The Church in Chapel Road – Part 1

 1 August 2021 |

In the June issue I referred to items covering Pentecost in 1988 about the formation of Redhill URC. Among those were articles from the 26th May 1988 edition of the Surrey Mirror which included histories of the formation of both Chapel Road and Shaw’s Corner churches. We already have a History of the Shaw’s Corner Church written by our dear friend Godfrey Nicholls in 2005, which I updated in January 2020, so I thought the Surrey Mirror article from 1988 on the history of the Chapel Road Church would complete the story of the two churches. The text appears to have been written by a church member as it mentions “our first Minister of the church” and other references to “our church”, so it would be interesting to find out who the writer was. Does anyone know? Part 1 follows below.

“The formation of a Congregational Church in Redhill was under consideration a few years before any move to locate a suitable plot, due to the rapid increase in the population of the town.

At the end of 1859 such a plot was obtained from the S.E. and C. Railway in Chapel Road and on 24th January 1861, the Revd. E Prout convened a meeting at Hooley Cottage, Redhill of friends interested in the project.

The foundation stone was laid in February 1862 and the church was opened in September. The building was described in the Congregational Year Book as having 500 seats with 100 in the gallery. It was built of Redhill stone with Bath stone dressings. The lighting was by gas. With the site and furnishings the total cost was about £2,500.

It would appear that the first church meeting held in the new church took place on 2nd October 1862 and the first recorded baptism was administered on 1st October 1863. On 20th June 1864 the church was registered for the solemnization of marriages. There was a continual inflow of new members, as the town of Redhill was growing rapidly and the church with it.

On 31st March 1876 the Revd. W P Dothie, our first Minister of the church resigned from the Pastorate after 14 years faithful service. He was succeeded by Revd. Herbert Stent of Northampton who held the Pastorate from 30th July 1876 to 30th July 1882. The first recorded election of Deacons by ballot took place on 28th February 1881. At about the same the same time Services were held in the Market Hall, owing to the dangerous condition of the ceiling in the church.

The Revd James Menzies succeeded Revd. H. Stent as Pastor in September 1883 and resigned in June 1891. Some difficulty appears to have been experienced in finding a suitable successor, but eventually the Revd. John Gardner came direct from Hackney College and assumed the Pastorate as his first charge on 1st July 1892. Good progress in the church’s work and activities marked the early years of Mr Gardner’s Pastorate. The formation, development and phenomenal success of the Men’s Own Sunday afternoon Service attested the esteem and regard in which he was held.

But differences of opinion later arose and 42 members were transferred from our fellowship to that of the newly formed Presbyterian Church at Shaw’s Corner. In 1905 Revd. John Gardner resigned and was succeeded by Revd. Andrew Leggatt.

In 1908 Miss S Whitley, with princely generosity, purchased land for the building of a Manse in Ridgeway Road and not content with this, bore the whole expense of building and equipping it. The Revd. W Alexander H Legg, MA, became Pastor of the church on 1st January 1911 and his ministry only ceased on his death in June 1921, whilst still in active work.

Soon after the beginning of this century names familiar to many of our present members began to appear in the records. In 1907 Mr & Mrs Rattray Gardiner came to the church on transfer from St. Petersburg. In the next 30 years or so they were to make a wonderful contribution to our church.

On Good Friday 1949, our Gardiner Memorial Chapel was dedicated in memory of Mr & Mrs Gardiner. In September 1910 a young man from Guildford, Mr W S Furlong was appointed as organist. He served as organist and choirmaster for no less than 40 years.
During Mr Legg’s first year 74 new members joined the church. Two of them were Mr & Mrs Herbert Collinson who organised the ‘Old Normandy’ and ‘Dickens’ fairs in the Market Hall and many other successful fairs in the twenties and thirties as well as producing a number of religious plays.

In January 1913 Mr & Mrs James Finlayson joined and in 1917 Mr Finlayson became Church Secretary, a position held for the next 31 years until he retired in 1948.”

To be continued.

Keith Ramsay