A Saxon Thegn
For over 1,000 years the rectors of Southchurch now part of Southend have been appointed by the archbishops of Canterbury with one exception. Indeed, Southchurch can claim to be one of the oldest centres of Christianity in England, and it all began because of a gift to the monks of Canterbury by Leofstan, a Saxon thegn, in 823. Leofstan owned land in Southchurch and it is probable that by his days there was already a small church at Southchurch as a result of St Cedd’s mission, but we know from documentary evidence that Leofstan made his gift of the manor to Christ Church, Canterbury, in 823. The very name indicates that there was then a church in the area. There are manuscripts in Lambeth Palace library recording the gift and in Canterbury Cathedral library is a document of Henry II which confirms Leofstan’s gift. The translation from the Latin reads: “Lifstanus gave Southcherch to the Monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, and later Henry II confirmed it by his Charter.” The charter, also at Canterbury, gives the old Saxon name of “Sudchercha” and not “Southcherch.” From Leofstan’s days the church at Southchurch has had an unbroken link with Canterbury. The old part of the present church goes back to 1150, and there is displayed in the church a complete list of rectors since 1287, but two earlier rectors were Gilbert Fitzwilliam (from 1193 to 1205) and Alexander, who was rector in 1248. All the rectors have been appointed by archbishops of Canterbury with the exception of Robert Derby, who was appointed by Richard II in 1381 when the see of Canterbury was vacant. Apart from representation in the magnificent Thorby memorial window, Leofstan or Lifstan as we call him today has no memorial in the church, but there is a boy’s club in Southchurch which bears his name. It is believed that no other boys’ club in the country is named after somebody who lived 1,140 years ago! The Lifstan Boys’ Club has earned a reputation in the Essex and national boys’ club movements. A decade ago the Duke of Edinburgh encouraged the members to build their own headquarters they were then meeting in the old church school and some of the boys who helped to erect the new club building are now assistant leaders of the club. They are now building a £8,000 headquarters in Lifstan Way. The club leader, remembering how nervous he was as a boy when he had to make a speech, decided to encourage his club boys in public speaking and civics. Every year the boys elect a “lord mayor” to preside over the social events. He has a “banquet,” at which he and other boys make the main speeches, and the Lifstan club “lord mayor’s” banquet has become a feature of Southend life. Guests in the past have included the Lord-Lieutenant of Essex, Members of Parliament, mayors of Southend and leaders of the boys’ club movement. One “lord mayor” appeared on television.
Lifstan Boys Club
Holy Trinity Church Southchurch
Southchurch

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