Holy Cross Church, Greenford

The old church is one of the three oldest buildings in the borough (the other two being St. Mary's Northolt and St. Mary's Perivale).

All of these were fortunate to survive. They did so probably because there was no need to rebuild them in the nineteenth century, as they were in parishes with soaring populations. Small populations had no need of larger and newer churches; so the medieval buildings survived the Victorian rebuilding. Holy Cross Church was only 60 ft in length.

The church dates from around 1157 AD, but the earliest remaining parts of the building are as recent as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The porch on the south side of the church dates from about 1500, whilst the wooden tower dates from the sixteenth century. The exterior walls are faced with rather more modern nineteenth century flint.

There are a number of interesting monuments within the church itself. These include a monument to a local benefactor from the seventeenth century, Simon Coston, his wife and their children. There are brasses on the north wall of two priests, John Hart of the fifteenth century, and Thomas Symons of the next century.

The stained glass windows are also worth inspecting. Some fragments date from the fourteenth century. One window shows the coats of arms of Eton and King's College, Cambridge, and also the arms of Queen Mary and her husband, Phillip II of Spain.

Two of Greenford's rectors were prominent men. The first was Edward Terry, who served the parish from 1624-1660. He had made his name before he set foot in Greenford, as chaplain to the British ambassador at the court of the Moghul emperor in India. On his return to England in 1619, he published an account of his travels and adventures. He was judged to be a 'polite man of a pious and exemplary conversation' and  'a good preacher'.

The second was the Reverend Edward Betham. His principal achievement, which is still important today, was his founding of a school, the first in the parish. This he did by leaving £1600 in bank stock in order to pay for the schooling of 30 poor boys and girls in reading, writing, religion and accounting (for boys) and knitting and sewing for girls. This school was and is in Oldfield Lane. Children from Perivale, Northolt and Hanwell also attended in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reverend Betham also left money in his will for the provision of clothing to five poor men and five poor women.

In the 20s and 30s, Greenford's population was soaring. It was now no longer an agricultural village, but a bustling suburb for factory workers and commuters. Holy Cross was too small to physically seat the congregation, even in an age when churchgoing was in decline.

In 1943, a new and much bigger church was built next to the old building, and the latter is now only used on special occasions.

We would like to thank Dr Jonathan Oates, borough archivist and local history librarian, for the use of his information.