The Church in Chapel Road – Part 2

 1 September 2021 |

Following on from last month’s article, below is the second part of the history from the Surrey Mirror’s article of 1988 which concludes with the closure of the church and the formation of Redhill URC.

Keith Ramsay

“In 1919, the first Women Deacons, Miss Whitely and Miss Quinton were elected. Following Mr Legg’s death in 1921 the Revd. Clifford Hall MA, carried on a pro tem ministry. In January 1922, the Revd. E G Mitchell became minister of the church.

At one of the Church Meetings, which Mr Mitchell presided over, an item of special interest was recorded. Mr Thomas B Lees was bade farewell on going up to Hackney College for theological training. Mr Lees was ordained in 1925 for service in Madagascar under the LMS (London Missionary Society). After a tragic short time there he was killed in a cyclone. We honour the memory of our one and only missionary.

In 1923 the ministry of the Revd. H J Barton Lee commenced. Mr Lee came to Redhill at the age of 53 after a varied career. During Mr Lee’s 13 years ministry, the church grew in both numbers and activity. Numerically it reached the highest point with 288 members and 152 scholars.

In 1937 the Revd. Harry Miner, BD, PhD., became our minister until 1947. Dr Miner was away for over four years during the war as a Chaplain in the RAF, during which time did a great deal of pastoral work.

The war hit us hard. Some of our people were killed, both civilians as well men in the forces. The necessary revisions of the Roll after the war revealed that the church had shrunk considerably in numbers. Most of the activities, apart from Sunday services had closed (sounds familiar in our present times!) and had to be started again from scratch. During the war years also our Mission Chapel at Bletchingley was closed and later the chapel and manse were sold.

In September 1947 Revd. H W Theobald, MA began a Ministry which lasted until 1961. In those post-war years it was not easy to make progress in the face of the great increase in week-end motoring and the popularity of television. In those difficult times it is a tribute to Mr Theobald that our church has more than held its own.

Mr Theobald left our church in good heart and well equipped to make its impact on the re-development of the town taking place all round us. Both he and Mrs Theobald had a great interest in music and in religious drama. The annual services of ‘Carols by Candlelight’, which they planned became a regular feature of church life and so did the Dramatic Society’s productions. The United Services with the Presbyterians and Methodists also began during Mr Theobald’s ministry.

His work and influence among young people was such that our church was strengthened by a large number of Junior Members, two of whom took the great decision to train for the Ministry, Revd. John Ticehurst and Revd. Edward Bungay. In 1979 another of our young men Revd. Jack Newport had been ordained as Minister at Thames Ditton.

Soon after the second world war the church purchased its own Tennis Courts In Redstone Court. The hard courts were a gift of one of our members. Another event of historical importance was the decision in 1957 to sell the Manse and purchase a more modern house also in Ridgeway Road.

Revd. Harold Shorthouse came to us from Penge in February 1962, exactly 100 years after our foundation stone was laid. A new Ministry was thus begun in our centenary year. In this year we raised a fund of £2500. Harold Shorthouse was our Minister for 10 years until he died in 1972. He was a careful and dedicated preacher of the word of God and during his ministry our membership increased to over 200.

In October 1972 the United Reformed Church was founded following the union of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches, and our church was re-named Christ Church URC. In the following year Revd. Peter Caton accepted a call to become our Minister. He retired in 1987, this completing a ministry of 13 years. These were not easy years. Our church buildings were over 100 years old and needed an increasing amount of repair and renovation which put a strain on our finances.

Peter Caton had a special interest and concern for local welfare and social organisations and largely through his initiative our church started a Shoppers Creche and Mothers and Toddlers group which continues to be very popular. During his ministry another of our young men, the Revd. Christopher Ford was ordained. In later years Mr Caton’s wife Jean had very poor health and this hastened his retirement in 1987.

During his ministry Peter Caton established a close relationship with the Redhill Methodists and other local churches and our union with St.Paul’s URC, Shaw’s Corner was a natural development of this relationship to create Redhill URC, when our church became infested with dry rot forcing it to close and be sold.”

Surrey Mirror – 26th May 1988