Great Leighs Free Church

 

History of our Church

 

The beginning of the Free Church can be traced back to the old Baptist Chapel at Coles Hill on Boreham Road (no longer there) which was built by Mr Joseph Tritton of Lyons Hall. Mr Tritton was the main force behind the formation of the Essex Baptist Union in 1869 and author of the hymn ‘Head of the church and Lord of all’.

Mr and Mrs Richard Gray decided that a place of worship was needed at the other end of the village from Coles Hill and one Sunday evening (14 February 1915), eight people met for worship in their kitchen at ‘Champions’ (now called ‘Campions’) in the Main Road. Numbers grew and morning services commenced on 6 January 1918. Those meetings at Champions continued for 63/4 years.

The present site was given by farmer Joseph Smith and in June 1921, an army hut was purchased. Called the Free Church Mission Hall, it was erected by members with the help of friends from other churches and opened on 7 November 1921. Numbers grew and the Sunday School roll increased to 65 – all the church and Sunday School met in the one small ex-army tin hut!

A Building Fund was started and the present church building was opened on Thursday 13 December 1934. During the building work, the congregation worshipped in a barn opposite ‘Champions’ loaned by a local farmer. The building cost £1200 and £900 had been raised by opening day. For a period of 50 years, there were only two church secretaries, Mr R Frith and Miss Olive Permain – both generous and loyal devoted workers. In 1941, Rev T H Davies, minister of Braintree Baptist Church, accepted the responsibility of honorary minister until his death in 1969.

In 1989, an extension was built at the rear of the church hall because of the numbers of young people. Soon afterwards, a piece of ground adjacent to the church was purchased for car parking.  Following the success of the Girls and Boys Brigades, a portacabin was also acquired in 2006 and placed on this land.

At the opening of the church in 1934, Mr Frith said “Our hopes and expectations have been more than realised and we thank God in  a very sincere way”. Today we too can echo his words and we thank God for His goodness, His faithfulness and His continued blessing.