Finished, the church that old Tom built
Article in a local newspaper by Floyd Waterworth
Old Tom Price is not a man to take his religion lightly. So when the call came to build a new church, he stepped forward.
He took up saw, chisel and spade and set to work. Now, eight years later, his work is done. And 71-year-old Tom can look with pride at the £20,000 church he built single-handed.
On Sunday the church that Tom built – the Temple of Light Spiritual Church, Bedford Road, Laindon – will open its doors for the first time. And the public will be able to see the inside of the building that has been Tom’s second home for eight years.
At his home in nearby Suffolk Road, he said today: ‘When I joined the spiritualist group about 30 years ago they met in a cafe on the Arterial Road.
‘I was amazed that they had no church so I decided to build one.’
But Tom’s hope of building the church on a plot of land he owned at Laindon Link were shattered when Basildon Development Corporation said they wanted it for redevelopment.
So Tom built the church on a site rented from the corporation.
Tom had nothing but problems from the start. The biggest was simply a lack of any real funds.
But he struggled on, with the help of donations although the lack of money meant that jobs took weeks when they should have taken days.
He said: ‘The concrete pillars that form the main part of the building were put up with moulds.
‘When we inquired about hiring a crane to do the job we found it would cost us £30 a day.
‘The funds just couldn’t meet it, so instead I made a steel framework and poured the concrete in from the top.’
Everything in the church, from the thick wooden beams, to the granite on the walls, were put in by Tom – with a help on the heavy work.
And now other members of the congregation are putting the finishing touches to the one-man church.
‘All we waiting for now is the electricity,’ said Tom with a tired, but happy smile.
At one time during these eight years Tom was told he had cancer of the throat and chest. Another time he collapsed in his home and lay unconscious for four days before he managed to crawl to his neighbour’s house and call for an ambulance. This led to Don and Jean Hatch from Grays Spritualist Church helping Tom finish the task.
The church was officially opened by Norman Smith on April 29, 1973.
Tom Price died December 1984, 11 years after the church was finished.