History

The following is a potted history of the Church based on accounts by Fred Whitelock and Paul Billett, among others.

Methodism arrived in Brentwood with the extension of the railway from Romford in the presence of a navvy called Wilcox, around 1840. He started holding weekly meetings from his lodgings at the top of Weald Road at its junction with London Road. The site was later occupied by the “Sir Charles Napier” until it was demolished in 2009 to enable a road development scheme (which is still to be completed!). However, the landlord was not keen on meetings in the bedrooms, so in the best traditions of Methodist preachers he was forced to lead the service outside.

Sir Charles Napier Public House

The original Chapel

A few years later the Society, as the local groups were known, decided to try and build a chapel, which by 1850 they had succeeded in doing at the top of Primrose Hill until recently the Crown Street Fellowship but now being developed as housing). This first chapel nearly closed when a couple of key members left and the mortgage of £90 seemed unlikely to be paid off. However, it survived with donations from a couple of members.

Having outgrown the space at the Chapel, the Society acquired land in Queens Road and started building before discovering that there was a restriction in the deeds preventing its use for public buildings. They were forced to abandon the project and the building was completed to become a house called Guildford Lodge.

Undeterred, the Society continued to look for new sites, but was forced to hire the Town hall for the weekly services, there were so many members.

In 1878 a site became available at the bottom of Warley Hill, and one of the members bought it and started building a temporary Church. Everyone joined in a huge do-it-yourself project to complete the basic building in six days at a cost, including the land of £440. Once again the Church embarked on a programme of fund raising to clear the debt which took five years.

The first full time Minister to live in Brentwood was appointed in 1889 and the Church once again thought about new premises, this time in Kings Road, but it all came to nothing and the Church went into decline.

However, by 1892 things were picking up and the foundation stone of the present building was laid and a fine Church was constructed with Gothic turrets and fine windows. In 1931 the building was extended to include the School rooms at the back and up to 400 could worship in the main Church.

Foundation Stone PosterThe church in about 1940

In 1932, the Wesleyan Church became Brentwood Methodist Church and by 1935 the Primitive Church had decided to join with the main body and the old chapel was sold.

Warley Hill in about 1920

During the war, the school rooms at the back of the Church were made available for soldiers stationed in the town and a busy canteen operated there. It was not unknown for the Sunday School to retreat under tables to continue their lessons and singing if the air raid siren sounded!

Soldiers ready for Church Parade

By the late 50s, the turrets and roof were in a poor condition and the congregation once again began to consider the future. As before, the membership wondered whether a new site would be the best option, but no suitable site could be located.

Interior before modernisation

By the end of the 60s the Church needed extensive repairs, but a building fund had accumulated during the 50s while the Church dithered on its future. The whole front was remodelled to give the plainer, less architectural frontage which remains with us today. More recently further work on the roof was required and most of the plaster inside the Church had to be stripped to cure damp.

But a Church is not just a building, it is a Society made of many members, some who have been involved for over 60 years, some for only a few. Methodism is not dead in Brentwood yet, it continues to thrive with the potential for changes as time moves on.

And the latest change has been to dispense with the building - as time moved on so the challenges of managing a property became too much for the congregation. The building has been sold and now the fellowship continues to worship in Eagle Hall and on Zoom.
 

Pictures from our Church life

August Grapevine available