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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
Godalming Bridge & Congregational Church
Congregational Church and Town Bridge

The Congregationalists or Independents had been in Godalming since 1715 according to two twentieth century directories[1]. Godalming's Congregational church, which replaced the Independent (Ebenezer) Chapel in Hart's Lane (now Mint Street), was "erected by voluntary subscriptions in 1869, at a cost of about £3,660, is a handsome structure, in the Early Decorated Gothic style, and built of native rubble stone, with Bath stone facings : the tower with spire is 85 feet in extreme height"[2].

The rubble stone referred to is Bargate Rock, or Bargate Stone as it is more usually called these days, and is a sandstone found in the Godalming and Guildford area of South West Surrey. It was used in "the erection of churches and other public buildings[2]" in the town. It is usually extremely hard but is sometimes friable.

The church was registered to solemnize marriages on 4 March 1869[3]. There is what may seem to be a slightly amusing story about a marriage at the Hart Lane chapel a couple of years earlier, but it relates to rules applying to marriages in Nonconformist churches after Civil Registration was introduced in 1837. Despite the Independent Chapel in Godalming having been registered for solemnizing marriages in 1844, the Superintendent Registrar was still required to attend[4]. Without his presence the marriage would have been illegal. In 1867 Rev. T. Davies, minister of what was still the Ebenezer Chapel, was set to marry a Farncombe lady to a gentleman "from a distance", but the registrar did not appear. The service began, but there was still no registrar. So the minister had to stop the wedding and the couple returned a few days later and were legally married as the Registrar was present[5].

Anniversary services were held the year after the Bridge Street church opened; a Dr Halley of London preached to large congregations at the main services in the morning and evening, whilst others delivered addresses. The choir sang "select pieces" and a collection was made after each service in aid of the organ fund[6]. Rev. Jabez Marshall was the first minister of the new church[7].

The Congregationalists wished to provide more for the town than being just a place of worship and foundation stones for new Sunday Schools and classrooms were laid by Miss Hallam of Llanaway House on 18 July 1883[8]; the schoolroom, with room for 700 children in the central area, and the mission hall were erected in 1884. This cost about £2,500 to build. There were "17 classrooms that would hold 300 children, and a portion of the former schoolroom was converted into a gallery for the infants' class, so as to hold 50 children"[9]. The gallery was on three sides and divided into nine separate rooms. As we can see from the rare image of the interior below, everyone sitting in one of the rooms would have been able to see anyone who was speaking to them from below and vice versa. When classes were being taught, though, the curtains would be closed to make them quite separate. Beneath the gallery were a further eight rooms that also could have curtains drawn when necessary. The old schoolroom, that could accommodate 130-140 people, was still available for smaller meetings associated with the church[10]. The new build was officially opened and dedidated on 27 May 1884[11]. All the funding had been secured by then[12].

The architects were Messrs Welman and Street of Godalming and the work was carried out by Mitchell Brothers of Shalford[12]. Afterwards the men employed by Messrs. Mitchell, together with the architect, Alderman Thomas Rea, Rev. Crighton (minister since 1880) and a number of others involved "partook of supper at the Catteshall Coffee Tavern "[13].

As it was about to open in 1884 at least one local paper commented that people travelling by train from Portsmouth to Godalming would notice the new building and its unusual roof[10].

enlargement of top image
Enlargement of the sepia card above, showing - from the left - the Congregational Church, The Manse and the distinctive
polygonal roof of the rear section of the mission room, today called The Rotunda. The Manse was next to the road; if
standing today it would be in the grounds of the local library.

In 1891 there were 500 sittings and Rev. A. J. Crighton was still the minister[9]. He was succeeded in 1893 by the Rev. F. R. Goodfellow, formerly of Matlock Bank,[14] who was the pastor here for seven years. His retirement was caused by ill-heath[15].

After the Goodfellows' departure The Manse seems to have been let for a while to a house decorator and his family. Joseph Harding advertised wallpaper for sale whilst his daughter set up a girls' school with a preparatory department for boys. Her advertisements also stated that "delicate and backward children are specially cared for. Drawing lessons given to private pupils"[16]. Rev. Frank W. Collyer was appointed pastor in 1913 and lived at The Manse with his family[17]. He had formerly lived in Johannesburg and had been chaplain of the Transvaal Volunteers. Rev. Collyer's son, Trooper F. Howard Collyer, died of wounds on 11 October 1915, having been injured in the May[18]. Around the same time Harry H. Evans was ordained as co-pastor[19] and Frank Collier moved to Lavender Hill in London in 1917[20].

Congregational Church schoolroom
The large classroom space was packed with bench seating and the teacher's table is on a raised dais on the right,
with possibly a piano behind it. Almost in the centre of the photo is a vaulting box, split into two sections,
stacked on what could be traditional gymnastics wooden benches.
Whilst this card was not posted it was sent as a Christmas greeting to a Godalming schoolboy, Harry Alfred Harlow
of 39 Hare Lane. There is a printed greeting on the back, from W. H. (William Henry) Dodswell who was a similar age.
Both were born in Kent.[21].

The schoolroom was initially lit with gas lamps but electricity was installed later on. In 1913 there was a problem with the electric cable in the road outside shortly before services were due to start at both the Wesleyan and Congregational churches and householders nearby stepped in to lend candles and oil lamps. The Congregational Church was hosting a guest preacher, the Rev. R. Stewart McNairn of the Evangelical Union of South America, that evening. Instead of the service being held in the church it was decided to hold it in the Sunday school as it was deemed to be more convenient[22].

The house known as The Bridge (on the left of the top image) was demolished in August 1959 and the church spire was removed around the same time[23]. The church (by this time the United Reformed Church) closed about 1978. After this the building was used first by a local auctioneer, then became a restaurant and it is now a retail outlet (2022). Both the church and The Rotunda have been restored and are now Grade II listed.

1. and 2. "Godalming. Congregational Church and Bridge". Published by Craddock, Stationer, Godalming [before 1918]. Not used, so neither message nor postal date.
3. "The Congregational School, Godalming". Published by Fudger, Godalming, Copyright. Stamp box Inland 1/2d. Foreign 1d, so also published before 1918.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Kelly's Directories of 1913 and 1924 state that the Congregational Chapel was founded in 1715.

[2] "Post Office Directory of Godalming", 1878. "Kelly's Directory of Surrey", 1891 also gives the year as 1869.

[3] "The London Gazette", 12 March 1869. "NOTICE is hereby given, that a separate building, named the Congregational Church, situate at the foot of Bridge-street, in the parish of Godalming, in the county of Surrey, in the district of Guildford, being a building certified according to law as a place of religious worship, was, on the 4th day of March, 1869, duly registered for solemnizing marriages therein, pursuant to the Act of 6th and 7th Wm. IV., cap. 85, being substituted for the building-known as Ebenezer Chapel, in Hart's-lane, Godalming aforesaid, now disused". The Ebenezer Chapel did not remain disused as it was subsequently sold to the Wesleyans and was re-opened by them on Tuesday, 21 Dec 1869.

[4] "The London Gazette", 30 July 1844. "NOTICE is hereby given, that a separate building, named Ebenezer Chapel, situated at Godalming, in the parish of Godalming, in the county of Surrey, in the district of the Guildford union, being a building certified according to law as a place of religious worship, was, on the 27th day of July 1844, duly registered for solemnizing marriages therein, ... this 27th day of July 1844".

[5] "Surrey Advertiser", 6 April 1867.

[6] "ibid", 5 November 1870. They held similar celebrations the previous year.

[7] Information from various census returns. Jabez Marshall was born in Northampton and lived in Marshall Road in 1871. By 1891 the family had moved to Frith Hill House and he was described as both the Minister and a Schoolmaster. He was still in Godalming ten years later.

[8] "West Surrey Times", 14 July 1883.

[9] "Kelly's Directory of Surrey", 1891. The number of infants in 1884 accounts of the opening was given as 60.

[10] "Surrey Advertiser", 5 May 1884. The new Congregational Schools.

[11] "West Surrey Times", 24 May 1884.

[12] "Surrey Mirror", 31 May 1884

[13] "Surrey Mirror" 21 June 1884. Employees treat.

[14] "West Surrey Times", 8 July 1893. In 1891 Robert Goodfellow was boarding with Mrs. Nicholson at Bridge House in Matlock. See the census entry in another part of this site | Pastors of Matlock Congregational Church.

[15] "ibid", 29 September 1900. Since it was built the church had only had four pastors. Godalming's parish church had four vicars in the same period.

[16] Information from the 1901 census, "West Surrey Times", 30 August 1901 and "West Surrey Times", "West Surrey Times", 15 July 1905.

[17] "Surrey Mirror", 12 September 1913. He was shown living at the Manse in the "West Sussex Gazette", 11 June 1914.

[18] "Surrey Advertiser", 13 October 1915. Death of Trooper Collyer. He was buried at Eashing Cemetery, aged 25.

[19] "Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette", 9 October 1915.

[20] "Surrey Advertiser", 13 October 1917 and "Westminster Gazette", 06 May 1918. Rev. Collyer had only been at Lavender Hill since June 1917 when he passed away in 1918. He was buried at Godalming.

[21] The 1911 census shows that Harry, whose father was a coach builder, had been born in Herne Bay. Harry eventually returned to Kent. William was born at Hastings.

[22] "Surrey Advertiser", 22 March 1913. Candles in Nonconformist Churches.

[23] Janaway, John "The Story of Godalming" (1983) Local Heritage Books, Newbury ISBN 1 86368005 4. The Surrey History Centre gives the date for demolition as August 1959.

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