. It is agreed by the Centre and the PCC that as the Church is the freeholder of the Centre, it should buy the Library to use as community space.

1997 Lewisham Borough Council withdraws all its funding from the Centre but delays the cuts by six months after an appeal.

1998 The LBL Youth Club and Lunch Club closes

1999 The Council agrees to sell the Library space back to the Church for £80,000.

The Haberdashers Company makes a grant of £50,000 to the Church towards the purchase.

The rest of the money comes from the Church Urban Fund and Diocese of Southwark

2000 The Church buys back the Library, completing the purchase in June.

An agreement is entered into with the Carr Gomm that it will continue to be used as a residents’ club but that it will also house a community café, open to all, and used as a base for a catering skills training course for adults with special needs. The Café Orange opens in May 1999.

2001 The income from the office and Café Orange spaces is redistributed by the Church. The Centre’s income is to be reduced by £4000.

2007 LBL ends Youth Club provision

2009 Carr Gomm ends their Lease on the 1st and 2nd floors and Cafe Orange

Askes School takes over Cafe Orange for their Sixth Form canteen and common room; Cafe Fed is born

The PCC converts flat 2 back to residential use

2010 The PCC lets out the 1st & 2nd floors as Artist’s studios

Lunch Ladies Thursday’s Fish & Chips Club is expanded by 50% and keeps on growing

Lighthouse Social Club starts a bi-weekly lunch club for adults

Bold Vision is formed and creates The Hill Station cafe in the former library car park

2011 Parlour Group is formed

Craft Collective is founded

Working with local parents and Somerville Adventure Playground the Telegraph Hill Youth Club re-opens after being closed for five years

2012 Bumps Babies & Toddle On weekly pre-school drop-in session run by parents starts

Grow Wild based in the Centre helping to transform the ‘Cage’ into a ‘Cloister Garden’

2013 The Hat Making class is re-born

2013 St James provides a new toilet for the Craft room

2012 Facts & Figures

The Centre is open 24/7 52 weeks a year

The Centre is run by the equivalent of one full time post & some fantastic volunteers

450 children and adults attend an activity in the Centre every week during term-time (approx)

The Centre receives no public funding. St Catherine’s Church ploughs back £30K of the annual rental income to keep the Centre running smoothly

Over the year an average of a thousand people visit the Centre each week (approx)

45 plus groups and individuals hire the Centre on a regular basis Monday to Saturday running 39 activities

During the annual Telegraph Hill Festival several hundred extra people visit the Centre

This year the Centre has been hired out 22 times on a Saturday for social and other events out of an available 26 Saturdays

For more information contact:

Jane Hartley, the Centre Manager 020 7639 0214,

Pop in to the Centre

The office is usually open 10.00 am to 2.00 pm Monday to Friday but it is a good idea to call first just to make sure.

Telegraph Hill Centre, Kitto Road

London SE14 5TY

The Vision behind this Centre and church is that you will find some material comforts here and much greater things as well: that through friendship you will experience increasingly the things that give to life its joy and purpose: such things as love and trust and hope.

Offer yourself in friendship to others you meet here, of whatever age, or race or background, and you will help us all to make this real” Allan Auckland c 1963

The History of the Telegraph Hill Centre

The Telegraph Hill Centre was built in 1972, the result of an exercise in co-operation between the London Borough of Lewisham (LBL,) St Catherine’s Church (PCC) and a newly created body, the Telegraph Hill Neighbourhood Council (THNC.)

Land was wanted for social housing and a library, and the PCC agreed to sell the area to the rear of the church where the Church Hall had stood in return for the building of a community centre physically attached to and making use of the rear of the nave. The space known as the Narthex was created as well as three floors of rooms of varying sizes, including a bar. The building was opened by Glenda Jackson on 7 October 1972.

LBL built a library as part of the development, and two residential flats were included in the fabric, one of which was reserved for a caretaker but in the event was (and remains) occupied by a THNC staff member.

Centre Funding

At first LBL provided trained staff and funds for a full time youth project and a lunch club and support for seniors, and also ran a Meals on Wheels kitchen at the Centre. The building also housed a pre-school, play schemes, self-help groups like Gamblers Anonymous, as well as the location for Sunday refreshments after St Catherine’s morning service. Space was also let out for a fee to individuals for parties and receptions and to tutors running their own courses.

When LBL funding was cut in 1986/7, THNC withdrew from the Centre in order to regroup as the 170 Advice Project on the New Cross Road (170) taking most of the remaining LBL funding with it.

The PCC decided to keep the Centre open by letting the top two floors of the building, including the second flat which was modified for use as office space, to the Carr Gomm Housing Association in order to provide funds to supplement the remaining LBL grants (from Community Education Lewisham and the Leisure Services.) This maintained the building for community use and a part time youth club staffed by seconded LBL workers was able to continue.

A Centre Co-ordinator remained in post, alongside the Building Manager and the LBL worker with the elderly. The elders’ lunch club was maintained by the Centre even after LBL withdrew the worker and all the remaining grants in 1997.

When the PCC decided to retain some of the rent revenue for parish expenses, the Centre was faced with a shortfall in revenue for the costs of outreach and community workers which it was able for some time to make up with grants from charitable trusts. When the Centre Co-ordinator left in 1998 some of her responsibilities were assumed by the Building Manager whose job description was modified, and subsequently three part-time Community Development workers were recruited consecutively to work alongside her. However, sources of funding have run out in recent years and Lottery bids have been unsuccessful.

When the final Community Development worker left in 2007 there was insufficient funding to replace her. After the long-serving Building Manager retired in 2010, staffing was re-structured with a wider job description but shorter hours and a Centre Manager, whose post has been guaranteed by the PCC until June 2012 and which includes community development work as well as building management, was appointed. She and the Centre cleaner are the Centre’s only staff members and are supported by casual caretakers.

In 2009 Carr Gomm relinquished their lease and vacated the premises. The second flat was reinstated and has been let and space in the upstairs offices was leased by two artists’ groups, though some is still available.

The stabilisation of the letting income from major tenants and the establishment of the new Centre Manager post is already allowing more development of community work after several years when the priority was to maximise income to keep the building open and available to the community.

The old Library Space (previously Cafe Orange, now Cafe Fed)

When LBL closed the Library in 1998 and put the space on the market, a community campaign, led by a group of artists organised around the Telegraph Hill Arts Festival Group, was eventually successful in winning the right to put in an offer for the Library building.

During the campaign it was accepted that the Church as the freeholder of the Centre building was the appropriate organisation to buy the building and the purchase was made with money donated by the Haberdashers’ Company – the city livery company which owns the St Catherine’s living and appoints the Vicar – and from the Central Church Fund.

In allowing the group to bid for the space LBL stressed that an important element was the continued provision of facilities for Carr Gomm residents. Since a Centre planning day in 1998 had identified a desire for a community café, an agreement to let the space to the Carr Gomm Society for use as a day centre and community café/catering training resource was made, with the proviso that the space was open to the public. This became Café Orange and remained open until Carr Gomm relocated in 2009. The space has now been leased to the Haberdashers’ Federation and is used as a sixth form common room. Although it has been renamed Cafe Fed it is not open to the public, though it can be hired for use outside school hours.

The Church Roof Appeal

In 2001 and 2002 surveys of the church fabric revealed essential repairs to be urgent, which, with other work planned to improve the building, would cost in excess of £400,000. An appeal was launched which raised money for some repairs but it was a generous bequest which ultimately enabled the repairs to the Church to be completed in 2010.

The Telegraph Hill Centre Group

When the Centre first opened it was managed by a committee with representatives from the PCC and the THNC. When the THNC withdrew in the 1980s and the PCC took on the sole management of the Centre it set up a sub-committee to do this which included six representatives elected from the community, representatives of users groups and six representatives selected by the PCC.

This is now known as the Telegraph Hill Centre Group (THCG) and does not exist separately as a legal organisation although it has a defining constitution. Therefore it is unable to apply for charitable status as it is already part of an organisation – the church – which is an excepted charity.

THCG meets at least six times a year to look after the building, represent the community in discussions about the use of the building and manage staff for the PCC which remains the employer.

The 2010 Annual Parochial Church meeting re-established terms of reference for THCG, and these will be considered as the basis for a strategic review of THCG’s role later in 2011.

The Telegraph Hill Festival

In 1993 the vicar and curate of St Catherine’s met with local organisers of the open air day long park festivals of the 1980s to set up the Telegraph Hill Festival with a strong emphasis on celebrating the community through arts events. The church had already begun with the input of an experienced community theatre practitioner who was a member of the congregation at the time to organise large scale community musicals and other events accumulated, all provided by local often professional artists and performers on a voluntary basis.

The Festival is now organised by a self-selected ad hoc group who are currently for legal and insurance reasons a sub group of the THCG and 2013 Festival is the biggest to date

Bold Vision

Bold Vision is a community led group which responds to the 2007 LBL funded community survey and consultation work carried out by the Centre and during the Festivals of 2008 and 2009. Its mission is Strengthening Community on the heart of Telegraph Hill. It grew out of a belief that changing community needs were not all met by the facilities offered by the Centre, especially to the arts and small businesses in the area and that the ending of the leases with Carr Gomm might offer opportunities to think about more fundamental redevelopment.

That original remit, when the group was first established as the Centre Development Group, a sub-group of the PCC, was revised when the Church was tasked by the Diocese with undertaking its own review and 40-year-plan.

Bold Vision was established (now a registered charity) has leased the undercroft/car park space so it can be developed without risk to the Centre and PCC and in line with community needs indentified by the 2008 survey and 2009 consultation .

Bold Vision’s first project with financial support from the church, Centre, Bold Backers and several grants was developing the space in the undercroft/car park beneath the old Library into a cafe and community resource has been completed.

The Hill Station cafe opened for business in 2010. The Cafe provides a long needed space for people to meet, eat, work, perform, discuss, exhibit, gossip, learn, rest

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