Chapel History

This page has been reproduced from the centenary booklet 'Stoughton Church Centenary 100 years of Christian Witness'. It was written in 1995 and is presented for record for those intrested in church history. It is therefore not current information about this church, and is dedicated to the memory of our brother, Leslie Ovey, who has gone on before us; with a foreward by Rev. David Coote, before he moved onto circuits new, as Superintendant, and has now retired.


Mr. Leslie Ovey has written a splendid account for all who have an interest in the history of the Methodist Church in Stoughton. For well over forty years he helped to shape its life and witness. Few could write with such a breadth of experience about the Church and of the community it seeks to serve.

The story of the Church makes a fascinating read. It has played a great part in the Methodist Church in Guildford and in the wider Church. The people of God, some of whose names are mentioned in these pages, are characters in a story which has yet, God willing, many more chapters to unfold.

We do not know what the future holds but like those who have gone before we trust in the providence of God.

Through the life of this Church God's Spirit has moved; hearts have been warmed; lives have been changed. The Gospel has been proclaimed in word and deed. The Church has reached out in the name of Christ to offer service and support to many in need. Its buildings have been used for worship and many varied activities.

You will read, I'm sure, this history with great interest. I am grateful to Leslie Ovey for bringing the information together. It recalls 'A Century of Christian Witness'.

written in 1995 by
Rev. David Coote
minister 1985-1996

The Beginnings

Toward the close of the nineteenth century Stoughton was still a village, yet it shared in some events which were considered at the time to be of importance. In 1880 the cemetery was opened, in 1885 the railway, and in 1895 the Methodist Church in which we now worship was opened. There was however a Methodist witness in Stoughton as early as 1890 for it was in this year that a piece of land was bought. By a deed of Indenture dated October 25th 1890 we have details of the first Trust. In the same Indenture it is stated that the Trustees were: 'desirous of acquiring a piece of ground for the purpose of erecting thereon a Chapel or place of religious worship and other buildings to be settled upon the Trust. For that purpose they contracted and agreed with the vendor for the absolute purchase of the piece of land, to be conveyed for the sum of Ninety pounds. Abstract of the title shows the purchase of a 'parcel of land by Henry Earwaker (Coachman), William Tribe (Builder), James Collins (Ginger beer manufacturer) and Samuel Matthews (Carpenter)'. That first Trust consisted of sixteen men (in those days they were very chauvinistic) under the Superintendency of Rev. Thomas Dodd.

In 1891 they built what became known as 'The Tin Tabernacle' and later to its users as the Iron Room. It was a corrugated iron building, small as to size, but it represented the first Methodist witness in Stoughton. It was first recorded as a place of 'Meeting for religious worship by a Congregation or Assembly calling themselves Wesleyan Methodists on February 21st 1891' (application made by Rev. Thomas Dodd). Entered by the Registrar of the District of Guildford on February 25th 1891
(described as Stoughton-Stoke next Guildford). The Board of Trustees was renewed six times after that date. Up to that time the name of 'Stoughton' had never appeared in the Minute Book of the Guildford Circuit Quarterly Meetings, but on December 30th of 1891 it appeared for the first time, and beside it the mysterious number of '3'. Mysterious because there was no indication whether this figure referred to the number of Stoughton members present at that meeting, or whether it meant the membership of the Church at that time. Later entries of the Quarterly Meeting showed higher figures; so high in some cases that it was not possible for the Stoughton Church to have sent so many members to the meeting. Presumably therefore it meant membership. The fact that by 1894 the figure recorded had risen to 27 would seemingly support this assumption. Just what activities (if any) took place in the Tin Tabernacle is not known, apart from the Sunday worship of course, and so we are compelled to press on toward 1895.

On December 27th 1894 the Circuit Minute book records the 'desirability of a new Church at Stoughton'. That desire seems to have become a reality for a print of a completed Church at Stoughton is in our Minister's vestry and dated 1895. Foundation stones were laid by Mrs. Telford, Mr. J. T. Burden and Mr. Job Caudwell. Once again the Circuit Meeting Minute book records an interesting item: '£600 more was needed on June 26th 1895 for the Stoughton & Shalford new Churches.' These two churches were designed by the same architects.

From this point the witness of the Church grew and several activities were introduced, though what they were exactly is not clear. One thing does seem to emerge from The story of Stoughton, a booklet published
locally, stating that there was certainly outreach on the part of some of the members of that first Church. Mr. Harmer was the first Chapel Steward and amongst his duties was arranging for the gas supply to be extended from the Barracks out to Grange Road, presumably so that the Church could avail itself of this service, as well as to benefit residents in that area.

There is then quite a long period which remains without any knowledge
of great changes. In fact all we can really say is that during the period from 1895 to 1953 the Iron Room was used as a Sunday School, and the Board of Trustees was renewed in 1923 and 1929 when 'under the Methodist Church Union Act' the Trust at that time declared 'it would henceforth hold the said Church lands on the same Trusts, and with and subject to the same powers and provisions as were declared and contained in the New Model Deed of the Methodist Church referred to in the Act.' This declaration was signed by those Trustees serving at that time in 1930. Other Trusts were formed in 1938, 1951 and 1968.

Whilst speaking of Trusts and Trustees there are one or two points of interest. William Tribe, Master Builder, who was a signatory to the Conveyance of the piece of ground could not write and had to make his mark on the Deed of Conveyance.

The selection of Trustees over the years showed that the Methodist Church had nothing of class distinction in its choice of Trustees. From the first chosen Board up to 1971 , when the responsibility of the Trust was transferred to the Church Council, the choice has been varied and covering all fields of industry. Here are a few of the occupations of those who served. Builder, Builder's foreman, Draper, Accountant, Schoolmaster, Engine driver, Engineer, Optician, Progress chaser, Carpenter, Shop Manager, Cattle Salesman, Leather Merchant, Ginger beer manufacturer, Removal Manager, Instrument fitter, Housewives, Machinists, Secretaries and Civil Servants.

The New Church and Its Activities

The new Church was opened in 1895 as a dual-purpose building. There were no pews only chairs. It had a small communion area and the pulpit, which was entered by stairs, was fixed against the wall. This proved to be a very cold place to be in the winter, for any heat in the building rose to the high roof forcing the cold upper air down the walls, especially the back wall via the cold Rose window. Heating of the Church began with a Tortoise stove fed with solid fuel, progressing to gas and thence to electricity. The latter coming from suspended plates which looked very much like a child's swing. The Church had a very small entrance lobby; the music was supplied by a harmonium and there was a jointed screen of the up and over roller type, which could be raised when the occasion required extra accommodation for the congregation. The overflow was then sitting in the adjacent vestry. Everything was done in the Church, the communion area being screened off for events such as: Jumble Sales, Bazaars and the like. Concerts and displays were common events which took place frequently. Just what could be done in premises like this can be shown by the activities given now. There was a Girls' gymnastic club and a similar club for young men. Gymnastic displays were frequently given by the young men but not we gather by the girls! The slots which held some of the equipment used might still be seen on the floor of the church. These activities ended in the early thirties. In 1938/39 there was a Boys' Brigade started by John Sinden who was its Captain. The Chaplain was the Minister, Rev. Howard Belben.

There were other activities which took place and which were strongly supported. The Women's Guild meeting was strong and always well attended. That has been the pattern throughout the years. Today, of course, the younger women to a large extent are at work during the day, so that the age of those attending has risen. Nevertheless the Guild still remains a necessary and valuable contributor to the life of the Church. There was also in the early days a very strong Wesley Guild. This had a weekly attendance of between 50-60. Its programme was in four sections: Devotional, Literary, Social and Musical, and Christian Service. The Guild was the training ground of young life and many folk made their commitment to God through the Guild. There they learnt to read publicly, to speak and conduct worship, and was the starting point of many local preachers. The Guilders were outreaching too, for one of the services they rendered was to St. Luke's Hospital-which in the early days was the workhouse. Each year sometime in December or January the inmates were visited by the Guild and entertained. After the performance each one was given a small gift of chocolates and sweets. The Guilders never forgot the pitiful sight of almost a hundred old folk segregated - men from women, husbands from wives, dressed in uniform style. Nor have they forgotten the pathetic gratitude for the small gifts and the warmth and love of the Guilders.

The Sunday School of those days met in the Iron Room until 1895 when the Church was built. There were 150 children to be cared for and taught. With the advent of the Church they were able to use both sets of premises. The Primary met in the Iron Room, the Seniors in the vestry, the Juniors in 6 to 8 classes in the Church. There was a staff of some 10 to 12 people and, as in the Church there were no pews only chairs, it was quite possible to form groups around the teacher. It is worth noting that applying nicknames to teachers is not a new thing. There were two male teachers, Mr.A. M. Williams and Mr. P. M. Williams who were always known as A.M. and P. M. or as one wit put it 'the morning and evening were the first day'.

The Sunday School met three times on a Sunday. At 10.0 a.m. before the morning Service. At 11.0 a.m and again at 3.0 p.m. Star cards were used and marked each week. Each year prizes were awarded to the Seniors and Juniors for regular attendance and good behavior. The Primary each received a small book. Texts were issued each week for the children to learn and repeat the following Sunday. The Sunday School anniversary was a big occasion which stretched over the Sunday and Monday.

Every year there was an annual outing. At first the pupils were driven in a horse-drawn wagon, with benches to sit on, up Grange Road to a field where they had sports and games followed by tea. Tired and worn out they returned at about 6.30 p.m. In later years they became more adventurous going by charabanc to Worthing. The teachers would be dropped at the Methodist Church there to prepare the tea. The cost to each child was two shillings and sixpence. There were however several very poor families which could not afford to send their children. Their charge was quietly and anonymously covered by generous friends. The Primary were taken separately to an outing at Oxshot Woods and Common. Here they enjoyed themselves in the sand pits, helped by the Minister, to build sandcastles. On one occasion, however, in the much later years the Juniors were taken to Frensham Ponds, where bathing was allowed under supervision. However, the children's clothes were all put into one pile for safety. It was only when they came to dress that it was discovered that almost all the underclothes bore the trade mark of 'St. Michael'. It was a long time before every child was clothed in its right underwear.

Out of the Sunday School and Youth work, other ventures were attempted. For instance there was a Junior Choir which met on Sunday evenings. They met before the Service in the Iron Room where they had competitions, possibly to calm them down before going into the Church. During the spring and summer months a company of young people met early in the morning and went to the Common just past the Ship Inn at Pitch Place for a meeting of prayer and fellowship. The young people also joined on Sunday evenings in the summer months, after the evening Service, in an open-air Service held on the Common just beside the Cricketers Inn on the Aldershot Road. They took with them a portable organ (kindly stored for them during the week by a friendly neighbouring farmer). Passers by came to join in, sitting on the Common, whilst the customers of the Cricketers imbibed not only their liquid refreshment, but some spiritual refreshment as well. A Senior Choir was formed later when certain friends from the Chertsey Street Methodist Church joined at Stoughton to assist in the work of the Sunday School. Mr. Edwin Brown was one of these, and under his leadership a choir was formed which has continued ever since to render sterling service to the Church. It is at the moment one of three remaining choirs in the Guildford Circuit.

It was in the 1950's that Stoughton saw reward for its strong interest in young folk. Then it was that a very strong Youth Club emerged. It drew not only upon the families of the Church, but extended its reach and influence to young folk who had no connection with the Church until they joined the Youth Club. Under the leadership of Miss Ruby Barrow it came to be acknowledged as the strongest Youth Club, not only in the Circuit, but in the District. Even the Borough Youth Club Organiser admitted that it gave a lead to the Civic Clubs in discipline, effort and results. They spent camping weekends together, holidays atthe holiday centres of Methodism. They produced pantomimes and cabaret shows, but more than that they were present in force every Sunday evening, sometimes as many as 30 or 40 occupying one side of the Church. From its ranks came club leaders, local preachers, one Deaconess and two Ministers.

The New Hall

As to the buildings there were many changes made to transform the premises from a dual-purpose Church rather sparsely furnished, with an ageing Iron Room, into the warm, clean, well-cared for Church and ancillary buildings. The first move came in February 1949 when the Stoughton re-building committee was formed with a viewto improving the premises to facilitate the growth of the Church. It was felt the first priority was the replacement of the Iron ~oom with a new Hall. All kinds of schemes were put in hand, from the filling of jam jars with ships halfpennies to such events as Jumble Sales galore, Bazaars ad lib and many concerts; in fact everything and anything which would swell the Building Fund. An estimated figure forthe building of the Hall was £3,200. Compare that with the cost of a comparable Hall today. Yet in those days it was a target which might have seemed beyond the reach of a small Church. Not for Stoughton, the people accepted the challenge. Applications for grants from the Methodist Property Authorities and the Joseph Rank Trust brought favourable replies, until at last the target was reached and the work could commence. It meant quite a bit of inconvenience, but the various organisations all played their part. And so on Saturday, September 12th 1953 the stones of the new Hall were laid. Mrs. Welch, our oldest member of that time, laid a stone for the Church, Mr. L. Ovey one for the Rank Trust and the Third was laid by Mr. C. G. Robertson on behalf of the Chertsey Street Methodist Society. Greetings came from Rev. C. H. Venn, the Minister prior to Rev. Edwin Brady, from Rev. Barlett Lang (Secretary to the Rank Trust) and from Mrs. C Bothamley (Secretary to the Sunday School Union). Rev. Spencer, Vicar of Emmanuel Church attended, and music was supplied by the Salvation Army Band. A Service of Thanksgiving followed in the Church, when Rev. J. L. Spencer led the prayers; the Chairman was Cllr. E. B. Nicklin, and the address was given by the Chairman of the District, Rev. R. F. Rudland Showell. Music was led by an augmented Choir and the Minister, Rev. Edwin Brady brought the Service to a close.

In July 1954 we made what must have been the first ecumenical move in Guildford, for when the old Baptist Church moved from Tunsgate to the Chertsey Street Methodist Church, they kindly bestowed upon us the pews from their old Church. How the men folk of the Church laboured one Saturday as they took up the pews from the Baptist Church and conveyed them to Stoughton through the good offices of Pickfords. They toiled until midnight so that the pews could be in place for the Sunday Services.

In 1954 the Trustees made a generous gesture to the Borough authorities who were concerned about the traffic problem on the corner of Grange Road into Stoughton Road. The Church gifted a piece of its land to the Surrey County Council so that the corner could be widened. The generosity shown then was not entirely reciprocated by the placing of the traffic light stop line in front of the car park entrance in June 1991 !

Earlier in 1954 there was the Red letter day of January 2nd when the new Hall was opened and dedicated. The Chairman was the Mayor of Guildford, Alderman J. Wilkins, J.P. There was a dedicatory prayer by Rev. Percy W. B. Oliver (the Minister at Godalming), whilst Roderick Ovey, a Sunday School scholar, presented Mrs. C. G. Robertson (wife of the Builder of the Hall) with the 'key of the future'. This ceremony was followed by a Service in the Church. The Rev. Edwin Brady conducted the first part of the dedication which contained prayers and readings. The sermon was preached by Rev. Leslie R. Goy. In the evening there was a Rally and demonstration under the Chairmanship of Cllr. Harold Kimber. The demonstration included folk dancing by the Youth Club and a quartet by the Young Peoples' Fellowship. Rev. Leonard P. Barnett, B.D. gave the address.

Church Improvements

Then from 1966 there followed many alterations all to beautify and enhance the Church. Firstly, the North Street Church closed and the Society moved to Woodbridge Road. We were offered the pews from the Church and as they were much better than the ones already in place, their removal was another major task. Not only did we have the pews but also the Communion rails and Communion furniture. One door was brought up to replace the existing door from the vestry to the Church. The roller screen had been replaced with a soundproof wall prior to this. Musically the old harmonium was replaced with a Mason Reed organ which was wind blown, but by a motor. This instrument was collected from a private house (piece-meal) and together with the motor installed by the men of the Church. It served faithfully until in the late fifties it was replaced by a Compton electric organ. This gave excellent service until in 1983 it began to give a passable imitation of machine-gun warfare. The Church decided to replace this and did so with a splendid Norwich Electronic Organ at a cost of £4,356. When we learn that this amount was raised in just 10 months it speaks volumes for the generosity of all Stoughton members, those of the past and those of the present. The organ was officially dedicated on May 11 th 1985. A great day when members old and new came from all over England to celebrate and give thanks in the Church which had been for all a spiritual home.

Other changes have been the carpeting of the Church floor, alteration of the vestibule, the removal of the old pulpit from the wall in front of the Church and the installation of a side pulpit, gifted to us when the Godalming Methodist Church united with the United Reform Church of Godalming. Once again it should be pointed out that this major effort was carried out entirely by the men of the Church. In 1988 a false ceiling was installed in the Hall, and a new style form of electrical heating put into the vestry. The very latest additions to update the premises and to enhance the worship are curtains for the Hall and vestry windows, and also for the stage; a sound system, using radio microphones and an inductive loop system to help those with hearing difficulties, was installed in the Church. Perhaps finally there is the addition of a lectern and a side table, also new lectern and pulpit falls which add to the beauty of the Church's inner furnishing.

The Church Today

And so we may look at our Church today. Much has been done to improve the building and its furnishings. There is more to do but we shall accept the challenge and work until we have accomplished our plans for the future. Meanwhile the spiritual work of our Church is of paramount importance and it is that which should occupy our main attention. We do have a very full programme of work throughout the week covering all age groups. Our commitment is to enlarge and strengthen that work. As this survey of the history of the Church is concluded let us look at the work we do today, the work upon which we hope to build for the future.

On Sundays the work in the Junior Church continues, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the loyal staff who Week by week teach the children. Their work covers a creche, the Beginners and Primary, and the Junior Scholars. The Junior Church, through the Junior Missionary Association maintain an interest in missionary work throughout the world. They are also encouraged to bring silver foil for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and recently lent their support to an appeal for gifts for Polish relief.

Monday afternoon sees a very active Women's Meeting. This is not merely for our own Church members, and indeed is considered by ladies of no church connection to be their Church. They support several charities including supporting a child in the Gambia. The women share in weekly meetings addressed by speakers, or arranged by the Fellowship's members. A highlight of the year (and one appreciated by the other churches in the district since they .are invited to share in it), is a Women's Rally, which latterly has taken the form of a Carol Rally. Monday evening brings in the Keep Fit Class, which again is one part of the Church's outreach since the meeting is interdenominational.

Tuesday brirrgs yet another way in which the Church reaches out beyond it's own membership. The Stoughton Civic Autumn Club meets . each week in our Hall and does a grand job caring for the Senior Citizens. Each year the Church arranges a Service in the Church for the Club and its members. This event is supported by the Mayor of Guildford and Councillors of the Stoughton Ward.

Fortnightly, in the evening, we have a very active Tuesday/Fellowship. A winter session which is varied, amusing and instructive, whilst the summer sees it seeking outside pleasures, rambles, local guided tours, etc.

The alternative Tuesday finds a relatively new, but most successful venture in the Bible Study Group. This is actually ecumenical in make up, for amongst those attending we can number friends from the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Churches.

Wednesday brings in another outreach afternoon when the Hall is
invariably full with Mums and Toddlers. What began in a small way has growl) to such an extent that a limit has had to be put on the number of children attending and a waiting list prepared.

Thursday brings a most important gathering when the Choir assembles to practice th.e parts they play in the Sunday worship. Two special events which appear annually in the Choir's activities are Choir Sunday and. the Choir Concert - which is a highlight for the rieighbourhood.

Friday sees a gathering of the Shell Group, a body of young folk enjoying a full and varied programme. This too has established outreach for several members of the group who have no other attachment to our Church.

Mention must be made of two other activities. Firstly a most energetic and active work for the National Children's Home. This covers not only the Home collection boxes, but Street collections and a yearly Garden Party. We must also mention our very active Missionary outlook. The Church is numerically small compared with other Churches in the Circuit, but few if any can match its performance in yearly collections for J.M.A. On a number of occasions it has won the Circuit Cup for its efforts. One event of special note is its yearly sponsored walk, greatly enjoyed by all who share in it.

Stoughton Methodist Church has valued its place within the life of the Circuit and has also sought to live in harmony with Christians of other traditions, participating as fully as possible in local fraternals and united worship. When the Guildford Council of Churches was founded in 1958 Stoughton Methodist were among the participating churches, and it has provided three Chairmen, in 1961 Mr. Leslie Ovey, 1974 Rev. John Ducker and currently Rev. David Coote.

There has never been a formal association with Merrist Wood College of Agriculture and Horticulture in Worplesdon and the W.R.A.C. camp in Stoughton, but rarely has there been a time when students or staff have not shared in the life of the Church..

Finally there is the. start of a Leadership Group formed from a body of Church Stewards, some of them newly appointed. They will be considering ways of enhancing the worship of the Church, and coordinating and strengthening the various ways of service and witness.

One hundred years of Christian witness and outreach of which the Church has no need to be ashamed. That witness still continues and will continue to do so whilst the Church's members have the same spirit of commitment. Meanwhile: 'We praise Him for all that is past, and Trust Him for all that's to come.'

Written in 1995 by
Leslie Ovey