The History of Greenford Baptist Church
The church building in recent times
The church building in the past
Click About Greenford to read about the history and current overview of Greenford town.
(WebAuthor’s Note: The following text was written in 1980, unless indicated otherwise)
Jubilee Greetings from from Haven Green Baptist Church, Ealing
"Members and friends of Haven Green send Christian greetings to the fellowship at Greenford Baptist Church on the occasion of your Jubilee. Despite early set backs through fire and war damage, you have grown as a fellowship and our prayer is that you will continue "to bear fruit in active goodness of every kind, and grow in the knowledge of God." (Colossians Chapter 1 verse 10).
A hundred years ago Haven Green was being built, and we look back with thankfulness to God that from our root, you and other fellowships have grown"
Rev Roger Hayden
Jubilee Greetings from Greenford Methodist Church
"The Minister and people of Greenford Methodist Church send their hearty congratulations and warm good wishes to their friends at Greenford Baptist Church. We celebrated our own Golden Jubilee in 1975, so our two churches have grown up together. We both suffered severe damage during the war. We were able to offer you some help for a short time, but then we too were bombed out of our own church. So we have shared our troubles, but not only troubles. For many years we have joined together for the Christmas and Good Friday services, and we hope that this and other forms of co-operation will continue into the future. We pray God's blessing upon your celebrations, and upon all the work and witness of your Church as you move into your second half century."
In The Beginning........
Early in 1930, when Greenford was changing rapidly into a populous suburb, a certain Major Browning set out to canvass a thousand homes in the area and succeeded in bringing together a number of Baptist folk. He also discovered that Haven Green Baptist Church, Ealing, was interested in trying to found a new church in Greenford. After canvassing diligently, Major Browning presented a list of interested people to the Rev. F. J. H. Humphrey and deacons from the Ealing Church who were to be sponsors for this new work.
Just at that time a Mr. Peppiatt, a deacon from Haven Green and a land developer, had acquired the estate of Lady Lawrence. This property stretched from Oldfield Lane down to what is now Greenford Road. Where List's the baker is now, there was Lady Lawrence's large country mansion called "The Cottage". Mr. Peppiatt offered it to Rev. Humphrey for use until such time as he should require to sell it. The offer was accepted and the Haven Green diaconate appointed four deacons to watch over the Greenford project. "The Cottage" lounge was used for Sunday services. There were about 112 people received into membership from November 1930 to July 1933. Of this 112, three members are still in fellowship today–Mrs. Edna Halden (November 1930), Mrs. M. Bosworth (June 193 1) and Mrs. Olive Pearce (November 1938). The late Mr. A. J. Bosworth who latterly served as Church Treasurer for 15 years died in February 1978. Mrs. Tregidgo, another one of the original founders, died just over a year ago in August 1978.
At the beginning of 1931 it was decided to form the Greenford Committee to represent the members' views and suggestions to the friends at Haven Green. Mr. E. A. Barritt was appointed by Haven Green to be the Greenford Branch Secretary and Mr. A. J. Bosworth was chosen by the Greenford Committee to be his assistant.
Rev. H. G. Hoare
On April 3rd 1932, the Rev. and Mrs. H. G. Hoare and their three sons were taken into membership. Rev. Hoare offered to take the oversight of Greenford with no stipend, only his expenses. Prior to this, services on Sunday were being led by visiting ministers or one of the four deacons from Haven Green. Rev. Hoare had, in fact, retired from his last pastorate in Dunfermline, Scotland, but after the sudden sad death of his daughter (a missionary in India) Mr. Hoare felt it would be a challenge to concentrate on the building up of new Baptist churches and to this end came out of retirement. Mr. Hoare had already helped the church in College Road, Harrow, to get back on its feet.
On June 26th 1935 the Hoares left to go to Rayners Lane Baptist Church, which is known–in memory of his daughter–as the "Janet Hoare Memorial. After completing his work there, he moved to Ruislip Baptist Church and then to Kenton. It was there he passed away on March 30 1946.
The Building Fund
As numbers of church members increased, it became clear that more adequate accommodation would be needed. From humble beginnings a building fund was launched, and soon a suitable piece of land was secured for the building of a new church to seat 450 people. The site at Beechwood Avenue/Ruislip Road cost £7,500.
The First Church Building
The opening of the new church took place April 22nd 1933. The building was filled to capacity.
On July 19th 1933 the first Church Meeting of Greenford Free Church (Baptist) took place. The reason for the name "Free Church" was at the request of the builder, a Baptist deacon, Mr. C. W. B. Simmonds. He offered to erect the building at cost price, free of profit, on condition it would be so named.
Mr. Humphrey, who presided, with Mr. Hoare at this first meeting, read the same articles of general Baptist belief as had been done at a similar opening at Haven Green on October 18 1881. The members of the newly constituted Church were offered the right hand of fellowship by Rev. Hoare. Mr. Barritt, retired as Secretary of the Greenford Church now that it was no longer part of Haven Green Church. Mr. Bosworth, who had been his assistant, was duly appointed as Secretary to Greenford Free Church (Baptist). The first diaconate comprised Mr. H. W. Cater, who had served as branch treasurer, Mr. A. J. Bosworth, Mr. Levi Perry, Mr. A. Searl and Mr. P. Turner.
The first communion service was held after the meeting had concluded.
May 29 1933 saw the occasion of the first baptismal service in the new church. The candidates were Mrs. White, the Girls Life Brigade Captain, Mrs. Bosworth, Mrs. Barby and one other.
On July 19 1934 John Sanders of Ealing presented the church with a gift of £1,000 toward building and fabric costs.
Rev. F. C. Minard Perkins
Mr. Perkins married late in 1936, but sadly his wife, Doreen, after a long illness, died of pneumonia in November 1939. Mr. Perkins' aunt, Miss Frances Minard, came to keep home for him.
May 5 1935 saw the commencement of the ministry of Rev. F. C. Minard Perkins from Marlow (his first pastorate). He was a single man and soon settled down to the work at Greenford. The church, in spite of a few teething problems, continued to grow.
The War Years
War clouds had begun to form and darken the skies and in September 1939 war finally broke out. News of it was first heard at morning service and almost immediately the air raid sirens sounded. It was, however, unanimously agreed to continue with the service in spite of the warning which, in fact, proved to be a false alarm. On Monday, 30 September 1940 the warning sirens were not false and at 12.40 a.m. the church, for which so much hard work had been given, was totally destroyed by a direct hit of a high explosive heavy calibre bomb.
Many homes in the area were also struck, doing much damage to property, insignificant however compared with the tragic loss of life and injury. Several church members also lost their homes.
Offers of Help
Both the Greenford Methodists and friends from the Church of England (Holy Cross) offered all possible assistance and use of premises. At first Church services continued at the Methodist Church, but after a while members met at Stanhope Boys School. On the ruined building was placed a notice, "The Church is down but we are not." Midweek prayer meetings were held at the Manse.
The Tin Tabernacle
The first donation for a new church came from the friends at Haven Green in December 1940. This was followed by a gift from Marlow Baptist Church (Rev. Perkins' previous church). Members of the Greenford Church soon became restless for a new building and a temporary building fund was started. By the end of June 1941 the fund had reached £133.
A local farmer, who was a Baptist Lay Preacher, had an old corrugated iron out building which he offered for the sum of £10. With the assistance of a local builders merchant, H. G. Slade, the craftsman husband of one of the members, and Mr. W. A. Whipps, the dismantling and re-erecting of the building on the church site was made along with all that remained of the original building, the kitchen and toilets. The 'Tin Tabernacle' sufficed for a while (apart from leakage when it rained) and seated 100 people. Friends at Western Road Baptist Church, Southall, helped by offering their baptistry when it was needed.
At this time the Sunday School and other Youth work had ceased as most children of the district had been evacuated chiefly to South Wales, Gower Peninsula and Devon.
As mothers and children started to filter back, the Sunday School began again and at first, classes were held in homes. By October 1941 there were sufficient children to enable normal Sunday School to recommence. Mr. Moore, a local chemist, who had a shop opposite Eastmead Avenue along the Ruislip Road, offered the use of his premises. This helped considerably and part of the Sunday School was held there. It was looked upon as the Youth Centre as it was also used by Mrs. and Miss Jackson who ran Campaigners, and the Girls Life Brigade (as it was called then) also used it. Mrs. and Miss Burt also found a home in the flat above and Lena Burt still lives there today.
Oldfield Baptist Church
At Bloomsbury Central Church on September 23rd 1942 Rev. Perkins married again. His second wife, Rose Parnell from Portsmouth, had been working for the National Children's Home.
In 1944 the Greenford Church was asked to undertake the oversight of Oldfield Baptist Church and one of the deacons, Mr. P. Turner, and his family were transferred to membership there and did a fine job for a number of years before emigrating to Australia with his daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Perkins gave part of his time to Oldfield Baptist for which they made a contribution toward his stipend.
In April 1946 Mr. L. B. Crowe came to the church at Greenford from London Bible College as an assistant to Mr. Perkins to help with the work at Oldfield Baptist Church. In October 1946 he became their full-time Pastor.
By the Spring of 1944 accommodation at the 'Tin Tabernacle' became insufficient and it was obvious that new plans would have to be made. It was decided to extend the temporary building by knocking out one end and adding a brick built section. The work was given to a local builder who completed the task for £144. This increased the seating capacity to 150 but it was only adequate for a short time.
Mr. Perkins due to illness had been advised by his doctor to move south and for the first time in its history the church was to be without a Pastor. At that time the pastorate at Romsey Baptist Church became vacant and in response to an invitation from the church there, Mr. Perkins left, albeit with regret, late September 1946.
Rev. N. R. Richards
During the period of interregnum Rev. Hugh Butt from Southall and then Rev. G. Picketing of Hanwell were moderators for the church. The time without a minister lasted until September 1947 when on the 20th, Rev. N. R. Richards from South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff, was ordained and inducted to the pastorate.
Rev. Richards' ministry proved a successful one and it was not long before lack of space became a problem again.
Building restrictions were still very severe and after much searching a sectional pre-fabricated concrete structure was found. This type of building was commonly used during the war for public restaurants, where a substantial coupon free meal could be obtained at a moderate price!
This was purchased for £185 and a temporary building licence was secured for three years. One of the deacons, the late Mr. F. Hall, who was a builder and had worked with the local Council agreed to supervise the building.
The structure was in sections of pre-cast concrete with concrete supports for the wooden girders. The men and older boys of the church together with the Pastor, worked every Saturday and the longer evenings during the week as well.
Electrical equipment providing heating for the winter and fans for the summer were installed. A baptistry was also built, the only problem being how to fill and empty it. This was finally overcome by running a hose from the old kitchen to fill it, and using the same hose with a suction pump it could be emptied.
The new building was opened April 16 1949 by the Mayoress of Ealing.
In 1953 notice was given to have the temporary structure dismantled to make way for the front part of the present building, under War Damage Commission claim. The problem was how to dispose of it.
As an answer to prayer, an offer The 'Pre-Fab was received from the Reading branch of the British Legion to purchase it. This was agreed, providing they made the arrangements for dismantling and removing it. They agreed and for £137 purchased it. Building work had now to begin all over again.
During this time, Methodist friends gave assistance again and Sunday Services were held in their hut.
The bomb which had destroyed the original church demolished not only the building but went through the foundations of solid concrete too leaving a crater some 25-30 feet wide. There was some delay due to a dispute with the War Damage Commission in connection with the crater. No firm bottom could be found in the crater and consequently, before they would allow rebuilding to proceed further, they insisted that the hole be filled in with dry cement and the foundations strengthened by driving piles all round the foundations. This work added considerably to the bill, but the War Damage Commission finally agreed to pay it.
The architect said afterwards that it was the strongest foundation he knew within miles! The church was on a sure foundation in more ways than one. The deep piles however were, 14 years later, to be the source of more headaches when the existing extension was built. They apparently did not appear on the plans lodged with the Town Hall so that the architect was unaware of their presence.
On Saturday, 23rd April 1955 the present church building was opened for worship. The total cost amounted to approximately £30,000.
Retirement of Rev. Richards
In July 1955 Rev. Richards became very ill and needed a long stay in hospital. It was not until September 4 1956 that he was well enough to attend a Deacons' Meeting. It was at the meeting that he informed them of his wish to resign from the pastorate having been given strong medical advice to do so. This he did on 10 October 1956.
Through the long and trying period of interregnum, the deacons and members faithfully maintained the witness of the church, greatly assisted by the Area Superintendent Rev. W. D. Jackson.
Rev. E. M. Forward
For two years the church was without a Pastor and Rev. A. E. Willmot agreed to be the Moderator, a position which he filled with distinction until Rev. E. M. Forward from Bushey Baptist Church was inducted to the Pastorate on Saturday, 18 October 1958
Mr. and Mrs. Forward settled down quickly. Rev. Forward's ministry was essentially evangelical (bible believing) and proved particularly fruitful among the young people. Three of them have since become Baptist ministers themselves – Dr. Paul Fiddes, Rev. James Binney and Rev. Stephen Barton.
The main hall (Browning Hall) was too large for small gatherings, whilst the two dressing rooms adjacent to what used to be the stage at that time, were too small and frequently unusable anyway as equipment was stored in them.
On January 5 1959, the question of an extension was raised at the Deacons' Meeting. The first application for a loan from the Baptist Building Fund and the London Baptist Property Board was made in March 1959. The Northolt Village Mission greatly encouraged the church by making a generous donation of £1,000. Unfortunately the Baptist Building Fund were unable to grant a loan at that time and suggested application be made again in 1960.
The architect, Mr. A. O. Edwards, submitted a proposal which amounted to £9,000 which was generally agreed. From old minutes the meeting held on September 20 1961, it was stated that "it was hoped to start building in 1963". The first attempt was not, however, proceeded with. It was not until 1964 that the question was raised again and this time Mr. Cyril Greening of K. C. White and Partners was appointed as architect.
The extension was actually started in 1969 and the new halls were opened for use May 30 1970 at a cost of £22,000.
Rev. Forward did not remain to see the building started as he left Greenford December 1967 to take up the pastorate at New Malden Baptist Church. Once again Rev. A. E. Willmott stepped in as Moderator during the interregnum, which lasted nearly 2 years. During this time Mr. D. Urquhart, then the Church Secretary, shouldered much of the responsibility. Both Mr. Urquhart and his wife have been active members of the church since 1953. (In 1978 Mr. Urquhart retired as Church Secretary after 25 years faithful service).
Rev. L. A. Bayly
After the long period without a minister, Rev. L. A. Bayly from Mansfield was called to the Pastorate and commenced his ministry on 1st November 1969. Rev. Bayly, earlier in his ministerial life, had been associated with West Ealing Baptist Church. Through hard work and determination it was during Rev. Bayly's ministry at Greenford, that the church finally became free from the burden of the building extension debt. Rev. Bayly sacrificed much personally so that the church debts might be paid. This, together with his constancy and faithful teaching ministry proved to be a great blessing and inspiration to many people.
After a trying time with his health, Rev. Bayly felt that he should retire from the ministry and in March 1977, he and his wife moved to Ramsgate.
Rev. M. Goodspeed from North Hanwell Baptist Church agreed to be the moderator. During this time he helped and encouraged the church considerably.
Rev. John Bunt
Once again, the church had to find a new man. On 17 September 1977 Rev. John Bunt from Bristol was inducted into the Pastor at Greenford.
Through the history of the Baptist Church at Greenford, with its changes of building and ministers, it cannot be forgotten that God has been with His people, inspiring, encouraging, guiding and comforting. It is to Him that the church as a body of Christians, must look for the future.
Greenford in 1980 The Church that is not experiencing change is probably not growing and not enjoying the fullness of the Lord's blessing, since the Lord is always leading us on into new things. A Church that is alive must, by definition, be growing.
The coming of the Reverend John Bunt to the Church at Greenford in September 1977 was the culmination of a brief but valuable interregnum in which the Lord was already bringing about change in practical ways and spiritual direction.
The initial impact of Mr. Bunt's arrival was notably chiefly due to Andrew and Nicola Bunt (then aged 4 and 2 for those unacquainted). Since there was a lack of young families in the Church at that time, the introduction of two high spirited youngsters was quite a shock, although their father tells me that now the initial excitement of new surroundings has worn off they are really quite placid children!
The lack of young families in the Church was one of the initial problems tackled with a change from afternoon to morning Sunday School and the introduction of monthly family services. Although not without its problems, primarily for the Sunday School in making the necessary adjustments, this change has transformed the morning service from a small gathering to a normally full Church. An added joy on a number of occasions, has been the moving back of the partitioning to accommodate the overflow into the Browning Hall.
Another feature of the morning service is the number of dedication services held, which are becoming something of a speciality to our Pastor, and a source of 'internal Church growth'.
A great joy, in the early months of Mr. Bunt's ministry, was to reap where others had sown and seven girls were received into membership following baptism.
In the last two years missionary interest has been stimulated by the departure to Zaire of Miss Joan Maple; the first BMS missionary from this Church. Joan's valedictory service was on 13 February 1978 and in August of that year Joan came home for a holiday and was able to give us all a personal insight into the work.
Links with a number of Baptist Churches have been strengthened through the return of 'old boys' Rev. Stephen Barton (Stanmore) and Rev. Jim Binney (Streatham) to the London area and the closer ties forged with North Hanwell in the interregnum. From all these sources Church life at Greenford has certainly benefited and we are thankful for these friends and others who support the work at Greenford.
In a short article one cannot possibly do justice to the tremendous week-by-week work that is done in so many Church organisations including the Boys and Girls Brigades, Sunday School, Christian Endeavour, Youth Club, Women's Own and Ladies Fellowship. Much of the life of the Church is expressed in their activities and we pray the Lord will continue to bless each organisation as parts of one Church growing both numerically and spiritually.
On the practical front Mr. Bunt inherited a Church free of the debt incurred in the construction of the new building. However as a partial consequence much has needed to be spent on the Manse and Church building, although the dramatic increase in offerings has been something for which we have truly given the Lord our thanks.
Although the Church has only been involved in limited evangelistic efforts in the neighbourhood for example the 'PACE' witness in local schools, it has been encouraging to see the Lord bringing people to the Church and we pray that the fellowship at Greenford may become so warm and attractive that many others may be drawn to us in this way.
Perhaps the keynote of Mr. Bunt's ministry over the past two years has been to promote the need for the whole Church family, young and old, to have a reality of day-to-day experience of the Lord's fullness, promoting the fruit of the Spirit and in particular that real joy of the Lord in our hearts.
In pressing toward this goal much of the work has been in tackling attitudes within the Church and a foundation has now been laid from which greater things may be achieved. There is certainly no room for complacency in any Church and often the achievements of the past, whilst great, seem small in relation to the future challenge.
David Ledster (Church Secretary, 1980)
Written by past Minister Rev. John Bunt in 1980
As minister of Greenford Baptist church, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous debt the church owes to its past members and ministers. Their faith and inspiration empowered them to continue, particularly after the destruction of the church building during the war. It is my intention, in this article, to share a vision of what Greenford Baptist Church exists for, both now and for the future.
Opportunity To Worship
The first, and most important, reason that Greenford Baptist Church exists is to provide an opportunity for people to worship God within the framework of a Free Church. What does worship mean? I believe it means–adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, meditation and dedication–all that prayer is in fact.
Those who exclude God from their lives often find they are left with a sense of hopelessness and despair. This forlorn attitude is expressed in two statements which I read recently about man. The first was "Man is a low form of cellular life on his way to the manure heap". The second, "Man is fighting a lone battle against a vast indifference". Such is the spirit of hopelessness when people exclude God from their thinking. Greenford Baptist Church stands as a beacon–a light in the middle of darkness. It offers people an opportunity to believe in and to worship someone strong, loving, serene and holy.
Opportunity To Offer Christ
The second reason that Greenford Baptist Church exists is to offer Jesus Christ to men, women, boys and girls.. I recall the story of a journalist, a lonely man, who was in despair of his life to the extent of wanting to kill himself with poison. On the way to find a place to commit his suicide, he passed a church. An impulse led him inside.
As a result of the ministry which he received inside, he came out, threw away the poison, sought the minister and subsequently began a new life. He had met with people in that church who offered him Jesus Christ as an answer to his problems. Without that witness, the man would have died in his despair.
All around are people who are like this journalist, They are unhappy, burdened with problems, repressed, inhibited and bewildered. They are unable to see beauty, meaning or joy in life. The church has something to offer that can end their loneliness, lighten their burdens and transform their lives. It is a living Saviour–Jesus Christ the Lord.
Opportunity For Fellowship
The third reason Greenford Baptist Church exists is to offer an opportunity for fellowship among all ages. One of the things that please me is to hear someone say, "As soon as I came into the church, I felt I was among friends". I want that to be true of Greenford Baptist Church. Love is the key here. It is so easy to find fault–to see where others are wrong rather than be eager to see and draw out the best in people. Love and prayers in the fellowship will make it easier for others to find God. I am quite sure that the synagogue was quite a different place when Jesus was present. If we come in the right spirit and ask God to unite the church and to give it a true sense of fellowship, the whole service will be a blessing to all who come to it.
The church is the fellowship of God's people, however old or young. The child dedication service indicates that parents are anxious for the church to be included in the bringing up of their child into the family of God. Part of this may mean the church helping in practical ways too. Often the very loveliest of God's gifts–a child–can cause parents to drift away from the fellowship because of the practical problems in bringing up children. Parents and children coming to church together will build up a strong sense of family worship. This is something which needs to be encouraged in the fellowship. The Sunday school is also a good opportunity for children to take a more definite part in church life from their earliest years.
What a wonderful thing it is for Greenford Baptist Church to serve the community by offering joy and meaningfulness of life with Christ at the centre. Without Him there is no purpose. The world offers many fleeting pleasures, many of which lead to emptiness and despair. The church can offer God, Christ, new life, true fellowship, good humour, service to the community, and through it all worship of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
I believe we are stepping out into a tremendously hopeful future with many possibilities. I call upon God's people to help by continuing in prayer, dedication, love and faith which will strengthen and build up the Greenford Baptist Church of tomorrow.
Research and original draft of the history of Greenford Baptist Church was kindly co-ordinated by the late Mr. A.J. Bosworth, one of the original founders and latterly Church Treasurer. Also acknowledged with grateful thanks is the gift from his wife May, in memory of her husband toward the publishing of this Jubilee Magazine. Produced and edited by Jean Anness in 1980. Historical photographs by courtesy of Mr. W.A. Whipps.