Protestant nonconformity


Victoria County History



T P Hudson (Editor), A P Baggs, C R J Currie, C R Elrington, S M Keeling, A M Rowland

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'Horsham: Protestant nonconformity', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2: Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) including Horsham (1986), pp. 196-198. URL: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18357 Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The Quakers, Presbyterians, and General Baptists all flourished in Horsham in the later 17th and earlier 18th centuries; in 1676 there were said to be 100 dissenters in the parish, (fn. 76) and in 1715 the Presbyterians and Baptists together were thought to number 120. (fn. 77) The Methodists arrived in 1776, and were succeeded by the Independents, who by the mid 19th century had become the most numerous. (fn. 78) In 1881 it was said that most nonconformists were of the middle classes, though poorer people attended the Independent, Wesleyan Methodist, and Plymouth Brethren services. (fn. 79) Most congregations met in the town, but there were Baptists at Broadbridge Heath in the 1710s, and later there were chapels there, at Roffey, and at Southwater. (fn. 80) Horsham congregations often included non-parishioners, (fn. 81) and later founded or supported congregations in other places. (fn. 82) There were graveyards at the chapels or churches of the General Baptists (later Unitarians), Particular Baptists (Rehoboth), Independents, and Quakers. (fn. 83)

Baptists and unitarians.

There were Baptists at Horsham possibly from 1669, (fn. 84) who met at first in private houses. (fn. 85) Matthew Caffyn, the first minister and a native of Horsham, was a prominent controversialist and evangelist; at his death in 1714 he was succeeded as minister by his son and namesake. (fn. 86) What was apparently the elder Caffyn's house at Broadbridge Heath was being used as a meeting house in 1711, (fn. 87) and was registered for worship in 1713. (fn. 88) In 1717 there were said to be 350 hearers in Horsham; (fn. 89) most, however, evidently came from outside the parish, in which there were said to be only 18 Baptist families in 1724. (fn. 90) The present chapel on the west side of Worthing Road, registered for worship in 1719, (fn. 91) was built to serve as a general meeting place on special occasions for all the congregations in the area. (fn. 92) It is of red and blue brick with a Horsham stone roof, (fn. 93) and comprises a room aligned north-south, with an east porch and a low south extension containing the communion table. The room has a north gallery and its ceiling is supported by two tall freestanding wooden columns. In 1874-5 the building could seat 220. (fn. 94) In the later 18th century church members came from Warnham, Billingshurst, and Shermanbury as well as Horsham. (fn. 95) The Billingshurst members formed a separate congregation c. 1818, and by 1820 most of the Horsham congregation had become Unitarian. (fn. 96) On Census Sunday 1851, when there was a resident minister, 84 attended in the morning and 27 in the evening. (fn. 97) Five years earlier the congregation had been said to consist mainly of outsiders, some from as far afield as Dorking, Brighton, and East Grinstead. (fn. 98) In 1878 the church was described as Unitarian (Baptist), and thereafter successively as Free Christian, Free Christian (Unitarian), (fn. 99) and Unitarian. There was still a resident minister in 1881. (fn. 1) In 1980 a laywoman was in charge. (fn. 2) The original burial ground, on the north, south, and east sides of the building, survived in 1983.

The Rehoboth chapel in New Street was built in 1834 by a group of Particular Baptists who had seceded from the Independent congregation; a brick building of two storeys (fn. 3) which could seat 150, (fn. 4) it survived in 1982. On Census Sunday 1851 attendances were 130 in the morning, 40 in the afternoon, and 150 in the evening. (fn. 5) Services were still held c. 1979.

The Jireh Strict Baptist chapel in Park Terrace East was founded c. 1857. (fn. 6) The stuccoed classical-style building, which could seat 150, (fn. 7) survived in 1982, but the congregation had dispersed between 1938 and 1957. (fn. 8)

The Brighton Road Baptist church was founded in 1894 to remedy the absence of a General Baptist (New Connexion) church, and met at first in the King's Head assembly room in East Street. In 1896 an iron church with a brick faôade was built. In 1903 there were over 100 church members. The building was sold in 1917, services being held in a hall until 1923 (fn. 9) when a new brick and stone Gothic-style church was opened. In 1979 there were 317 church members. (fn. 10)

The small brick Hope Strict Baptist chapel in Oakhill Road was opened in 1903, (fn. 11) and was still used for services in 1982.

The Brighton Road church founded two daughter churches in Horsham ancient parish. Evangelizing work began at Broadbridge Heath in 1906, (fn. 12) and a red brick chapel was built in Billingshurst Road in 1908. (fn. 13) In 1955 it was called Broadbridge Heath Free church, (fn. 14) and in 1979 it had 46 members. (fn. 15) It still flourished in 1982. A mission founded in Trafalgar Road c. 1920 (fn. 16) became a separate church in 1955; (fn. 17) a new building with a brick faôade was opened in 1972, (fn. 18) and in 1979 there were 80 church members. (fn. 19)


A chapel for Plymouth Brethren, replacing earlier premises in other parts of the town, (fn. 20) was built in Denne Road at the expense of C. G. Eversfield of Denne Park in 1863. (fn. 21) The building, which could seat 100 in 1874-5, (fn. 22) survived in 1982. The Eversfields continued to be strong supporters until at least 1890, and the Brethren's proselytizing zeal was an irritation to the Anglican clergy of the town. (fn. 23) A chapel was registered at Southwater in 1870 but had closed by 1896. (fn. 24) There was another at Roffey in 1884 and 1903, with a resident minister on the earlier occasion. (fn. 25) The Denne Road congregation still flourished in 1982; in 1957 and later there had also been a chapel at Wickersham Road north of Carfax. (fn. 26)

A congregation of Open Brethren which numbered c. 25 registered a mission room at Southwater in 1927. (fn. 27)

Indepedents (Congregationalists). (fn. 28)

An Independent church at Horsham, succeeding earlier gatherings of 'separatists' which had met since c. 1780, (fn. 29) was founded in 1800, and met for a time in a converted building in Springfield Road. A new chapel on a neighbouring site, of two storeys and three bays beneath a broken pediment, was opened in 1814. (fn. 30) The minister, John Harm, also registered a meeting place at Roffey in 1824, (fn. 31) of which nothing is heard later. In the 1820s and 1830s candidates for baptism were chiefly from Horsham and Lower Beeding, and most members of the congregation were in non-agricultural occupations. (fn. 32) On Census Sunday 1851 the Springfield Road chapel had morning and evening attendances of 350 or over, besides over 100 Sunday scholars, and there was a resident minister, (fn. 33) as there was also in 1881. (fn. 34) A new red brick and stone Gothic-style building on the same site was opened in 1884. In 1980, when it belonged to the United Reformed church, the congregation had 130 members, the minister also serving Maplehurst in Nuthurst, and Slinfold. (fn. 35) The chapel was demolished in 1981, to build a smaller chapel and offices; (fn. 36) the new building was opened in 1983. (fn. 37)

Methodists. (fn. 38)

A Methodist preacher from London was licensed by quarter sessions to preach in Horsham in 1776, and services with hymn-singing were held at a house near the town hall and on Horsham common. (fn. 39) A Wesleyan Methodist chapel which could seat 200 in 1874-5 (fn. 40) was built in London Road in 1832, (fn. 41) and the Horsham circuit was formed in 1844 with two ministers and 109 members. In the 1830s the chapel was attended mostly by labourers, many from surrounding villages. (fn. 42) Congregations on Census Sunday 1851, however, were only 30 in the morning and 40 in the evening, the minister attributing the decline in numbers to Puseyite activities at the Anglican churches. (fn. 43) The present church, of red brick with stone dressings in Gothic style, was built on the same site in 1883 and could seat 400 in 1940. (fn. 44) By 1903 the Horsham circuit, then called the Dorking and Horsham circuit, included chapels in six places besides Horsham. (fn. 45) In 1932 evening congregations at Horsham averaged 250. The church still flourished in 1982.

A Wesleyan mission room at Southwater was built in 1884, (fn. 46) and changed its site between 1896 and 1909. (fn. 47) In 1901 the building could seat 80. (fn. 48) It was sold in 1930. (fn. 49)

A brick Primitive Methodist chapel at Roffey was opened in 1878. After enlargement in 1936 (fn. 50) it could seat 160 in 1940. (fn. 51) In 1971 it was modernized and renamed St. Andrew's Methodist church, and it flourished in 1981. (fn. 52) Another Primitive Methodist chapel in Rushams Road was registered in 1885 and closed before 1925. A third in East Street, of red brick in Flemish Renaissance style, was registered in 1892 (fn. 53) and closed in or before 1933; (fn. 54) in 1895 and 1915 two services were held there on Sundays. (fn. 55)


Licence was granted to Matthew Woodman in 1672 to hold Presbyterian services at his house in Horsham. (fn. 56) Woodman was a graduate and a scholar, who at his death in 1684 owned 400 books. (fn. 57) A Presbyterian meeting house in East Street, described as newly built, was registered in 1707; (fn. 58) it survived in 1736, (fn. 59) and apparently in 1794. (fn. 60) There were said to be 140 hearers in 1717, (fn. 61) and 15 Presbyterian families in Horsham in 1724. (fn. 62)


Three Quakers preached in Horsham market place in 1655, and one of them, Thomas Lawcock or Laycock, was gaoled soon afterwards for causing a disturbance in church by calling the vicar a liar and 'Antichrist'. (fn. 63) The keeper of the gaol seems to have sympathized, for later he was himself convicted for allowing the Quakers in the gaol too much liberty. (fn. 64) The monthly administrative meeting was being held at Horsham by 1668, at first in private houses, and the weekly meeting for worship was recorded by 1687; two Quakers were married at a house in Horsham in 1669. George Fox and William Penn both visited the town in 1680. A meeting house was built in Worthing Road in 1693. (fn. 65) There were said to be 12 Quaker families in the parish in 1724. (fn. 66) The quarterly meeting was held at Horsham in 1736 and 1783. (fn. 67) In 1785-6 the old meeting house was replaced by a new one set further back from the street on the same plot, (fn. 68) but the present red brick building seems later in style; it consists of a square room with contemporary deal panelling and benches round the walls, and has a minister's house attached on the north. There were still 48 Quakers in the parish in 1801, (fn. 69) but by 1851 only c. 10 seem to have attended Sunday services. (fn. 70) In the 1870s and 1880s the congregation apparently lapsed; (fn. 71) there were still Sunday morning services in 1888, though the Quakers were then said to be nearly extinct in the parish. (fn. 72) Two Sunday services were being held again by 1895, however, and the congregation existed apparently continuously thereafter. (fn. 73)

Other denominations.

A 'Providence' chapel in East Street was registered in 1839. (fn. 74) In 1851, when there was a resident minister, it was described as Calvinist, and claimed an average congregation of 120. (fn. 75)

The Mormons (Latter Day Saints) registered a chapel in East Street in 1853, which was closed by 1866. (fn. 76)

The Salvation Army registered a meeting place at Springfield Hall, Springfield Road, in 1887. (fn. 77) About 1969 it was replaced by the citadel in Barttelot Road (fn. 78) which still flourished in 1982.

A Horsham branch of the non-sectarian Railway Mission had a chapel in Oakhill Road in 1896; (fn. 79) it survived in 1981.

Other places of worship included the Church of the Foursquare Gospel, East St., registered 1930, closed by 1964; (fn. 80) Horsham New Church (Swedenborgian), East St., fl. 1938; (fn. 81) Christian Scientist premises, Guildford Rd., registered 1953, (fn. 82) fl. 1981; Kingdom Hall (Jehovah's Witnesses), Stanley St., registered 1957, (fn. 83) fl. 1980; and Fellowship Hall, East St., the former Primitive Methodist premises (United Apostolic Faith Church, later Pentecostal Church), fl. 1957, (fn. 84) 1980.


76 S.A.C. xlv. 146.
77 Ibid. li. 13.
78 P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/1; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/2 (1865, 1875).
79 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1881).
80 Below.
81 e.g. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/2 (1875); ibid. NC/B 2/2/1.
82 e.g. Pioneers Still: Suss. Cong. Union and Home Missionary Soc. 1849-1949, 16, 20; E. M. Marchant, Short Hist. of Cong. Ch. at Horsham, 1800-1950, 12 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
83 Hurst, Horsham (1868), 98.
84 P.R.O., RG 4/2729, f. 5v., listing births of members of the cong. from that date.
85 E. Kensett, Hist. Free Christian Ch., Horsham, 1721- 1921, 10.
86 D.N.B.
87 Kensett, op. cit. 10; W.S.R.O., S.T.C. I/33, p. 100.
88 P.R.O., RG 31/1, Chich. dioc. (suppl. return, 1960); cf. Kensett, op. cit. 10.
89 S.A.S. Newsletter, xxi. 117.
90 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 15.
91 P.R.O., RG 31/1, Chich. archdeac. no. 1; for the identification of the bldg. cf. W.S.R.O., NC/B 2/7/1-3.
92 Kensett, Free Christian Ch. 10-12; inf. from Mr. L. J. Maguire, Croydon.
93 Above, pl. facing p. 145.
94 O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
95 W.S.R.O., NC/B 2/3/1.
96 Kensett, Free Christian Ch. 105-6; cf. S.N.Q. xv. 337.
97 P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/1/8.
98 W.S.R.O., NC/B 2/2/1.
99 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1878 and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1962); D.N.B. s.v. Matt. Caffyn.
1 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1881).
2 Gen. Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Chs. Dir. (1980).
3 R. F. Chambers, Strict Baptist Chapels of Eng. ii. 120 and facing p. 110; Brief Hist. of Strict Baptist Ch. at Horsham (priv. print. 1946) (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
4 O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
5 P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/1/7.
6 Stranger's Guide to Horsham (Horsham, 1869), 9; Hurst, Horsham (1868), 97; cf. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 10727.
7 O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
8 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938); Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1957).
9 Brighton Rd. Baptist Ch., Horsham: Programme of Opening Servs. 1923 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.); F. Buffard, Kent and Suss. Baptist Assocs. 120.
10 Baptist Union Dir. (1979-80).
11 Chambers, Strict Baptist Chapels, ii. 120 and facing p. 99.
12 Horsham Baptist Ch. Diamond Jubilee, 1894-1954 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
13 D. R. Elleray, Victorian Chs. of Suss. 53.
14 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 64817; cf. Horsham Baptist Ch. Diamond Jubilee.
15 Baptist Union Dir. (1979-80).
16 Horsham Baptist Ch. Diamond Jubilee.
17 Buffard, Kent and Suss. Baptist Assocs. 141.
18 W. Suss. Co. Times, 17 Nov. 1972.
19 Baptist Union Dir. (1979-80).
20 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 6542, 7402.
21 Stranger's Guide to Horsham (Horsham, 1869), 9; Hurst, Horsham (1868), 97.
22 O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
23 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1884, 1890); Ep. I/22A/2 (1875, 1903).
24 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 19790; cf. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1881).
25 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1884); Ep. I/22A/2 (1903).
26 Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1957); Horsham: Official Guide (c. 1971), 58.
27 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50962; Southwater, 1837- 1977, 36.
28 Para. based mainly on E. M. Marchant, Short Hist. of Cong. Ch. at Horsham, 1800-1950 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
29 Cf. P.R.O., RG 4/2730, 4419.
30 Dudley, Horsham, 29; Windrum & Hughes, Horsham, 73.
31 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/17/45, f. 14.
32 P.R.O., RG 4/3108.
33 Ibid. HO 129/87/2/1/5.
34 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1881).
35 United Reformed Ch. Yr. Bk. (1980); illus. at Windrum & Hughes, Horsham, 74.
36 W. Suss. Gaz. 19 Mar., 14 May 1981.
37 Ibid. 27 Jan. 1983.
38 Para. based mainly on Horsham Wesleyan Ch. Centenary, 1832-1932 (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
39 Cf. S.A.C. lii. 76-7; Horsham Mus. MS. 307 (MS. cat.).
40 O.S. Map 1/500, Horsham (1877 edn.).
41 Illus. at Dudley, Horsham, 30.
42 P.R.O., RG 4/2731.
43 Ibid. HO 129/87/2/1/4.
44 Methodist Ch. Bldg. Return (1940).
45 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1903).
46 Surr. R.O., Kingston, 456/13/1.
47 O.S. Map 6", Suss. XXIV. NE. (1898, 1912 edns.).
48 Return of Accom. in Wesleyan Methodist Chapels, 1901, 9.
49 Surr. R.O., Kingston, 456/13/2.
50 St. Andrew's Methodist Ch., Horsham [1981] (copy in W.S.R.O. libr.).
51 Methodist Ch. Bldg. Return (1940).
52 St. Andrew's Methodist Ch., Horsham.
53 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 28646, 33210.
54 W. Suss. Co. Times, 15 Dec. 1933.
55 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895, 1915).
56 Cal. S.P. Dom. 1672, 41.
57 S.A.C. li. 9; Calamy Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 544; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/29/106/196.
58 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/17/36, f. 3.
59 Horsham Mus. MS. 194, f. 6.
60 Univ. Brit. Dir. iii (1794), 290; cf. Wiston Archives, i, p. 405.
61 S.A.S. Newsletter, xxi. 117.
62 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 15.
63 S.A.C. xvi. 70-1, 74; Albery, Hist. Horsham, 412.
64 S.A.C. xvi. 74-5.
65 Marsh, Early Friends, 25-7, 107; P.R.O., RG 6/1591, f. 3.
66 W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 15.
67 V.C.H. Suss. vi (1), 244; S.A.C. cxvi. 37.
68 Marsh, Early Friends, 27; Stranger's Guide to Horsham (Horsham, 1869), 8.
69 S.A.C. lxxxix. 64.
70 P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/1/10.
71 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1878 and later edns.).
72 Albery, Souvenir Guide, 37.
73 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895 and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1957 and later edns.).
74 P.R.O., RG 31/1, Chich. archdeac. no. 216.
75 Ibid. HO 129/87/2/1/6.
76 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 912.
77 Ibid. no. 29990; cf. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/22A/1 (1887); Albery, Souvenir Guide, 37.
78 W.S.R.O., UD/HO 21/3/100.
79 O.S. Map 6", Suss. XIII. SE. (1898 edn.); G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 36455; cf. W.S.R.O., Hurst MSS., treasurer of branch to R. H. Hurst, 1898.
80 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 52566.
81 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1938).
82 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 64171.
83 Ibid. no. 66361.
84 Kelly's Dir. Horsham (1957).