Edgware: Protestant nonconformity

Pages 166-167

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.

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There are no references to Protestant nonconformists in Edgware before 1702, when a meeting of Quakers at the house of Thomas Prentice and a meeting of Baptists at the house of Roger Carter and Richard Rogers were certified and permitted to be held by the Middlesex Sessions. (fn. 1) There is no evidence that either of these congregations flourished, and by 1766 there were no dissenters in the parish. (fn. 2) On 20 October 1798 the house of Sarah Kent was registered as an Independent meeting-house. W. S. Tootell, writing in 1817, said that on 25 October the curate John De Veil (who 'when abroad fought with a tiger and mastered it') issued printed notices to the inhabitants 'to put them on their guard against the artful insinuations and designs of these itinerant preachers, reminding them that a like attempt had been made some years before, which nearly occasioned the house then occupied by a widow Hastings to be pulled down'. (fn. 3) Tootell declared that De Veil's action had been effective in preventing dissent from spreading to Edgware, but in 1799 Mrs. Hastings again risked having her house demolished when she registered it as an Independent meeting-house. (fn. 4) The congregation, however, did not prosper; in 1802 services were conducted by the Hoxton Itinerant Society in a room rented in a cottage on the Edgware side of the main road but this was given up after about three months, and in 1810 it was reported that there were not more than one or two dissenters in the parish. (fn. 5) In 1826 a brick building was registered as a meeting-house, but no denomination was given. (fn. 6) In 1829 the North Middlesex and South Hertfordshire Association fitted an upper room for worship in a cottage to the west of the main road near the turnpike; this was served by the students of Highbury College until the Association, at some time before 1833, invited the Revd. Thomas Hitchin to preach at Edgware. His first congregation in the upper room consisted of only three persons besides his family, and on his way about the village he was insulted by the populace, until the ringleader of the opposition died in agony only a few days after discharging a volley of abuse at the minister. After this the surviving persecutors no longer molested the minister and his family. (fn. 7) On 4 January 1833 a church was formed on the Congregational plan and land with a cottage was bought. (fn. 8) The first church was built on the Little Stanmore side of the village and was opened in 1834. (fn. 9) The increase in the congregation alarmed the Curate of Edgware, who called on Hitchin to enquire the reason why a certain woman had joined his congregation. Hitchin does not state whether this clergyman was Nicholas Fiott, (fn. 10) but writes that 'he loved darkness better than light'. (fn. 11) Hitchin left the parish some time after 1834, as the maintenance was insufficient. (fn. 12) The chapel continued to be used until, some time after 1881, it was closed; in 1893, however, it was reopened under the auspices of the London Congregational Union and the North Finchley Congregational Church, which helped and served it. A resident evangelist was appointed in 1900, and in 1914 the first full-time minister since 1881 was appointed. (fn. 13) In 1915 a hall with classrooms was built in Grove Road. From 1915 it was used for services, and in 1937 the interior was redesigned to form the present church. (fn. 14) In 1951 a new church hall was completed. From 1953 to 1961 the church was without a resident minister, but in the latter year it joined with the Watling Congregational Church to invite a minister to take up a joint pastorate. (fn. 15)

Other Protestant nonconformist denominations have had a much shorter history than the Congregationalists. A barn at Purcell's homestead was registered in 1884 as a place of worship for the Salvation Army, but there is no evidence that the congregation became established. (fn. 16) The first Wesleyan Methodist service was held in 1924 in the Old Court Hall in the High Street. A church hall was built in 1926 in Garrett Road and was used for worship until 1959, when a new church was built. Another church hall was built in 1950. (fn. 17) At the beginning of 1932 Presbyterian services began in Edgware in temporary premises, conducted by the ministers of neighbouring congregations, and in December of that year the North London Presbytery approved the steps taken by the Church Extension Committee to establish a congregation in the parish. Work on the building began at the end of 1932, and in 1933 a preaching station was established. At the first Communion service there were 70 communicants. Since the church was intended to be a Free Church for the immediate neighbourhood, its communicant members include many who are not strict Presbyterians. A manse was built in 1935 and extensions were made to the church in 1950 and 1952. (fn. 18)


  • 1. Mdx. Cnty. Recs. iv. 246.
  • 2. Guildhall MS. 9558, p. 430.
  • 3. Tootell MS. 20, 25-26; Gen. Reg. Off., Wship. Reg. 480.
  • 4. Gen. Reg. Off., Wship. Reg. 492.
  • 5. Geikie MS. vol. v; Hendon libr., DD MHS 823; Guildhall MS. 9558, p. 430; Tootell MS. 25.
  • 6. Gen. Reg. Off., Wship. Reg. 1482.
  • 7. Hendon libr., DD MHS 823; Geikie MS. vol. v.
  • 8. Geikie MS. vol. v.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. See p. 164.
  • 11. Hendon libr., DD MHS 823.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Geikie MS. vol. v.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ex inf. the minister.
  • 16. Gen. Reg. Off., Wship. Reg. 28243.
  • 17. Ibid. 50420, 67424; Geikie MS. vol. v; ex inf. the minister.
  • 18. G. H. Williams, St. James's Presbyterian Church of England, Edgware.