Before there was a Church in Swanley, people used to travel to St. Paul's Church
of England at Swanley Village, the Roman Catholic churches at Dartford and St. Mary
Cray and the Congregational Temple at St. Mary Cray. Some travelled to church in
horse carriages or farm carts but many would walk the four or five miles across the
fields to St. Mary Cray or Dartford.
In 1877 a Sunday School began and in 1878 adult worship commenced in the front room
of one of the farm cottages at Petham Court Farm. The cottage belonged to the West
family but we know nothing about them.
The Temple Congregational Church at St. Mary Cray was closely connected to the church
in Swanley. At Swanley, numbers increased and enough money was collected to build
a temporary corrugated iron mission chapel on the site of the present Working Men's
Club. Mr. Thomas Thompson and his wife served the church for approximately five years.
The Hall before demolition in March 1969.
In 1895 the Reverend William St. John Crickmer became the first ordained minister
of our church. He was the son of William Burton Crickmer, a missionary and secretary
of the Colonial and Continental Church Society. After service in the United States
as an Episcopalian minister William St. John Crickmer came to England as a curate
and joined the Congregational Church in 1887. After approximately five years in Swanley
he left for Swanland near Hull where he was minister until 1914. He served faithfully
as a minister for 25 years and was held in high esteem by his many friends and fellow
Rev. William St. John Crickmer, the first ordained minister.
In September 1890 George Harrison Pope began preaching in Swanley. He was brought
up in the Church of Ireland and had attended the Presbyterian churches at Wandsworth
and Putney. After a time at Swanley he assumed the title of Reverend and moved to
the Manse at Moultain Hill in 1902.
In March 1901 a church building committee was established. The cost of the building
was £2,600 and the money was raised very quickly. The foundation stone laying ceremony
took place on Saturday 14th June, 1902. The Church still meets in this building today.
The minister from 1912 to 1924 was Rev. Edmund Scott Wilkinson who lived at 40, Westview
Road, with his wife and two daughters. He moved from Swanley to Loughborough Park
near Brixton in 1924.
At this time, there was a system of pew rents. It was voluntary and was generally
paid for on the quarter days of Michaelmas, Christmas, Ladyday and Midsummer. The
amounts paid varied from a seat at the back at a shilling a quarter to a seat at
the front at twenty shillings a quarter.
The Reverend F. G. Clinton was the minister from 1925 to 1947. He took on many responsibilities
including sweeping out the classroom, visiting church members, acting Church Secretary,
joint Treasurer, producing and circulating a church magazine and leading the Sunday
School, which took place on Sunday afternoons.
Pew rents were abolished over this time, although it was a slow process, with a trial
abolition of pew rents for one year.
Numbers of church members varied considerably at this time, as well as attendance
at Church Meeting. The Church was struggling financially with increasing costs. When
Mr. Clinton left the Church, the London Congregational Union suggested that the Church
should close down and members should travel to worship elsewhere. However, the Church
members were adamant that the Church should stay open.
The Reverend Ralph Robertson was inducted in September 1947. He lived in Eltham and
commuted to Swanley. He moved the Sunday School to the morning. This quadrupled the
number of children attending Sunday School, and brought in many new helpers, including
a group of teenagers.
Edited from the booklet, 'United Reformed Church Christ Church Swanley 1878-1978,'
edited by Julie Peacock, published in February 1978.