WHEN Michael Chamberlain, the chairman of the
Corporation of The Church House, Westminster, closed the Minute
Book at the recent AGM, and handed it to the Secretary, Christopher
Palmer (pictured), he remarked that it was the last page of a
venerable book that had first been opened on 21 July 1888.
The first page records that the first meeting of the
body that was to own and administer the headquarters of the Church
of England in London had been held in a marquee in
Dean's Yard. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson, in
the chair, told the gathering that only the previous evening he had
signed the contract for the site of the Church House-to-be, and the
meeting took formal possession of it. There was opposition to the
expense of it all, and funds were hard to come by.
The first Church House was partially built, but by
1930 the Corporation decided that it was so unsatisfactory that it
would be demolished and rebuilt. And so it was. The present
building was completed just in time to give hospitality to both
Houses of Parliament when their own premises were bombed in the
By 1987, the need for refurbishment looked so
expensive that the General Synod agreed that its administrative
offices should move in with the Church Commissioners on Millbank,
and Church House be disposed of - only to have its mind changed at
the next session.
Substantial works followed, plus the setting up of
the award-winning Church House Conference Centre to provide a
useful income to subsidise the running of the House. In the past
year, the Corporation has got off to another fresh start with its
new Secretary, Mr Palmer, who flew Royal Navy helicopters in the
Falklands War, and finished up as Commodore and CO of the Royal
Naval Air Station at Yeovilton.
Now it is time to open a new Minute Book, and who
knows about the future?