Christ Church, Hilderstone is believed by the webmasters to be one of only two churches in England of its type which has not been altered since its construction. It has its own website. The East Window is the glory of Hilderstone. It is by William Collins. Further information is to be found on this site. Click here.
Christ Church is a "Commissioners Church". In the early part of the nineteenth century Northern Europe was a hot bed of political revolution. This spirit of revolt did not spread to England to any great extent, and it may be that the building of churches such as Christ Church, Hilderstone, played a role in containing the mood of rebellion on the other side of the English Channel.
Following the battle of Waterloo there was real concern that social upheaval may disrupt Great Britain. The industrial revolution was well under way in England. Agriculture was being affected by change as well. To achieve economic success from recently discovered processes and newly invented machines depended on having a quiescent body of artisans and labourers prepared to move themselves and their families and alter their lives to enable maximum advantage to be taken of the new developments. After the success over Napoleon, there was a confidence abroad in England, but this was accompanied by a fear that the disease of political revolution still festering on the Continent may infect the populace.
One of the methods which was perceived as preventing the people from becoming involved in unrest was to strengthen the Church of England. This was at a time when the very forces the establishment was seeking to protect had resulted in a movement of populations away from the long established villages centred around the village church into new centres of population. The people who had moved were not necessarily without religion, but were often drawn to the nonconformist religions, at the time viewed with suspicion. Parliament set about trying to rectify the matter by ensuring that there was ample supply of Anglican churches in the freshly created towns and suburbs. Accordingly, by way of the Church Building Act 1818, £1,000,000 (a huge sum in those days) was made available for building new Church of England churches. The Act was seen at the time variously as providing a means of saving souls, a thanksgiving to God for protecting England from wicked French freethinking, and a method of halting the rising tide of Dissent.
Sir John Betjeman likened the motives of the promoters of the 1818 Act to those of Ebenezer Elliott (1781 1849), one of the poets of the industrial revolution, who wrote:
When wilt thou save the People?
O God of mercy, when?
The people, Lord, the people,
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
Flowers of thy heart, 0 God, are they;
Let them not pass, like weeds, away,
Their heritage a sunless day.
God save the people!
The churches built with the aid of funds made available under the Church Building Acts are known as Commissioners' churches.