Before the Second World War, the parish of St Matthew's was a well-populated area with a busy local community. There were always close links between the church and the school and four curates used to visit the school regularly. The original church drew large numbers for the many services, which included daily Evening Prayer sung to plainsong.
In the 1930s, Oswald Moseley used to make speeches standing on top of a car and was pelted with missiles. The Blackshirts gave black uniforms to the local children and used to chant:
'the rats, the rats, we've got to get rid of the rats'.
They marched off to the East End and later returned, some in ambulances, after they had been injured in the riots. The priests from St Matthew's did their best to protect the children on Sunday afternoons, by enticing them back to Sunday School.