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Summary:

Earliest information: c.1470
Original estate: Hungerford
Common Rights? Yes (Frontage 35ft; 2 horses or 4 cows)
Date of current building: 1840
Listed: Grade II

Thumbnail History:

The URC stands on the west side of the High Street, on a burgage plot between 32 HS (the Old Congregational Manse) and 33 HS (Wilton House. The rear section of URC's property is a walled graveyard about 13m long by 11m wide, and is reached by a narrow path on the south side. Land originally part of the burgage strip to the rear of the graveyard now belongs to 33 HS.

The congregation founded in 1671 moved to this site in 1793, the church was enlarged in 1810 and rebuilt in 1840. [B.O.E. (Berkshire) p.157. Non-conformist Chapels and Churches (RCHM) – C. Stell.]. In 1989 disabled access to the front door was improved by making a ramp.

Description of property:

From Listed Building records: Chapel, 1840 on date panel in centre of façade, in simple classical style. Hipped slate roof, painted stucco with stone parapet, deep frieze, plain cornice, blocking course and low central pediment, moulded floor string, stone plinth. One storey with gallery to street. Three bays separated by full height pilasters, semi-circular headed marginally glazed sashes in outer bays at gallery level, two square headed windows below, central door in doorcase of pilasters, frieze, simple cornice and vestigial pediment approached by four stone steps. Interior: plain with gallery at entrance end.

Photo Gallery:

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- United Reform Church, Feb 2007

- Congregational Chapel, c1910 [The Snapshot Photographic Co, 50 St Mary's Rd, Fulham, London]

- Interrior of Congregational Church, undated. [Albert Parsons.] (DM)

Timeline:

<1470 (NH) John Kymber (Senior)

c.1470 (NH) (QR) The site on which the Congregational (now United Reformed Church) chapel stands may be traced back to the earliest town rental extant, viz. that of c.1470 where there is a half-burgage tenement existing held by John Kymber (Junior) (quit rent 4d.) and which had been held even earlier by a previous John Kymber.

1552 (NH) (QR) The same tenement, described as 'late John Kembers', is owned by one Lyster and in the occupation of Richard Wright (quit rent 4d.).

1573 (NH) Tthe tenement belonged to Stephen Gilbert who had leased it by indenture to Millicent Mawkes a widow. It then consisted of a tenement, garden, and backside.
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1591 (NH) Stephen Gilbert's tenement, garden, and backside was now leased by Thomas Pinnock (q.r. 4d) who continued to be in occupation at the time of the 1609 town survey.

1609 (NH) Stephen Gilbert's owner; leased by Thomas Pinnock (q.r. 4d).

1619 (NH) Stephen Gilbert's freehold was purchased by Thomas Oviatt (Hocktide Court Book). A Thomas Oviatt (who may have been son of the first Thomas Oviatt) died in 1643.

1644 (NH) The property is recorded in the Hocktide Court Book for the year 1644 as being claimed by Thomas Hegden in accordance with the will of the deceased. Hegden is described as the son and heir [presumably stepson] of Thomas Oviatt with a right to the property upon the decease of Oviatt's widow Marie.

1647 (NH) In the Hocktide Court Book for 1647 William Knapp is recorded as the purchaser of Hegden's tenements (plural) and was admitted to the Court. Knapp had married Marian Oviat on 1st. January 1643/4. Although the parish register does not say so, it seems probable that this lady was Thomas Oviatt's widow. Knapp's previous wife had died on October 25 1643, a mere six days earlier than Marie Oviatt's husband Thomas. The coincidence of these three dates suggests a closeness between the two families, perhaps arising from a business partnership. We know that Knapp was a joiner, but we do not know Oviatt's trade. The two deaths so approximate to one another may have resulted from infection, mortality in 1643 (the first full year of the Civil War) being particularly high.

1663/64 (NH) Hearth Tax: Some idea of the physical aspect of the house at that time is fleetingly given in the Hearth Tax returns of 1663 and 1664 when it is said to contain 3 hearths. Of the 99 dwellings which comprised the High Street 52 contained just one hearth (artisan dwellings), 26 contained two hearths (comfortably placed local tradesmen), 9 had three hearths, 6 had four, and there were 5 of five hearths or more. These statistics suggest that it was one of the more substantial properties in the High Street.

1666 (NH) The descent of the property after the sale or transfer to Knapp in 1647 may be traced by reference to the deeds held by the Congregational (United Reform) Church and enrolled in Chancery (C54/9768). In 1666 Knapp (described here as a joiner) sold the property to Thomas Woodroffe plumber and Mary Turner spinster. A foot of fine (20 Charles II Trinity term =1668) exists to this effect; and the transaction is also recorded in the Hocktide Court Book entries for 1667.

A succession of members of the Woodroffe family (most of whom seemed to be named Thomas) held the property for more than a century. As the Woodroffe family acquired several other properties in the High Street during this time, either as freehold or on long lease, it is not always easy to distinguish their holdings. A Thomas Woodroffe was Constable in 1682 and in 1691, also in 1702 and 1738. References to Thomas Woodroffe of Lambourn (1692) and Thomas Woodroffe of Ramsbury (1745) suggest a residence outside Hungerford also.

1676 (NH) (QR) Thomas Woodroffe, q.r. 4d.

1724 (NH) In 1724 Thomas Woodroffe plumber insured his property against fire, but whether this was the house obtained from Knapp or another house on the East side which he certainly insured in 1732 we do not know.

1753 (NH) (QR) Thomas Woodroffe, q.r. 4d [a later Thomas Woodroffe!]

1770 (NH) In 1770 Thomas Woodroffe died and administration of his estate was granted to his widow Hannah. In recounting the earlier history of the property the deeds state that in 1771 a lease and release took place between Thomas Woodroffe (presumably son of the Thomas deceased in 1770) and Hannah Woodroffe widow, of the one part; and Mary Young spinster and John Young tanner, of the other part. In 1787 a similar lease followed by a release took place between Thomas Woodroffe and John Young. A fire insurance policy of 1777 was taken out by Thomas Woodroffe in 1777 on his house and brewhouse adjacent in the tenure of Robert Smith plumber and glazier. The similarity of trade occupation (both were plumbers) as well as the position of Robert Smith in residents/commoners list of this time lead to the supposition that this is the same property.

1774-95 (NH) (QR) Benjamin Friend, late Thomas Woodroffe, q.r. 4d. At some date between 1774 and 1795 possession passed to Benjamin Friend. Friend had married Mary Young, presumably the lady referred to in the arrangements of 1771. In 1795 Benjamin Friend and his wife Mary granted (a lease of ?) the property to William Friend, surgeon. In 1801, however, Benjamin Friend of Cheltenham granted a 21 year lease to William Graham and John Barfield at a yearly rent of £10, with the option that if they desired to purchase the messuage they should be lawfully able to do so. These details may be compared with, entries in the Quit Rent Rolls of 1676 (Thomas Woodroffe 4d,), 1753 (ditto, though a later Thomas Woodroffe of course), 1774 ditto but a later superscript has substituted "M. Friend late Thomas Woodroffe". This substitution must have occurred before 1795. In the 1795 quit rent roll the name of the payee is left blank and the entry simply states — "for the house late Thomas Woodroffe's". In 1805 it is entered as Benjamin Friend", later (before 1818) being altered to "devisees of Benjamin Friend", and a different handwriting has added the words "Meeting House".

1781 (CL) ?Robert Smith position unclear.

1793 Congregational Church came to Hungerford on this site.

The History of Independency in Hungerford - NWN 6th Jan 1870

A paper on the rise and progress of Independency in Hungerford was read at recent entertainment in the Independent Schoolroom, by Mr. G. Skinner, who stated, by way of preface, that for much of the information within his reach he had to thank the Rev. Theophilis Davies, who, when he was Pastor here, went to a great deal of trouble in gathering information on the subject.

Nonconformity in Hungerford is supposed to date from the year 1662, August 24th, when 2000 ministers were ejected from the Established Church, the Rev. John Clarke, rector of Hungerford, being among the number. He, it is generally believed, formed an Independent Church soon after, but there is no authentic-record of a Church of Protestant dissenters until thirty-one years later.

Dr. Calamy, speaking of Mr. Clarke and his ejectment, describes him as a grave, serious, and zealous preacher, of a solid understanding, .peaceable spirit, and blameless life, a sworn enemy both to error and profaneness, dearly beloved among his people.

The following extract from the "London Christian Instructor" gives the earliest authentic information of Nonconformity in this town. "There appears (says the writer in this work) to have been; in the year 1693, a congregation of Protestant dissenters in this place, of which the Rev. Benjamin Robinson was invited to become the pastor. He removed from his former residence, Findern, in Derbyshire, for that purpose. Mr. Robinson exercised his ministry with great acceptance for seven years, and instituted, in the year 1696, a private academy". This measure, says Dr. Toulman, awakened enmity against him with 'the eminent prelate, Bishop Burnet, who sent for him as he passed through Hungerford in the progress of his visitation; to whom he gave such satisfaction, both as to his understanding and his own Nonconformity, as paved the way for a kind intimacy ever afterwards.

Mr. Edward Godwin, who had been educated under the learned Samuel Jones of Tewkesbury, became assistant to Mr. Robinson, in his double charge of pastor and tutor, about a year or two before Mr. Robinson removed to London in 1700.

On Mr. Robinson's removal the academy was dissolved, but Mr. Godwin continued pastor of his church until 1722, when he again became co-pastor with Mr. Robinson, then at Little St. Helens.

Dr. Doddridge is said to have submitted the manuscript of his Family Expositor to the judgment of Mr. Godwin, who made several alterations and improvements, and assisted the Doctor to carry it through the press.

Hungerford was also the birthplace of the Celebrated Dr. Chandler, who was born there in 1693.

Where these Protestant dissenters worshipped, or what is become of the building in which they usually assembled, there appears to be now no means of ascertaining. The only information throwing any light upon the subject which can now be gathered is "that in the memory of old men now living there used to be some old houses standing where Mr. May's garden and lawn now is, in front of the Tannery and opposite to the Bear Hotel, and at the back of these houses there was a place called Chapel Barn." Whether it was in this place the Independents worshipped, or whether the barn was so named from a chapel which formerly stood in its vicinity cannot now be ascertained.

From 1722, the time of Mr. Godwin's departure from Hungerford, there is a gap in the Nonconformist history of the place of seventy-eight years - that is, from 1722 to 1800, when the history of the present church commences.

The late J. H. Hopkins, who died in 1859, at the age of 75, was the first stationed minister. In 1801 or 1802, a workshop, where the school-room now stands, was taken and fitted up as a chapel.

The pulpit was supplied for a considerable time by ministers from Newbury, and the necessary expenses were chiefly defrayed by Newbury friends.

Applications having been made to Hoxton Academy for a student to come and occupy the pulpit, the Rev. JJ. H. Hopkins was sent down. After a pastor of four or five years, Mr. Hopkins resigned 'his charge, feeling discouraged by the apparent want of. results from his ministry. It was afterwards found, however that his labours had been productive of good to the souls of some of his hearers. For three months after his departure the pulpit was supplied by Mr. Barnes, Mr. Brooks, and Mr. Spurgeon.

In 1805 the Rev. Wm. Laxon accepted an invitation to become the settled pastor.

A Sunday school was commenced the same year, and the Church was formed on the 20th December, 1805.

The following is the record of the event, given in the Church book, viz: - "Record of the Formation and Proceedings of the Church of Christ of the Independent denomination at Hungerford: The friends of the gospel at Newbury, knowing the wretched state of the inhabitants of Hungerford, were moved with compassion, and obtained a place for preaching; and a Christian Church was at length formed on the 25th day of December, 1806."

The names of the parties signing the Church covenant were - Sophia Faulkner, Caroline Newman, Sarah Cadman, Jane Wright, Sarah Chidwick, Sarah Palmer, Frances Bailey, Hannah Sheppard, Sarah Farmer, and Edward Farmer.

How long Mr. Laxon ministered to the church there is no record to show, as there is no further record in the church book until 1813.

Sophia Faulkner was the maternal grandmother of Messrs. John and Joseph Dredge, the latter of whom married the daughter of the Rev. Theo. Davies, and is still connected with the cause here.

Mrs. Faulkner died in 1844. Her husband came here from Newbury, was successful in business, and formerly gave out the hymns in public worship.

In the names of Sheppard and Cadman we have still among us representatives of the original founders of this church.

The Rev. Richard Brackstone commenced his pastorate in 1813, and remained about three years.

In 1817 the little chapel was altered and enlarged.

The next minister was the Rev. Richard Frost, who was ordained here in August, 1818. He now became very popular, and was much followed.

The chapel became crowded to overflowing. The old chapel having become too small, it was resolved to take down the house in front and erect a new chapel on the site. This was carried out in 1810, on the 28th of May, in which year the corner stone was laid by Mr. Frost.

The Rev. Dr. Leifchild preached at the opening. By the spirited liberality of the people, the whole debt incurred was soon paid off.

Mr. Frost, having sustained the pastorate for thirty-two years, died on the 16th of December, 1850; and was succeeded by the Rev. J. Alsop, a man of extraordinary preaching talent, who resigned his charge December 27th, 1852.

The Rev. G. Wallis, of Fosbury, assumed the pastorate in August, 1853 ; but unable to come to live among his people, and finding it inconvenient to come and return so great a distance, he resigned in December, 1853.

The Rev. J. Moreland succeeded Mr. Wallis, and became the minister on the 7th of January, 1855.

Having received a call from the church at Faringdon, he accepted it, and closed his ministry here on the last Sunday in 1856.

The next minister was the Rev. Theophilus Davies, who terminated his pastorate in June, 1805, having completed his eighth year among his people.

We then come to the settlement of the Rev. G. T. Wallace, formerly of Aspatria, and who commenced his pastorate the first Sunday in October, 1865.

After a pastorate of four years, he resigned his charge on the first Sabbath of October, 1869, and left for Stokesley, in Yorkshire.

From account we find that Independency had its birth here more than two centuries ago; it still lives, and we have faith that it will yet live and flourish.

The principles of Voluntaryism have made rapid strides of late, and we believe the time is not far distant when all religious bodies will be placed on an equal footing. Then there will be no reason for petty jealousy one with the other, but each will in its own strive to the utmost to advance the kingdom of Christ, and hasten that happy time when his reign shall be universal throughout the entire world.

1801 (*1) "A building obtained and fitted for services"

1805 (*1) First pastor appointed – Rev William Laxon. Sunday School founded

1815 (NH) Benjamin Friend died in 1815 and his will incorporates the following: "whereas William Graham and John Barfield were desirous to purchase the said messuage so demised to them for £220, this indenture witnesseth the sale by Graham and Barfield to (15 names) of all that messuage or tenement in Hungerford, Berks, lately in tenure or occupation of — Gale surgeon and afterwards of Thomas Dee surgeon with the outhouses, yard, garden, etc. together with the chapel or meeting; house lately erected on some part of the said heriditament and which now and for some time has been used as a place of religious warship far Protestant Dissenters (called Independents)." The messuage is further described as having a brewhouse, barn, stable, backside, yard and garden, and its bounds are given on all sides

It would seem from the above references that a permanent meeting house for Congregationalists was in existence prior to Friend's will in 1815, According to Charles Camburn (Summers, p.164) "as early as 1801 a building was obtained and fitted for services, and in 1817 it was altered and enlarged and is now [c.1920] used as a schoolroom. The first pastor was appointed in 1805." This is said to have been W. Laxton. The date 1817 is derived from the front left cornerstone of the present chapel which reads "The chapel erected in 1817 having become inadequate, this corner stone was laid May 28 1840 by the Rev. Richard Frost". The V.C.H. however, gives 1806 as the date of the building of the chapel on a site "at the back of the present chapel" and after the building in 1840 of the present chapel the old chapel was used as a Sunday school. It gives as its authority the Congregational Year Book for 1912 (
1817 (*1) "Altered and enlarged, later used as a schoolroom".

1817 Chapel's front left corner stone states "The Chapel erected AD 1817, Having become inadequate, This corner stone was laid May 28th 1840, By the Rev. Richd. FROST".

1817 Two initialled and dated plaques "JF 1817" and "SVF 1817" on either side of the rear window of the schoolroom. JF was probably Joseph Faulkner of Hungerford (in the Wiltshire part), auctioneer. SVF was his widow Sophie Viner Faulkner. See NH's notes on the 1818 indenture below.

1836 (QR) Trustees of Independent Meeting House, q.r. 4d.
1840 "1840 Congregational Church" name on façade of building at roof level.
1847 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1861 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1864 (BD) Congregational Chapel "is a fine looking building in High Street. It was erected in 1817 and enlarged in 1840. No stated minister. Service 10.30am and 6pm. Mon. and Thurs. 7.30pm".
1896 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1902 (T&M Register) Trustees of Independant Chapel (owners)
1903 (T&M Register) Rev W H Summers (occupier until 1905)
1907 (T&M Register) G P Hattrell (occupier until 1910)
1914 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1932 (QR) Congregational Church (Batt) "Chapel. Trustees of the Independent Chapel".
1947 & 1952 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1956 & 1963 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1964 Western end of property sold to Spackmans for new house off Prospect Road
1968 & 1970 (CL) Trustees of Independent Chapel
1972 Foundation of United Reform Church (combining of Congregational and Presbyterian Churches). Name changed.
1976 (CL) Void
1987 URC became Christchurch (URC + Methodist + Baptist).
1988 United with Primitive Methodist Chapel of Bridge Street – but this union broke down.
1989 Refurbishment of façade, interior and graveyard of URC.
1983 (CL) Void
1984 (CL) Void
1985 (CL) Void
2000 (CL) Void
2005 (CL) Void
2011 (CL) "32 HS" Fiona Claire Spendly Hobson

See also:

- United Reform Church

- The History of Independency in Hungerford - NWN 6th Jan 1870

- Congregational Church - plan of graveyard (by Lois Pihlens, 1988)

- Norman Hidden - notes on Congregational Chapel

- Norman Hidden - Correspondence and further notes

- URC Plans from Conveyance 11th Apr 1962

- URC Land Registry Plans 4th Dec 1964

- URC Undated plans for alterations not carried out

- URC Ground Floor plan

- URC List of title deeds, 1987

- URC - Article in "The Bridge" by David Bunney, and invite 1989-90

- 1988: Plan of graveyard with details (by Lois Pihlens).

- Also in file – Wesleyan Chapel yard and Church Street.

- Also notes on deeds from URC Headquarters, London, re 18th century deeds on this site.