Welcome to Gravesend Methodist Church
& Community Centre

History of our church

The Early Days

There have been Methodists in Gravesend since the early days of Methodism, indeed, as far back as 1771 a room was rented by the twenty or so members of the Society and John Wesley himself preached at the opening service to a crowded congregation.

This first enthusiasm was short-lived however and, although one or two members still met as often as possible, it was considered by the authorities at Rochester, that “Gravesend was too wicked a town for much good to be done” and an application for a regular preacher was refused.

In 1807 a further application was made, this time it was approved and regular services began to be held.

These were so successful that the need was soon felt for a permanent building.  

The First Wesleyan Chapel in Gravesend

Early in 1812 a meeting was held to consider the matter. From then on events moved swiftly; in spite of the uncertainties brought about by the Napoleonic War.

The new church was completed and the opening services held just six months after the decision to build had been taken.  

The first Wesleyan Chapel 

Photo courtesy of Douglas Grierson

Inside the first Wesleyan Chapel 


In the years that followed the church went from strength to strength. So much so, in fact, that by the end of the century the premises had become quite inadequate for its needs.

After much thought it was decided to rebuild the church and to include Sunday School Class Rooms and all other necessary accommodation on one site.

The cost of this was estimated to be £9000, but there was no hesitation, and by 1906 the Church and adjoining premises, as we know them today, had been built.

At the time of the opening some £5000 had already been collected - a wonderful effort in three years - but the debt was not finally extinguished until 1920.

In 2006 we celebrated the centenary of our present building.  

The stone laying of the new building 

 

The final preparations before opening - 1906

 

Outside all ready for opening - 1906

Photos courtesy of Douglas Grierson

Inside all ready for opening - 1906

 

 

Click here to see a Church Newsletter from 1959

 

The church in 2006

 

Click here to see what we are up to in 2016 !

 

History of  Wesleyan Methodism in Gravesend : 

 Its Rise and Progress.   By Mr. F.A.Mansfield

 It has been thought appropriate to relate, as far as possible, the circumstances in which Methodism originated in Gravesend .   Recorded facts date back as far as 1771, when there was a society of 16 or 20 members and the probability is that the first Methodist minister to visit the town was either Rev. Alex Mather or Rev. Joseph Benson, the commentator.    In that year the little Society engaged a room capable of accommodating 200 people.  On Monday, December 2nd 1771, John Wesley himself attended to open the room, and the interesting event is thus alluded to in his journal: ‘Monday, Dec. 2nd, I went down with several of our friends to Gravesend , when a building, designed for an assembly room, was used for a better purpose.  It was quite crowded, yet abundance could not get in.  After reading prayers, I preached on part of the second lesson,  Hebrews 8 v.9-11.   The room was pretty well filled at five in the morning.  Fair blossoms! But what fruit will there be?’  

The following year witnessed a second visit from John Wesley, who further says in his journal:-  ‘I read prayers and preached to a crowded congregation at Gravesend .  The stream here spreads wide, but it is not deep.  Many are drawn, but none converted, or even awakened.   Such is the general method of God’s providence!  Where all approve few profit.’

 Our venerable founder’s estimate of this beginning proved to be correct, for the room was held only a little more than three years, when it had to be abandoned for want of support.  Among the members of Society, however, was a Mr Jessup, whose steadfastness and faith more than once saved the little flock from becoming scattered.  Ever on the alert, his attention was directed to another room, which, although he was by no means in affluent circumstances, he forthwith engaged, becoming personally responsible for the rent.  Preaching was then resumed and the regular means of grace observed.  But this was not for long.  Serious difficulties arose, which culminated in the temporary overthrow of the Methodist cause in the town, and some 35 years elapsed before it was heard of again.  During this period of darkness it was commonly said; ‘The Sabbath never enters Gravesend ; it comes no further than the turnpike gate at Chalk.’  Still Mr Jessup remained true to God and eventually he came to learn that there were others of his own persuasion resident in Gravesend .  These were two females from the West of England; Thomas Lockwood, a river pilot from Deptford; and Mr J Nash from Sittingbourne.   They met for prayer and devised liberal things.   A room in West Street was hired and application made to Rochester for a preacher.  The reply was certainly not encouraging; it intimated that ‘ Gravesend was too wicked a place for much good to be done.’  In 1807 however, the town was Methodistically recognised and placed on the Rochester plan.  Much good resulted from the services; but a further trial came when the little room was taken from the members.  Once again the small Society was without a home.  A meeting place was then found in Princes Street , this also being secured by Mr Jessup who himself paid a year’s rent in advance.  Thenceforward the Society would seem to have grown steadily.  In 1812 it was felt to be a great importance to the settlement and perpetuation of the work that a Chapel should be erected.   But how to accomplish this was the question.  The number of members was small and their financial resources limited.  ‘Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity’ and so it proved in this as in many another case.  Friends were raised up in Gravesend and Rochester ; a substantial sum was subscribed and the balance needed for building was borrowed by the trustees.  

From an old minute book we gather some most interesting particulars concerning this period.  The original trustees of the ‘Methodist Chapel to be built at Gravesend’ were appointed at a meeting held in the Vestry of the Chapel at Rochester , on February 6th, 1812, the travelling preachers present being Revs. Robert Johnson, Robert Martin and William Palmer.   The fifteen trustees were for the most part residents of Rochester , Chatham and Brompton, Mr John Nash, coachmaker of Chalk, being also one of the number.  Tenders for building the Chapel were then opened and were as follows:-

             Mr Wm. Curd of Gravesend for the bricklayers,            £          s.          d

            masons, plasterers, and slaters work                             622.     8.         7

           

Messrs Lot & Carley, bricklayers of Gravesend             572.     0.         0

           

Mr Anthony Peck of Gravesend , carpenters and

            joiners work, the painters, plumbers, glaziers

            and smiths ironwork                                                    1,350.    0.         0

           

Messrs Pemble & Whitehead, carpenters of

            Chatham                                                                       1,260.   0.         0

           

Mr Wm. Ashenden, carpenter of Chatham                    1,110.   0.         0

 

It was unanimously agreed to accept the tender of Mr Wm. Ashenden for carpenters work, and that of Messrs Lot & Carley for bricklayers work.  It was also agreed that the front of the Chapel should be set back 22 feet from the boundary of the site.  Mr Morson, attorney was directed to prepare the contracts and also to get the Trust Deeds ready for signing.  Mr John Nash was authorised to give Mr Curd of Gravesend , the sum of ten guineas for surveying the bricklayers work, and that Mr Flashman be asked for his account for drawing plans, the sum being afterwards stated as £14.   At a meeting of the Trustees held on May 22nd, 1812, Mr Ashenden was requested to furnish an estimate for an oak fence for the front enclosure and it was also decided that the seats in front of the gallery be let at 4s. in the second row 3s, and the rest at 2s.6d. per quarter, and that those in the body of the Chapel be let at 2s.6d. and 2s. per quarter; and that the chandeliers of Rochester Old Chapel be purchased for use in the Gravesend Chapel.  In April 1835 the Trustees agreed to the introduction of gas-light to supersede candles. Many interesting extracts might be made from these early minutes  if space would permit.

 The appended obituary notice, however, shows the names of some of those on whom the burden of establishing our beloved Church in Gravesend chiefly rested:-  Mr Robert Starbuck, died 1st February, 1831; Mr John Nash, Senior, died 23rd February 1833; Mr John Starbuck, died 27th August, 1834; Mr. Wm. Bouniwell, died August 1835; Mr George Osborn, Senior, died 5th May 1835; Mr John Bumstead, died 22nd January, 1837; Mr Robert Jessup, died 24th April, 1838; Mr. James Hulett LL.D. died 24th April, 1838.

 A present member of the Church, Mrs. Ford (to whom we are indebted for much information) dates her membership back to 1845, and she well recollects a former member rejoicing in the fact of his rowing John Wesley from Gravesend to Tilbury.

 Mention might also be made of Dr. Armstrong, Mr John Emery, Mr J.R.May, Dr. Hawkins, Messrs. Hadler, Taylor , Knee, Emery, Moore , Shorter, C.Hooper Smith, Hammond , Broom, W.Carpenter, James Dean, John Rose and others, who helped to carry on the work so well begun, and who have gone to their reward.

 The Chapel has several times been altered and improved.  The pulpit formerly stood against the wall at the northern end of the Chapel, but it was brought forward to allow for the erection of the gallery for the organ.  The instrument previously in use was located in the southern gallery.  Referring to the organ it is fitting to remember Miss Broom, Mrs Nicholson and Mr. C.Hooper Smith, who in turn for many years led the psalmody of the services.

 The Gravesend Circuit was formed in 1819, the first superintendent appointed being the Rev. Thomas Rowland.  At one time a large slice of Essex was included in this Circuit, but that arrangement ceased in 1895, when the Rev. G.H. Pickering then on the Gravesend plan, became superintendent of Grays.

 The record would be incomplete were it not stated that when the Chapel was first opened the Sunday School was conducted in a room in Manor Road , the superintendent being Mr. Richardson, a grocer of High Street.  The School was subsequently removed to Peacock Street .

 It may well be expected that the knowledge of past achievements, so manifestly guided and controlled by the hand of God, will stimulate the Church of the present day to increased activity in order that our glorious heritage may be passed on for the spiritual good of those who are yet to follow in the train of our forefathers.

 

WESLEYAN/METHODIST PRIESTS OR PREACHERS
OF MILTON NEXT GRAVESEND AND GRAVESEND , KENT

 

1771    Rev. Alexander Mather   and   Rev. Joseph Benson

1771/72/73 Rev. John Wesley – Founder of Methodism.

            Opening of the Ebenezer Chapel, Milton Road , Gravesend .

            This after the town was Methodistically recognised (1807)

            Chapel 1812

            Travelling Preachers Revs. Robert Johnson, Robert Martin and William Palmer

1819    Gravesend Circuit formed, with a large part of Essex included.

            First Superintendent was to be Rev. Thomas Rowland.

 

Unable to find records until 1837/1838

Found list of services:-  Sunday 7 a.m.  10.30 a.m.  2 p.m.  5 p.m. &  6 p.m.

Sunday School, Manor Road , Milton next, Gravesend

Tuesday Lectures 7 p.m.

Prayer Meeting  Friday  7 p.m.

1841    Chapel enlarged to hold 700 persons.

 

1842-1845             Rev. George Scott.

Sunday School, Manor Road .

Mr John Richardson – Treasurer

1845-1847       Rev. Robert Maxwell    ( 7 Milton Road )

1846                School erected Peacock Street , with wings to School  to house

                        Priest and School Master.

1847-1851             Rev. John Hobkirk

1851-1854       Rev. M.Jubb     No.2 Peacock Street   Milton British Day School

1854-1857       Rev. J.Hearnshaw

1857-1860       Rev. T.A.Rayner

1860-1863       Rev. Richard Ray

1863-1866       Rev. Thomas Thompson

1867-1868       Rev. Stephen P.Harvard

1868-1870       Rev. George Turner      Not to live in Church House

                        Resident 38 Windmill Street , Milton next Gravesend

1870-1873       Rev. Joseph Little         Home 38 Windmill Street

1873-1876       Rev. Samuel Wesley                           

1876-1879       Rev. George Butcher                          

1879-1882       Rev. G.S.Hutton                               

1882-1885       Rev. Thomas Wenn                                          1883

                                                                       42 Windmill Street   1884

1885-1888       Rev. W.H.Milward                           

1888-1891       Rev. S.R.Williams                            

1891-1894       Rev. John Jefferys                            

1894-1897       Rev. S.J.Silcox                      14 The Grove

1897-1900       Rev. John Pratt Elton                        

(1895 Essex ceased  to be on Gravesend Circuit)

Wesleyan/Methodist Ministers, Milton Road

1900-1904       Rev. E.R.Eslick                      Home  14 The Grove

1904     Contemplating Building New Church with School

1904-1907       Rev. W.H.Jackson Picken      Home 14 The Grove

1905                            Made Chaplain of local Barracks

1907-1910       Rev. George Neal Willis        Home 14 The Grove

1910-1913       Rev. J. Edward Harlow          Home “Madeley”,   9 The Avenue

1913-1916       Rev. George Lunn                 

1916-1920       Rev. G.Lang                           

1920-1926/27  Rev. William Looken                

1926/29           Rev. Thomas Hamilton Groves 

1929-1931       Rev. G.H.McCormick    M.A.   B.D.       

1931                Named Methodist Chapel/Church

1931-1935       Rev. A.G.Lloyd                          

1935-1944       Rev. Horace Colley    Died 1944

1944-1949       Rev. George Gregory     (Mrs Colley was to remain  with Rev. Gregory Family to 1949)

1949-1956       Rev. Dennis Robson                

1956-1963       Rev. John Leonard Waddy       

1963-1969       Rev. Albert Parkin                        

1969-1974       Rev. Leslie Lazenby                      

1974-1977       Rev. Roy Freeman                        

1977-1989       Rev. Roger Cresswell                  

1989-1997       Rev. Brian Snellgrove              

1997- 2010      Rev. K.Andrew Lindley      

2010-2012       Vacant - No Minister

2011                 Manse at 9, The Avenue, sold    

2012                Rev. Alan Thorpe   

2013-2014      Vacant - No Minister

2014-2015      Rev. Noreen Daley-Lee

2015 -             Rev. Tony Graff

 

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