Chigwell: Protestant nonconformity

Pages 35-37

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

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On 31 May 1804 a nonconformist chapel was opened at Chigwell Row. (fn. 1) The minister was a Mr. Booth. Among the original trustees were Joseph Fletcher, shipbuilder of Shadwell Dock, and Isaac Gould of Loughton. Henry Fletcher had bought Clare Hall in 1801, and its name had been changed to Chapel House. (fn. 2) The chapel was usually described during the 19th century as Independent and supported the Essex Congregational Union. In 1829 the minister reported that his congregation numbered 200-50, of whom 100 'may properly be called dissenters, according to our system'. (fn. 3) In 1831 the chapel opened a school (see Schools). During the early 1840's, under its minister the Revd. T. Hill, it made itself responsible for the mission at Abridge (in Lambourne, q.v.). (fn. 4) During the next ten years the Chigwell Row church was in difficulties. (fn. 5) In 1857 the British School was temporarily closed and the church itself barely survived. In the following year, however, the school was reopened and the church was said to be reviving. (fn. 6)

The church experienced further difficulties during the next few years, partly as the result of Anglican opposition. (fn. 7) About 1866, however, it began to support a mission in Chigwell Road, which later developed into a small church (see below). (fn. 8) The church at Chigwell Row could usually afford to keep a minister at this period. In or about 1882 it once again undertook to support the Abridge church. (fn. 9) In 1904 there were 37 members, 80 Sunday school pupils, and 3 teachers. (fn. 10) In 1925 the numbers were 52, 53, and 10 respectively. (fn. 11) The society is now (1952) a United Free Church with 80 members, 50 Sunday school pupils, and 18 teachers. It has had a lay pastor since 1938. (fn. 12)

The church is a rectangular building of gault brick with stone or cement dressings. If this is the original building of 1804 the front must have been altered during the second half of the 19th century. Beside it is an iron building used as a schoolroom. This was brought from Leytonstone in 1880. (fn. 13)

In 1866 the Essex Congregational Union was making a small grant to help mission work in Chigwell. (fn. 14) In the following year it was reported that a room in Chigwell Road had been opened for worship and that congregations numbered about 130. Services were held by the Revd. F. Neller, of the Chigwell Row Congregational Church. (fn. 15) In 1870 the mission was flourishing, but the landlord had given the members notice to quit. (fn. 16) About 1875 the Chigwell Road society appears to have become associated with one at Woodford Bridge: in that year they had a joint superintendent, E.W. Skinner. (fn. 17) From this time support was being given by the Woodford Congregational Church. (fn. 18)

In 1890 the two missions were united under the superintendence of G. H. Giddins, minister of the Ray Lodge Congregational Church, Woodford, which church had itself been founded by the Woodford Congregational Church. (fn. 19) Land was bought in Smeaton Road, Chigwell, near Woodford Bridge, and an iron chapel was given by T. W. Orr. Financial support by W. H. Brown enabled a resident missionary to be retained from 1903 to 1932. (fn. 20) The chapel remained under the care of the Woodford Congregational Church when Ray Lodge became independent in 1930, and in 1947 became a branch of the Woodford Green United Free Church, in which the Woodford Congregational Church was merged. (fn. 21) There is a lay pastor at the Smeaton Road church. The iron building was damaged by enemy action during the Second World War. (fn. 22)

The first nonconformist meetings at Buckhurst Hill took place soon after the extension of the railway from Woodford. In 1860 Mr. Gingell, of Hill Farm, Buckhurst Hill, a Baptist missioner at Epping, built two cottages near his home. In one of them his daughters opened a Sunday school. (fn. 23) About 1863 he built a mission room in Alfred Road, where he and Noah Heath held services, assisted by students from Spurgeon's College, London. (fn. 24) In 1864 the Woodford Congregational Church started a Sunday school at Buckhurst Hill. (fn. 25) Congregational services were opened soon after this in a room next door to the 'Bald Faced Stag' and also at the house of a Mr. Straker, 'Fairlands', Epping New Road. (fn. 26) In 1866 all the above missions united to form the Buckhurst Hill Congregational Church. In that year a schoolroom was opened in Palmerston Road, at a cost of £480 for the land and £1,700 for the building. (fn. 27) About £1,500 was already promised by supporters of the new church. (fn. 28) The church was at first associated with that at Woodford, but in 1868 William Dorling came to Buckhurst Hill as the first minister. (fn. 29) Three years later he left the church after a disagreement with some of the members and took part of the congregation with him to form the King's Place Independent Church (see below). In 1872 W. H. Charlesworth became minister at Palmerston Road and in 1874 a new church was built there at a cost of £6,000. (fn. 30) Charlesworth remained until 1890. In 1904 there were 75 church members, 80 Sunday school pupils, and 10 teachers. (fn. 31) A new organ was installed in 1907 at a cost of £350 and in 1913 the schoolroom was enlarged. (fn. 32) In 1914 there were 100 members, 65 pupils, and 11 teachers. (fn. 33) The church celebrated its jubilee in 1924 and a brief history was compiled to mark the event. (fn. 34) In 1925 there were 117 members, 160 pupils, and 20 teachers. (fn. 35) A mission station was opened at Roding Valley in 1948 and in 1952 the church had in all 164 members, 140 pupils, 18 teachers, and 2 lay preachers. The minister, the Revd. N. F. Perry had been there since 1947. (fn. 36)

The church is an imposing stone building consisting of nave, chancel (facing north), transepts, and south tower with pinnacles. Behind it to the north is the earlier schoolroom, of red brick with a slate roof.

In 1871 the Revd. W. Dorling seceded from Palmerston Road and took some of the members with him to form the King's Place Independent Church. He was a man of strong character and advanced thought, a powerful preacher and an able writer for The Christian World. His resignation from Palmerston Road was the result of a controversy that had arisen within that church concerning the doctrine of the 'larger hope', of which Dorling was a strong advocate. This doctrine was distasteful to part of his congregation, which preferred that of eternal punishment. Among his supporters, however, was a large and influential section of the church. (fn. 37) These people acquired a site at the other (east) end of Palmerston Road opposite King's Place and there built an iron church which was opened in October 1871. Dorling was appointed 'Pastor of the said chapel for life or until he should voluntarily resign the . . . office'. (fn. 38) The King's Place church was known locally as 'Mr. Dorling's church'. It is remarkable that those who contributed to its erection were largely those who had subscribed towards the original building at Palmerston Road in 1866. (fn. 39)

Dorling remained pastor at King's Place for 35 years, retiring in 1906. He died in 1912. (fn. 40) His congregation had in 1887 built a brick church on the site, apparently retaining the original iron church until 1900, when they sold it to the Baptists. After Dorling's retirement the brick church was also sold to become the Palmerston Road Baptist Church (see below). The proceeds of the latter sale went to Cheshunt College, where Dorling had been trained for the ministry. (fn. 41)

The Queen's Road Baptist Church, Buckhurst Hill, was formed about 1861, when the Revd. H. Cousens became minister. (fn. 42) In 1866 a church was built at a cost of £1,200, with accommodation for 250. (fn. 43) In 1869 there were 37 members. (fn. 44) Cousens remained until 1885, and was succeeded by the Revd. E. G. Ince, who came from Australia. (fn. 45) Soon after 1890 the church was closed. (fn. 46) It later became known as Buckhurst Hill Hall and was used for public meetings and entertainments. It was enlarged in 1912. (fn. 47) It is now used as a branch of the County Library. It is a small red-brick building.

Soon after the closing of the Queen's Road Baptist Church meetings were resumed by some of the members under the leadership of Noah Heath. They hired Rigg's Retreat, Princes Road, from 1894 to 1897 and in 1899 founded a church, with the Revd. J. R. Cox as minister. (fn. 48) In 1902 an iron building was erected in Princes Road. The church lost some members soon after this to the Palmerston Road Baptist Church (see below). (fn. 49) In 1906 Cox was succeeded by his son F. A. Cox and in 1910 there were 55 members, 70 children in the Sunday school, and 7 teachers. (fn. 50) By 1930 there were only 25 members, 45 children, and 3 teachers. (fn. 51) From 1924 to about 1933 F. A. Cox was again minister, but the church appears to have closed about 1934. (fn. 52) It stood near the west end of Princes Road on the north side. (fn. 53)

The Baptist church, Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill, was founded in 1900, when the iron building that had been the original King's Place Congregational Church was bought by the London Baptist Association. (fn. 54) Many early adherents came from the Princes Road Baptist Church. A Baptist church was formally constituted in 1909, taking over the brick building of the King's Place Congregational Church, which had closed in 1906. (fn. 55) By 1930 there were 56 members, 45 Sunday school pupils, and 13 teachers. (fn. 56) In 1951 there were 74 members, 87 pupils, and 16 teachers. (fn. 57) For most of its history the church has supported a minister.

The church is of red brick, in similar style to the Methodist church (see below) which was built two years earlier. Beside it is the earlier iron church.

For a short time before 1827 there was a Wesleyan Methodist congregation meeting at Chigwell. This had certainly ceased by 1829. (fn. 58) This mission had probably been carried on by members of the North East London Circuit, which a few years later built a small church at Abridge in Lambourne (q.v.).

No other reference has been found to Methodism in Chigwell until 1878. In that year Edward Pope, founder of the Loughton Methodist Church (q.v.), bought land for £200 in Queen's Road, Buckhurst Hill, upon which an iron church was erected. (fn. 59) In 1880 this was put in trust and included in the Wanstead and Woodford Circuit. In 1886 a new brick church was built to the design of Charles Bell of New Broad Street, London, at a cost of £1,940. In 1898 new flooring was installed for £140. In February 1908 the organ of the Palmerston Road Congregational Church was bought for £95; the old organ was sold to the Loughton Wesleyan Church for £45.

In 1910 it was decided to station a minister at Buckhurst Hill. A house was leased in 1917 and bought two years later.

In 1928 the jubilee of the church was celebrated by the building of the Jubilee Room, behind the schoolroom. This cost £580. In 1934 the Buckhurst Hill minister was transferred to Loughton and a lay pastor, Mr. G. J. Gaisford, was appointed to Buckhurst Hill. This arrangement continued until 1937, when Mr. Gaisford left. The church now (1953) shares a minister with the Hermon Hill church at Wanstead. Its membership is 90. The building is of red brick, in Gothic style.

A new Methodist church was opened in Burrow Road, on the Hainault estate in 1952. (fn. 60)

The present Salvation Army hall at the north end of Alfred Road, Buckhurst Hill, is probably the building erected about 1863 by Mr. Gingell (see above, Palmerston Road Congregational Church). The Salvation Army has used it for at least 20 years. (fn. 61) It is a small building of stock brick.

The Plymouth Brethren have a small hall in Queen's Road, Buckhurst Hill; it is of stock brick and was built in 1884. (fn. 62)

Princes Hall, Princes Road, Buckhurst Hill, has been used for religious meetings since 1886 or earlier. (fn. 63) It is a small red-brick building.


  • 1. Evangelical Mag. xii (1804), p. 334.
  • 2. E.R.O., D/DEs M81.
  • 3. E.R.O., Q/CR 3/2/23.
  • 4. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1847, pp. 20-21.
  • 5. E.R.O., D/P 166/3/3.
  • 6. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1858.
  • 7. Ibid. 1859, 1860, 1861.
  • 8. Ibid. 1866 f.
  • 9. Ibid. 1882.
  • 10. Congr. Year Bk. 1904.
  • 11. Ibid. 1925.
  • 12. Congr. Year Bk. 1952.
  • 13. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1880.
  • 14. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1866.
  • 15. Ibid. 1867. The room was in the house of a Mr. Root.
  • 16. Ibid. 1870.
  • 17. Ibid. 1875.
  • 18. A. G. Kidd, 'The Pioneers, a Short Hist. of the Woodford Green United Free Church' (Typescript, 1948).
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. G. Teverson, Brief Chronicle of 50 Years Service, 1874-1924 (a history of Palmerston Rd. Congregational Church, Buckhurst Hill); W. T. Whitley, Baptists of London, 189.
  • 24. Ibid. For the later history of the Alfred Road Hall see below.
  • 25. A. G. Kidd, 'The Pioneers'.
  • 26. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1866; G. Teverson, Brief Chronicle.
  • 27. Teverson, op. cit.
  • 28. Essex Congr. Union Rep. 1866.
  • 29. Congr. Year Bk. 1867, 1868, 1869. Mr. A. W. Dorling of Woodford Green, grandson of the Revd. W. Dorling, now owns the original letter inviting his grandfather to Palmerston Road at an annual salary of £300, guaranteed for the first three years.
  • 30. Teverson, op. cit.
  • 31. Ibid.; Congr. Year Bk. 1904.
  • 32. Teverson, op. cit.
  • 33. Congr. Year Bk. 1914.
  • 34. G. Teverson, Brief Chronicle of 50 Years Service.
  • 35. Congr. Year Bk. 1925.
  • 36. Ibid. 1952.
  • 37. Inf. from Mr. A. W. Dorling.
  • 38. Ibid.; Congr. Year Bk. 1913 (obit. of Revd. W. Dorling).
  • 39. Inf. from Mr. A. W. Dorling.
  • 40. Ibid. A note on his career was printed in Congr. Year Bk. 1913; The Christian World 2 Apr. 1931 contained a note on the centenary of his birth.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Bapt. Handbk. 1869; W. T. Whitley, Baptists of London, 189.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 44. Bapt. Handbk. 1869.
  • 45. Whitley, Baptists of London, 189.
  • 46. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1894).
  • 47. Ibid. 1933.
  • 48. W. T. Whitley, Baptists of London, 244.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Bapt. Handbk. 1910.
  • 51. Ibid., 1930. It seems possible that the church was closed for a time about 1917- 20: Whitley, Baptists of London, 244; Bapt. Handbk. 1916-20.
  • 52. Bapt. Handbk. 1933, 1934.
  • 53. O.S. 6 in. Map (1921 edn.), sheet lxix.
  • 54. Whitley, Baptists of London, 249.
  • 55. Ibid.
  • 56. Bapt. Handbk. 1930.
  • 57. Ibid. 1951.
  • 58. E.R.O., Q/CR 3/1/66.
  • 59. The following acct. is based on an address by A. W. Leach at Wanstead, 1919 (reported in Mins. of Local Preachers Mtg. Wanstead and Woodford Circuit), Trust Deeds and other church records.
  • 60. Inf. from Revd. P. H. Wingham.
  • 61. Inf. from local resident.
  • 62. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1886).
  • 63. Ibid. 1886 f.