Methodist Church – Denmark Road

The former Methodist Church in Denmark Road.
The former Methodist Church in Denmark Road.

It was approximately 1866 that the Bible Christians decided to build a Chapel on a plot of land on the corner of Lower Denmark Road and Torrington Road to serve the Non Conformist Population in South Ashford it is believed that they received a grant from the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (either cash or a gift of the land) as they did for the building of the Church of England church on the corner of Beaver Road and Christchurch Road the previous year.

During the building of the Chapel there was big storm which caused the front wall to collapse and caused a delay in the opening for a time but it was finally opened in 1868 Heating was provided by means of a Tortoise coke fired stove as was the School Room when later built. As the building had only one room all activities such as Sunday School, Society meetings fundraising events, etc. took place there.

In early 1920 it was decided to start a fund to build a School Room to the rear of the Chapel and work started on this in 1923. A loan was taken out with Lloyds Bank to pay the Builder but due to some financial irregularities repayments were not made and the congregation struggled to pay the interest only for several years. The loan was finally paid off in 1938 and electricity was installed allowing the original gas lighting to be replaced.
Once the Schoolroom was opened it was easier to hold events to raise funds but was a very difficult time.

In 1932 the union of United Primitive and Wesleyan Churches took place as The Methodist Church and the Ashford circuit of 28 Churches came into being under the umbrella of the Kent Mission and Bank Street Church became the Mother Church of the Circuit.

ln 1943 the Women’s Pleasant Hour ( W P H ) started and at this time Services were held in the morning at 11:00am and afternoons at 2:30pm as many of the older people did not like to venture out after dark especially during the “Black Out” periods of the wartime and so the Evening Service was given over to a Youth Service at 6:30pm with an average attendance of 50 young people.

Towards the end of the War it was noticed that the front wall of the Church was leaning outwards and other repairs were in need urgent attention as on occasions when driving rain was hitting the windows the congregation would have to move to the opposite side of the Church to avoid having an unwanted shower!

Despite appeals to the War Damage Commission for a grant on the grounds that an exploding flying bomb nearby had caused much of the damage they refused and so history repeated itself and fundraising started once again with a target of £400 pounds.  Bad news was to come as on closer inspection not only was the front wall leaning so badly it would have to be completely taken down and rebuilt but all the windows were so rotten that they would all have to be replaced. Added to this the floor needed replacing, and a new pulpit was required.

By this time the cost had risen to £1400 and the Church would have to close for six months. Shiphams the local Builders were appointed in 1952 and work commenced after a loan of £900 pounds was raised with the Halifax Building Society repayabie over 10 years. The reopening date was fixed for 1st September 1952.  Panic stations arose when it was realised a few days beforehand that rewiring was required and Shiphams could not find an Electrician at such short notice. Two members came forward and offered to do the work on condition that as one could not stand heights he would stand on the floor and direct the other, who was not an eiectrician, what to do. They completed the work at 1:30am on the day of the opening.

Fortunately, the loan was paid off in 4 years and this allowed, in the late 50s early 60 s, refurbishment of the Schoolroom to be carried out.  This work consisted of the removal of the old single Toilet and new Ladies and Gents installed, the Kitchen revamped and a stage area formed with a room on both sides, one of which became the Vestry. A Male Voice Choir was formed in 1956 and gave its first concert in 1957 to a packed Church.

It was around this time that a number of the Sunday School Staff decided that, rather than returning home after the children had left and then come back for the Evening Service, to bring sandwiches and stay for tea in the School Room.

As Christmas Day fell on a Sunday in 1960 a suggestion was made that we invite anybody who would be alone on that day to come and join us. We would provide a free tea and entertainment and finish with a short Service. Little did we expect this to happen every Christmas Day for 40 years, which at some stage turned into a roast dinner rather than Tea.

A booklet was produced to celebrate the Centenary of the Church in 1968 here: centenary-booklet.