A brief history
The Congregational Church in Tonbridge was founded in 1751.
Meetings took place in a small upper room of a coach house at the back of the White Hart Inn. After 40 years, in 1791, a site was found for a new building in Back Lane, now named Bank Street. Here a new chapel, the ‘Independent Chapel’, was built and remained the place of worship for the next 85 years. During this period the Baptist members left to form their own church in another part of the town.
In 1875 a new Congregational Church was built on its current site in the High Street. At that time, the centre of activity in the town had shifted away from the Castle and market area and down towards the new railway station and depot. The church served many generations of people.
The great Tonbridge flood of 1968 had taken its toll on the old timbers and foundations and by 1976 it was clear that major re-building work would be necessary. In the meantime the church became the United Reformed Church and at around the same time the church was renamed ‘Christ Church’.
The building of 1875 had stood for 100 years, but now a new one was necessary. The biggest decision was whether to sell the prime High Street location and use the money to build a new church elsewhere or to stay as a visible presence on the High Street. It was decided by the membership that it was important to be both visible and accessible to the community, a decision that was backed by other Tonbridge churches. This decision to stay left a problem – how to fund a new building.
The modern replacement church opened in September 1978.
It was nothing short of a miracle that God provided the finances and necessary help at every stage of the work.
Nine years later, the old hall at the back of the church was demolished and rebuilt to provide the Christ Church Centre as you see it today, giving great facilities for all kinds of activities, while also providing a Christian venue for use for the local community.
For more information on church history read:
‘Bowing at the Foot stool’ – a history of our Church ‘ By John Ellis (A Christ Church Elder) Available in cafe area – 50p
‘A History of Christianity in Tonbridge’ By L M Simms
And what of today?
So, for 260 years, Christ Church has sought to serve the people of this town alongside the other churches; to worship God and make His good news known. For current information on our work and witness click the links to ‘Weekly Activities’ . Or choose the calendar option which will show more details of each event. Alternatively call into our morning cafe and pick up a magazine.
On February 21st, 2010 the Mayor of Tonbridge re-opened Christ Church, Tonbridge. The 1970’s brown exterior has been repainted and the dark one way glass has been replaced with clear glass enabling everyone to see in, as well as out. The new downstairs windows are actually sliding doors that can be opened up in the summer to allow the cafe area to move outside. There is now easier access via electronic opening doors.
The message is the same – Christ on the High Street. Accessible to all – February 2010.
Here are a few photos of the opening ceremony:
Rev. Jim Thornycroft and the Mayor of Tonbridge stand by while John (elder in charge of building project) & Eileen (eldest member of congregation) cuts the cake.
Here all the elders demonstrate how the frontage works. It is hoped to have cafe tables out here in the summer, especially if the weekend pedestrianisation goes ahead.
The new cafe area can just be seen through the open window.
Opening times for the cafe area have changed and now include £2 light lunches on most days.