The United Reform Church in the High Street has a long an interesting history. A Congregation was possibly founded as early as 1662 and moved to the High Street site in 1801. The church was enlarged in 1810 before being rebuilt in 1840.
- United Reform Church High Street, built 1840
- Congregational Chapel, date unknown c1895
- Rev Summers and "My Boys", c1905 in Congregational School Room (DM)
The History of Independency in Hungerford:
(This is abstracted from an article in the NWN 6 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 20 Dec 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.
Ministers of Congregational Chapel, Hungerford:
1805 William Laxton
1813 Rev. Richard Brackstone
1818 Rev. Richard Frost – lived at 34 HS; died 1850 aged 59 yrs; buried in Chapel's graveyard. Deed of 34 HS states that he died of "exhaustion" at Bethlem Hospital (now Imperial War Museum).
1851 James Alsop
1853 Rev. George Wallis
1855 Rev. John Moreland
1857 Rev. Theophilus Davies
1865 Rev. George Taylor Wallace
1870 William Akehurst Sevan (or ?Bevan)
1872 Benjamin Crowther
1876 Ellis Davenport
1886 John Samuel Haggett
1893 Harry Roderick Barnell (or ?Parnell)
1901 William Henry Summers
[Source: History of the Berkshire, South Oxon, and South Bucks Congregational Churches. By Rev. W.H. Summers]
1911 Student Pastors from Mansfield College:
- 1911 D.W. Langridge
- 1912 H.J.Haile
- 1913 G.Dansby
- 1914 P.G.S. Simmonds, and ? Cullen
- 1915 F.C.Bryan
- 1919 Moffet Peake
- 1920 F.M. Smith and K. Saunders
- 1921 J. Holden
1922 L.W. Eastbourne
- 1922 J.S. Whale
- 1923 N.Snaith
- 1924 A. A. Halfpenny
1924 Joint Ministry with Ramsbury Congregationalists
1927 Student Pastors:
- 1929 W.Cranstone Bell
- 1930 L.Simpson, and Rev H. Cunliffe Jones
- 1931 J. Wilding
- 1932 L. Wheeler
- 1933 R.R.Osborne
- 1934 J.W. Alexander
1935 Rev. Irene Robbins
1946 John Wilding
1951 Ian Ward
1956 H.G. Davies
1970 Colin Richards
1974 D. John Joseph
1981 Les Drayer from America. He returned there.
198? Winston Reed
1988-c.1996 David Bunney
c.1996-1998 A 2-year period with no minister.
1998-2013 Rev. Keri Eynon
The 1851 "Census of Religious Worship" states that the Congregational Chapel was erected 1840 in the High Street. Free sittings 122; other sittings 243. Congregation on 30th March 1851: Morning 120, Sunday School 107, Evening 152. Deacon: Ambrose Lanfearn.
In 1972 the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches combined, and the United Reform Church was formed.
Minister: Revd Keri Eynon, Newbury.
2013 Rev Keri Eynon left - see "Farewell to URC minister", NWN 2.5.2013.
2013 Revd J Sturney.