Friday, 30 January 2009

Mountnessing: Congregational Chapel 1881 - 1981

The first history booklet I ever wrote was in 1981 about the Mountnessing Congregational Chapel. At the time I was attending the Ingatestone United Reformed Church. The Minister, Revd. Leslie Clegg, encouraged me in this research and it was published as a supplement in the church’s magazine, The Messenger, in October that year. I found my copy a few months ago and decided to republish it on the blog.

If the Mountnessing Congregational Chapel was still standing it would have celebrated its 100th Anniversary this year (1981). It was a small chapel with a hundred sittings and throughout its history was part of Ingatestone Congregational Church, from where a Minister was supplied.

The story of the Mission Room begins on 26th April 1881 when at a Church Meeting:

“The Pastor [Rev. J. W. Houchin, Minister 1873 to 1895] reported that Mr J. J. Reeve of Chelmsford, had offered a piece of land (freehold) at Mountnessing upon which to erect a mission room.

“Resolved that Mr. Reeve’s kind offer be gratefully accepted and that Rev. J. W. Houchin, Pastor, Messrs. J. Nash and J. Nicholls, Deacons, with Mr J. J. Reeve, be requested to act as a Building Committee.”

During the next meeting, held in June, it was reported that the Mission Room was to be built by Messrs. Fincham and Beaumont of Chelmsford, for the sum of £199, and it was on Tuesday, 11th October, 1881, that the Mission Room was opened.

“A sermon was preached in the afternoon by the Rev. Postans of Baddow Road, Chelmsford. A tea and Public Meeting were held in the evening presided over by F. Wells Esq. Addresses were given at the Public Meeting, showed that the entire cost of the building … would be £245, towards which £215 had been promised.”

From then onwards services were held on Sunday afternoons. On October 22nd “an afternoon School had been opened. There were six teachers and fifty scholars”. A later report of 1882 said that there were eight teachers and forty-eight scholars on the roll.

In November 1882 it was announced that the debt which had arisen in the building of the Mission Room had been paid off. A Balance Sheet shown in the Minute Book records the following:

Entire cost of building, furnishing, etc £249.15.10

Mr J. J. Reeve by donations and collection £124.6.0
Rev. J. W. Houchin by collection £115.7.6
Collection at opening services October 11th 1881 £10.2.4

Two items of interest occurred in 1885. Firstly, it was “resolved that in future boxes be handed round after the sermon … to receive offerings of the people for the maintenance of the cause” and, secondly, “a collection was made towards a new harmonium amounting to 44/-“ after the Annual Meeting on October 27th. (This was never purchased).

On October 17th 1891, Mountnessing Mission Room held its tenth Anniversary and on on August 9th 1893 a Sunday School Anniversary was held when “Mr. F. A. Wells gave an address to parents and children”. In March 1895, a week’s Mission was held in Mountnessing conducted by “some Brentwood friends”. A further Missionary Week was held in 1904.

1901 marked the twentieth Anniversary, and it was reported that “there was a fair attendance and several attending from Ingatestone”.

In 1907 members of the Mission Room were given a Metzler organ. The instrument was chosen by Mr. F. Swan (organist at that time) and given by some friends from Chelmsford.

On May 30th 1911 it was reported that the Deeds of the Mission Room had been moved to the Memorial Hall, London.

The next significant date was 1919. At the Quarterly Church Meeting it was proposed that members “should arrange the business of the Mission Room from time to time”. Rev. Mundle was to take the position as head of the Committee but fell seriously ill. It was not until July 19th 1921 that the arrangement began when:

“The Church approved of the following suggestion as to the Mountnessing Mission Committee for the year, Mr. Purver, Miss Riley, and Mrs. Skinn with the Minister, Superintendent and officers of the Church”.

Six months later, on January 18th 1922, Mr. A. Purver became Mountnessing Superintendent, a position he was to hold for the next twenty-two years. It was reported that “Mr. Purver’s election as Mission Superintendent was unanimous”.

On 14th August 1928 the Secretary of Ingatestone read a letter to the Church Meeting from “a recent meeting of the Committee” whereby it had “unanimously decided to approach the Congregational Union with a view to forming an independent cause”.

The following April this was refused because the chapel had no Minister or permanent Secretary.

The ‘thirties was a time of great change for the Mission Room. In 1930 a new constitution was agreed between the two chapels, whereby, among other rules, Mountnessing held its own Church Meetings. The Mission Room was renovated. Mr. Purver reported that “the bill for installing electric light amounted to £10 complete” (May 1931). The formation of the ‘Young Peoples Fellowship’ (October 1934) and ‘Women’s Bright Hour’ (January 1936) were held at Mountnessing during the ministry of Rev. S. E. Boorman (1935 – 40).

In September 1943 a new magazine began for both chapels. Rev. D. Flawn (Minister 1940 – 1945) wrote:

“The monthly Messenger will meet a real need and help enrich the fellowship of the Church”.

In June1944 Mr R Kirkby became Mountnessing Superintendent, succeeding Mr Purver. Little did he know what was ahead. On Wednesday 14th February 1945 disaster struck when the Chapel, as it was now called, was hit by the force of a V2 rocket which fell in the field opposite. Mr Kirkby said at the next meeting:

“It is with regret that we have to record the Destruction of our own Church by enemy action on 14th February, but God has some purpose for allowing this to happen and by His Guidance and Help we will be enabled to carry on His Work”.

The work did continue. Sunday Services were held at 6 Council Houses, the home of Mrs Reynolds; ‘Women’s Bright Hour’ and ‘Christian Endeavour’ were held at Millcroft, Lower Road, the home of Mrs Agnis, and Sunday School was held at the W.I. Hall but later at the Parish Room (September) “through the courtesy of the Vicar of Mountnessing”. Sunday Services were later held in the Parish Room.

The conclusion of the devastation to the building was “total loss”. £43.15.0 worth of internal fittings were lost; the organ was repaired for £15 but later sold because storage costs became to high and the chance of rebuilding the chapel seemed to be slim.

In January 1948, a ray of hope came when “a grant of £375 had been made by the War Fund Committee of the Congregational Union”. The next step was to contact the Government for a building licence to rebuild the Mountnessing Chapel. This was given in July. Rev. S. Lippiatt (Minister 1945 – 1949) remarked:

“The event marked a turning point in the negotiations which have been carried out in the last two years … work should begin without delay”.

The official opening of the New Chapel finally came on April 9th 1949 when the Moderator of the Eastern Province, the Rev. Ellis Pearson preached. The occasion was then followed by tea in the Parish Room attended by an estimated ninety friends. Mr R Kirkby said in the review of the year:

“Our little church stands fast by the Word of God who we believe allowed it to be re-erected for His Worship and Glory”.

Public Woship was held twice on Sunday, at 11.00am and 3.30 or 6.30pm depending upon the time of year; however in October 1950 the service was altered to 6.30pm only.

A month before this it had been announced that a piano had been given by Mrs Ennifer which it was commented “ought to help with the hymn-singing”.

In 1951 there were three landmarks in the Chapel’s history. Firstly, in February, Mr R. Kirkby became President of the Brentwood, Upminster and District Christian Endeavour Federation for 1951/52: he was inducted at Mountnessing Chapel on 31st March; secondly, the Chapel celebrated its seventieth anniversary (13th and 14th October) when the Rev. C. S. Lower of Dagenham preached; and thirdly, the Chapel met its post-war peak with twenty-two church members.

Between 1953 and 1958 there were many united services with the congregation of the Church of England, usually alternating the venue from the Chapel and St John’s Church. This came as a result of the friendship between Rev. N. J. Williams (Minister 1950 to 1958) and Rev. Stock (Anglican Vicar). Other events included a special service conducted by the Rev. C. John Buckingham, M.A., Moderator of the Eastern Province (7th June 1953); the 75th anniversary conducted by Rev. K. N. Taylor (13th October 1956); a series of Crusade Sundays (March 1957) and the resignation of N. J. Williams in November 1958. His successor was Dr. R. M. Alderton who became Minister in 1960.

In 1960 the treasurers of both churches (at Ingatestone and Mountnessing) asked the members to double the collection from £6 to £12 per week in order to pay for Dr Alderton’s stipend. On a sadder note it also marked the death of Mrs Kirkby who “was called Home on May 18th”. She had been Secretary for over twenty years and was succeeded by Mr T S Grist in March 1963.

In 1962 “a handsome new hymn-board was given … in memory of the late Mr A Purver … and dedicated to the Glory of God at the service on Sunday afternoon, September 23rd”. The hymn-board is now used in the church at Ingatestone.

At the joint meeting of the churches in March 1963, Mr Kirkby resigned as Mountnessing Chapel Superintendent but, on failure to find a replacement, it was announced at the joint meeting in 1964 that “with great satisfaction … Mr R Kirkby was willing to become Superintendent of Mountnessing Chapel again”.

In 1964 Sunday School was altered to the morning at 11.00am and on 20th September a joint Harvest Festival was held at Inagtestone. The words of Rev. Williams some seven years earlier were coming true:

“The cause at Mountnessing is quite a small one and when members are lost the numbers are further depleted”.

On 10th March 1965, the state of Mountnessing Chapel became evident. “The Mountnessing Church Committee after prayer and careful consideration decided to discontinue the Sunday evening services at Mountnessing … owing to recent changes in residence, the majority of those who have been in the habit of attending there regularly now live in Ingatestone”.

In July Mr Kirkby finished his stint as superintendent. On his death in October 1980, Rev. Leslie Clegg (Minister, Ingatestone United Reformed Church, 1975 to 1982) described him as a “good and faithful soldier of Jesus Christ”. Mr Grist ended his role as Secretary in December 1965.

In July 1967 the Mountnessing Sunday School amalgamated with Ingatestone. This officially closed Mountnessing Congregational Chapel which was “defunct” in September 1970. On the same site is a house, 245 Roman Road.

However the story does not end there. Between 1976 and 1978, Ingatestone United Reformed Church, formerly the Congregational Church, underwent several major repairs. A sum of £12,000 had to be found. The raising of the Capital was aided by the money which arose from the sale of the Mountnessing Chapel land.

To conclude, the Mountnessing Mission was a very small cause which always looked to Ingatestone for guidance in its early years as it had small numbers to lead. It was not until after 1919 that the Chapel became more active in determining its own affairs and it could be argued that without men such as Mr Purver and Mr Kirkby the cause may have died.

The question remaining is whether the Mission Room should have been built in the first place? At the time the Ingatestone Chapel was thriving with 71 members, 103 scholars and 11 teachers in 1880, so it was for this reason to outreach the work to Mountnessing.


Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me where the Rev J Houchin lived? did his daughters run a school at his home?

Andrew Smith said...

Revd. John Wesley Houchin (with a name like that he must have been destined to become a Minister of Religion!) describes himself as 'Independent Minister of Ingatestone Chapel' in the 1881 census (freely available on He was living in Ingatestone Street in the parish of Fryerning. Most of Ingatestone High Street, as we know it today, until the amalgamation of the civil parishes in 1889, was actually in Fryerning. The Chapel at Ingatestone lies on the west side of the street and is now the United Reformed Church (having previously been the Congregational denomination). J W Houchin was 39 in 1881 (born about 1842 in Halstead, Essex). His wife was Charlotte (40) and others in his household were named Annie M Houchin (11), Kate E Houchin (9), Edwin A Houchin (7), Aubrey B Houchin (6), Frances A Houchin (4) and Charlotte Outten (16). For more information one would need to look at the Census piece - Class RG11 Piece 1761 Folio 66 Page 14 - which can be looked up on microfiche at the Essex Record Office or by subscription to Ancestry (or other family history site).