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Great Wakering Congregational Church 150th Anniversary Booklet 1822 - 1972

Article by Richard Kirton

with thanks to

Brenda Deadman for the loan of the Booklet

Dawn and David Bailey for some supporting Facts

Mike Burles for his Photographs

This article was inspired by an email that Danika Thorpe sent to Peter Griffiths regarding the chapel in Chapel Lane, Great Wakering. She wrote “I have lived in Wakering & Barling all of my life and have recently moved out of my parents house in Barling, back to Great Wakering. I would love to know more about the history of the chapel. I’ve had a look online but couldn’t seem to find much information about it.”

Peter immediately sent an email to all our members, asking if any of us had memories or information about Chapel Lane and its chapel in Great Wakering. All that Peter remembers is that the chapel belonged to the Congregational Church, then the United Reformed Church.

David and Dawn Bailey replied to Peter’s email saying, “We have attached a booklet entitled ‘Great Wakering Congregational Church 150th Anniversary Booklet 1822-1972’ loaned to us by Brenda Deadman’’.

Dave Armitage responded by email to say that his mother used to cycle up to the village school (on Friday night he thinks) with him on the back of her bike to exchange her library books. He also said that the man running the library of the Congregational Church during the 1940’s was the Reverend E. A. Smisson (1943 - 1958).

You can view this very interesting Souvenir Edition of the booklet online, by left-clicking HERE. It is full of interesting facts about Wakering and you will notice that the cover price is just 20 pence which represents extremely good value for the price!

The booklet depicts the history of the Church and the village more generally from Roman Times to 1972.  Brenda Deadman’s maiden name is Alp and she is the cousin to Phyllis Alp.  Brenda’s husband is Len Deadman and they live in Twyford Avenue in the same bungalow as Len’s parents did opposite David’s parents.

As Dawn and David pointed out, some photographs are already on the website of Guides, Sunday School Classes and a Cake Sale and can be found under Great Wakering Photograph Collections then Great Wakering Congregational Church (Brenda Deadman).  In addition, there are more photographs under Great Wakering Photograph Collections then Peter Huxter Collection, Chapels and Churches, Gallery 2 (8) and Gallery 3 (3).


Peter Griffith’s old classmate Alan Sutton has kindly written and sent the following letter about Chapel Lane and the Congregational Church. Peter adds that he is sorry if he has confused people, but he has only just learnt that Danika’s maiden name was Griffiths and that her (recently-married) name is now Thorpe. Therefore, he has to remember to refer to her as Danika Thorpe, even though her e-mail still calls her ‘Griffiths’. Peter also justly comments that the sharpness of Alan’s memory belies the way he describes himself at the end of his letter.

Letter from Alan Sutton to Danika (Griffiths) Thorpe

About Chapel Lane and the Congregational Church, Great Wakering


Having lived in Chapel Lane since 1964, Peter thought I was a good bet to answer your request for some of the history of the “Congo”, the Congregational church.

Much has changed in Chapel Lane during those years. The chalets and bungalows did not exist in the Manse garden. It was an orchard. During the summer months young cubs and brownies held sleep overs in tents and gathered around camp fires at dusk. The Manse had a full-time Pastor living there, Pastor Harrison, a lovely old soul who, with his cane, took a stroll down the lane daily, stopping to talk to all the children living down there at the time. A corrugated church hall used for church functions stood on the site of Chapel Lodge. This was in constant use for social events, WI meetings etc. It was also used by the school for our PE sessions. There is, or was, an identical building on the Central Ave / Bournemouth Park Road junction.

A Miss Joy Miles, who lived in the cottages at the top of the lane, and a Miss Wiseman were the church officials. They were devoted and kept the church in an immaculate condition. There were many weddings, christenings and, sadly, funerals at the church, but after the passing of Pastor Harrison there was not a further resident Minister; and with the retiring of those whom churches rely so heavily upon and the passing of the stalwarts who worshipped there, the church closed its doors and has remained closed as a church until present day.

Next to the” Congo” was a bungalow called Redlynch. A Mr Len Dobson was the occupier. He and his wife made us as a young family very welcome to the lane. Next to him in Dormer Lodge lived Roger Burroughs and his parents. They farmed on Foulness. The Bramleys didn’t exist then; it was a large double garage where, at weekends, farmer Burroughs serviced a tractor or two, brought home off the island. Next to him, in Newholme, lived his father, Emanuel Burroughs, another who made us very welcome after we moved in next door, but sadly due to old age he passed away within a year of us moving there.

Planning permission was granted for five houses about 1961 next to Newholme, the remainder of the land being unsuitable for building as this was the extent to which the 1953 floodwater came. However, rules were relaxed and the remaining five now complete the lane.

Hope I may have been of help.

Alan Sutton (old and decrepit)

Great Wakering United Reformed Ministers 1974 - 2006

Following on from the Great Wakering Congregational Church article 1822 – 1972 there are a couple of amendments to Alan Sutton’s letter and further Great Wakering United Reformed Ministers who were in post between 1974 and 2006:

Miss Wiseman one of the Church officials should be Mrs Joan Wiseman.

Rev Albert Harrison was not the last full time Minister from 1960 to 1973.

Rev Albert Harrison was followed by Rev Arthur E Circus (between 1974 and 1978)

Rev Arthur Circus devoted much of his life to a number of Churches starting with the Peculiar People in Leigh Chapel, then as a lay preacher at West Leigh Baptist Church and then Cliff Town Congregational Church. In the early seventies, he trained for the full time ministry in the newly created United Reformed Church, taking his first Church at Great Wakering in 1974. He was inducted at a Church in Hatfield in January 1979. Following retirement he continued preaching in our local Methodist and United Reformed Churches after his full-time ministry came to an end.

Rev Arthur E Circus was followed by Rev R Drummond Gillespie (between 1981/2 and 1991)

The Manse received a ‘makeover’ prior to Rev R Drummond Gillespie taking up residence in the early eighties. He lived there with his wife Yvonne and their three children Olivia, Pascale and James. In the spring of 1991 he announced his calling in the summer to Saint Katherine’s United Reformed Church in Dunstable. At his last parade service with the Guides, Brownies and Rangers he received a number of gifts including a unique clock which works backwards!!

Following Rev R Drummond Gillespie’s departure it was decided that as Great Wakering United Reformed Church did not have the resources to provide a full time minister for a single congregation of its size, the United Reformed Church District Council suggested they meet with representatives of Bournemouth Park United Reformed Church to consider sharing a Minister in a joint pastorate. Mrs Sue Cox was in charge of this shared Ministry between 1991 and 2004. Bournemouth Park United Reformed Church was later renamed The Cornerstone in 2005 when Eileen Jolley was the Pastor.


Great Wakering United Reformed Church closed in 2006.

Photographs taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

In the village the first of the Nonconformists arrived in October 1805, they were the Baptists.

They rented a house in Wakering, pulled down the dividing wall of two rooms, to make it larger, brought stools and sat and waited for their first congregation to arrive on Sunday, 17th November 1805.

The first MEETING HOUSE was built on the site and opened in September 1822.

Photograph taken by Mike Burles on the day the Church closed in 2006

The new Chapel was built at a cost of £1,100, to seat 300 people. The old meeting place was now used as a Sunday School and had 150 scholars.

Our present building was completed in March 1890, during the Ministry of the Rev. Robertson.

The Rev. Robertson started the very first UNITED HARVEST THANKSGIVING SERVICE, in 1890, when all denominations were invited to take part.

Rev Arthur E Circus

(between 1974 and 1978)

Rev R Drummond Gillespie (Left)

Rt Rev Thomas McMahon (Right)

Rev Arthur E Circus (1974 - 1978) Rev R Drummond Gillespie (Left) and Rt Rev Thomas McMahon (Right)