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Irene Stride In Spitalfields

January 10, 2020
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 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

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Rev Christopher Wood permalink
    January 10, 2020

    You clearly don’t realize what a shiver of revulsion goes through gay men at the mention of the name of Rev Eddie Stride.
    Thank God that times have changed

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 10, 2020

    Eddy Stride has a lovely kind face and reminds me of John Betjeman.

  3. anthony j m brady Brady permalink
    January 10, 2020

    Every affectionate regard is extended to Irene Stride. May we continue to be blessed with her continuing presence in this mature stage of her life. I knew her. Today is the eve of my 80th birthday.

    Cliff Richard was born Harry Rodger Webb in British India at King George’s Hospital, Victoria Street, in Lucknow, which was then part of British India. His parents were Rodger Oscar Webb, a manager for a catering contractor that serviced the Indian Railways, and the former Dorothy Marie Dazely. Richard is primarily of English heritage, but he had one great-grandmother who was of half Welsh and half Spanish descent, born of a Spanish great-great-grandmother named Emiline Joseph Rebeiro.
    The Webb family lived in a modest home in Maqbara, near the main shopping centre of Hazratganj. Dorothy’s mother served as the dormitory matron at the La Martiniere Girls’ School. Richard has three sisters, Joan, Jacqui and Donna.
    1970s.. I am the Welfare Administrator at Providence Row 50 Crispin Street Spitalfields – London’s oldest off the street Night Shelter for men & women – founded in 1860. The last two victims of “Jack The Ripper” sheltered a couple of nights there, prior to being murdered..
    Rev. Eddy Stride, local Vicar, phoned me. He needed a witness signature to a Grant Application. In his church crypt – All Saints, Spitalfields – a Shelter for “Crude Spirits Drinkers” run by The Church Army functioned. After some light chat, he invited to meet some visitors in his parlour. In turn, I was greeted by Lord Longford, Mrs. Mary Whitehouse and Cliff Richard. The singer was an established Pop Star of the time. Eddy said it was an inaugural meeting of what would become “The Festival of Light.”
    I was struck by Cliff Richard’s wide smiling face, dark glasses and gleaming gnashers. They dominated to the extent of his face being all teeth and spectacles. I realised that it was a few days away from his birthday. So, just as an ice-breaker, I mention that we shared the same birthdate, the 11th January, 1940. He expressed delight and curiosity. “Did you have a good war?” Where were you born?” He mentioned he was born in India. Mrs. Whitehouse quipped “Cliff – you got lucky! “Yes” chipped in Lord Longford. “Lucknow, I believe.” Everyone laughed. Not Eddy. He hinted to me that it was time for me to go, as a busy meeting was about to start. His nudge indicated the door was open for me to be on my way. On my turning to go, Mrs. W. said to me “We will turn back the tide of filth”. Cliff advised me to ” ..turn to Jesus.” He was closest to the door and offered me his hand which I shook. His companions called out goodbye.
    On the corner of Fournier Street and the entrance to the Crypt, a group of men lining the steps waited. This indicated a vacancy was imminent. One among the group who could prove sobriety for 24 hours stood a good chance of being admitted. Their sleeping rough appearance was a distinct dismal contrast to the celebrity status company I had just left. Eddy Stride was an advocate of strict abstinence from alcohol use. Elizabeth Stride – no relation – was one of the alcohol dependent victims of the 1888 murderer, known as Jack the Ripper.
    Oscar Wilde is said to have visited the area. Was he thinking of the same street I was walking on when he wrote? “We are all in the gutter – but some of us are looking at the stars.”
    I speculated it means that while humanity whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, is struggling and fighting its own daily battles feels so low that it is as miserable as being in a gutter. In contrast, there are some who have the will and determination to have lofty ambitions and a desire to fulfil them. Their current circumstances don’t hold them back from dreaming, from thinking high and persevering to change the world – theirs and eventually other’s.
    I already knew Lord Longford. He fancied me as the next Director of St. Martin of Tours House, re-hab facility for released into homelessness prisoners, where a vacancy was in the offing. The Press labelled him “Lord Porn” subsequently. He had already introduced me to the Duke of Norfolk, (Providence Row Trustee) which led to tea at Arundel Castle.
    Sometimes I enjoyed the hospitality of Bishop Trevor Huddleston. His “Palace” was a few streets from my house in Commercial Road. I admired him greatly from the time I read his book: Naught for Your Comfort.
    The retired heavy weight champion boxer, Henry Cooper fronted a fund raiser for Providence Row. I strolled a stretch of “Around the City Gates” with him. Later he entertained me at the Thomas A Becket Boxing Club in The Old Kent Road
    After Providence Row I assisted John Profumo on an abortive day centre initiative. In retirement, I was up close and comfortable for 2 hours with HRH Prince Charles. At the same event Archbishop Runcie and Cardinal Hume and the Abbe Pierre, were guests. It was the official opening of a residential facility for former homeless men & women EMMAUS. As founder Chairman, I was succeeded later by Terry Waite – the current Chair of EMMAUS Greenwich,
    Another Official Opening.. Park Lodge Hackney. A residential facility for former homeless men & women It was held in a trendy night club – Twinkles – a few doors away. Eddy and I were alongside HRH Princess Alexandra. Suddenly, one of the slightly tipsy PL residents wandered over and was about to plant a kiss upon- I supposed on either of us – I could go on: better stop now.
    Tony Brady
    Anthony J M Brady Author
    Scenes from an Examined Life

  4. January 10, 2020

    What a Wonderful Life in Spitalfields withThe Vicar Mr. Stride and His wife Irene Stride. They have worked so hard in that area and I am So Proud of Them. Thank You So Much for these Amazing Pictures!!!????????

  5. paul loften permalink
    January 10, 2020

    I used to regularly pass a building near my school near Bethnal Green Tube Station I think it was The Missionary Society or similar . I dont know if it is still there . Passing the building always evoked thoughts about Christian Missionaries and the dangers of the job that missionaries had to face in far away places. The life of a missionary has always been a bit of a mystery to me although it does require a great deal of courage and conviction, neither of which I lay any claim to. Thank you and Irene you for this story of Eddy Stride.

  6. Gina permalink
    January 10, 2020

    I don’t think I ever saw Mrs Stride without a smile. Am amazing lady. Can’t imagine Spitalfields would have been the same if they hadn’t said yes and become part of the community. There would be a very big gap in my life without the Stride clan.

  7. Derek Stride permalink
    January 11, 2020

    When they made my mother, Irene, they broke the mould.

    In the late 1960’s, when my father told people he was moving to Spitalfields, people asked him how he could possibly take his children to a terrible place like that? His answer was that if he didn’t go, he would never forgive himself. We moved in in 1970.

    Despite peoples’ fears, my brother and I loved it. It was rough, mad, poor, dangerous and exciting. We got in so many scrapes, and survived – definitely character building. Totally loved the place and made many great friends, who we are still close to today. The richness of relationships in that environment stays with you. Living in the Rectory gave us a wonderful and unique life. We both married local girls, who despite the challenges of their childhoods became professionals in their respective careers.

    I still live in Spitalfields, and all my kids grew up here. There are a hundred stories to tell.

  8. January 12, 2020

    An inspiring story. Thank goodness for good people always there to help others

  9. Harold Formosa permalink
    January 2, 2021

    I spent many fond years growing up in east London after moving to princelet st at the age of 8.

    The strides were inspirational in their kindness, ease of nature and never judgemental. I spent many hours trying to mix the guitars in the church with Derek and Steve and also helped in the Hanbury street church club at the top of the building, and the crypt with the wonderful stories that Ken Noble could share

    My Father, Tony ran a cafe in Fournier street in the early 70s and that’s when I became involved in the church, I have now retired after 42 years to Christchurch, Dorset and have recently started to come back into east London and have helped my Daughter and husband aquire a property in Sidney Square.

    So love and best wishes to Irene and I will never forget having tea around your kitchen table in the rectory. Best wishes from Harold, they were hard times but what an upbringing and education in life. X x

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