Acton
Protestant nonconformity

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Victoria County History

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T F T Baker, C R Elrington (Editors), Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks

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1982

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39-42

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'Acton: Protestant nonconformity', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7: Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden (1982), pp. 39-42. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22554 Date accessed: 01 September 2014.


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PROTESTANT NONCONFORMITY.

Richard Baxter (1615-91), the puritan divine ejected from Kidderminster (Worcs.) in 1662, moved to Acton in 1663 and lived near the parish church. (fn. 37) He observed that the Independent ministries of Philip Nye, 1643-56, and Thomas Elford, 1656-61, had resulted in loss of support for 'the Independent separating vigour', because they had admitted to communion only two out of the entire parish. When the Act against Conventicles expired, many came from neighbouring parishes to hear Baxter preach, but since he also took his followers to services in the parish church, a separate church was not established and nonconformist meetings do not appear to have survived Baxter's departure in 1670, when he was prosecuted after complaints by the rector, Bruno Ryves, for holding a conventicle. (fn. 38) In 1690-2 Acton was considered to have nonconformist assemblies, but no minister was recorded. (fn. 39) Between 1703 and 1716 children were born to two dissenting families in the parish, (fn. 40) and in 1766 only one dissenting family was noted. By 1790, however, there were several Methodists, who were said to have a meeting house. (fn. 41)

In the early 19th century both Independents and Wesleyans were active. In 1804 Protestant dissenters registered for worship a house in the possession of William Gee, (fn. 42) and in 1810 Calvinists registered another house for worship and a Sunday school in the western end of the parish. (fn. 43) In 1817 Calvinists registered their newly built chapel on Acton hill, besides a shed adjoining the house of John Charles Gee, (fn. 44) and the chapel was also used by Baptists and Wesleyans until they built their own churches. Dissenters from East Acton and Hammersmith registered the ground floor of a house in East Acton belonging to Mrs. Ann Carter in 1820, the minister being Thomas Crabb of Belmont House academy, Turnham Green. (fn. 45) They registered another building in East Acton in 1831 and a house in the middle of the village in 1836. (fn. 46)

In 1851 only the Congregationalists and the Wesleyans had recognized congregations, with attendances of 80 and 176 respectively. (fn. 47) Nonconformist activity remained sporadic until the rise in population in the late 19th century. Wesleyans built a new chapel in 1857, Baptists in 1865, and Congregationalists in 1871, and all three sects had started missions in the south part of the parish by the 1880s. (fn. 48) By 1890 they had been joined by Primitive Methodists, United Methodists, Strict Baptists, and Plymouth Brethren, (fn. 49) and soon afterwards by the Salvation Army, Society of Friends, and Unitarians. On one Sunday in 1903 Baptists had the most attendances with 1,130, the Methodist sects had 874, and Congregationalists 845. The next largest groups were the Brethren with 305 and the Salvation Army with 235. Altogether nonconformist worshippers totalled 3,826, compared with 4,718 Anglicans and 427 Roman Catholics. (fn. 50)

New activity in the 20th century was mainly confined to missions, mostly short lived, by undesignated Christian sects. Buildings were erected by the established denominations between the World Wars at Acton Green and, with the spread of housing, in East Acton. After the Second World War declining attendances led to the amalgamation of two Baptist churches, and in 1976 the Congregationalists and Wesleyans agreed to share premises at Acton hill. (fn. 51)

Congregationalists.

Calvinists reg. new chapel 1817, built by S. Smith of Davies St., Westminster, N. side of Acton hill, just W. of Red Lion. (fn. 52) Two-storeyed brick bldg., (fn. 53) seating 200. (fn. 54) Membership rose from c. 12 to c. 40 1846. (fn. 55) Attendance 1851: 40 a.m.; 40 p.m. (fn. 56) Church re-formed 1855 but by 1864 most members worshipped elsewhere and chapel used by Bapts. Chapel reopened and new church formed with 16 members 1866. Moved to Acton hall, Church Rd., until new church built. (fn. 57)

Acton Cong. church, Churchfield Rd., built 1871, seating c. 900, (fn. 58) by J. Tarring & Son. (fn. 59) Seated 800 in 1894. (fn. 60) Attendance 1903: 405 a.m.; 282 p.m. (fn. 61) Renamed Acton United Reformed church 1972. Joined Acton Hill Meth. church 1976 to form Acton Hill church (Meth., later United Reformed), using Meths.' bldgs. Churchfield Rd. premises sold and demol. (fn. 62)

Mission work began in S. Acton c. 1882, with open-air services in Junction Terrace. (fn. 63) Laundry used for winter services and Sunday sch. added. Mission adopted by Acton Cong. church 1884, and iron hall built between nos. 11 and 13 Palmerston Rd. 1885, enlarged 1887, and reg. 1889 as S. Acton mission hall. (fn. 64) Seated 180 in 1894. (fn. 65) Attendance 1903: 37 a.m.; 121 p.m. Adjoining property bought and hall with kitchen and classroom built 1908. Mission closed after 1955. (fn. 66)

Methodists.

Wes. Meths. acquired large ho. in Steyne near junction with High St. 1817, (fn. 67) reg. rooms for worship in Brentford (later Gunnersbury) Lane 1840, and opposite George inn 1843. (fn. 68) Chapel in Steyne built 1845, seating 140. Attendance 1851: 69 a.m.; 107 p.m. (fn. 69) New chapel with Sunday and day schs. and separate teacher's ho., built 1857 E. side Gunnersbury Lane, near High St., (fn. 70) of Kentish ragstone in Gothic style. Chapel enlarged 1864 for over 100 additional seats. (fn. 71) Became mother church of new Ealing and Acton circuit 1867. (fn. 72) Attendance 1903: 198 a.m.; 177 p.m. Replaced 1907 by church built on site of the Oaks, whose grounds bounded existing chapel, and latter became church hall. (fn. 73) Acton Hill Meth. church, by Gordon & Gordon, built of Kentish ragstone and dressings of Bath stone, with tower and Gothic detail. (fn. 74) Seated 780 on ground floor, 181 in gallery, 39 in choir. (fn. 75) W. transept converted to war memorial chapel 1921, reducing seats to 800. Agreement with Acton United Reformed church 1976, for joint use of Acton hill church. Extensive remodelling of interior 1978, reducing seating to c. 650. (fn. 76) Gunnersbury Lane chapel housed community relations centre 1979.

Acton Green Wes. church originated in mtgs. in ho. in Antrobus Rd. before 1885. (fn. 77) Wes. Meth. sch. chapel, Steele Rd., Acton Green, reg. 1885. (fn. 78) Attendance 1903: 173 a.m.; 100 p.m. New church built 1930 on site of chapel and sch., and reg. as Acton Green Wes. hall. (fn. 79) Rectangular, flatroofed bldg. in red brick with stone dressings, by Smee & Houchin in style of Methodist Central Halls (Westminster). Large hall seating 350-400; small hall seating c. 100; classrooms, vestry, and others rooms; on two levels. All services in small hall 1978. (fn. 80)

Old Oak Wes. mtg. formed 1922, using disused day sch. at corner of Fitzquest St. and Old Oak Common Lane, E. Acton. (fn. 81) Old Oak Meth. church built in the Fairway, E. Acton, and reg. 1926. (fn. 82) Single-storeyed bldg. of red brick with steeply pitched tiled roof and small tower, seating c. 150. After fire 1977 members worshipped in other churches.

Primitive Meths. built Ebenezer chapel, Park Rd. North, 1867. (fn. 83) Seventh London circuit 1880, Ealing circuit 1898. (fn. 84) Attendance 1903: 56 a.m.; 60 p.m. Served from Ealing by 1911. (fn. 85) Closed c. 1934. (fn. 86)

United Meth. Free church, between nos. 41 and 43, Bollo Bridge Road, by 1880. Sixth London circuit 1880, (fn. 87) London (Willesden) circuit by 1926. (fn. 88) Attendance 1903: 54 a.m.; 56 p.m. Services in iron bldg. until church built adjoining. (fn. 89) Reg. 1903, renamed United Meth. church 1907. (fn. 90) Two-storeyed brick bldg. with stone dressings. (fn. 91) Demol. after 1955.

Baptists.

Acton Bapt. church originated in services held in Independent chapel, Acton hill, from c. 1856. Organized 1865. (fn. 92) Brick church with rendered front in Church Rd. 1864 by W. Mumford, seating 450. (fn. 93) Galleries added between 1875 and 1885 bringing seating to 650. Sunday sch. room added at rear of church, and halls on two floors 1899. (fn. 94) Church membership 46 c. 1866, reached peak of c. 275 on roll 1908. Attendance 1903: 277 a.m.; 204 p.m. Mission work in Bollo Bridge, E. Acton, and Acton Green, 1875-85, included cottage services and open-air mtgs. (fn. 95)

South Acton Bapt. church formed after split at Church Rd., when some members wanted visiting missioner to remain at Acton. Worshipped in Acton hall, Church Rd., 1894. Chapel built at corner of Newton Ave. and Avenue Rd. 1895: (fn. 96) yellow brick, by F. W. Stocking. (fn. 97) Reg. as Evangelistic Church 1897. (fn. 98) Attendance 1903: 236 a.m.; 308 p.m. Designation altered as pastors changed: Newton Ave. Bapt. church 1900-1; Evangelistic Free church 1902-8; Church of Christ 1909-11. Reverted to Bapt. church between 1912 and 1915. Withdrew from London Bapt. Assoc. and Bapt. Union between 1924 and 1926. (fn. 99) Reg. as Bapt. Free church 1944, and renamed S. Acton Bapt. church 1960. (fn. 1) Joined Church Rd. Bapts. 1977. Newton Ave. bldg. sold, and used by Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox church from 1977. (fn. 2)

Strict Bapts. began mission at no. 5 Richmond Terrace, Shakespeare Rd., 1881. (fn. 3) Church formed 1882. Worshipped in Churchfield hall 1885. Iron Beulah tabernacle in Acton Lane, at Leythe Rd., 1888. Attendance 1903: 35 a.m.; 34 p.m. Closed after 1955. (fn. 4)

Hope Bapt. church, Cromartie Rooms, Park Rd. North, formed 1901 by group from S. Acton church. (fn. 5) Attendance 1903: 14 a.m.; 22 p.m. Church re-formed 1904 and moved to Horn Lane, where Bapt. church at corner of Horn Lane and Faraday Rd. reg. 1905. (fn. 6) Closed 1934; bldg. renamed Faraday hall and used by Acton Liberal Assoc. (fn. 7)

East Acton Bapt. church, John Bradford Memorial, E. Acton Lane. Church of red brick with gabled roof of dark red tiles, by W. Hayne, built 1931. (fn. 8) Reg. by Bapts. 1937. (fn. 9)

Acton Green Bapt. mission rooms, no. 56 Antrobus Rd., opened c. 1887, but housed unsectarian mission by 1894. (fn. 10)

Brethren.

Mtgs. held in Acton hall, Church Rd., by 1888, until c. 1900, and at Berrymead mission room, no. 38 Avenue Rd., by 1894. (fn. 11) Attendance 1903: 68 a.m.; 75 p.m. Renamed Berrymead gospel hall by 1940. (fn. 12) In 1903 mtgs. also held at no. 25 the Parade, Acton Vale; attendance: 70 a.m.; 66 p.m.; and at private ho., no. 3 Birkbeck Rd.; attendance: 17 a.m.; 9 p.m. Mtgs. held 1958 at Larden Rd. hall and no. 50 Churchfield Rd. (fn. 13)

Society of friends.

Though George Fox held mtg. in fields near Acton 1654, and public mtg. took place 1802, (fn. 14) regular mtgs. not held until 1894, when Friends' mtg. and adult sch. started in private ho. (fn. 15) In 1896 mtg. ho. at no. 5 Avenue Rd. was reg., (fn. 16) replaced 1901 with larger premises at no. 1 (later renumbered as no. 43) Avenue Rd. Iron hall seating c. 340 built 1902 in grounds to replace tent used for larger mtgs. Became particular mtg. 1903. Attendance 1903: 32 a.m.; 65 p.m. Joined Ealing mtg. 1940. (fn. 17)

Salvation Army.

No. 3 Grove Place, Grove Rd., reg. by 1893. Attendance 1903: 82 a.m.; 153 p.m. Replaced by hall in Church Rd. 1912. In 1922 replaced by citadel, Acton Lane, but moved to Crown Street 1926. (fn. 18) In use 1979.

Other denominations and unspecified missions.

Acton Green Railway Mission, Cunnington St., opened 1900. (fn. 19) Attendance 1903: 82 a.m.; 92 p.m. Reg. 1924 as Railway Mission hall, by undesignated Christians, and renamed Acton Memorial Free church by 1958. (fn. 20) Services held in 1979 in iron bldg.

Unitarians met in Market Place 1903, when attendance was 32 p.m. Iron church in Creffield Rd., opposite Haberdashers' sch., reg. 1906. Still in use 1940 but closed by 1954. (fn. 21)

Presbs. held services in Willesden Junction Railway Institute, Railway Cottages, Old Oak Lane, 1903, when attendance was 54 a.m.; 80 p.m.

Acton Spiritual Mission held in two rooms at the Cottage, Woodhurst Rd., from 1929. Renamed Acton Spiritualist church 1960, where mtgs. were held 1979. (fn. 22)

Church of England Evangelical Protestants reg. St. Mark's Church Ho., on ground floor of no. 15 Newburgh Rd., 1946. (fn. 23)

Jehovah's Witnesses reg. Kingdom hall, nos. 318-20 Acton Lane, 1974. (fn. 24)

Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church took over former S. Acton Bapt. church, Newton Ave., 1977. (fn. 25)

Acton lecture hall, Church Rd., built c. 1866, reg. for unsectarian Christian mtgs. 1884, and used by several denominations. Closed c. 1900. (fn. 26)

Liberty Hall Evangelistic Mission, no. 2 Berrymead Gardens, reg. by undesignated Christians 1908. Still in use 1914 but United Services Club by 1933. (fn. 27) Christians' mtg. room at rear of no. 223 High St., reg. 1912, cancelled 1954. (fn. 28) Pentecostal Evangelistic Mission, no. 226 Acton Lane, reg. 1941. Still in use 1958 but cancelled 1964. Pentecostal free church held mtgs. in L.C.S. hall 1958. (fn. 29) York Rd. mtg. room, no. 83 York Rd., reg. 1972 by undesignated Christians. (fn. 30)

Footnotes

37 Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 182.
38 Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696), pt. II, p. 46; pt. III, p. 48.
39 Gordon, Freedon after Ejection, 73.
40 Acton par. ch., front leaf bapt. reg. 1695-1726.
41 Guildhall MS. 9558, f. 417.
42 Ibid. MS. 9580/2, p. 124.
43 Ibid. 3.
44 Ibid. 4.
45 Ibid. 5.
46 Ibid. 7, ff. 50, 244.
47 P.R.O., HO 129/134/5/1/6.
48 Below.
49 Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
50 Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 427-8.
51 The following abbreviations are used in the accounts of protestant nonconformist churches: Bapt., Baptist; bldg., building; Cong., Congregationalist; demol., demolished; ho., house; Meth., Methodist; min., minister; mtg., meeting; Presb., Presbyterian; reg., registered; sch., school; Wes., Wesleyan.
52 Guildhall MS. 9580/4; Ealing Churches, no. 4; W. Bolton, Acton Cong. Ch. (1917), 16.
53 Bolton, Acton Cong. Ch. photo. facing p. 16 shows former chapel but probably with altered front.
54 P.R.O., HO 129/134/5/1/6.
55 Bolton, Acton Cong. Ch. 26, 30.
56 P.R.O., HO 129/134/5/1/6.
57 Bolton, Acton Cong. Ch. 32-4, 36-7, 41.
58 Inf. from the former min.; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 22299.
59 Ealing Churches, no. 4.
60 Cong. Yr. Bk. (1894).
61 All attendances for 1903 are from Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 427-8.
62 Inf. from the former min.
63 Para. based on Bolton, Acton Cong. Ch. 61-5.
64 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 31834.
65 Cong. Yr. Bk. (1894).
66 Kelly's Dir. Acton (1955).
67 C. Hocking, Brief Hist. of Meth. Ch. in Acton (1957), 2.
68 Guildhall MS. 9580/8, ff. 69, 181.
69 P.R.O., HO 129/134/5/1/5.
70 Hocking, op. cit. 3; inf. from Mr. Bamber and min.; P.R.O., C 54/15357, no. 3.
71 Hocking, op. cit. 4; inf. from Mr. Bamber.
72 Baker, Acton, 204.
73 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 42367; Hocking, op. cit. 6; inf. from Mr. Bamber.
74 Pevsner, Mdx. 23; Ealing Churches, no. 3.
75 Hocking, op. cit. 8.
76 Inf. from Mr. Bamber.
77 Inf. from the min. and property steward.
78 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 29021.
79 Inf. from the property steward; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 52791.
80 Ealing Churches, no. 2; inf. from the property steward.
81 Para. based on inf. from the min.; Ealing Churches, no. 8.
82 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50381.
83 Baker, Acton, 203; P.R.O., C 54/16842, no. 13.
84 Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs (1880, 1898).
85 Baker, Acton, 203.
86 Kelly's Dir. Acton (1934).
87 Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs. (1880).
88 Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1926).
89 Baker, Acton, 202.
90 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 39882.
91 Acton libr., 'Churches', U.M.F.C. Souvenir [n.d.], photo.
92 Tongue, Lond. Suburb, 12, 18.
93 Ealing Churches, no. 1; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 17212.
94 Inf. from Judge Granville Slack.
95 Tongue, Lond. Suburb, 24, 48, 90-2.
96 Ibid. 68-9; Whitley, Bapts. of Lond. 243.
97 Ealing Churches, no. 19.
98 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 36294.
99 Whitley, op. cit. 243.
1 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 60888.
2 Inf. from Judge Granville Slack.
3 Para. based on Whitley, op. cit. 227.
4 Kelly's Dir. Acton (1955).
5 Para. based on Whitley, op. cit. 252.
6 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 41008.
7 Kelly's Dir. Acton (1934, 1935).
8 Ealing Churches, no. 6.
9 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 57554.
10 Ealing and Acton Dir. (1886-8); Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs (1894).
11 Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs (1888, 1894, 1898, 1900).
12 Kelly's Dir. Acton (1940).
13 Acton libr., 'Churches', list of clergy in Acton.
14 Jnl. of Geo. Fox, ed. N. Penney, i. 170; Friends' Ho. libr., Six Wks. Mtg. min. bk., vol. 18 (1801-21), p. 38.
15 Para. based on The Friend, vol. 41, N.S., 2 Aug. 1901, pp. 505-6; Friends' Mtg.-Ho. and Adult Sch., Acton (leaflet 1906); Westminster and Longford M.M. min. bk., vol. 25, pp. 82, 139, 149, 171.
16 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35568.
17 Yearly Mtg. Procs. 1941, 154; below, Ealing.
18 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 33799, 45213, 48392, 51872.
19 Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs (1900); Acton Gaz. 18 Jan. 1901.
20 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 49360; Acton libr., 'Churches', list of clergy.
21 Baker, Acton, 203; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 42166; Kelly's Dir. Acton (1940).
22 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 55011; Kelly's Dir. Acton (1929).
23 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 61558.
24 Ibid. 73861.
25 Above.
26 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 28161; Kelly's Dir. N. Suburbs (1880, 1898, 1900).
27 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 43292; Kelly's Dir. Acton (1914, 1933).
28 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 45424.
29 Ibid. 59937; Acton libr., 'Churches', list of clergy.
30 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 73065.