Loughton: Protestant nonconformity

Pages 123-124

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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In 1672 Joseph Brown, who had been ejected from the vicarage of Nazeing in 1662, was licensed to minister to a congregation of Presbyterians at Loughton. (fn. 1)

On 3 October 1813 a small nonconformist chapel was opened at the south end of High Road. The preachers at the opening were the Revds. J. Hughes of Battersea, J. Clayton of Camomile Street, London (E.C. 3), and G. Collinson of Walthamstow. (fn. 2) In 1817 Samuel Brawn, formerly of Stepney Academy, was ordained minister. (fn. 3) The church supported the Baptist Union, though it was not at first affiliated to it. (fn. 4) Brawn remained until 1868. (fn. 5) In 1829 he reported a congregation of 175. (fn. 6) A new church was built in 1860-1. It cost £1,800, of which £1,400 had already been raised by the opening day. (fn. 7) This was attended in the 1860's by W. T. Whitley, later a distinguished Baptist minister and historian. He gave some of his reminiscences of the church in 'A Scenario of Baptist Essex'. (fn. 8) He mentioned the arrival of a new minister (W. Bentley, 1868) to help Samuel Brawn. The old minister watched his assistant from an armchair on the platform, 'snorting at any questionable doctrine'. Whitley helped to collect for the church soup kitchen. His mother did missionary work among the gipsies of Epping Forest.

In 1880 the church had 193 members and 210 Sunday school children, with a minister and two evangelists. (fn. 9) It was and remains one of the strongest nonconformist churches in the district. Membership was 181 in 1900 and the Sunday school had risen to 356. (fn. 10) In 1920 there were 211 members. (fn. 11) A decline to 164 in 1930 has subsequently been reversed and in 1951 there were 181 members and 143 pupils. (fn. 12) Except for brief vacancies there has always been a resident minister. Although still closely connected with the Baptist Union the church is now a united free church, known as Loughton Union Church.

Associated with the church are the Lincoln Almshouses. (fn. 13) Henry Lincoln, by his will proved in 1912, left £1,300 in trust to build five small almshouses to be let at low rents to people over 50 years old who had attended the church for the past ten years. The almshouses were built opposite the church. The sum of £99 17s. was received during the Second World War in local savings weeks, and the income from this, together with £20 16s. in rents from four cottages, and with donations, brought in £116 11s. 4d. in 1950. It was all spent on repairs and maintenance.

The founder of Methodism in Loughton was Edward Pope, who came to the district in 1873, when the nearest Methodist church was at Wanstead. (fn. 14) In that year he took over a small disused chapel in Englands Lane. (fn. 15) Among the first converts were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith, whose nephews later became the famous gipsy evangelists. The chapel was placed on the plan of the Hackney (Wesleyan) Methodist circuit in 1874 and five years later became part of the newly formed Wanstead and Woodford circuit. In 1880 land was purchased on a more central site in Forest Road, and an iron church erected there, at a total cost of £697. In 1885 the land was sold for £250 and a new site in the High Road was bought for £300. The iron church soon proved inadequate and in 1903 a new brick church with a schoolroom was built for £3,300, of which £1,000 was borrowed from an insurance company. This church was opened in 1903 (see plate facing p. 113).

In 1934 the minister at Buckhurst Hill (see Chigwell) was transferred to Loughton at the request of the latter church. In 1934 also it was decided to build a new hall behind the church on land given nine years before by Sir Joseph Lowrey. (fn. 16) The hall was opened in 1936. It cost £3,880, of which £2,024 were raised by donations. In 1944 it was totally destroyed by a bomb, and other church premises were badly damaged.

In 1946 further land was bought and a scheme was drawn up for the rebuilding of the hall. The work was to be done in three stages. The second of these was completed in June 1952, when the new Wesley Hall was opened. The present (1953) membership of the church is 159. The church is of red brick in gothic style. The chapel in England's Lane still exists, having been converted into dwellings called Kirk Cottages. It is a small building of stock brick probably dating from the middle of the 19th century and somewhat similar in appearance to the former Congregational Chapel at Abridge (in Lambourne, q.v.). (fn. 17)

In June 1946, on the recommendation of the Methodist General Purposes Committee, it was decided to negotiate for a site on the new London County Council estate at Debden. In 1949 a trust was formed and in 1950 land was offered by the L.C.C. for £785. The first part of the building, costing £7,000, was opened in July 1952. The money came from compensation for a bombed church in Walthamstow. In March 1953 it was decided to apply for a deaconess. The church is at present under the supervision of the Loughton minister and has a membership of 19.

Soon after the Methodists moved to Forest Road their former chapel in England's Lane was taken over by the Baptists, who held services there under the leadership of James Herbert Tee, a local solicitor, from 1884 to 1889. (fn. 18) About the same time Anglican mission services were being held by Mrs. John Pelly in a room over the coach house at Goldings Hill House. These services were primarily for poor people who might have hesitated to attend a regular place of worship owing to lack of suitable clothes. About 1887 Mrs. Pelly left Loughton and her congregation transferred to the Englands Lane chapel. In 1889 J. H. Tee and his associates erected the present iron church at the corner of Englands Lane and Goldings Hill. The trust deeds of the new church made strict provision that the Goldings Hill Mission should be undenominational in character. Tee remained superintendent of the mission until his death in 1909. He has had several successors, of whom Mr. E. S. Currey (c. 1925-40) was superintendent for the longest period.

Other nonconformist places of worship are the Forest Mission Hall, High Beech Road, belonging to the Plymouth Brethren and the Lincoln Hall, built in 1912 and presented to the Loughton Brotherhood by Henry Lincoln. (fn. 19) A Congregational church is now (1953) being built in Borders Lane, Debden, with support from the Loughton Union Church. (fn. 20)


  • 1. G. L. Turner, Orig. Recs. of Early Nonconformity, ii, 929.
  • 2. Evang. Mag. xxii, 66. For the site see Waller, Loughton, i, 145.
  • 3. Baptist Mag. 1818, 39.
  • 4. W. T. Whitley, Baptists of London, 147; Bapt. Handbk. 1869.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. E.R.O., Q/CR 3/2.
  • 7. Bapt. Mag. 1860, 453; ibid. 1861, 165.
  • 8. Bapt. Hist. Soc. Trans. N.S. x, 56.
  • 9. Bapt. Handbk. 1880.
  • 10. Ibid. 1900.
  • 11. Ibid. 1920.
  • 12. Ibid. 1930, 1951.
  • 13. Char. Com. Files.
  • 14. The following account is based on an address by A. W. Leach at Wanstead, Dec. 1919 (reported in Mins. of Local Preachers Mtg., Wanstead and Woodford Circuit), Trust Deeds and other church records. Cf. also Methodism in Loughton 1903-53 (Jubilee pamphlet).
  • 15. It is said to have been a Congregational chapel. Nothing is known of its earlier history.
  • 16. He was Director of the Salvage Association, London, and lived at the Hermitage, Loughton.
  • 17. It was built after 1850: cf. E.R.O., D/CT 225.
  • 18. The following account, supplied by Mr. William Addison, is from a typescript history of the Goldings Hill Mission, 1889-1939, complied by R. E. Currey.
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1933); inf. from Mr. W. Addison.
  • 20. Inf. from Revd. M. N. Lake.