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Christianity in Tonbridge - A time for church-building (1865-1900)

Between 1867 and 1881, there was considerable growth in building new churches, and restoring or extending old church buildings.  This period saw extensive restoration of the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul between 1877 and 1879.  St. Saviour's was built as a "chapel of ease" in 1875 and Christ Church as a breakaway Free Church of England Church in Lansdowne Road in 1874.

Congregational Church built in the High Street in 1875 Also building new churches was the Congregational Church (see right - photograph © Courier Newspapers) in 1875, later to become the 'Christ Church' present today in the High Street.  The Methodists and Baptists both built new buildings in Tonbridge in 1872.  Already mentioned were the United Methodist Free Church in 1868 and Fish Hall Mission in Hadlow Road.  Other Mission Halls included Cage Green Mission Room in 1874.  The Strict Baptists moved into their new church in Pembury Road in 1867.

Three new Sunday Schools also came into being during this period.  These were two Wesleyan day and Sunday Schools in Barden Road and Danvers Road in 1869 and a Baptist Sunday School in 1877.

The busiest years for church building were between 1872 and 1875.  In these years alone, three main churches were built from scratch, another was enlarged and two mission halls were also constructed.  According to A. H. Neve in his book Tonbridge of Yesterday, published in 1933, "it is indisputable that organised Christianity occupied a larger share in the life of the people in Tonbridge at this period than at any other time."

The 19th Century expansion of the Christian churches continued well beyond 1875, however.  Between 1878 and 1879 there was a major restoration of the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Mission halls sprang up, as did Sunday Schools.  A new Mission Hall in Priory Road began its life in 1880 and in 1883, St. Saviour's Mission Room in Seven Acre Square opened.  In Lansdowne Road the Police Court Mission was founded.

It was not only mission halls which were being built during this period.  In 1894, the first Roman Catholic church since the Reformation was built in Waterloo Road in 1894.  In 1890, St. Eanswythe's Chapel was founded by Mary Gorham to serve the needy in the southern end of the town.  The final new religious development of the 19th Century was the opening of the Salvation Army Citadel in Lyons Crescent in 1898.

In 1871, Tonbridge had twelve main churches for a population of 8189, and by 1900, there were fourteen churches and five mission halls for a population of 10,117.

The following table shows the main churches in Tonbridge and Hildenborough in 1900 together with their opening date:

Churches in Tonbridge and Hildenborough in 1900

St. Peter & St. Paul   11th Century

Congregational Church (now named Christ Church)   1751

Methodist Church   1829

St. John's, Hildenborough   1844

Strict Baptist (Zion Chapel)   1845

St. Stephen's   1852

Ebenezer Chapel   1857

United Methodist Free Church   1868

Fish Hall (St. Andrew's)   1870

Baptist Church   1872

Christ Church Free Church of England   1874

St. Saviour's   1875

St. Eanswythe's   1890

Roman Catholic church   1894

The story continues...

This is the third of four articles giving an overview of the development of Christianity and churches in Tonbridge.
The next section covers the Twentieth Century.
The previous section covered the 18th & 19th Centuries.

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