History

In 1979 our former minister Revd John Weller wrote a book about the history of Union Church, Heathfield – perhaps more of that another time once we’ve had time to transcribe it. However, it includes details of the founding of the church:

“…several prayer meetings were held and it was unanimously decided that a new church should be formed. It was to be a union of Congregationalists and Baptists, and was to be known as The Union Church at Heathfield.

…on Sunday 3rd December 1899 at the close of the morning service, those who were desirous of becoming members of the new church were asked to remain behind. Mr Thompson [the founding minister] then proposed, and Mr Amos T Weekes seconded the resolution: ‘That we, believing in God the Father and in His Son our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, do here and now form ourselves into a Union Church in connection with the Congregational and Baptist Unions.’

On that memorable Sunday morning, in a building where the rain came through the roof and the heating was inadequate [the New Drill Hall in Station Road, which was situated almost opposite Heffle Court], the following 34 persons were declared to be members of the new church:

Mr George WickensMrs WickensMr Alfred Nichols
Mrs NicholsMr Charles FarleyMrs Farley
Mr J C ThompsonMrs ThompsonMr A T Weekes
Mrs WeekesMiss Dorothea WeekesMr A L Weekes
Mr W C AshbyMrs AshbyMiss Beatrice Ashby
Mr Wm R C AshbyMr T StephensMrs Stephens
Miss StephensMr George ColemanMrs Coleman
Mrs SargentMiss AddisonMiss Debley
Mr S W RichardsonMrs RichardsonMr E R Streatfield
Mrs StreatfieldMr Henry MilesMrs Miles
Mrs IstedMr BarnesMrs Barnes
Mr Edward Barden

The first Church Meeting was held on Wednesday 20th December 1899 when the following brethren were unanimously elected to serve on the Committee:

Mr S W Richardson
Church Secretary
Mr A T Weekes
Church Treasurer
Mr George Wickens
Caretaker
Mr Alfred NichollsMr Charles FarleyMr W C Ashby
Mr George ColemanMr E R StreatfieldMr Barnes

At this meeting Mr Thompson was unanimously chosen as minister and consented to accept the position on the understanding that he went out of office every year as any other member of the Committee. This arrangement of electing the Pastor annually was adhered to throughout the duration of Mr Thompson’s ministry.

…On 15th June 1900 it was agreed to purchase the plot of land on which the church now stands for the sum of £200. Having taken that decision the business of fund raising by the small and no means wealthy membership of the young church began in earnest.”

Lots of events were held for fund raising but part of this effort was individual “collecting cards” whereby members could collect donations towards the total cost. And this brings us to the discovery in 2019, when our new church doors were being installed, of a time capsule hidden in the wall next to the memorial stone. The time capsule was an empty salt tin and contained 27 collecting cards and a Thursday, March 7th 1901 edition of “The Christian World” newspaper.

According to Revd Weller’s book the total cost of the new church was £1398 11 shillings 6d:

“Amid great rejoicing and with profound thanksgiving to God who had so wonderfully prospered their endeavours and honoured their faith, the founding members opened their New Church on 20th June 1901 “entirely free of debt”.”

The spreadsheet below shows the names and total amounts that we were able to read on the collection cards:

And here are the pages of the newspaper: