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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1658 Richard Taverner, Vicar of Hillingdon, together with other local clergy, including Robert Hall, Perpetual Curate of Colnbrook (Bucks.), engaged in a public dispute with Quakers at West Drayton. (fn. 1) Although both Taverner and Thomas Godbolt of St. Margaret's, Uxbridge, probably remained in the district for a time after their ejection in 1660, (fn. 2) early nonconformist activity centred on three ministers ejected from livings outside the Uxbridge area. Of these the most influential was Hezekiah Woodward (1590-1675), ejected minister of Bray (Berks.), a noted schoolmaster and educational reformer. (fn. 3) Woodward was joined in Uxbridge by Hugh Butler, ejected from the living of Beaconsfield (Bucks.), 'a solid divine, and very grave person', (fn. 4) and Robert Hall, former soldier, schoolmaster, and Curate of Colnbrook. (fn. 5) The precise date of the earliest Uxbridge meetings is uncertain. Woodward was said in 1669 to have been preaching in the town for three or four years, (fn. 6) but his activities probably began between 1662 and 1664 when the Vicar of Hillingdon reported two 'very great sectaries' in the parish and mentioned burials and home baptisms conducted without his knowledge. (fn. 7) By 1669 seven regular nonconformist conventicles had been established in Hillingdon and Uxbridge. Three of these were probably Quaker meetings, (fn. 8) but the remaining four appear to have been related and are probably identifiable as early meetings of what subsequently emerged as the Presbyterian (later Congregational) body. (fn. 9) The most important conventicle was said to be held in the house of one Nicholls (probably William Nicholl). Robert Hall preached in another Uxbridge house, and also acted as a schoolmaster, (fn. 10) while Hugh Butler held meetings in a house in Hillingdon. Woodward was said to live in the house of a rich tanner named Buscold, (fn. 11) and to preach regularly on Sundays and some weekdays to 'the best of the town'. (fn. 12) Uxbridge meetings held by the three preachers continued to be persecuted until 1672, (fn. 13) when William Nicholl, who seems to have organized and coordinated their work, was granted licences permitting Woodward, Hall, and Butler to worship in private houses in the town. (fn. 14) In the following year all three were said to be holding regular meetings at the 'Swan'. (fn. 15)
Little is known of nonconformist activity during the period of persecution which began in 1675. (fn. 16) There were said to be three nonconformists and 397 conformists in Hillingdon in 1676, (fn. 17) but the sect or sects to which the nonconformists belonged is not stated. Hezekiah Woodward died in 1675, and Robert Hall two years later. Hugh Butler probably continued to preach privately until his death in 1682, but after this date nothing is known of the leadership of the body. The congregation probably had no ministerial guidance until 1692, when James Waters (d. 1725), a Presbyterian minister from Reigate (Surr.), was invited to assume leadership of what had by then merged as the Uxbridge Presbyterian body. Meetings were held in private houses (fn. 18) until 1716 when the first chapel was built near the west end of the High Street. (fn. 19) The building was licensed for Presbyterian worship in 1717. (fn. 20) A view of the chapel published a hundred years later shows an unpretentious rectangular brick building with a double-gabled roof and a small doorway under a flat hood in the centre of one of its long sides. (fn. 21)
A period of decline seems to have followed the intense nonconformist activity of the 17th century, and by 1766 the number of Protestant dissenters in Uxbridge was said to be decreasing rapidly. (fn. 22) The Presbyterian congregation, however, had in 1753 purchased land adjoining the chapel, and by vesting the property in a trust for supporting a resident minister guaranteed future leadership of the body. This steady income was probably instrumental in attracting to the pastorate Dr. William Rutherford (minister 1769-89), the Scottish divine and writer. Rutherford purchased a large house in Park Road in which he established 'a very numerous and respectable' school known as Uxbridge School. (fn. 23) The foundation was continued by the succeeding minister, Thomas E. Beasley, and by 1792 a Sunday school had also been established. New school premises adjoining the chapel were built in the early 19th century, (fn. 24) and structural alterations to both school and chapel were made in 1828. These increased the capacity of the chapel to about 220 places.
The Presbyterian congregation seems to have adopted the style Old Meeting House during the early 19th century, and during the ministry of Thomas Barker (1833-8) Congregational church practices were adopted. Thomas H. Riches (coauthor of The History of Uxbridge) was appointed deacon, and a system of monthly church meetings established. Three services were held every Sunday, and Communion once a month. By 1851 evening worship had been discontinued, but approximately 80 persons attended each of the other two services.
Of 19th-century ministers the most notable was Dr. Robert Vaughan (1795-1868) who held the Uxbridge pastorate from 1857 to 1861. An outstanding Congregationalist divine and writer, Vaughan was Professor of Modern History at University College, London, and the author of works on 17thcentury England. (fn. 25) During his ministry membership seems to have declined, but after a period of intense activity, it had increased to 70 by 1871. Activities undertaken by the congregation then included tract distribution, cottage prayer meetings, and sick visiting, and in 1878 a Band of Hope was instituted. The Old Meeting Church joined the London Congregational Union in 1922, and about 1930 the first church constitution was drafted. (fn. 26)
In 1883 the Old Meeting House was enlarged at a cost of nearly £1,300. The west wall was rebuilt, the three remaining 18th-century walls were raised to support a new roof, and a small square tower and vestries were added; part of the school premises were pulled down at this time, but an extension was opened for the Sunday school in 1889. (fn. 27) Services were still held in the Old Meeting House in 1968, when there were plans to demolish it and build a new Congregational church in Belmont Road. (fn. 28)
A second Congregational body, later known as Providence Congregational Church, (fn. 29) was formed in Uxbridge about 1777. Many of the original members seem to have been drawn from the Anglican congregation of St. Margaret's chapel. Meetings were held in the 'George' until 1795 when the first meetinghouse was built near the Lynch Green, (fn. 30) in the garden of J. A. Glover, a wealthy merchant who largely financed the project. The land around the building was consecrated as a burial ground.
The first resident minister was appointed in 1803, and during the ministry of George Redford (1812- 27) (fn. 31) membership increased from 27 in 1813 to 54 in 1818. A number of members at this period manifested Baptist leanings, and these are thought to have seceded about 1840 to form a Baptist church. (fn. 32) The meeting-house was refronted in the middle of the 19th century in the neo-classical style and renovated about 1890 and again in 1902. By 1926 the congregation had increased to 319 members. After 1933, however, membership declined rapidly. (fn. 33)
A mission organized by Providence Church was established in a community room in Peachey Lane, Cowley, in 1955 to serve the new council estate at Cowley Peachey. The adult work, however, was not a success, and no evening services were held after 1960. A Sunday school continued to meet in the community room until 1963 when all work in the building ceased. The children of Cowley nonconformists subsequently attended Sunday school in Uxbridge. (fn. 34)
From the late 1950s discussion centred on plans for the amalgamation of the two Congregational churches in Uxbridge. They were finally united in 1962 as Uxbridge Congregational Church, which thenceforth worshipped in the former Old Meeting premises. In 1963 services were still occasionally held in Providence Church (fn. 35) but soon afterwards the building became derelict and was demolished in 1969. It had a tall two-storied cement-rendered front with round-headed windows, pilasters, and a central pediment flanked by scrolls above the parapet.
Quaker activity in Uxbridge probably dates from about 1655 when Edward Burrough, a pioneer of the sect, was holding meetings at the house of William Winch. (fn. 36) Burrough established a monthly meeting in the town, but by 1658 he had left the district, and John Sands of Hillingdon wrote to George Fox requesting guidance for the Uxbridge meeting. Whether Fox visited the parish is unknown, but in 1659 he issued an encouraging broadside to the Uxbridge Friends. Meetings probably continued to be held in private houses in the parish. By 1669, despite sporadic persecution, meetings were being held in at least three houses in Uxbridge and in one in Hillingdon. The Quaker society at this time appears to have been organized by three Uxbridge tradesmen-Timothy Fry, a cooper named Edward Swift, and Richard Hale, a collar-maker, said to be a 'stiff sectary'. (fn. 37) By this date the Uxbridge meeting was organized as part of the Longford Monthly Meeting, and Uxbridge preachers attended the Longford meetings. (fn. 38)
From about 1677 meetings were held in a rented room in the 'George'. The congregation was frequently ejected and its ministers prosecuted during this period, (fn. 39) but both George Fox and William Penn visited the Uxbridge meeting. A meeting-house in the George Close (off the modern York Road) was built in 1692, and an adjoining plot was set aside as a burial ground. At this date the meeting also owned three cottages near the 'Catherine Wheel' and other property on the Lynch Green. By 1724, however, the Uxbridge meeting was in debt and poorly attended. The meeting-house was found to be in a dangerous state and had to be rebuilt, with the help of contributions from individuals and other meetings, in 1755. The meeting-house was again rebuilt in 1818.
Enthusiasm in the Uxbridge meeting did not revive until the late 18th century when the Hulls and other wealthy Quaker families settled in the town and assumed the care of the meeting. (fn. 40) The Hulls were related by marriage to Joseph Pease, the first Quaker M.P., and were friends of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, who visited the Uxbridge meeting in 1823. (fn. 41) During the early 19th century Uxbridge Friends played a prominent part in philanthropic activities in the town, serving on the committees of the school of industry, the savings bank, the board of health, and other institutions. By 1851 the average attendance at the morning meeting was 33. (fn. 42) Fourteen years later the Longford Monthly Meeting was joined with Westminster and the Uxbridge meeting became independent. Subsequently the meeting, now reduced to about 20 members, concerned itself with educational and temperance work. In 1880 a free library was opened at the meeting-house, and in 1883 a Sunday school for poor children was instituted. Five years later an adult school was established.
During the early 20th century the meeting again declined, and by 1929 only about 4 persons regularly attended the monthly meeting. With the influx of population after 1930, however, interest again revived and weekly meetings were instituted. In 1962 the meeting-house was extended by the addition of a schoolroom, kitchen, and cloakrooms. (fn. 43) The meeting-house, a plain rectangular building of brown stock brick with a hipped roof and round-headed windows, stands in its former burial ground, now made into a garden. Apart from the additions of 1962, the building has remained almost unaltered since 1818. Internally it is divided by a cross passage into a larger and a smaller meeting room, said to have been planned for the separate worship of men and women. The wooden partitions of the passage incorporated a number of double-hung panels which could be raised when a combined meeting was held. The larger room retains its original benches and other fittings. (fn. 44)
During the 18th century nonconformist activity in the parish seems to have been limited to meetings of the established Quaker and Presbyterian (later Congregational) bodies. (fn. 45) John Wesley preached in Hillingdon and Uxbridge in 1754 and 1758, (fn. 46) but there is no other evidence of 18th-century Methodist activity. By 1851, however, there were five Methodist meetings in Hillingdon parish with a total morning attendance of 290 persons. (fn. 47) In 1807 a house in Uxbridge was registered as a meeting-place for 'Calvinists'. (fn. 48) This was possibly a Calvinistic Methodist meeting, (fn. 49) identifiable with that described as 'Methodist' in 1810 when it was attended by a family of Cowley dissenters. (fn. 50)
A room in Uxbridge was licensed for the use or Wesleyan Methodists in 1821, (fn. 51) but meetings were probably discontinued shortly afterwards. (fn. 52) There is no evidence of further Methodist activity in the parish until 1845 when meetings in Uxbridge were reestablished by members of a Wesleyan congregation from Iver (Bucks.). Services were held in a room in Baker's Yard until the erection in 1847 of a permanent chapel in New Windsor Street, a building of brown stock brick with Gothic features. (fn. 53) The new Methodist Central Hall was erected in 1930 at the junction of High Street and Park Road, (fn. 54) and the chapel in New Windsor Street became a Masonic Hall. In 1957 Lawn Road Primitive Methodist congregation (fn. 55) was amalgamated with the former Wesleyan connexion in the Central Hall premises. (fn. 56)
A Primitive Methodist congregation was established in Uxbridge about 1864. (fn. 57) Services were held initially in the open air, and later in the Belmont Hall and the Union Hall, Windsor Street. A permanent chapel in Lawn Road was opened in 1876, (fn. 58) and meetings were held there until 1957 when the congregation was united with the Central Hall Methodist body. (fn. 59)
Two further Methodist bodies were established in the 20th century in areas of expanding population. Yiewsley Central Methodist Hall, Fairfield Road, was opened in 1927. It replaced a building (in 1964 the public library) which had been used since about 1873 by a small Primitive Methodist congregation. (fn. 60) Building costs were met by private subscription and a gift from Sir Joseph Rank, the flour miller. The Central Hall was renovated and extended in 1959. (fn. 61) Methodist meetings were held in a private house in Park Way, Hillingdon, from 1932. A hall in Long Lane was opened in 1933 (fn. 62) when the congregation had 20 members. (fn. 63) In 1965 a permanent chapel with seating for 120 persons was opened on an adjoining site. (fn. 64)
Houses at Hillingdon and Colham Green were registered for Baptist worship in 1817 and 1828 respectively. (fn. 65) Little is known of the organization of the Baptist congregation during the 19th century. (fn. 66) Two cottages in Bonsey's yard were used for Baptist worship during the 1830s, (fn. 67) and the Uxbridge Baptist body appears to have been joined about 1840 by former members of Providence Congregational Church. (fn. 68) Meetings were held in the market-house until a chapel (Montague Hall), a plain yellow brick building in George Street, Uxbridge, was opened in 1856. (fn. 69) A Salem Baptist congregation at Hillingdon Heath is said to have been founded in 1847, although details of its history are obscure. (fn. 70) By 1851 there were five Baptist meetings in Hillingdon parish with a total morning attendance of 294 persons. (fn. 71) Meetings of the Uxbridge Baptist body seem to have been discontinued about 1900. Hillingdon Park Baptist Chapel in Hercies Road was opened in 1931, (fn. 72) and extended in 1951. (fn. 73) In 1963 the Hillingdon Heath Salem Baptist congregation met in premises in Uxbridge Road. (fn. 74) Members of the West Drayton Baptist congregation began missionary work in Yiewsley in 1897. Early meetings were held in a cottage in Colham Avenue. A church, styled the Tabernacle, in Colham Avenue, was opened in 1900, and meetings were held there until 1954 when a new chapel, also in Colham Avenue, was erected. (fn. 75)
From about 1851 (fn. 76) a gospel mission (fn. 77) was organized in conjunction with the Uxbridge Moor Ragged School (fn. 78) which had occupied premises in Waterloo Road since about 1846. Premises in Waterloo Road were licensed for worship in 1858. (fn. 79) The mission was then described as a Primitive Methodist connexion, although its work at all periods appears to have been of an undenominational character. A new building in Waterloo Road was opened in 1864 to house the mission services, reading room, and Sunday and day schools. The late 19th century was marked by a decline in membership, and the day school was closed in 1892. In 1903, however, a committee representing the Uxbridge free churches was formed to administer the mission. The premises were extended in 1913, and a new mission hall on the opposite side of Waterloo Road was opened in 1932. (fn. 80) The congregation operated as the Waterloo Road Mission until 1963, when the style Waterloo Road Free Church was adopted. (fn. 81)
Some other nonconformist sects have held meetings, about which few details are known, in Uxbridge, Hillingdon, and Yiewsley at various periods since the mid 19th century. In 1850 there were said to be meeting-houses in the parish for Independents, Presbyterians, Quakers, and Wesleyans. Baptists met in the market-house and the Mormons had a room in George Yard. (fn. 82) Evening service in a Catholic Apostolic church in Uxbridge, probably the successor of an Irvingite congregation founded in the 1830s, (fn. 83) was attended by an average of 30 persons in 1851. (fn. 84) Premises in Montague Road were licensed for Catholic Apostolic worship in 1858, and continued in use until the building was rendered unsafe by enemy action in 1940. It was demolished in the following year. (fn. 85)
Meetings of the Latter Day Saints in Uxbridge were attended by an average of 30 persons in 1851. (fn. 86) Other 19th-century sects met in Emmanuel Church, Yiewsley, which was registered between 1879 and 1893 for the worship of members of the Free Church of England, and in the Mission Hall, Horton Lane, Yiewsley, registered for undenominational worship from 1885 to 1896. (fn. 87) The Blue Ribbon Gospel Temperance Mission met in the Public Rooms in Uxbridge High Street from 1884 to 1896. (fn. 88) Other premises registered for undenominational worship during the 20th century included 156a High Street, Uxbridge, for the Uxbridge Pentecostal Mission (1943), and Wimpole Hall, Wimpole Road, Yiewsley (1956). (fn. 89) The Brethren registered Rockingham Hall, the Lynch, in 1914, and the Gospel Hall, Cowley Road, in 1927. (fn. 90) The Cowley Road premises were still used by Exclusive Brethren in 1962. (fn. 91)
The Uxbridge Salvation Army corps was instituted in 1887. (fn. 92) Meetings were held in Jubilee Hall, Bell Yard (on the site of the London Transport station), until about 1899 when the corps appears to have exchanged places of worship with the declining Baptist congregation, meeting in Montague Hall. Salvationist activity has since been concentrated in the George Street premises. (fn. 93) The Yiewsley Salvation Army corps was founded in 1886 by Salvationists from Hounslow. Meetings were held in a disused engine-house in Horton Road and later in an adapted cattle shed in St. Stevens Road. The present hall in Horton Road was opened in 1914. (fn. 94) During the early 20th century about 100 persons attended Sunday evening services. The premises were extended in 1957, when the congregation had about 35 members. By 1963 attendance had dwindled to an average of 15 persons. (fn. 95) The Hillingdon Salvation Army corps was founded in 1932. Meetings were held in a house in Nelgrove Road until 1938 when a wooden hall in Uxbridge Road was registered. (fn. 96) This was demolished in 1965 and a permanent hall, built on the same site, was opened in 1966. (fn. 97)
Christian Science meetings were held in private houses in Uxbridge and Hillingdon from 1941 until 1959 when the former Lawn Road Methodist chapel was purchased and reopened for Christian Science worship. (fn. 98)
Spiritualist meetings were held in Villiers Hall, Villier Street, Uxbridge, during the 1940s. (fn. 99) The House of the Good Shepherd in Hinton Road, registered in 1950 as a Spiritualist church, was still in use in 1962. (fn. 100)