West Ham Central Mission, seen here shortly after opening in 1922. Designed by W. Hayne, it is of red brick and stone in an elaborate Byzantine style with two domed towers.
The Mission sprang from the Mount Zion chapel in the Barking Road, formed in 1863. Its membership rapidly increased and in 1876, under R.H. Gillespie (1873-89) a new building, the Barking Road Tabernacle was erected with the aid of £1,000 from James Duncan, a Silvertown Sugar refiner and philanthropist. After Gillespie's departure the Tabernacle, burdened with debt, was almost forced to close but Robert Rowntree Clifford, who became pastor in 1897, immediately revived and soon transformed it. By 1900 the debt was cleared, 139 new members had been added, and there was a new Sunday school of 500. The intervening years saw much growth and as early as 1907 a larger church and mission premises were being planned. These were completed in 1922 on the current site in Barking Road, at a cost of £68,000 - becoming West Ham Central Mission. In 1916 Marnham House Settlement was built to house the staff of full-time deaconesses. Much work was done at a social level as the mission remained in touch with the social needs of the area - particularly unemployment. The basement of the Children's Church was converted into an air-raid shelter and became a community centre for this heavily bombed area. Membership of WHCM peaked at over 1,000 in during the 1930s. Post war declined in church-going meant that the number had fallen to about 347 by 1966.