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Congregational Church


 

  Information on this page is taken from, among other sources, "Congregational Church History in Dover, 1600-1925", a pamphlet produced in 1925 by H.J. Southey to mark the 21st anniversary of the opening of the new church.
 
 

"In the beginning of the 17th Century a poor weaver, most probably an exiled Huguenot, had his workshop at the rear of Nos. 4 to 7, Bench Street, entered from Chapel Lane.  He was a pious man and sought to worship God, yet of the churches then in existence in Dover he found none in which he might conscientiously worship.  So he spent his Sabbaths alone in his workshop, until in time he became acquainted with other people round about him, and found one or two others of like mind, who gladly joined in worship with him, and over their simple but sincere services he usually presided.  In process of time, these informal services attracted more worshippers than the unpretentious workshop could conveniently hold.  So they cast about for a larger room, and eventually secured the use of a "malt and mill house," which stood in Last Lane, on the site of the comparatively recent Zion Chapel.  Indeed, it is probable that this band of devout people formed the nucleus of the first membership of that chapel, although there is no documentary evidence to prove this.  There is, however, such evidence to prove that a church (for according to our Congregational constitution such a society of believers is nominated a church) did exist at least as early as the reign of Charles I., for from the records of the Guildhall Street Church at Canterbury it appears that after the Battle of Naseby the Rev. John Durant was ordained to that church, 'there being present the pastor of the church at Dover, with some brethren from the church at Sandwich, who did approve our choice and gave us the right hand of fellowship therein.'  It appears also from the existing 'covenant' entered into about that time that these churches, even at that early date, were 'independent' or 'congregational' in their form of government."   (H.J.S. 1924)

  The Zion Chapel, on the corner of Queen Street and Last Lane, was the first Dissenters' chapel to be built in Dover, being erected in 1703.  It was re-built in 1814.  After the amalgamation of 1900, it remained as a Mission Chapel until being sold to the Baptists from the Pentside Chapel in May 1902.

A few years later it was sold again, and became the Queen's Hall Electric Picture Theatre (cinema).  It was later sold to Mr Took, who used it for many years as a leather works, before finally becoming an amusement arcade.

The chapel was demolished in October 1974 to make way for a 5m "piazza" development.
 

 

 

(awaiting pictures)

 

 

"Under the Commonwealth of Cromwell, very great freedom of worship was allowed the Nonconformists, although it was a sad time for the Established Church.  Of these Churches in Dover, only two - St. Mary's and St. James' - were allowed to remain, and even of these the proper clergy were expelled, their places being taken, according to the order of Parliament, by Presbyterian ministers.  It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that during this period the church meeting at the "malt house" in Last Lane were provided with a more accommodating and convenient place of worship.  It was in this time that our predecessors firmly established themselves as a church."   (H.J.S. 1924)

  In 1823, Mr. Iggulden built the church of St John for the Wesleyans in Middle Row (Pier District).  This was later transferred to the Independents (Congregationalists).  They in turn transferred it to Captain Marryat and his sister, who were maintaining it for the benefit of mariners in 1843.

A second church was built in Russell Street in July 1838, which was extended in 1887 to provide an annexe for the Sunday School.  The two churches were merged in 1900 and, in 1904, the present building was erected in the High Street, at the junction with Priory Road.  The new church was opened on 7th September 1904.

The following is a list of ministers of the three churches as far as can be ascertained from Southey:
 

 

Zion Chapel

Rev. Samuel Pryce, 1706-10
Rev. John Billingsley, c.1710-30
Rev. James Worsfold, 1730-40
Rev. D.W. Evans, 1741-45
Rev. Richard Holt, 1745-69

various ministers are mentioned from 1771-1802, including:

Revs. Messrs. Moody, Samuel Beaufoy, Tichere and Povah.

Rev. William Mather, 1802 -

no records available until:

Rev. Ellis Parry, 1849-53
Rev. W. Gisby, 1854-59
Rev. Thomas Baron Hart, 1859-64
Rev. W. Austin Smith, 1865-68
Rev. S. St. N. Dobson, 1869-73
Rev. H. Gibbard                    1874
Rev. R. Davey                           to
Rev. T.H. Stewart Perfect      1894
Frank P. Basdon, 1894-1900

Russell Street Church

Rev. Stanley Brewer, 1844-46
Rev. Isaac Browne, 1847-49
Rev. Samuel Spink, 1849-64
Rev. Peter Ward, 1864-84
Rev. E. Roberts, Jul-Sept, 1885
Rev. J.J. Walker, 1885-96
Rev. Ira Boseley, 1887-99

United Church

Re. F.P. Basden, 1900 -04

assisted by:

Rev. S.J. Cowdy and
Rev. C. Chandler

High Street Church

Rev. F.P. Basden, 1904-16
Rev. H.E. Hayward, Jun-Nov 1917
Rev. D.L. Nichol, 1918-24
Rev. E.A. Matheson, 1924-

 

 
In 1971, the Congregationalists amalgamated with the Presbyterians to form the United Reform Church.  The High Street church was renamed as St. Columba in 2001.  It closed its doors on 31st August 2003 when, with the Tower Hamlets Methodist Chapel, it united with the Buckland Methodist Church to form a new entity, known as the Beacon Centre, from its location at the corner of Beaconsfield Road.

There were fears that, like most of the redundant churches in the town, the High Street church would be demolished.  However, it was sold to a developer who converted the building into dwellings in 2007.  A week before the sales campaign was due to open, the upper floor and the roof were completely destroyed by fire.