Rowntree Clifford Close, E13

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Born in West Ham into a Christian missionary family, the Reverend Paul Rowntree Clifford (February 21, 1913 – January 18, 2003) was a prominent Baptist and theologian. He also served as superintendent of the West Ham Central Mission. His father, Robert, had been a blacksmith in the Sunderland shipyards, but later became a minister; his mother, Hettie, was a deaconess. Together they had turned the debt-ridden Barking Road Tabernacle into the West Ham Central Mission, probably the most important Free Church in London before the Second World War. Before the welfare state, the mission provided vital services such as nursery schools and old people’s homes. During the Blitz, the West Ham Mission became a focus for relief work, and the Cliffords co-ordinated the efforts of volunteers from all walks of life and all denominations. Every night, up to 500 people sheltered at the Mission. Over 3,000 people whose homes were destroyed in the raids were reclothed and, as government evacuation procedures did not cover the aged or the infirm, the Mission found homes outside London for more than 1,000 people. Many of the Mission’s buildings were destroyed or damaged in the raids. After the war, he worked with the BBC on the development of religious programmes for television and also filmed two epilogues for J Arthur Rank to be shown in cinemas on Sunday evenings. In 1965, Clifford was offered the presidency of the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, a federation of nine independent missionary and teacher training colleges.

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