This history was first written in March 1995 and was amended in August 1997, before being amended in March 2007 by Horace L Seller Jnr. It has been modified in 2017.
Although in the nineteen twenties a resident of Hurst Green, Miss Dora Pointer, did write briefly about the history of Pains Hill Chapel, this cannot be traced. It's a shame that writing a history has been left for so long, as many who could have provided a considerable amount of information have died. Therefore there will be unfilled gaps in this history.
Going back to the early part of the 19th century we find God is at work in the locality. A company of people meeting in a farm-house, needed a place of worship and, according to the ‘Evangelical Magazine’, a ‘neat little chapel’ was opened on June 5th 1811. It’s been hard to find this Chapel in the records, but it would appear to be the one in Beadles Lane, Oxted. The deeds of this Chapel don’t give details that far back, but it seems that it was in existence before the railway came to Oxted in 1887. The Surrey Mission Society had started work in the area and had appointed the Rev. S A Dubourg in 1812. He ministered in the Oxted Chapel, and also did other work that stretched from Bletchingly to the Kent border!
The work in Oxted grew and not far away another group at Pains Hill were meeting in the open air, as well as in a farm house. Soon the numbers in the congregation reached 90 and it was decided a new place of worship must be built. They bought a small piece of land next to Limpsfield Common, costing five pounds. On August 6th 1823 a chapel seating one hundred and fifty people was opened and the road running past the chapel was named Chapel Road.
The building was the traditional type for non-conformist chapels, the length twice the width, with a gallery and good acoustics. Narrow pews with red baize covered kneelers were installed. The tops of the pews were so constructed so that narrow planks could be placed on top for special occasions where tables were needed. There were four circular ventilators fitted in the ceiling from which hung large oil lamps. A baptistry for believers’ baptism was sunk in the floor in front of the painted wooden pulpit, which had a small box with a candlestick on either side of the reading desk. Mains water was not connected until 1903, prior to this the baptistry was filled with rainwater from the roof.
The woodwork surrounding the walls and the gallery was painted a dark brown, and the pews a light beige colour. The centre aisle and the area around the baptistry were of red quarry tiles. The heating was by a slow combustion stoves in the main area and in the vestry, by an open fire. A chain hung in the chimney on which to hang a kettle.
The walls were painted green and verses of Scripture in wooden frames were hung on the walls. These gave place to ones on the wall surfaces at the early part of the 20th century. The main one was over the pulpit, “Worthy is the lamb that was slain” was in gold leaf; the others being painted.
Gas lighting and heating were installed around the mid twenties, electric lighting in the early fifties and main drainage in 1958. The front of the building had four blind windows, a reminder of the Window Tax imposed in 1696 and abolished in 1851. This type of structure reduced the number of bricks required which were taxed by a law in 1784 at half a crown per thousand, and in 1803 at five shillings a thousand. This law was repealed in 1850. The front porch was added at some unknown period. An old fashioned gas lamp used to be over the entrance door
On the South side of the chapel was a small stable (from which the Godstone Council raised five shillings a year in Rates for some years), in which worshippers who came from a distance could stable their ponies. This was converted internally and opened in 1930 for use as a children’s classroom. Damp and dry rot ruined the building and it was rebuilt in 1989, with the assistance of voluntary labour.
In 1893 the Surrey Congregational Union took over the Chapel (which had not been used for some time) repaired it, purchased ten feet of land at the rear, and built two external toilets. A kitchen was added to the vestry.
The internal plaster was coming away from the walls in the main part of the building and one of our preachers (manager of a London Building Firm) kindly arranged for it to be repaired at no charge to the Chapel in the early fifties. The front exterior was in very poor shape and that was re-plastered and Pebble Dashed by a local builder in 1957.
Due to ravages of dry rot and woodworm, the interior was renovated (basically as it is at present) by voluntary labour during the late sixties and early seventies. The old pews were removed and the rotting floor replaced eventually with a wooden block floor.
All work was done so as not to interrupt the meetings, which is why the baptistry is on the left hand side and not in front of the pulpit.
The Deeds are very long and most of the wording is unnecessary by modern standards, but some items are interesting. In abbreviated terms: “The Chapel shall be used for the public worship of Almighty God, by a congregation of Protestant Dissenters and the doctrines to be preached are those according to the Shorter Westminster Catechism according to the meaning ascribed by Calvinists.” In the current Ecumenical climate perhaps, many would disagree with such a basis and regrettably ignore it, but our forefathers held their beliefs seriously and committed them to print.
Arising from this, infant baptism was practiced but later discontinued. The Public Records Office has a copy of a non-parochial baptismal register with entries relating to the Oxted Chapel, Pains Hill Chapel and the Bletchingly Meeting House. The original register (containing confidential information) was copied and not set to the Public Records Office but photo copies can be obtained.
Later (the date is unknown) the Chapel was called The Baptist Chapel and that name was used on the 1860 maps. Baptism of Believers only, by immersion, is currently practiced and the doctrinal basis is that of the Reformed position basically in line with the deeds.
The Surrey Mission Society appointed the Reverend D A Dubourg to oversee the work until 1828 when he had to give up for health reasons. He was followed by the Reverend E Nichols until 1855 and then by Mr Henson up to 1862. Mr Cockerton took over the work and lived in Wolfs Row, Limpsfield. Records at this point seem have disappeared but the Surrey Mission Society (wound up in 1874) withdrew their evangelist due to lack of funds. Services continued for a while and finally closed.
A group of Christians who were meeting in a room over the stables at the big house in Greenhurst Park (now a large housing estate in the Pollards Oak area), came to Pains Hill Chapel after it was reopened by the Surrey Congregational Union in 1893. It has not been possible to find out who led the work at this point in time but the Reverend E Corbold who came from Croydon was appointed minister in 1895 and resigned when the Congregational Church in Station Road East was opened.
The people who had been meeting in the room at Greenhurst came to Pains Hill brought many children with them and therefore there was a good-sized Sunday School. Some of the folk from Hurst Green would bring their own food on a Sunday and stay at the Chapel until the evening service. Miss Dora Pointer (already mentioned in the first paragraph) would make them a cup of tea, using the kettle hung on the chain on the open vestry fire.
During the early nineteen hundreds, Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Morphew came to live in the locality and took charge of the Chapel from 1909 to 1919. A lot of evangelistic effort and prayer were put into the work over this period. Mr. Harold Ryde and family had come to live in Oxted and attended Pains Hill. Mr. Ryde then took over the work for seven years when Mr. Morphew moved away. He was also connected with the opening at Hurst Green in 1922 of The Gospel Mission Hall, now known as Hurst Green Evangelical Church. He was now responsible for two places of worship as well as working in the City. Mr. Ryde moved to Cowden in 1926 but still kept the oversight of Hurst Green and preached once a month at Pains Hill for some years.
Mr. R. Gurr became the Superintendent later in 1926 and led the Sunday School for many years. He fostered the missionary interest started by his predecessor. The services were conducted mainly by visiting preachers who were often given hospitality by Mr. and Mrs. Gurr. In earlier years Mr. Gurr had been a member of Dr. Jesse Sayer’s preachers’ training class. These good folks would come from time to time to conduct the services.
Whit Monday meetings with tea in between and supported by other small churches were a feature of Mr. Gurr’s time along with “Coffee Squashes” and evangelistic meetings in the Barn Theatre in Oxted. He resigned in 1948, left the Chapel for a period so as not to embarrass anybody else and came back later as a member staying until Mrs. Gurr went home to the Lord. A short while after he moved to Leicester.
The Superintendency was then taken over the Mr. H. L. Seller Jr. (against advice!). He did not want the Chapel to close, believing that there was potential in the area. A few people left the Chapel but there was a small group of young people who in real fellowship pressed on with the local witness. This continued for some years until most of these young people had moved away.
The book “Congregationalism in Surrey states that “Pains Hill continued to be worked as a mission”. This is not a very accurate statement. The Oxted Church had a committee which technically had the oversight of Pains Hill and met once a year with representatives from the Chapel. The committee allowed the Chapel to run its own affairs without interference. There was no financial support either way.
During his ministry the Reverend Geoffrey Edmonds, always gracious and understanding, conducted a morning service at Pains Hill on an annual basis. Mr. Gurr had taken one or two services at Oxted but there was no other fellowship between the groups. The ministry of Mr. Edmonds was followed by the Reverend Daniel Jenkins and the Reverend Brian Nuttall. The Reverend Ian Ward then came to Oxted. At the next annual committee meeting, it was made very plain by him that the current arrangements were untenable.
Shortly following this meeting, a letter was received from the Oxted Church stating they could not give financial assistance and requested a transfer of the Trusteeship to one of Pains Hill’s choice.
The final outcome was that the Trusteeship of the Pains Hill building was transferred to The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, although the congregation of the Chapel did not become a member of that body. Although the legalities were not completed until later in 1968, Pains Hill had been operating autominously for the two previous years.
A membership was formed and agreed procedures were instigated. There was now shared responsibility. More able people had joined the Chapel and there were several who were able to conduct the services if visiting preachers were not available. The Reverend David Mingard became honorary pastor in 1976 until he moved to Banstead in 1983. Mr. Timothy Burden worked full time at the Chapel for a period in 1981/82 before being called to be the minister of Eastbourne Evangelical Free Church.
A lot of change happened as people moved away, so the responsibility of the work reverted to that similar to the pre-1966 era. This continued into the nineteen nineties. There were only a few people worshipping at Pains Hill, but Christian literature was distributed, a children’s gathering maintained and practical participation in worldwide evangelism as well as the normal services.
Perhaps some may question the continuance of a small work and its effectiveness. Looking back over the years some of those who have worshipped at Pains Hill have gone to work for God in other areas. The records of Edenbridge Baptist Church state that two people from Pains Hill Chapel along with five from Dormansland Baptist Church formed the new Edenbridge Baptist Church in 1847. It has provided a training ground and opportunity which a bigger Church would not be able to offer. There have been requests for the opportunity for public preaching to those who were going into full time ministry. Several have preached their first sermon in the Chapel. Others have been brought by the speaker to share in the services to enable them to get used to public speaking. The Chapel has witnessed quite a few “first sermons” and has helped many to go on and do wonderful things for God:
-There is a letter held, written by the late Mrs. Mary Roberts, who states her husband, Reverend Ebenezer Roberts, was a baptised member and worked in the Sunday School. He went to Spurgeon’s College and later became Minister for thirteen years at Ashford following by thirty-one and a half years at the South London Tabernacle and six years at Crocken Hill Baptist Church, Kent.
-Mr. George Ashton was with the Friends Evangelistic Band (now the F.E.B.V.) and was in charge of the work at the Gospel Mission Hall at Hurst Green before being called to Glory.
-Miss Rachel Firmager who attended Pains Hill, firstly in the Sunday School, later after medical training became a missionary with The China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship).
-Miss Edna Ryde, daughter of the former Superintendent, was for many years a medical missionary in Africa.
-Dr. Eric T. Gurr, son of the penultimate leader of Pains Hill, became a voluntary evangelist of the N.Y.L.C. followed by full time ministries at East Sheen, Barking, Hull, Belfast, Leicester and Toronto, Canada and finally Highgate, London.
-Finally, Mr. Ronald Tamplin (his mother led the Women’s Meeting for several years), an agricultural worker, paid his own way to Bible College and went to Bolivia for eighteen years. Though retired, he was an Elder at a Church in Birmingham. One of his sons is also a Christian minister.
The day of small things is not to be despised. Quite a few have come to the knowledge of the Saviour through the ministry of the Chapel and have moved on to assist faithfully the work of the Lord in other places while living an ordinary life. A spiritual home over the years has been provided for a small company of God’s people. What value can be placed on such things? We live in a day when business criteria have crept into the Church. Expansion, high returns, numerical success and so on. Unless God works, nothing of value will result.
It would be only right to express appreciation of the many who have ministered at the Sunday services and on special occasions, the majority not well known but all preaching the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon (who on one occasion had to preach on the common outside because of the crowd), Dr. Alan Redpath, Dr. Joe Church of the Rwanda Revival, Dr. Bill Young (former international rugby player), a medical missionary in Kenya and Mr. John Lewis of the “SOON” Literature Ministry (Branch of WEC). It is truly amazing how people from all walks of life have given of their time for the service of the Lord and for the needs of the small company at Pains Hill. There have been accountants, bankers, city missionaries, civil servants, barristers, builders, doctors, farmers, gardeners, ministers of the Gospel, office workers and teachers. Members of Caterham Baptist Church provided considerable help in ministry over several years and without that provision it would have been very difficult.
As the year 2000 was drawing to a close, several people joined in worship after their own churches had closed or they had recently returned from abroad. Some of these folks have taken up responsibility for the major functions of the Chapel for which I am most grateful to the Lord.
The attitude of society towards the needs of the disabled was changing and laws were passed so that by October 2005 reasonable access and toilet facilities should to be provided for the disabled in public buildings.
To achieve this the Chapel was altered front and rear to give access to all parts of the building without having to go outside. While this was being executed the Sunday services for May to July 2004 were held in Limpsfield School hall.
The Lord wonderfully provided for this operation and no appeals or fundraising activities were used.
The historic blind windows on the front of the building no longer exist.
During the nineteen fifties and sixties, Mitcham Lane Baptist Church, Streatham would bring a double decker bus load, of mainly young folk, on an August Bank Holiday for a day of fellowship in the country with the Chapel as the base. We rambled, played a modified form of base-ball, had tea on the common and ended the day with an informal service. On one occasion when part of the floor was roped off for baptistry construction the Rev. Arthur Thomson preached on the text Haggai 2 verse 9. “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”, what an encouragement. The Chapel now certainly looks in much better condition.
For some years prior to the closing of the Caxton Convalescent Home (now a block of flats) we picked up folk staying there to bring them to the morning service. Most were non-church goers, one man in his forties came who stated afterwards he had never ever been to a church service and would come again if he was in the district. There was no long sermon on that occasion, John Symons who was the preacher, split up the address into three sections, very clearly explaining the message. It is the Lord who brings about such a situation to encourage His people. Incidentally the old brown pulpit that had been moved to the left-hand corner of the Chapel was in use at that time.
In the early fifties the local branch of the National Children’s Home requested a Sunday school for their children who were brought along by the staff. The home was also a training place for prospective child carers and some of these came to the services. We are still in touch with some after all these years. There was a fire at the home in 1957 and the children were moved to Farley Croft at Westerham where we still continued with the Sunday School. This home closed and eventually after building work in 1965 the home at Pains Hill was reopened and the children came back to Sunday school. This continued until the matron retired and the home took on a different format. A Sunday school, under the title Explorers, was in operation prior to the morning service, but is now closed.
During the nineteen nineties there was a children’s club on a Friday evening with a good number of children attending, with parents coming to the annual carol service. This Friday Club is continued today.
In the early nineteen hundreds, Mr. Morphew had the inscription “The Lord Reigneth” painted on the front apex of the Chapel. It had to be removed because of building repairs in 1957 but this Scripture, “The Lord Reigns”, had been on the outside notice board until 2004.
References have been made to Pains Hill being a Baptist Chapel and the baptistry being moved to a different position. I can remember two baptismal services in Mr Gurr’s time (but not the dates). Thirteen people were baptised on August 22nd 1952. This was a joint service with Hurst Green Evangelical Church. There was one person baptised on August 25th 1954.
Although it has not always been possible to have two services on a Sunday there has been one in the morning. There were two exceptions, firstly on March 22nd 1908 (reason unknown) and secondly January 17th 1987 due to Chapel Road being deep in snow. There was no damage to the Chapel in the storm of October in that year.
Mr C Archer in July 1919 who had preached at the Chapel from time to time, wrote the following poem with the ring of the Authorised Version about it, reflecting the contents of the texts on the internal Chapel walls. There were three on the front and one on either side walls and one on the old gallery, plus the one outside “The Lord Reigneth” already mentioned.
PAINS HILL CHAPEL
O place of Prayer, O house of God,
O trysting place of Heaven,
O seat of blessing, love’s abode
All praise for thee be given.
On hill-top set, to all around
Thou shinest as a light,
“The Lord Reigneth”, truth profound
Is blazoned in our sight.
Thy people love thy every stone
Thou art their heart’s desire,
For here they worship” all as one”
Here catch the heavenly fire.
The “blood “ is aye the preacher’s theme,
The “Book” their constant guide,
And “Jesus crucified” they hymn,
His Name is glorified.
His Name ‘tis Jesus, He shall save.
“Emmanuel” “God with us”,
And ever in that Name we have,
Of joy, an overplus.
Light up thy house with glory Lord,
Bring wanderers to the fold;
Then come, according to Thy Word,
Thy glorious word of old.
Come Lord and take thy people home,
Bid all earth’s strivings cease,
No more in waywardness we’d roam,
Bring in thy reign of peace.
Today, although Pains Hill Chapel only has a small number of members, a service is held twice every Sunday. There is a Bible Study, followed by prayer, on Tuesdays and a children’s club on Fridays. Our preachers travel from a range of different churches, and our two elders also preach. We hold a bookstall in Oxted high street, about 4 times a year, and have a stall at the Oxted Carnival as well as the Hurst Green Fete. We give thanks to God that we are free to worship him and can still give witness to the people of Tandridge district. We pray that more people will join, so that Pains Hill Chapel will be able to continue worshipping God as our current members grow older.