Housing Estates

This year marks the centenary of the landmark Housing Act 1924, the signature legislation of the first ever and very brief Labour Government which took office that year. It extended and improved the housing provision, itself innovative, begun in 1919 under the Lloyd George Coalition. Over 500,000 homes were built under this statute and it had a major impact in London. The expansion of London in those years led Bishop Cyril Garbett, one of my early predecessors, to launch a visionary campaign to build 25 churches as the means to address the changing demographics of London and Surrey and the needs of the vast numbers moving onto new estates.


A similar shared urgency is needed about housing today and with it on our part a re-imagined and renewed commitment to estates evangelism. The Diocese of Southwark is one of two dioceses with the highest number of estate parishes in the Church of England*. Estates ministry was made explicit in our Strategic Development Fund bidding and in January 2023, I appointed Canon Gary Jenkins to be our first full-time Dean of Estates Evangelism, working as part of our Diocesan Department of Mission.

Canon Jenkins has, in the past year, undertaken a wide range of visits to estate parishes which have been greatly appreciated. He has facilitated the sharing of ideas and stories of good practice, in the setting up of estates networks in each our three episcopal areas. This has been both affirming of estates ministry and confidence building.


This new appointment has also facilitated the development of an Estates Lay Pioneers Course, Magnify, which is designed to equip estates people to share the message of God’s love on their home territory. The course was developed with significant input from one of our Pioneer Curates of whom we have a good number on our estates ensuring ideas and mission are at the heart of our thinking.

Four training hubs around the Diocese will train potential Estates Lay Pioneers and there are three more such hubs in the pipeline. We have learned much in the area of estates ministry from ideas shared from the Dioceses of York and of Blackburn which speaks to the need for dioceses and people to pool wisdom and experience in order to further the mission of the Church.

Working class vocations

Finally, my senior staff team was recently briefed on the report ‘Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters’ by Tracy Marlow from St Helier Estate on the experience of working class clergy, not least since our Diocese has been looking at working class vocations and the need to encourage more. A focus on this is vital for the ongoing revival of estates evangelism.

The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun**

*These are defined as any parish that has more than five hundred units of social housing. 180 in Southwark.
**Adapted from an address given to the General Synod by Bishop Christopher on 26 February 2024.