1920’s: A Church for Kenton

In the 1920’s London exploded, its unofficial boundaries becoming yearly more extensive and difficult to define. There was a rapid and widespread suburban development and as part of it the modern Kenton was born. A 1930 Bartholomew’s map of the area shows that Kenton then consisted of the streets from Kenton Station to Cranleigh Gardens and from Alicia Gardens to the Ridgeway. In 1927, when the Mission was founded, building in this area had only just begun. There were, however, sufficient householders for Mrs Newton-Andrews to call a meeting at Courtlands, Kenton Road – then, as now, the doctor’s house – for 8.30pm on Wednesday the 29th September 1926, to discuss the subject of ‘Kenton Church’.

St Leonards Church
St Leonards Church

About 50 people were present and the Vicar of Harrow-on-the-Hill explained that the purpose of the meeting was to form a committee to work in co-operation with the Parochial Church Council of the Hill in building and establishing a permanent church in Kenton. This Vicar was Fr Stogden, who visited his vast parish on horseback to the end of his days as Vicar, and remained a firm friend of Kenton till he died.

So the seed was planted for the growth of church life in Kenton. Many meetings of the committee followed, chaired usually by Mr Findlay, whose work in the Sunday Schools and then at Saint Leonard’s is commemorated each year on the anniversary of his death with prayers for his soul. The deliberations of this group of men and women concerned the raising of money, of course, by means of concerts, bazaars, and house-to-house collections, and the acquisition of suitable sites for the Church and a house for the Missioner. The amounts of money involved seem small by today’s standards, e.g. £3000 for the house, but were then really quite large.

On the 28th of January, 1927, a familiar face appeared at a Committee meeting though its owner was not to utter a word at it. The new Missioner, at that time a curate at Saint Andrew’s Parish Church, Enfield, first met those with whom he was to build up the Faith in Kenton. And so Fr Johnson made his earliest visit to the scene of his life’s work. By the 17th June the work of erecting the temporary Church of Saint Leonard was sufficiently far advanced -at a cost of £1445- to settle the date for its opening as 2nd July 1927, at a time convenient to the Bishop. Tickets were issued for this service, and the ‘bun-fight’ was to be held after it in the Kenton Schools, when the people could meet both Bishop and Missioner. On July 2nd the Bishop duly arrived [this was Bishop Perrin, suffragan Bishop of Willesden] and at 5 o’clock in the afternoon he inaugurated the Mission District of St Leonard, Kenton, with Fr Frank Reginald Johnson as its first Missioner.

From the first there was a tide of enthusiasm for the work of the Church that seemed to turn all to gold.