Protestant nonconformity


Victoria County History



T P Hudson (Editor), A P Baggs, C R J Currie, C R Elrington, S M Keeling, A M Rowland

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'Worthing: Protestant nonconformity', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1: Bramber Rape (Southern Part) (1980), pp. 122-125. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18232 Date accessed: 22 October 2014.


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The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish itself in Worthing in 1765, (fn. 83) had two houses registered for worship in Worthing in 1800 and 1803. (fn. 84)

The Independent, later Congregational, chapel in Chapel Street, later Portland Road, was built in 1804. (fn. 85) It had been repaired and improved by 1817, (fn. 86) there was a Sunday school of 80 children c. 1826, (fn. 87) and the chapel was enlarged and refronted in the 1840s. (fn. 88) In 1851 there were 197 morning and 276 evening worshippers and c. 130 Sunday school children. (fn. 89) The chapel was apparently renovated c. 1890, but not long afterwards it became too small for the congregation, and a new church to hold 650 was opened at the junction of Shelley and Buckingham roads in 1903. Afterwards called the Congregational cathedral of West Sussex (fn. 90) it joined the United Reformed Church in 1972. (fn. 91) The original building was used as shops in 1976, and demolished in 1978.

The Tabernacle in Montague Street was opened in the late 1830s (fn. 92) as an 'Independent chapel for the promulgation of Calvinistic doctrine' and for interdenominational worship. (fn. 93) It was registered in 1839 (fn. 94) but its early success was soon vitiated by disputes and lawsuits. (fn. 95) It was used by Independent Congregationalists in 1851 when there were 50 morning and 80 evening worshippers. (fn. 96) It was afterwards temporarily used for Anglican worship (fn. 97) and by 1859 it was let for, inter alia, concerts and lectures, as the Montague Hall. (fn. 98) It was also the town's main theatre until 1884, (fn. 99) and was used by many organizations including the Salvation Army. (fn. 1) The building was registered as the Worthing Free Church in 1888, (fn. 2) and re-registered as the undenominational Worthing Tabernacle in 1896. (fn. 3) Between c. 1906 and c. 1922, as the St. James's Hall, the building was used for concerts (fn. 4) and other entertainments. (fn. 5) It later became a shop, and survived in 1977. (fn. 6)

It had been replaced by the Worthing Tabernacle in Chapel Road, registered in 1908. (fn. 7) The West Worthing Tabernacle school hall in Rugby Road was registered in 1912, (fn. 8) and the St. James's Hall in High Street was registered as an evangelical free church in 1926. By 1949 it was the St. James's (later Worthing) Evangelical Free church. (fn. 9) St. James's and the Tabernacle had joined the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches by 1934, and the West Worthing church joined in 1943. (fn. 10) The East Worthing Evangelical Free church in Pendine Avenue was registered in 1934. (fn. 11) The building was used as a store in the Second World War and later became the East Worthing Baptist church. (fn. 12) The Evangelical Protestants' Hall in Chatsworth Road was registered in 1909; (fn. 13) in 1957 the building was sold for use as a factory. (fn. 14)

The New Street chapel on the corner of Graham Road and Montague Street was registered for worship by protestant dissenters in 1861. (fn. 15) It was variously described as Baptist, (fn. 16) Free Christian, (fn. 17) Congregational, (fn. 18) and Evangelical Protestant. (fn. 19) Its registration for worship was cancelled in 1909, when the congregation probably moved to Chatsworth Road, (fn. 20) and in 1977 the building was used as shops.

A Presbyterian church in Worthing, later St. Columba's, was founded in 1927 (fn. 21) and a church for 250 was opened in Heene Road in 1931. (fn. 22) A new church was built in St. Michael's Road in 1937 (fn. 23) and became a member of the United Reformed Church c. 1972. The original church was used as a church hall in 1977. (fn. 24)

In 1811 nine Wesleyan Methodists met in a private house, (fn. 25) and a Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in Marine Place in 1822. (fn. 26) It was superseded in 1840 by a new chapel with a three-bay neo-Egyptian facade, designed by C. Hide, in Bedford Row. There were c. 140 morning and evening worshippers and 60 Sunday school children in 1851. (fn. 27) The Worthing circuit was formed in 1870, (fn. 28) and the Bedford Row chapel was superseded by a church in Steyne Gardens opened in 1900. (fn. 29) The Marine Place chapel, still used for worship in 1851, (fn. 30) was sold in 1852 and the Bedford Row chapel in 1901. (fn. 31) Both buildings were used as factories in 1977. A Wesleyan chapel in Tarring Lane, later Tarring Road, was registered for worship in 1884 (fn. 32) and remained in use in 1976. The Offington Park Wesleyan church was opened at the south-west corner of Broadwater green in 1932. It became the church hall after a new church for 400 was opened in 1959; the church had 32 clubs and societies in 1977. (fn. 33)

A Primitive Methodist chapel was recorded in Marine Place in 1865, (fn. 34) and there was a preaching or mission room in Montague Street in 1873 (fn. 35) and 1878, (fn. 36) possibly at the corner of Montague Street and Crescent Road on a site bought for a chapel in 1874. (fn. 37) It had closed by 1881. The Worthing mission was formed in 1875 and became a circuit in 1894. There was a cottage meeting in Wenban Road in 1874, and an iron chapel was opened in Chapel Road in 1880. It was moved to Lyndhurst Road in 1893, and was opened after use as an emergency hospital during the typhoid outbreak. A new chapel, which remained in use in 1977, was opened in Lyndhurst Road in 1929. The iron chapel was taken down after the Second World War. A new church was opened in Chapel Road in 1893; it was closed in 1956 and demolished in 1958. The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists combined to form the Wesleyan Methodist circuit in 1937. (fn. 38)

Baptist (fn. 39) services were held in 1878 by W. Stead, a pupil of C. H. Spurgeon, (fn. 40) in a room in Ann Street, and later in the Montague Hall. A church of 20 members was formed in 1879 and in 1881 a Particular Baptist chapel was opened in Christchurch Road. (fn. 41) It was registered for worship in 1883 (fn. 42) and was replaced in 1885 by a church holding 500. (fn. 43) The Worthing church has done much to found new churches in the district. (fn. 44) In 1903 it started evening services and a Sunday school in Broadwater where a small church was opened in Penfold Road in 1905. The church, which was soon extended, remained a mission of the Worthing church until 1937. A new building was opened in 1969; the original building remained in use in 1970 (fn. 45) but was used as a builder's office in 1976. (fn. 46) From the early 20th century the Worthing Baptist church greatly helped the Baptist congregation at Nepcote in Findon which moved to a temporary building in Findon Valley in 1939, and became the Findon Valley Free Church (Baptist) in 1940. The building was enlarged in 1948, and the church acquired its own minister in 1949. (fn. 47) A new church was opened on the corner of Findon Road and Limetree Avenue in 1958, (fn. 48) and the old church was demolished after c. 1964. (fn. 49) In 1946 the Worthing church bought the former East Worthing Evangelical Free church in Pendine Avenue, which became the East Worthing Baptist church. It was registered for worship in 1947 (fn. 50) and became an independent church c. 1951. (fn. 51) Undenominational cottage meetings were held at Durrington in 1905, and a small Free church was opened in Greenland Road in 1912 when it had 72 members. It was registered in 1925, and in 1943 joined the Baptist Association. By 1949 it had 100 members, and it survived in 1976 with 193 members. (fn. 52)

The Calvinist Hope chapel in Teville Road recorded from c. 1890 (fn. 53) was closed c. 1906. Meetings were held at St. Dunstan's Road for a short time, and in 1907 the small Calvinistic Strict Baptist Ebenezer chapel was opened in Portland Road. (fn. 54) It continued in 1976.

The Old Baptist Union Providence chapel in Marine Place was registered for worship in 1896 and was replaced in 1906 (fn. 55) by the Baptist chapel in Clifton Road. That in turn was replaced in 1908 by the Old Baptist Assembly Hall in Bedford Row which flourished until c. 1928. (fn. 56)

The Salvation Army barracks in Prospect Place were registered in 1883. (fn. 57) Sunday services were held in the Montague Hall by 1884 when there were violent riots against the Army in the town. On one occasion troops were called from Brighton and the Riot Act was read. As a result the tenancy of the Montague Hall was ended, and Sunday services were afterwards held in the barracks. (fn. 58) Barracks were registered in Crescent Road in 1887 and later, (fn. 59) and a new hall founded there in 1912 (fn. 60) remained in use in 1977. (fn. 61) Salvation Army quarters were recorded in Milton Street c. 1914. (fn. 62)

Christian Scientists met in the St. James's, formerly Montague, hall in 1910, (fn. 63) and the Christian Science Society met in Broadway c. 1914. (fn. 64) A hall, later the First Church of Christ Scientist, Worthing, was opened in Broadwater Road in 1921 and enlarged in 1930. A new church was opened in 1939 (fn. 65) and there was a reading room in Brighton Road in 1976. (fn. 66) The Second Church of Christ Scientist, Worthing, started in 1938 with meetings in a private house in West Worthing. In 1939 a bungalow was bought in Grand Avenue where services were held until a Sunday school was completed in 1951. Services were held in the Sunday school until a new church was opened in 1960, when the bungalow was demolished. (fn. 67) There was a reading room in Tarring Road in 1976. (fn. 68)

A small group of Quakers met in various places in the town from c. 1923. (fn. 69) Part of a house in Downview Road, West Worthing, was registered for meetings in 1945 (fn. 70) and was replaced by a meetinghouse in Mill Road c. 1958. (fn. 71)

About 1922 c. 15 Jehovah's Witnesses met in a building in Montague Street. By 1937 meetings were held at Grafton Road (fn. 72) where they continued until a Kingdom Hall was registered in Marine Parade in 1948. (fn. 73) From early 1972 meetings were held in a room in the town hall. (fn. 74)

A Spiritualist church in Grafton Road recorded c. 1924 (fn. 75) was registered for worship in 1926, (fn. 76) and continued in 1977. A Spiritualist Healing Mission was recorded in Liverpool Road c. 1940, (fn. 77) and a Spiritual Healing Sanctuary was registered in Forest Road, Broadwater, in 1948. (fn. 78) A Spiritualist Brotherhood church was registered in Brougham Road between 1946 and 1971. (fn. 79)

The Foursquare Gospel Alliance's Elim Pentecostal church in Grosvenor Road was begun in 1931 (fn. 80) and registered for worship in 1932. (fn. 81) It continued in 1976.

A congregation of Unitarians, formed in 1964, met in the Friends' meeting-house in Mill Road in 1977. (fn. 82)

The Brethren's meeting-house in Chapel Road, registered in 1892, (fn. 83) was presumably the Gospel hall recorded there until c. 1925. (fn. 84) In 1928 the Christian Brethren registered the former Old Baptist Assembly Hall in Bedford Row as a Gospel hall. (fn. 85) It had become the Bedford Row Evangelical church by 1977. (fn. 86)

The Milton House academy in Brighton Road was registered by Calvinists in 1877 and survived in 1925. (fn. 87) Another meeting-room in Brighton Road was recorded between 1900 and 1940. (fn. 88) The West Worthing Assembly was recorded c. 1910 (fn. 89) and the Veritas, later Unity, Hall, Ann Street, was registered for non-sectarian Christians in 1914. Its registration was cancelled in 1928 but the hall was still recorded c. 1930. (fn. 90) Meeting-rooms registered in Tarring Road in 1934 were recorded in 1940, (fn. 91) and the Advent Mission Hall registered for British Advent Missions in Chapel Road in 1943 had closed by 1946. The Crusader Hall in Wiston Avenue was registered between 1952 and 1964, the Clifton Hall in Clifton Road was registered in 1959, and the Theosophical Hall in Clifton Road in 1961. (fn. 92)

The history of nonconformist meeting-places in the area formerly comprising the ancient parish of Goring is reserved for treatment elsewhere.


83 [A. C. H. Seymour], Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (1839), i. 365.
84 G.R.O. Worship Returns, Chich. archdeac. nos. 11, 16; N. Caplan, 'Outline of Origins and Devel. of Nonconf. in Suss. 1603-1803' (TS. in Dr. Williams's Libr., Lond.), ii. 13; iv. 51.
85 Wallis's Worthing (1826), 40; G.R.O. Worship Returns, Chich. archdeac. no. 19; Snewin & Smail, Glimpses, 81.
86 Mackcoull's Worthing (1817), 33-5.
87 Wallis's Worthing (1826), 40; cf. Educ. Enquiry Abstract, 964.
88 Worthing Handbk. 26; Worthing Surv. 234.
89 H.O. 129/90/1/3/9.
90 Cong. Yr. Bk. (1890), 450; ibid. (1902), 150-1; ibid. (1903), 161-2; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1905); Worthing Surv. 234.
91 Cong. Yr. Bk. (1972), 196; United Reformed Ch. Yr. Bk. (1973-4), 160.
92 e.g. Shearsmith, Worthing (1841), 24; Smail, Map Story, 60.
93 W.R.L., Worthing churches cuttings file.
94 G.R.O. Worship Returns, Chich. Archdeac. no. 214.
95 W.R.L., Worthing churches cuttings file.
96 H.O. 129/90/1/2/7; cf. Cong. Mag. iv. 716; Evangelical Mag. xxix. 341, 569.
97 W.R.L., Worthing churches cuttings file; Worthing Monthly Rec. Mar., Apr. 1855; Worthing Rec. 3 Nov. 1855.
98 Breads's Guide Worthing (1859), 15.
99 See above, Social and Cultural Activities.
1 e.g. The Times, 15 Sept. 1884.
2 C 54/19397 mm. 22-7; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 30927; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1891).
3 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35398; C 54/20179 mm. 12-19.
4 Worthing Surv. 277.
5 e.g. Western Gaz. and Suss. Advertiser, 26 Apr. 1911.
6 Ex inf. Horne Brothers Ltd., the building's owners.
7 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 43179; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1910 and later edns.).
8 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 45471; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1914 and later edns.).
9 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50138, 62297.
10 Ex inf. the Fellowship.
11 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 55643.
12 F. Buffard, Kent and Suss. Baptist Assocs. (1963), 140.
13 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 43994.
14 Worthing Herald, 7 Apr. 1977.
15 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 14550; O.S. Map 1/500, Worthing (1875 edn.); W.S.R.O., MP 1401, f. 31.
16 J. S. Smith, Map of Worthing [?1877]; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1874 and later edns.).
17 O.S. Map 1/500, Worthing (1875 edn.).
18 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900).
19 Ibid. (1905).
20 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 14550; see above.
21 Worthing Surv. 236.
22 The Times, 30 Mar. 1931; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1935).
23 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1940).
24 Ex inf. the church secretary.
25 Ex inf. Worthing Circuit Archivist.
26 Shearsmith, Worthing, 38; G.R.O. Worship Returns, Suss. no. 42; cf. Evans, Worthing (1814), plan.
27 H.O. 129/90/1/2/6; Shearsmith, Worthing (1841), 24; Nairn & Pevsner, Suss. 387 n.; Elleray, Worthing, pl. 154.
28 Ex inf. Worthing Circuit Archivist.
29 Suss. Coast Mercury, 23 June 1900; G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 10868, 37714.
30 H.O. 129/90/1/3/10.
31 Ex inf. Worthing Circuit Archivist.
32 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 28216.
33 Worthing Surv. 236; G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 54020, 67169; ex inf. the Revd. C. D. Johnson, minister.
34 Breads's Guide Worthing (1865), 83.
35 Ex inf. Worthing Circuit Archivist.
36 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1878).
37 C 54/17687 mm. 22-8; J. S. Smith, Map of Worthing [?1877].
38 Ex inf. Worthing Circuit Archivist, and the treasurer, Lyndhurst Rd. Methodist ch.; Worthing Intelligencer, 30 Dec. 1893; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900, 1935).
39 The acct. of Baptists in Worthing is based on Baptist Handbk. (1885 and later edns.); Worthing Surv. 233-4; F. Buffard, Kent and Suss. Baptist Assocs. 105-6, 131-2, 140, except as indicated.
40 D.N.B.
41 cf. C 54/18524 mm. 1-6.
42 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 26837.
43 Baptist Handbk. (1885), 335.
44 Cf. also W. Tarring.
45 Ex inf. the secretary, Broadwater Baptist ch.; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 41047.
46 Worthing Herald, 6 Aug. 1976.
47 Findon Valley Free Ch. (Baptist) Hist. (1959-60), [6, 19-20].
48 Baptist Handbk. (1960), p. v.
49 Ex inf. the minister.
50 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 55643, 61588; Char. Com. files.
51 Ex inf. the church secretary.
52 Buffard, Baptist Assocs. 135; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 49713; Baptist Union Dir. (1976-7).
53 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1891, 1895); Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900, 1905).
54 R. F. Chambers, Strict Baptist Chapels of Eng. ii [1954], 37-8; date on bldg.
55 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35521; Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1905).
56 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 41499, 42950.
57 Ibid. no. 27304; The Times, 26 Aug. 1884.
58 Illus. Lond. News, 30 Aug. 1884, pp. 205-6; The Times, 21 Aug.-17 Nov. 1884; Suss. Coast Mercury, 3 Jan. 1885; Elleray, Worthing, pls. 44-6.
59 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 30509, 33247, 47438.
60 Date on bldg.
61 Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1891 and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900 and later edns.).
62 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1914-15).
63 Ibid. (1910).
64 Ibid. (1914-15).
65 Ex inf. the clerk, First Ch. of Christ Scientist, Worthing.
66 Worthing Herald, 24 Sept. 1976.
67 Dedic. notice at ch.
68 Worthing Herald, 24 Sept. 1976.
69 Worthing Surv. 237; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1925, 1940).
70 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 61078.
71 Ibid. no. 66531.
72 Ex inf. Mr. C. W. Woodland, Worthing; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1940).
73 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 62170.
74 Ex inf. Mr. Woodland.
75 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1925).
76 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50242.
77 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1940).
78 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 61987.
79 Ibid. no. 61259.
80 Date on bldg.
81 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 53748.
82 Genl. Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches Dir. (1976-7), 44; Worthing Herald, 25 Mar. 1977.
83 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 33498.
84 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900 and later edns.).
85 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 42950, 51546; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1930, 1940).
86 Ch. notice board.
87 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 23460, 48865.
88 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1900 and later edns.); G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 49765.
89 Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1910).
90 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 46018; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1914 and later edns.).
91 G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 54999; Kelly's Dir. Worthing (1925 and later edns.).
92 G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 60115, 63484, 67368, 68393.