Ifield: Protestant nonconformity

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland, 'Ifield: Protestant nonconformity', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 71-72. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp71-72 [accessed 24 May 2024].

A P Baggs. C R J Currie. C R Elrington. S M Keeling. A M Rowland. "Ifield: Protestant nonconformity", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) 71-72. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp71-72.

Baggs, A P. Currie, C R J. Elrington, C R. Keeling, S M. Rowland, A M. "Ifield: Protestant nonconformity", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987). 71-72. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp71-72.


George Fox and Alexander Parker preached at the house of Richard Bonwick in Ifield in 1655, as a result of which the first weekly Quaker meeting in Sussex was formed; (fn. 1) Fox was to visit Ifield again in 1680. (fn. 2) In the 1660s and 1670s the meeting was held at the houses of various parishioners, including the miller William Garton, (fn. 3) but a permanent meeting house was built in 1676. (fn. 4) Burials were recorded at Ifield from 1659, (fn. 5) and later there was a burial ground attached to the meeting house. (fn. 6) Quaker parishioners were committed for non-payment of tithes in 1660 and later, (fn. 7) and Henry Halliwell, vicar 1667-79, wrote against the sect. (fn. 8) Early local sympathy for the Quakers, however, is indicated by the fact that when in 1658 Thomas Patching created a disturbance in the church by standing on a pew to address the congregation after Sunday service, neither the churchwarden nor the tithingman would arrest him. (fn. 9) The area from which members of the meeting were drawn in the later 17th century stretched from Horley (Surr.) in the north to Thakeham and Bolney in the south, and from Wisborough Green in the west to East Grinstead in the east. (fn. 10) A women's monthly meeting was ordered to be held from 1675 on the same day and at the same place as the men's. (fn. 11) In 1676 more than a quarter of adults in the parish were said to be dissenters, most of them probably Quakers. (fn. 12)

The meeting has existed apparently continuously since the later 17th century. (fn. 13) In 1724 there were seven Quaker families in the parish, besides one in Crawley. (fn. 14) The Horsham monthly meeting was held at Ifield in the 1770s. (fn. 15) In 1837 the congregation was said to comprise nearly 100 men, (fn. 16) but on Census Sunday 1851 only 16 people attended morning service. (fn. 17) Under the patronage of Mrs. Sarah Robinson (d. 1875) of the Manor House, Crawley, the Quakers were prominent in the life of Crawley town; by 1887 they had a reading room and library and were holding mission meetings there. (fn. 18)

The Quaker meeting house at Ifield of 1676, one of the earliest surviving purpose-built meeting houses, is of sandstone ashlar with a roof of Horsham slates. The main front has two bays, each with a wide half-hipped gable; the doorway has rusticated quoins. The pine panelling and benches in the main room are 18th-century. (fn. 19) In 1851 the building could seat 162. (fn. 20) Additions were made in the 20th century.

The Quaker meeting house in Ifield parish of which a room was used by Unitarians in 1829 was apparently another building, perhaps in Crawley village. (fn. 21)

A house was registered for the worship of Presbyterians in 1711, (fn. 22) and in 1724 there were four Presbyterian families. (fn. 23)

A branch of the Horsham General Baptist church existed in the parish in the early 18th century. A meeting house was registered in 1713, (fn. 24) and there were two Baptist families in 1724. (fn. 25) The congregation afterwards lapsed, until in 1883 one of C. H. Spurgeon's students was invited by 60 inhabitants of Crawley town to be the minister of a newly formed church. (fn. 26) The chapel built in Station Road, Crawley, in Ifield parish was of red brick with stone dressings; (fn. 27) it was enlarged three times in the next 15 years. (fn. 28) In 1895 and later there was a resident minister. (fn. 29) The building was damaged by bombing c. 1944 and afterwards demolished; (fn. 30) a new church in Crabtree Road, West Green, was opened in 1954, (fn. 31) and flourished in 1985.

The Bethel chapel of Particular Baptists in the modern Robinson Road was built in 1858; in 1922 it could seat c. 80 and had a burial ground attached. (fn. 32) The chapel closed in 1969, but was reopened in 1971 by members of Cuckfield Strict Baptist church; the congregation was reconstituted as Crawley Reformed Baptist church in 1975 and survived in 1985. (fn. 33)

A building was registered in Ifield parish for worship of Independents in 1835; (fn. 34) its site is unknown, but was in Crawley village. On Census Sunday 1851 congregations were 42 in the morning and 45 in the afternoon, (fn. 35) but in 1856, when there was no resident minister, attendance was thin. (fn. 36) A new church called Trinity Congregational church, of red brick with stone dressings in Gothic style, was built in 1863 in the modern Robinson Road; (fn. 37) in 1922 it could accommodate c. 260. (fn. 38) In 1875 the congregation was said to have increased, and to consist chiefly of tradespeople of the town. (fn. 39) The building was demolished c. 1962, (fn. 40) a new church being opened in 1963 in Ifield Drive. The congregation later joined the United Reformed church, (fn. 41) and flourished in 1985.

The Salvation Army opened fire in 1902 from barracks in Spencers Road, West Green, (fn. 42) which survived in 1985. Gospel Hall, also in Spencers Road, for meetings of Brethren, existed by 1916. (fn. 43)


  • 1. S.A.C. xvi. 71.
  • 2. Marsh, Early Friends, 20.
  • 3. S.A.C. lv. 79.
  • 4. Inscr. on bldg.; cf. below.
  • 5. S.A.C. lv. 80.
  • 6. Dept. of Environment hist. bldgs. list.
  • 7. Albery, Hist. Horsham, 418-19; Marsh, Early Friends 80.
  • 8. B.L. Add. MS. 39337, f. 64; Marsh, Early Friends, 80; S.A.C. xlviii. 6 n.
  • 9. A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 121.
  • 10. S.A.C. lv. 79.
  • 11. Marsh, Early Friends, 41.
  • 12. S.A.C. xlv. 144.
  • 13. e.g. ibid. lv. 80; W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 16873, pp. 3, 9; ibid. TD/W 156.
  • 14. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, pp. 39, 43.
  • 15. Marsh, Early Friends, 27.
  • 16. Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 30.
  • 17. P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/3/15.
  • 18. Crawley, ed. Lowerson, 30.
  • 19. Dept. of Environment hist. bldgs. list; Marsh, Early Friends, facing p. 26; above, pl. facing p. 49.
  • 20. P.R.O., HO 129/87/2/3/15.
  • 21. W.S.R.O., QCR 1/11/W 1/73; cf. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1832-4), 1026.
  • 22. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/25/1, f. 38.
  • 23. Ibid. Ep. I/26/3, p. 43.
  • 24. Caplan, 'Outline of Nonconf. in Suss.' ii. 21, 71; cf. S.N.Q. xv. 219.
  • 25. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 43.
  • 26. F. Buffard, Kent and Suss. Baptist Assocs. 106.
  • 27. D. R. Elleray, Victorian Chs. of Suss. 56; Bastable, Crawley, 151.
  • 28. Buffard, Baptist Assocs. 106.
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1895); ibid. (1903), s.v. Crawley.
  • 30. Elleray, Victorian Chs. 56.
  • 31. Buffard, Baptist Assocs. facing p. 100.
  • 32. Hobley, Crawley and Dist. 26; illus. at Bastable, Crawley, 150.
  • 33. Crawley Observer, 15 Oct. 1971; inf. from Mr. Kay.
  • 34. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/25/3, f. 26.
  • 35. P.R.O., HO 129/82/3/2.
  • 36. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A (1856).
  • 37. Elleray, Victorian Chs. 56.
  • 38. Hobley, Crawley and Dist. 25.
  • 39. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A (1875).
  • 40. W. Suss. Gaz. 2 Aug. 1962.
  • 41. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 69084.
  • 42. Ibid. 39242.
  • 43. Willett's Dir., Almanack and Diary (1916), 81; cf. Hobley, Crawley and Dist. 24.