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Irene Stride Remembers Spitalfields

November 21, 2013
by the gentle author

Irene Stride

Irene Stride and her husband, Rev Eddy Stride, expected to be missionaries in Africa – but fate intervened. “At that time, all the Christian missionaries were being thrown out of China by the Communists and they were going to Africa, so the Missionary Society told us to ‘Seek home ministry!’ and we ended up in Spitalfields instead,” Irene recalled fondly and without regret, when I visited her recently in her home on the Isle of Dogs.

“It was a very poor area and people said to us, ‘What are you doing taking children to a place like that?’ because it was grim, but my husband said he couldn’t live with himself if we didn’t take what was offered,” she admitted to me, “We felt there was a need in those days. We went there in 1970 and stayed until 1989, when we retired.”

In spite of their reservations, Irene and her family quickly found themselves at home in Spitalfields. “After a few weeks, my family really loved it there, because they found they could go cycling everywhere, around the City and up to the West End,” Irene told me, growing enthusiastic in recollection.“When we came, the Jewish people and the Cockneys were moving out and the Bengalis were moving in,” she added, “now the Bengalis are moving out and people from the West End are moving in.”

“The church was shut up and was dangerous inside, so we used the hall in Hanbury St for services and the crypt was a shelter for alcoholics,” Irene explained, outlining the challenges she and her husband faced, “Dennis Downham was there before us, he had cleared out the crypt and put in a dormitory and a day room. It was run by a warden and men came into the crypt if he thought they had a chance of getting off alcoholism and some did, and some didn’t. My boys used to play snooker with the men, but they got upset when they saw them next day lying passed out in the street. The men used to come and knock on the Rectory door if they thought I would give them something – a cup of tea or a sandwich – so we did get to know them quite well.”

Spitalfields became the location that defined her husband’s ministry and, even today, it is the place for which Irene holds the strongest connection. “When I was twenty-three, Eddy and I were planning to be missionaries in Algeria, because Eddy had been there for three years during the war and he felt that he should go back as a missionary,” she confided to me, “So I went to the Mount Herman Missionary Training College in Ealing while he studied Theology in Bristol. His sister was one of my best friends and I knew him before he went to Africa. Then, while he was an engineer in Algeria, his sister kept talking about him. When Eddy came home, we clicked and it went from there.”

“After college in Bristol, we went to Christ Church, West Croydon, from there we moved to West Thurrock, South Purfleet and to St Mary’s Dagenham, and we were there for eight and a half years. That was where Eddy got his instruction to go to Spitalfields and off we went. I’m very glad I went there and my two boys met wonderful wives there. It was a very interesting place with all these characters and some real gems. My son Derek thinks it is the centre of the world for him!”

“Afterwards, we retired to Lincolnshire where we had friends and the family came for weekends but, once Eddy went to be with the Lord, I thought I had better move to be with the family, so I came back to London. I came here to the Isle of Dogs and I’m very happy here. I’ve got Stephen round the corner and Derek in Spitalfields, he takes me to Rainham Marshes and we go birdwatching every Monday.”

Irene Stride outside the Rectory, 2 Fournier St, summer 1975

The Stride family in the Rectory garden

Eddy Stride outside Christ Church, Spitalfields

Collecting the children at the school gates, Christ Church School, Brick Lane

From the Christ Church Crypt brochure of 1972 – “Outside a man is faced with vast impersonal hostels, sleeping rough, or seeking the shelter of the crypt”

Sandys Row, 1972

Brick Lane, 1972

Davenant House, the ‘new’ Spitalfields, 1972

The crypt passageway

A corner of the crypt

The sleeping area

Relaxing in the crypt, the snooker table

The crypt – sitting area

The crypt – kitchen

The crypt – dining room

The crypt – staff room

A resident of the crypt

Irene’s Daily Mirror cutting tells the story of a family who took refuge in the crypt during World War II

You may also like to read about

A View of Christ Church, Spitalfields

The Secrets of Christ Church, Spitalfields

Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church, Spitalfields

Hosten Garraway, Verger of Christ Church Spitalfields

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    November 21, 2013

    That sounds like a life well-lived.

  2. Ros permalink
    November 21, 2013

    Thanks for seeking out Irene. I remember Eddy and his work very well. Interesting photographic reminders and a particularly nice one at the school gates.

  3. Susan Goldman permalink
    November 21, 2013

    Lovely post and an interesting collection of photographs. Thank you G.A.

  4. Neville Turner permalink
    November 24, 2013

    A very interesting coverage by Irene Stride of the timed served by Rev Eddie Stride and his family in spitalfields.I think for us who lived in Spitalfields like Irene’s son Derek it did seem like the centre of the universe,Eddie Stride did indeed try hard to bridge the gap between the residents and the Parish Church and suceeded in many situations, really good photo’s that bring to life a very sincere effort by a family who improved many people’s lives.

  5. November 24, 2013

    Thank you for sharing the amazing pictures of the Crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields – the early days of Spitalfields Crypt Trust. The space has not changed dramatically over the past few decades but hopefully the lives of the people who used the space during those years have. What a small wonder that homes can be made in the most unlikely of places!

  6. Michael Penman permalink
    December 6, 2013

    A lovely couple (Irene and Eddy) who were a great inspiration to my parents who also moved into Spitalfields to start their family. We still see the lovely Irene from time to time and it was great to read these memories of hers.

  7. Bob Land permalink
    January 1, 2014

    I am so pleased and surprised to see a picture of the Black Eagle Tap house in this collection. This was once managed by my parents. I have spent more than a decade looking for a photograph, could this be the only one?

  8. Pamela Padfield permalink
    March 9, 2014

    Really interesting. My Husband’s Mother’s maiden name is Stride and her Father was Park Keeper in Greenwich Park so really keen to receive historic pictures and information. Thank you.

  9. michael hardie permalink
    October 19, 2014

    My mother in law Millie Delaney used to cook for the men in the crypt when Ronnie Rourke was there

  10. Kerdy permalink
    January 16, 2015

    I had the good fortune to meet Irene recently. What a lovely interesting and knowledgeable women! I defiantly felt better taking away her blessing. Thank you Irene and I wish you well.

  11. Suzie Weston permalink
    January 27, 2015

    I remember Eddie and Irene and family from when I was Jack Wallace’s secretary on Lincolns Inn. I was at St Mark’s Church, Victoria Park with Ted Roberts, David and Jean Hewitt. I was on the Executive Committee of The Festival of Light. Many fond memories of those times. Eddie was one of my hero’s. A truly wonderful man.

  12. Marie mccartney permalink
    February 17, 2015

    I remember Eddie and Irene well when my mum in law also cooked for the men. We attended the church in Hanbury street and our children were baptised there. We often had breakfast in the Rectory. I remember chickens in the garden. They were such a lovely couple and I was sorry to lose touch. They were so committed to the people of the parish and it was a pleasure to have known them. Great to know that Irene is well though sorry to hear that Eddie has died. Another member of the church at the time was Isabel Barker who was a friend of Dennis Severs. She often had breakfast with him in The Market Cafe. I remember many of the men in the Crypt. They were often Scottish or Irish. We could relate to them because of our common birthplaces. I remember painting eggs at Easter to give each man one on Easter Sunday. Good to hear that Derek and Tej are still in the area. Strangely enough I still have a connection with Spitalfields as I do a market stall there weekly.

  13. April 9, 2015

    Great to be linked to this article via the Spitalfields Crypt Trust website. I worked at the Crypt 1970-71 and lived in the flat at the top of Irene and Eddie’s Rectory for some of that time. I also took several of the photographs used with this article, including the one of the Eagle Tap House that Bob Land mentions above. None of us imagine our pictures becoming history, but they do – and this one was taken less than 50 years ago!

    The Crypt was an amazing place to work. Inspiring colleagues like the Strides, Ronnie Rourke and Millie Delaney and so many characters who put up with underground life, including the darkness brought on by power strikes – they taught me lessons about life that I’m still absorbing.

  14. David permalink
    December 28, 2015

    I remember Eddy and Irene at St. Mary’s Dagenham and I went to Grafton Junior School with their son Stephen. Eddy was a bit of a celebrity and was often on television in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I remember Eddy leaving St. Mary’s to take up his new ministry as Stephen left Grafton. Co-incidentally we both took up careers in social housing and I know he’s still active in this regard. I’ve retired through ill health but maintain an interest. I spent a number of years working in the docks and for LB Tower Hamlets and still have a great affection for the area.

  15. March 6, 2017

    Amazing story and hope Irene and husband Rev Eddy Stride can still remember me. My name is James Nzokah (previously from Machakos, Kenya) and currently a University College Professor here in Seattle, Washington state, USA. I came to know Irene and Rev Eddy Stride in “1980s” when I arrived with a ferry from Düsseldorf, Germany to London. Irene and her Reverend husband were kind enough to accommodate me for several weeks before getting a maintenance job in a Christian Hostel, in South East, London.

    In retrospect, after that I attended a private Christian English School in Bournemouth before attending a College known as Capernwray College/ Capernwray Hall, Carnforth LA6 1AG, UK

    Then, whilst attending College there met an American female student (i.e.: Sherri) who invited me to visit her in the states. Then after being friends for several years then she become my wife and thus God blessed us with a beautiful daughter called Alethia, a 26 year old and now a mother of 2 with our 2 grand children.
    For what it’s worth, that marriage lasted for 10 years and then divorced and re-remarried to a beautiful Asian American woman called Maribellah. Hence, grateful for being blessed with 2 sons, a 14 year old Quincy and a 7 year old Vincent.

    Based on these facts, hope Irene can still remember me and since used to write to each other for a while whilst attending a University College in California, USA.

    Also, we own a technical Academy (Website: and our address is: James and Maribellah Nzokah, 720 E Fairhaven Avenue#186, Burlington, WA 98273, USA and Phone: 1+360-899-4392

  16. Janet Kiddier permalink
    August 7, 2017

    A little-known step in how the Strides ended up at Christchurch is that my Dad met Eddy in South Ockendon, Dad was writing a sign for Eddy’s church. They got to know each other and Dad suggested Eddy look into becoming vicar of St Mary’s Dagenham. The Strides did come to Dagenham before moving to Spitalfields to minister there …

  17. alan reeve permalink
    August 29, 2018

    I often think back to St. Marys Dagenham & the Stride family. Eddie was a wonderful example of how to show compassion & the love of God to everyone he met. A true disciple if ever I met one.

  18. FAY WHEELER permalink
    November 18, 2018

    My husband and I ran the Scout group at St Mary’s where I was the Cub Scout leader. One evening the hall caught fire. I evacuated the boys and ran to the church where Eddy was in a prayer meeting with the church leaders. I breathlessly told them about the fire. Eddy looked up from his prayer and said Oh don’t worry, Fay always exaggerates just call the fire service. and went back to his prayer. How cool can you be! There was in fact only minimal damage to the hall and Eddy rolled up his sleeves to help clean up the mess. Irene and Eddy were simply the best living out their faith and making Jesus known.

  19. rosemary campbell permalink
    November 26, 2018

    What an amazing article by Irene. My former husband was deputy warden of the Crypt in the 70’s and so we knew Irene and Eddy and family well. So sorry to hear today that Irene died on 10th November but I hope to travel down to Christ Church, Spitalfields for a Thanksgiving Service at 3pm on Saturday 15th December. A lovely lady.

  20. January 3, 2019

    Around 2012 I first visited Brick Lane first to see a large Islamic Exhibition at the former Truman’s Brewery. I discovered an immediate attraction to the area,and subsequently returned to visit Christ Church. I was eating some sandwiches there when someone,perhaps the Rector,came along and we had a chat about the organ which was then still an empty case. Fortunately the
    organ is now restored and I have two CD’srecorded on it. Partly as an historian I love this area and frequently encourage academics in Oxford – from all over the world – to visit it.

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