Our History

In 1920 the Fisher family moved to Acacia Lodge in North Parade. Mr. & Mrs. Fisher were concerned that the children who lived locally played in the streets on Sundays and were not attending any Sunday School. Armed with a small harmonium and chorus books, they decided to stand on the corner, where 'Corner Newsagents' is now, and attract the children with music and Bible stories. Two elderly ladies, who renewed their connection by regular attendance as members of the Luncheon Club, had very happy memories of running along to join in the singing and listening to the stories. Eventually, with the help of a small boy and his recruits, Mrs. Fisher started a Sunday School in her own home.

In 1921 the minister of Brighton Road Baptist Church, the Rev. R.F. Cross, said he was concerned about several members of his church living in the Trafalgar Road area who were finding the distance across the town too much for them. He voiced his desire for a Mission Hall to be built on the Common. Mr. & Mrs. Fisher's land stretched from North Parade to Trafalgar Road and they were willing to give a plot fronting Trafalgar Road for a building to be erected.

The original Mission Hall was constructed in the form of a wooden-framed, galvanised iron clad building. It was opened on 1st December 1921 with oil lamps for lighting and Tortoise stoves for heating. The stoves were very temperamental with a tendency to emit more smoke than heat. In the early days a Christmas party was always held in January for the Sunday School children. Mrs. May Baker (nee Fisher) used to laughingly recall one occasion when the stoves had done nothing to raise the temperature. The children were all stoically determined to enjoy their party and one little lad remarked, through chattering teeth, "Ain't it stuffy 'ot in 'ere, Miss?"

In 1923 the new Brighton Road Baptist Church opened and a further building which was no longer needed became a useful addition to the back of the mission hall. A kitchen and lavatories were added to the side and, later still, a vestry.

For many years the building was used for morning Sunday School, 11 am. to 12 noon, afternoon Sunday School, 3 pm. to 4 pm. and adult evening services at 6.30 pm. Lay preachers conducted the evening services. Anniversaries were observed and special speakers invited. During the week there was a club for the boys with table tennis, football and cricket on the field behind the building, followed by cocoa and rock cakes. The girls also had an organisation, the Rope-holders, where they learnt about missionaries and enjoyed various activities. There was a weekly prayer meeting and a women's meeting.

Brighton Road Church ministers had the oversight of the Mission Hall (known to local people as the 'Tin Chapel') and also presided over the Mission Hall committee.

During the dark days of the 1939-1945 war, in spite of the men being called up and bombs falling quite close by, the mission remained open and was kept intact. At this time, Victory Road School (now Trafalgar School) was burnt out. The mission, along with one or two other halls, was used for a while as a temporary class room for some of the childFounding membersren. 

As time went by Spurgeon's College supplied us with students to conduct the services and preach. It was under a student pastor, Bob Archer, that in 1955 a church was formed. There were eighteen founder members. In 1966 we were able to call our first full-time minister, a young man straight from Spurgeon's College, the Rev. Richard Soar who, with his wife Jill, moved into our first small rented manse.  Later in his ministry (1987) he was to lead a young man to Jesus after a Baptismal service at Redhill Baptist Church in Surrey.  Little did he know that young sailor would become our minister in 2003.  Richard is now serving the Eastern Baptist Association as a Regional Minister.

The Rev. Soar moved on to a church in Ashford and the Rev. Albert Allen became the minister from 1969 to 1981. It was during his pastorate that the original hall was demolished and a larger building erected. That building, after many alterations was itself demolished in 2010. The present building was opened in the autumn of 2011.

The Rev. William McIlroy, known as "Pastor Bill," served us faithfully from 1982-2001 before moving on to a church in Woodmansterne.  Under his ministry the church met in schools and colleges as it outgrew the building.  Our present minister, the Rev. Brian White, with his family, joined us in February 2003. Our part-time minister, Rev. Lisa Ranier, joined the ministry team in September 2011, having been on placement as a student minister over the previous two and a half years or so. In April 2015, Lisa moved on to a full-time post at St Catherine's Hospice in Crawley, but remains a member of our congregation.

It would be impossible, in this brief history, to mention the many, many people who have faithfully given of their time, energy and resources to this 'corner of the Lord's vineyard', but as we continue to work and witness and spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we look back with gratitude for their dedication and commitment.