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Charles Church

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: Charles Church  Reply with quote

After the Battle of Britain phase of World War II, the air raids on Plymouth were rapidly intensified. During the night of 20–21 March 1941 Charles Church was destroyed by fire. The congregation joined St Luke's for a month and then joined the daughter church St Matthias (as did the daughter church St Augustine for the same reason). Ironically St Matthias was never bombed. The bomber pilots used the tower, that juts high over the city skyline, as a guide point.

When peace came it was decided not to rebuild Charles. Plymouth had expanded and the population was in the new suburbs not the centre any more. It was decided to turn Charles into a living memorial of the 1,200 civilian deaths in the air raids. On Saturday 1958 at a service conducted by the vicar of the parish, J Allen James, the church was dedicated as a memorial. The commemorative plaque on the north wall reads:

Built 1641, Consecrated 1665, Completed 1708. Named in honour of King Charles I. Ruined by enemy action, 21 March 1941. Partially restored 1952, by the City, in co-operation with the Ministry of Work. The idea of restoration having been sponsored by the Old Plymouth society, as a memorial to those citizens of Plymouth who were killed in air-raids on the city in the 1939-45 War.

The church is occasionally used for services of remembrance or of special importance and the current Vicar of Charles with St Matthias is responsible for them. Modern use has been for the University carol concerts and a special service of reconciliation between Germany and Plymouth was held there in 2001 with the German ambassador present.

The parish became known as the Charles with St Luke on 11 August 1954 and then when St Luke's was considered for demolition the congregation united with St Matthias becoming "the Church of Charles with St Matthias" on 22 April 1962.

One of the parishioners, Miss Leigh, had mixed feelings about the church remaining a memorial. "It grieves my heart to see it as it is, given that I remember its former glories. I'm sorry, too, that the historic purpose-built Household of Faith Sunday School, the first in Plymouth, was torn down. I just don't know what to think about the church remaining as it is a memorial to the Blitz victims". Miss Leigh was clear about what she felt for the church itself having attended from birth in 1903 "To me the church was particularly wonderful because there I got to know God… When it was blitzed in 1941 it was one of the few things that made me cry. My life seemed to be completely broken on that day."

During the mid 1990s the church again become the subject of renewed debate, partly because it is felt that its setting would be at least overpowered and possibly desecrated by the erection of the controversial Drake Circus Shopping Centre to the North West and because there was a growing campaign to partially restore the church to incorporate some modern glazed roofing to enclose a blitz museum.

(from Wikipedia)

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