A Short History of Ash Baptist Chapel
Days before the Present Brick Building
An early record of the Ash Baptist Chapel is contained on page 104 in volume 3 of “The Strict Baptist Chapels of England” written by Ralph F Chambers in 1955. He states that “the chapel at Ash was opened in 1843 and Mr William Pope of Meopham preached every Sunday evening.” Ash Chapel, which was registered as a place of worship on 17 August 1843, was formed from the Meopham Chapel, erected in 1828, which in turn was formed out of the Chapel at Eynsford.
Little is known of Ash Chapel in the 19 century but the Chapel has a painting of the original building which was brought from Ivy Hatch in 1842 and continued in use until 1889 when the present brick building was
constructed. The history of the Chapel at Meopham entitled “The Planting of the Baptist Church, Meopham” written and published anonymously in 1866” gives further details of the founding. On pages 32 and 33 the following details are printed:- “In the beginning of the year 1843, a plot of land was purchased at Ash for the sum of £18 and during the same year a small chapel was erected thereon at a total cost including land, conveyance and building of about £120.” “In this little chapel at Ash, Mr Pope often preached on Lord’s-day evening and occasionally on weekday evenings.”
The 1851 religious census of 1851 records that Ash Chapel was a Particular Baptist Chapel built in 1843.and that there were 110 free sittings with room for 30 spaces standing. On 30 March 1851, 68 worshipers attended the evening service and that there were the usual 105 attended in the morning. However it was noted that in consequence of the death of one respected Minister (presumably Mr Pope who died in 1851), the greater part of the congregation attended Meopham Chapel.
The Permanent Brick Building of 1889
The present building is situated on the west side of the main road leading from Ash to Hartley. Originally, this road was a country lane and is now a wide road going round the large modem village of New Ash Green that was created on farm land in 1967. The chapel is a simple single storey brick building with a main room for services and a smaller room for meetings. Later toilets were added at the back. The date of its construction can. be seen on a stone to the right of the front door where there is a foundation stone inscribed “This stone was laid by W Beach Esq 10 May 1889.
Additional land to the north and west was acquired by the chapel in 1921 (now the car park and where the new building stands) and further land upon which the chapel had been built in 1923.
Unfortunately, the chapel does not have many documents which tell us of life in the early days of the brick building. The main source is reminiscences of elderly worshipers. The Women’s Institute Book of Ash, compiled in 1958, relates that in the early 1 900s, Mr and Mrs George Day owner of North Ash Farm were responsible for running the Chapel and organised a large Sunday school. Mr George Day was very prominent in the local community serving as a J P and a member of Dartford Rural Council. He died in 1943 and she in 1945 and both were buried at the Chapel.
Before the war, the great day of the year was the “Annual Recitation Meeting” when people came from surrounding villages to hear the pupils recite and sing. They also received their prizes for good attendance during the year. Good Friday was another great annual event, when the “Anniversary” was held. It started with an afternoon meeting with a speaker, followed by tea, and then another meeting in the evening. The WI book records that these meeting were well attended with people driving from miles around. Temperance meetings were held under the banner of “Band of Hope” during the winter months describing the evils of drink through the medium of a magic lantern, for example. Magic lanterns were very popular before cinemas arrived.
Cameron Clark (c1990) tells us that the Chapel prospered before the war. He continues “It was regularly filled for services that drew people from a wide area. There are still people living in the area who remember a thriving Sunday School which could fill two coaches (small ones, admittedly, for the local narrow lanes) for the summer trip to Gillingham Strand, Children’s tent missions were held in the field beside the Chapel and in the days before television they were a huge success.”
Bessie Farnell, who was born in West Kingsdown in 1920, recalls that she attended the Sunday school from about 1928 to 1934. She recalls that the elder children were taught by Mr Crowhurst of Gravesend in the back room and younger ones by Mrs Crowhurst in the area nearest the door in the main room.
The Goodwin family had also been associated with the Chapel for many years. In the Hart (the parish magazine for Hartley) for November and December 1999 and January 2000, Peter Goodwin recalls how his father told him about Aunt Amy Russell. She had come into Ash Chapel one hour late on one occasion when British Summer time had been introduced, just as they had tucked their heads down for prayer after the last hymn. The silence was broken by the rustling sound of the taffeta dress she wore. Perhaps this happened about 1916. Mr Crowhurst (the New House Farm foreman) was a stalwart of Granddad’s Baptist Chapel at West Yoke, perhaps the secretary as I remember. My father would never agree to play Sunday cricket, it seems the rest respected his views. Until I was about 4(1928) I went to Sunday school at Ash Baptist. This 1910 photograph shows the Ebenezer Chapel of Ash as both Bessie Farnell and Peter Goodwin would have seen it in their younger days.
Before the war Leonard Greenbank of Wilmington Chapel cycled frequently from there to preach at the Ash Chapel. His brother Alan Greenbank continued the family tradition by preaching at Ash in the 1970s or 1980s.
The front wall was rebuilt in July 1943, retaining the Ebenezer stone, following war damage and a new brick porch constructed. The damage was possibly caused by a high explosive bomb which landed on Butlers Place on 4 October 1940 damaging 14 houses, killing one person, injuring nine others, five seriously. The restoration work which included painting all external woodwork and redecorating the interior of the Chapel, cost £50. The work was undertaken by Sydney Day of Meopham and Dick Cullen of Istead Rise working for R Hopkins and Sons
After World War Two
The chapel remained in the Baptist fold until, after World War II. The chapel still has an account book for the period 1933 to 1964 which shows that services were continuing on a regular basis and that offerings were the main source of income, In June 1945, the family of Mrs George Day gave £5 to the chapel who had been buried at the Chapel in May of that year. Expenditure was mainly on running expenses including that for cleaning and on coal and coke for heating. The annual practice of giving sums of about £1 lOs ( £1.50) to Gravesend Hospital was discontinued during the war.
The annual Easter conferences ran by Ralph and Joan Wilkinson after the war was noted for its very good speakers. Ted Crick who arrived at Ash in 1989 was told this by elderly members.
The period after the war was difficult for the Chapel. During the war, the younger members had moved away and not to return. So the Chapel relied upon older members during the 1950s and the 1960s and as with many congregations, the chapel saw the number of regular Sunday worshipers fall. An opportunity arose in October 1967 with the arrival of the first residents of New Ash Green. Although Cyril Bennett’s job took him to Gravesend, he returned to Ash and spent many hours trying to find signs of hope and a positive reception to the Christian Gospel but to no avail.
However after further growth at New Ash Green, a small group of Christian families began to emerge some seven to eight years later and started to take a full part in the life of the Chapel. This relieved the Bennetts of some of the burden in running the Chapel. A children’s club was soon formed meeting in the house of Jenny and Stephen Palmer as the Chapel with its old wooden pews proved unsuitable for young children. Soon an additional building was acquired to cater for the children of the Sunday school but more of that later.
The internal layout was remembered by several members. The chapel was entered through a porch, which faces the main road, into a room with a high platform at the furthest end from the door. In the centre of the platform was a high pulpit with a harmonium on its right and a piano on its right. On either side of the central aisle which lead directly to the pulpit were several rows of pews which were subsequently replaced by chairs in thel98Os.
In her later years the Hartley Quaker, Miss Capper worshipped at the Chapel. She lived adjacent to Hoselands Hill, Hartley in a bungalow called the Pales. The adjacent modern road, Quakers Close is named after her. Bessie Farnell remembers Miss Capper embroidering the Ark of the Covenant for the Chapel. Before 1966, she moved to Fairby Grange where she celebrated her hundredth birthday in 1977. She continued to attend the chapel until shortly before she died aged 101.
At some time the Chapel became Pentecostal.
Arrival of an Additional Building for a Sunday School
By 1977, the membership of the Chapel had risen to about 40 and money had been raised for a new hall. In the same year, planning permission was obtained to erect a single storey building to the rear of the chapel provided a car park was provided. Fortunately the chapel had sufficient land to comply with this condition. Early in 1978, a second hand former builders’ office was located purchased and transported on the back of a lorry to West Yoke. Its purpose at the Chapel was to serve as a Sunday school for the younger members of the congregation. At first it was solely used for Sunday school.
It was used as the main the main venue for chapel services from 1997 until the “old chapel” was refurbished in 2012.
In February 1978, Carol and Cameron Clark moved from Sutton at Hone to the Chapel Wood Neighbourhood of New Ash Green. As they had no car they looked for nearest free chapel within walking distance and soon enrolled at West Yoke. When they arrived Cyril and May Bennett were the main leading lights at the Chapel, Cyril was the full time pastor in the 1950’s or 1960’s. For many years, Cameron served the Chapel as its secretary until 1991..
As Cyril was getting on in years, he was the main impetus to put the ownership of the Chapel on sound footing and worked to get the Chapel to be affiliated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. At this period, Cyril Bennett was the last remaining elder and was a secretary when it was called the Ebenezer Free Church. He died circa 1988 and left £500 to the Chapel in his will. On 23 December 1990, his widow, May Bennett died at Darenth Grange, Darenth.
When did the chapel change its name to Ash Green Chapel?
Affiliation to the Evangelical Alliance in 1982
On 21 May 1982, Ash Green Chapel was approved as a charity (number 221(S) 82) by the Charity Commission which agreed that the Chapel together with the land shall be administered and managed by the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches Limited. Later on 3 August 1982, a formal deed was drawn up declaring that the Fellowship became trustees of the Chapel. Correspondence with the Charities Commission during 1981 indicated that Mr H F Goodwin was the only surviving original trustee.
In 1982, Stephen and Jenny Palmer who had led the mid week meetings for children left for pastures new. For a while it seemed impossible to continue these meetings for children but almost simultaneously Lorna and Stephen Nolan arrived and offered to establish the girls and boys brigades.
Ash Green Girls and Boys Brigades
The 1st Ash Green Girls and Boys Brigades were founded at Ash Chapel in 1983. The Girls Brigade was lead by Loma Nolan and Boys by her husband, Stephen. A fine photograph appeared in the 24 September 1989 issue of the Kentish Times shows how extensive the brigades had become. In the autumn of 1990 both companies were transferred to Ash Parish Church. At about the same time, some other members also transferred to the parish church citing the chapels move away from the traditional methods of services.
In about 1987, the small Hartley Fellowship, started by Lois and Archie Housden in 1977 as an offshoot from the URC Church in Hartley, ceased and many of its members transferred to Ash Chapel. New members included Carol Buckmaster who is currently the treasurer of the Chapel, Una Thurman, Lorna Edmonds and Bessie Farnell.
Until a winter’s evening in early 1987, Christian gypsies and travellers, living at Swan Farm, used to worship at the Chalk Pentecostal Church near Gravesend. On that occasion, due to a child’s accident they could not travel so far and instead joined the service at Ash. Some years earlier Swan Farm, situated near the White Swan in Ash Street, had been sold by its absentee owner in around 100 “leisure plots.” As no permanent building could be erected at Swan Farm most came to be occupied by gypsies and other travellers. Amongst them were a group of over 70 Christians who became regular worshipers at the Chapel on both Sundays and mid-week. The travellers were noted for their own style of lively and enthusiastic style of worship. Ted Crick who later became the Chapel’s pastor could relate particularly well with them. They were given help in Bible study and reading lessons. These gypsies built the baptistery in the second building but by about 1992 their numbers had fallen to just a few.
People Associated with the Chapel
Mr Frank and Mrs Charlotte Crowhurst
Frank and Charlotte Crowhurst, for all their married life, attended the chapel, living at 2 Flint Cottages, North Ash. Frank Crowhurst was not a natural leader, but more a "faithful servant". During the regime of Mr and Mrs Day they were key church members: chapel secretary, Sunday school teachers, ladies’ meeting leaders and so on. Mr Day was also Frank’s employer. However, after the Day's ministry had ended, Frank Crowhurst gave oversight to the chapel, with the help of his son and daughter, Frederick and Elsie, and continued to do so until Cyril Bennett arrived on the scene in about 1939. The preaching ministry was largely from visiting speakers.
At some time the Chapel became Pentecostal?
By the mid 1930’s the Crowhursts, as a family, were key people at Ash Chapel. Frank and Charlotte Crowhurst and two of their three children, Elsie and Frederick, were all active in the work there. In the 1920s the move of the Holy Spirit in North Kent changed the direction of folks who worshipped in Longfield Bethel and the vibrancy of their meetings lit a passion in the young hearts of Elsie and Frederick. Also, Evangelist Stephen Jefferies’ revival meetings in Northfleet in the late 1920’s, had a profound effect on the Crowhurst family. Elsie and Frederick experienced a new move of the Holy Spirit, which they brought to the ministry at Ash chapel. It was said that Frank Crowhurst himself also experienced divine healing from a stomach condition, under the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth at a meeting held at Springfield Mission in Northfleet. This family was making waves at the chapel and that was the beginning of the Pentecostal experience there at that time.
Cyril Bennett’s arrival at the chapel was the result of two things; marriage to Elsie Crowhurst and World War 2. Elsie was the person who introduced Cyril to the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. His spiritual background was not Baptist at all, but he from the Strict Brethren at Brandon Hall in Gravesend, his bible understanding being largely gained there. However, as a young man, he was baptised in the Holy Spirit when the Pentecostal experience was being poured out in the North Kent area, and thereafter he moved in Pentecostal ministry. He was quite a local evangelist in his early years between the 1st and 2nd World Wars, encouraged by both evangelists George Jefferies and Smith Wigglesworth. When Smith visited Kent he would seek a band of young man to mentor in his meetings and Cyril was privileged to have been one of them.
He was a Gravesend lad but, when World War 2 broke out, he declared himself a conscientious objector and was posted to farm work and ARP duties at Ash. He and Elsie were married at that time and were housed in a tied cottage at 1 Flint Cottages, North Ash, right next door to Frank and Charlotte Crowhurst, her parents.
In the early 1950's, when the chapel was experiencing blessing, tragedy hit the family. Cyril was sacked by the farmer (no reason had to be given in those days), and had to move out of the cottage when, at the same time, his wife was fighting breast cancer. The resulting gossip in the village was a blow to the folk at the chapel, particularly as the farmer’s wife was organist for the ladies’ meeting. Fortunately, another local farmer took pity on Cyril and Elsie and supported them. Sadly, subsequently Elsie died.
Cyril never chose to be involved in ministry at the chapel but circumstance dictated his calling. He continued there for over 40 years (1940/1980) with many rocky patches, but he remained faithful, his theme always being: “Keep loving Jesus ".
It's worth noting that around 1940/1955 there was much blessing for those who were willing to go on with the Lord. There were powerful meetings: folks finding Christ for the first time, a few healings, open air preaching, Sunday school work, ladies’ meetings, cottage bible studies/prayer meetings, children's missions, conventions, etc.
As a child in the chapel I [Peter Bennett] can recall a certain tension at the breaking of bread at the end of Sunday morning meetings. Those moving in the Spirit would take the opportunity to minister their gifting, whereas the traditional chapel folk wished simply to take the emblems. Cyril Bennett was gracious and tried to steer a central path, but largely without success, and ended up being criticized by both sides. I can recall his view: something like "we are a village church and are here to provide encouragement to all who believe". Apart from the houses in Butlers Place, the chapel was quite isolated in those days.
In 1954, a coach load of people from the chapel/village went to the Billy Graham crusade at Haringey arena. Several people came to know Jesus and subsequently began worshipping at the chapel.
Here are the names of some of the people who were active in the chapel over the 1940/1955 period and after:
- Frank and Charlotte Crowhurst - retired but still serving the
Lord. Charlotte continued to lead the ladies’ meeting for many years.
- Frederick Crowhurst - elder and treasurer.
- Mrs Bathurst – key holder (Traditional chapel lady who lived in Butlers Place).
- Miss Whiffen – retired Ash Village Postmistress – a regular at chapel.
- The Young family from Hartley Bottom - Mrs Young frequently offered ‘open
- The Bush family from Stansted - Mr Bush was the pianist and introduced the
Chapel to Elim choruses.
- May Hales from Fawkham - gifted in preaching and the organist (she
subsequently married widower, Cyril Bennett, in 1956.)
- The Miles family - fervent Pentecostals from East London who regularly stayed
with Mrs Young at weekends.
- Miss Capper – a spirit filled believer who divided her loyalty between Longfield
Bethel and the chapel.
- Mrs Vera Young and her two daughters, from Hartley
- Mrs Glidewell - saved at Billy Graham Haringey crusade - loved to sing for
- Mr Heaver - a local "rough diamond" who was saved in a gospel meeting.
(His favourite hymn was "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the
- Mr George Taylor – fervent in prayer, who lived on Fawkham
- Mrs Wigmore – saved in a gospel meeting.
- Mr and Mrs Baldock – a gentle couple who loved Jesus.
- Mr and Mrs Scates - introduced a monthly family service and children’s meetings.
- Mr Bill Hollands – who came in from Gravesend.
Ted Crick, Pastor 1989 to 2001
In July 1987, the members of the chapel decided to obtain a lay preacher to serve Ash Green Chapel. Perhaps, this arose from the situation when the previous preacher, David Edgington was asked, in June 1987, not to preach for the foreseeable future. In the chapel’s letter to other organisations, it was stated that “the chapel had a varied history and had begun its life in 1842 in a deeply rural part of Kent. Just over twenty years ago, the character of the area changed dramatically when the farmland opposite the chapel was sold for the development of a new village, New Ash Green. The chapel is now on the edge of a large village of 6000 people.” “A large second hand hail was acquired about 10 years ago to allow the young people’s work to be expanded. The flavour of the church has over the years fluctuated between Baptist and Pentecostal.”
In May 1989 Ted Crick accepted the Church’s invitation to be head of the pastoral team, a position he held until 2001. In the 1989 English Church Census, the Chapel recorded 21 members in October 1985 and 24 in October 1989. The membership list of September 1992 showed 30 members drawn from an area comprising New Ash Green, Hartley, Fawkham, Longfield, South Darenth and Snodland.
A couple of years later, Ted was joined by David Dry to lead the pastoral team. David had started at the Chapel in 1992 and liked the general sense of God’s presence, warmth and strength. He like the way worshipers were given space to contribute to meetings. When he joined the main service was still in the old Chapel building which continued until the hail was renovated in about 1997. During their period of leadership, the chapel prospered. Under their leadership the style of services changed from the more formal approached of previous years to one where the congregation was encouraged to speak out and tell about the experiences in the company of the Lord.
In 1997, the second building, installed in the late 1970s for young people’s work, was refurbished extensively and converted into main meeting room. The services of the church were henceforth held in the refurbished meeting room as it was much larger. Initially, the original chapel building was used for Sunday school but latterly it remained unused. In the same year, Carol Buckmaster became the Treasurer, taking over from Steve Paddock and before him Tony Cottage.
Vivienne and Chubby Oakes were living in New Ash Green and Viv was a leading member of the Church during this period. Their professional lives were in the entertainment business and she was a renowned singer. However, a tragedy occurred in their family when in 1985 their younger daughter Julia died in a few days from natural causes.
Nevertheless, they maintained their Faith in the Lord and continued to attend and sing at the Chapel.
Joan and Ralph Wilkinson were also prominent members. They lived not far away at Fairhaven, Mussenden Lane where they hosted several social events for the Chapel. Ralph was an orphan and was brought up at Home for Little Boys at South Darenth. They also ran a site of mobile homes where Ted Crick lived.
During 2001 the popular Ted Crick retired and was given a good send off. During this period Ruth Cottage was secretary.
Richard Maiden, Pastor 2001 to 2004
The American, Dr Richard Maiden was appointed in 2001 to replace Ted Crick. Maiden, who is from Phoenix, Arizona, was staying with friends in West Kingsdown during the autumn of 2000 when there was a period of petrol shortage. For this reason he could not get to his preaching appointment and managed to visit Ash Green Chapel instead. He preached and one thing led to another and he was appointed pastor in February 2001. He was a very charismatic leader and he was good at bringing new worshippers to the Chapel. Many of these came from Dartford and Gravesend. He had a vision to reach new people and in 2002, it was decided to stop Sunday morning services and to hire Crofton Halls in Orpington for morning service and the Community Centre at Temple Hill, Dartford for evening services. However, as with previous appointments, several of the older members of the church did not like the innovations and decided to seek a fresh fellowship elsewhere.
During his pastorate, the finances of the chapel were split in two. The original charity set up in 1982 was used to maintain the Chapel building and a new one established to finance the missionary work. This new charity was called the “International Harvester for Christ” after a similar one in Phoenix. The subsequent pastor renamed this charity “The Revelation Church”. Dr Richard Maiden and his wife Carol returned to the United States in 2004.
Andrew Broughton, Pastor from 2004 - 2008
Andrew Broughton became pastor of Ash Green Chapel after Dr Maiden left. In 2006, the interior of the unused chapel building was altered to accommodate a Christian Bookshop and tea room which had recently moved from the hail attached to the URC Church in Hartley. This was part of the ongoing ministry of Alan & Diana Peck who were well known in the area for their ministry through books.
Following this the congregation has been led by a team of leaders [with Keith Archer as Lead Elder/Pastor] who have sought to find a way to serve the local community as well as remain faithful to the vision of the previous founders and pastors...
This has meant looking for ways to reach out..
We have done this by accommodating and using the Glad Tidings Bookshop with its twice weekly cafe style approach... Allowing people to come and browse pre-loved/recycled books on many subjects while giving them an opportunity to sit and talk [or not] around a table with free/coffee and a biscuit or two [or not]... Once a month the on the first Saturday of the month the opening time is extended [to 3 pm] to include a ploughman’s lunch..
We have also supported the annual New Ash Green Fete with a bookshop display, a puppet show and a prayer tent... Free Tractor rides for children [a real tractor] and taken books from the “Glad Tidings Bookshop” [see section of website] for people to see the range of books on all subjects available…
We have also put leaflets into every door in New Ash Green and Ash offering prayer support for anyone requesting specific support in this way... most recently this also included the “Journey into Life booklet”
We have also sought to refurbish the old chapel building so that it can be used for further use for reaching/serving the community and this work has begun…
The Fellowship name was reverted to “Ash Chapel” as this where we meet and how we are known locally…
In the Autumn of 2011 work began on refurbishing the old Chapel. Details of the work and photos of the progress can be seen in the relevant section of this website [follow the drop down menus]
This work was completed by April 2012… when the services went back into the main Chapel building.
The Burial Ground
Burials have taken place around t 1979, Martin Brimble of Hartley recorded the monumental inscriptions which at that time existed on both the south and north sides of the Chapel and in front on the west. Gravestones on both sides can be seen in the photograph of 1910. To the right of the entrance stood the gravestone dedicated to Mr William Salmon who died 26 July 1848. This can clearly be seen in the photograph. The latest gravestone is to Charles Young who died on 6 January 1954 and his wife, Louisa who died on 8 June 1963. Although, some of the earliest gravestones have been removed in recent years, several remain on the north side of the Chapel between the car park and the chapel. The Chapel also has a collection of 37 certificates of notification or registration of death for the period 1903 to 1990.
Both sources yield information on the families associated with the Chapel. They include :- Crowhurst, Day, Haygreen, Hoadley, King, Rootes, Whiffen and Young.