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1912 and 1914: The story of the Congregational Church in South Road

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 17 December 1912




We doubt if ever there has been held in the Haywards Heath Public Hall a more successful bazaar than that which took place there on Wednesday. It had been arranged by local Congregationalists, eager to pay for a site in South Road on which they intend to build a new place of worship—one which shall be more central and more worthy of the denomination.

For months past the friends of the cause had worked early and late in order to achieve success, and it is very gratifying to them to know that their labours were by no means in vain. Ranged around the Hall were stalls, laden with goods both useful and ornamental, and prettily draped in red and white. In the centre were two other stalls—bearing fruits, flowers and sweets —to which a pleasing Christmassy touch was imparted the red berries of holly and the green leaves of ivy. There was a Christmas tree, and at intervals that friend of children of all ages and of all lands, Santa Claus, appeared. His object was, of yore, to gladden little hearts.

Flags, bunting and Chinese lanterns added to the gaiety of the scene, as also did the little sweet-seller (Miss Gladys Clarke) in her fancy dress of red and white. Those responsible for the effective decorations were Messrs. G. Clarke, C. C. Boorman and W. G. Woodland.

The accommodation of the Hall was severely taxed, and when selling was in full swing it was inconveniently crowded. Persons—both Nonconformists and Anglicans flocked to the bazaar from all parts of Central Sussex to show their sympathy with the project, and, what is more, they materially assisted it by their purchases.

The articles offered for sale were designed to suit all ages, all pockets and all tastes, and naturally enough the stall holders had but little difficulty in disposing of their goods. “A hive of busy bees” is an apt description of the energetic band of workers who organised the function and they found capital leaders in the genial Pastor of the Church (the Rev. George Norton) and his wife. A special word of praise is due to Mr. R. M. Ogilvie for the way he carried out the arduous duties of Hon. Secretary and Treasurer; while “the moving spirits” among the ladies were Mrs. Ogilvie (Working Party Secretary) and Mrs. Douglas Miller.

One the most interesting stalls was that held by the gentlemen, who proved that they could be quite as clever and quite as industrious as the ladies! It was remarkable for its varied character. A roaring trade was done in toilet soap and fruit jellies: window wedges, fire curbs and pairs of steps went fairly well: while there were also egg substitutes and handkerchief boxes. An example of the way in which all worked together was the fact that both the Sunday School and the Mothers Meeting contributed stalls. A bran tub provided much amusement, and many were the “stones” and the “pounds” weighed on the weighing machine. At

THE OPENING CEREMONY the Rev. GEORGE NORTON presided, and after the singing of “O Lord of Heaven and earth and sea” Psalm Ixvii. was read by Pastor J. M. Murray (of the Haywards Heath Wesleyan Church) and prayer offered by the Rev. S. Maddock, A.T.S. (Pastor of the Cuckfield Congregational Church). The Chairman introduced Mrs. Edward K. Hett (of Ardingly), who was to open the bazaar. They had recognised, he said, that a spirit had been over the members of the congregation to meet together, become better acquainted with each other and cooperate for the service of God in their midst. All, right up from the children of the Band of Hope and Sunday School to the Mothers’ Meeting, had done their best to make the undertaking a success.

He took that opportunity of expressing his personal gratitude to the members of the Anglican Church and other communions who were helping them so readily. They wanted £100. They were neither wealthy nor a large community, but they found that they had a great many friends doing what lay in their power. They were anxious to build a Congregational Church in Haywards Heath. At present they had not got one, though there were two in Wivelsfield, and on many a wet and windy night people did not want go right through Haywards Heath into Wivelsfield to church. Mr. Norton gave Mrs. Hett a very cordial welcome, especially as she was a member of the Established Church and a lady with a large heart and broad sympathies. (Applause).

Mrs. Hett said it gave her great pleasure to be with them. She knew that useful work was being done for God in their Church and neighbourhood. the preparations for the building of the Tabernacle of old men and women brought willingly for God’s work, and she wished that to be the keynote of their work there— whatever they did should be for the glory of God and done willingly. She had much pleasure in declaring the bazaar open. (Loud applause). Mrs. Norton then presented Mrs. Hett with a beautiful bouquet of orchids. Mr. C. Clarke proposed a very hearty vote thanks to Mrs. Hett. She bore, he said, the name of a gentleman whom they knew so well, both at Ardingly and Haywards Heath, as a good, kind, Christian, benevolent gentleman. (Applause).

He (Mr Clarke) was one of the “old stagers” who had gone to Wivelsfield for nearly forty years and it was quite time they provided him with a new Church. (Hear, hear). Mr. Fowle seconded. He also alluded to the esteem in which Mr. Hett was held. He was a broad-minded Christian, more than anxious to do all he possibly could for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom, and it was pleasing to know that those good qualities were shared by Mrs. Hett. (Applause). They were members of the Established Church coming to help those who were of a Free Church.

The vote of thanks was enthusiastically accorded. Mrs. Hett briefly returned thanks. Mr. Hett remarked that it was to him a real pleasure to find Christians of different denominations joining together hand in hand in the great work of serving their Master. The closer they got to the feet of Christ the smaller their differences would appear, the greater would be their love, and the more united would be their action. Thus would they show the world


the true spirit Jesus Christ. (Hear, hear). Selling was then briskly proceeded with, and the scene

became an animated one. Great interest was evinced in the articles sent in for competition. Prizes had been offered for the best 2s. cake, 1s. cake, sponge sandwich and best dressed doll, and there was keen competition, particularly in the first two classes. The winners were as follows:—2s. cake; First, Miss Wilson; 2nd, Mr. R. M. Ogilvie; 3rd, Mrs. Ogilvie. 1s. cake: First, Miss Wilson; 2nd, Miss Neate; 3rd, Miss Maynard. Sandwich; First, Miss Wilson; 2nd, Miss Field. Doll: First, Miss Wilson; 2nd, Miss Neate.

In the evening Mrs. Norton distributed the prizes. The efforts of the male sex in the way of millinery caused much amusement. Mr. Bowe was awarded the prize. The names those who presided at the various stalls are appended:- Working Party stall, Mrs. F. D. Miller and Mrs. Ogilvie; fancy stall, Mrs. Hayden, Miss Peerless and Miss Kent; Congregational stall, Mrs. Norton, Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Yeandle; Mothers’ stall, Mrs. Parks, Sen., Mrs. Upton, Miss Hollamby and Miss Sharman: Sunday School, Band of Hope and Christian Endeavour stall, Miss Moseley and Miss Short, assisted by girls; general stall, Mr. and Mrs. Woodland, the Misses Woodland, Mr. Jarrett and Miss Butler . flower stall, Mrs. Parks, Miss Lawson and Miss Muzzell; sweet stall, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. G. Clarke, Gladys and Herbert Clarke ; upholstery stall, Mr. and Mrs, E. Miller; men’s stall, the Rev. G. Norton, Mr. C. J. Norton, Mr. W. Yeandle, Mr. E. Muzzell, Mr. G. Langridge and Mr. C. C. Boorman.

The helpers in the tea and refreshment department were Miss Maynard, Mrs. Hamblyn, Mrs. Packham, Miss Weeding, Miss Neate,, Miss Miller, Miss Leach, Miss Long, Miss E. Hollamby and Grace Jury. Mr. F. U. Howard was Father Christmas, and Mr. S. Fowle was in charge of the weighing machine. A bran tub was looked after by Gladys Cherriman and Winnie Fowle. At the door of the Hall Messrs. G. Clarke and J. B. Gavey were living examples of the words “They also serve who only stand and wait!” Music hath charms, and many people visited the half-hour concerts held in an adjacent room. They had been arranged by Mrs. F. D. Miller, and the artistes, who were frequently applauded, were, besides that lady, Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Hayden, the Misses Cleare, Caffyn, Sibley, Broad, Fuggle, Smith and Pierce, and Mr. Gibbs.

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 15 December 1914


Charles Tucker writes:- Opening of the new Congregational Church, latterly the United Reformed Church in South Road. The original congregational Church was built in Wivelsfield road in 1860, later it was to become St Edmunds C of E church. The one in South Road above, was built in order to have a more modern church.

If it were in the power of human beings to regulate the weather no rain would have fallen in Haywards Heath last Wednesday. That day had been selected for the laying of the memorial stones of a new Congregational Church, and this auspicious event had been eagerly looked forward to by a large number of Free Churchmen both within and outside the town. Being an outdoor function fine weather was hoped for, but, alas, in vain. A tarpaulin had been put over a certain amount of ground, and under this folk—old, middle-aged and young—crowded together, thankful indeed for the shelter it afforded from the rain. But despite the climatic conditions there was no gloom. Friends met friends with a smile and a hearty handshake, and they did so because it was not upon the weather that their thoughts were centred, but upon the new church and the prospect of meeting within its walls in a few months' time.

It will be a fine building, and will seat about 300 persons. The seats will be arranged semi-circularly, so that every person will directly face the preacher, and the floor will slope towards the pulpit end for facilities of sight and hearing. The choir will be arranged on a raised circular-fronted platform on either side of the rostrum, and the organ will be accommodated in a recess behind. A large committee room and minister's vestry will be arranged in the rear of the rostrum and organ, and there will be temporary partitions between these rooms and the church with a view to throwing the rooms into the church eventually. The walls internally will be faced with sand-faced stucco and the ceilings plastered. The character of the exterior of the building will be a simple, but free, treatment of the Late Gothic. The walls will be of red bricks, with stone dressings, and all the windows, as well as the front door, will have stone traceried heads filled in with leaded lights. The roof will be covered with sand-faced tiles.

Messrs. George Baines & Son, of 5 Clements Inn, London, W.C., and Leeds, are the architects, and Mr. Thomas White, of Haywards Heath, is the builder. It is generally agreed that the site situated in South Road is an excellent one.

Among those present at the stone-laying ceremony were the Rev. George and Mrs. Norton, the Rev. Jesse, Mrs. and Miss Taylor (Lindfield), the Rev. S. Maddock (Cuckfield), the Rev. W. C. Chisholm (Burgess Hill), the Rev. J. G. Binney (Brighton), Pastor J. M. Murray (Hayward. Heath), Mr. R. Palmer Baines, M.S.A., Mr. H. White, Mr. C. Clarke, Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Fowle, Mr: and Mrs. R. M. Ogilvie, Mr. and Mrs. W. Yeandle, Mr. Ernest Miller, Mr. G. Langridge, Miss Dewey. Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Woodland, Mr. J. B. Gavey, Mr. W. Howes, Mr. G. Clarke, Mr. J. Clarke, Mrs. Dudeney, Mrs. Portwine, Mrs. Forster, Mr. and Mrs. Hayden, Mrs. Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, Mr. and Mrs. A. Macarthur, Mrs. and Miss Styles, Miss E. Miller, Mrs. and Miss Tolhurat, Mrs. and Miss Pierce, Miss Piper, Miss Neste, Miss Maynard, Miss Short, Miss Moseley, Mies Lawson, Miss Long, Mrs. Wheeler, Miss Taylor, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Botting, Mrs. Horace Hilton, Mrs. Channon, Mrs. Dawson, Mrs. Parks, Mr. J. Brooker, Mr. W. Yeates, Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Brooker, Mrs. Fermor, Mrs. Hamlin, Mrs. Pelling, Miss Jury, Mrs. Prevett, Mr. W. I. V. Newington, Miss Robinson, etc.

The proceedings opened with the hymn "O Lord of Hosts, Whose Glory fills the bounds of the eternal hills." At the end of it the Rev. J. TAYLOR offered prayer, and next a short passage of Scripture was read by the Rev. S. MADDOCK.

From the Rev. GEORGE NORTON (minister at the Haywards Heath Congregational Church) came an interesting statement as to the starting of Congregationalism in Haywards Heath and the erection, fifty-four years ago, of the present church, which, by the way, stands in the parish of Wivelsfield, and was formally opened for worship in 1861. Mr. Norton mentioned that that church was opened free of debt, and he should be pleased if there was no debt on the new church when it was opened. There had been a desire for a Congregational Church in a central position at Haywards Heath for more than a quarter-of-a-century. In 1911 the land in South Road was acquired, and in 1912 it was paid for. Since then money for the building had been collected, and in a quicker time than they had anticipated they had the pleasure of inviting the friends to the laying of the memorial stones. They hoped to invite the friends again in better weather, about next May or June, to open the building, and it would be a satisfaction to them all if they could pronounce then that the building was out of debt. ( Applause).

Mr. R. M. OGILVIE, Honorary Secretary to the Building Committee, made a financial statement, showing that friends of the Congregational cause had been most generous. The site cost £375, and was paid for in 1912. The estimated cost of the church, including the re-erection of the organ, furnishing, &c., was £2,500. In cash and promises £1,858 had been accounted for--leaving £650 to be raised. With their Pastor he sincerely hoped there would be no debt on the church when it was opened. (Applause).

Mrs. GEORGE NORTON and Mr. CHARLES CLARKE were called upon to lay the memorial stones, which they did well and truly "in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost."

To each Mr. R. Palmer Baines presented a handsome silver trowel.

The mallet used, we were informed, had done service at over 170 stone - laying ceremonies, and had been handled by Royalty. At the close of the stone laying the Rev. J. G. Binney offered the dedicatory prayer. A collection followed, and offerings were placed on one of the stones the total amounting to £52 0s 8d.

The Rev. W. C. CHISHOLM, in the course of an able speech, said it gave him great pleasure to take part in that most interesting ceremony, and to express the heartiest good wishes of the Congregational Church at Burgess Hill. Though a simple ceremony, it was one of the deepest significance, for it reminded them of their place in the glorious succession of those who had borne their witness for Jesus Christ and had laboured to build up and extend His Kingdom.

They belonged to the Holy Catholic Church. Their thoughts ran back that day to the little company of men in Jerusalem whose hearts were aflame with faith and love and zeal - the first fathers of the Christian Church - and to what they had accomplished. But their thoughts ran on also into the viewless years. They drew their inspiration not alone from a glorious past, but from a future which was big with promise. To-day they were planning for, and anticipating, some of the victories which, by God's blessing, they might win for Him. It was very significant that, at a time when their country was taking its part heroically and on a great scale in a war which was shaking and changing the whole world, they should be laying the memorial stones of a new Congregational Church.

The survival of the Christian Church, and its vitality, were amongst the outstanding facts and wonders of history. The Christian Church, though so small and obscure in its beginnings, had lived through many a storm and stood firm for those Divine truths and principles which alone could bind the sundered nations into a real and lasting brotherhood, and form a foundation for a worthy and lasting peace. Whilst ruthless warfare was devastating the earth the Church must remember and proclaim its high mission to bring mankind to the obedience of Christ. Amongst the many factors which had helped to create modern England—the England of the last 150 years—the part played by Christianity sometimes was forgotten. It was a great, a romantic, an essential part.

With much of what politics, art, science, literature, invention and commerce had done they were familiar, but sometimes he wondered if people understood how much was owed to the great evangelical revival of the eighteenth century, with its deep concern for the salvation and welfare of the individual, and the great social and missionary movements to which it gave birth. It taught them once again that Christianity was the religion of sacrifice and reconciliation, and they had been learning how thus it was a great empire-building force. After this war England never would be just the same as it had been. Many things had been changed permanently. Great forward steps were being taken. New and nobler elements and conceptions were being wrought into the soul of the nation—but the whole of the possible gain would only be won and kept if all the churches rose to the height of their present opportunity, and in the coming days showed, with a quickened and wiser faith and love, the sacrificial and reconciling spirit. He hoped and believed that, strong in their loyalty to Jesus Christ, the members of that church would face the future in a fearless and enterprising resolve to do their utmost for His kingdom, and, being themselves living stones in this world-wide spiritual fellowship of believers, would have great joy and success in their new work, of which that day was the happy inauguration. (Applause).

Pastor MURRAY, of the Haywards Heath Wesleyan Methodist Church, said he was there that day to convey the best wishes of a sister Church, and to very heartily wish the Congregationalists Godspeed in their undertaking. He congratulated Mr. Norton—not on the weather—(Laughter)--but on seeing that occasion, it being known that he was very keen on getting a church in Haywards Heath. The speaker also congratulated local Congregationalists.

It was a memorable day in the history of their church. To God should be given the very best. Just as they had nice homes so it should be their desire to have a beautiful place in which to worship God. The church they were erecting would stand for many, many years, and it would ever be on record that it was built during the ministry of the Rev. George Norton. (Applause).

The Benediction was pronounced, and then the company was invited by Mr. Clarke to partake of tea in the Church Lads' Brigade Drill Hall in Gower Road, the room having been kindly lent by the Vicar (the Rev. T. G. Wyatt). Here other friends unable to be present at the stone-laying assembled.

After tea a vote of thanks was passed to all the friends who had helped on the motion of Mr. Fowle. He said that that day had been in the minds and hearts of some of their friends for quite a long number of years. Some fourteen or fifteen years ago, when Mr. G. K Terry was Pastor, there were thoughts of the possibility of a new Church; later, in the time of the Rev. J. E. Treater, there was a desire to build; and now the Rev. G. and Mrs. Norton's gift had made it possible to make a definite start. Hope deferred had not made their hearts sick, but had made that day all the more joyful now that it had arrived.

Mr. Ogilvie seconded. He said that in addition to the £52 0s. 8d. received in the collection that day he had received cash in fulfilment of promises made previously to the amount of £554 18s., so that approximately they had taken £600 that day. (Applause). The vote was heartily accorded. Mr. E. STEVENS (of Lindfield) spoke in congratulatory terms, and Mrs. NORTON and Mr. CLARKE also made a few pleasant remarks, the gathering afterwards dispersing .

Thank you to Charles Tucker for background information and to Dave Tucker for the photograph


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