2000, when the Tower Hamlets church celebrated its 150th anniversary,
former school teacher and Methodist church member Phil Brockman
produced a book on the history of the church.
His wife Sue is a lay pastoral assistant with the Methodist
Church, and has been much involved with the life of Tower
Mr Brockman recalled that in the early 1800s, the area was
practically deserted except for an odd herdsman's hut and
a few brickmakers' cottages. Its only distinguishing feature
was a brick tower built to supply water.
On 9 April, 1849, premises in Tower Street were first registered
as a place of religious worship. "The exact location
is unclear, but it was probably near the present church,"
said Mr Brockman.
John Bavington Jones, in his book Annals of Dover, states
that Tower Hamlets Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1850, and
W Bachellor, writing in The Guide to Dover in 1853, says its
principal object was "to provide Sabbath-day instruction
for the offspring of the residents of the locality.
"The School is attended by upwards of 100 children, and
Public Worship is held on Sunday evenings commencing at six."
The site for the church had been given by Dover Mayor Steriker
Finnis who laid out much of the Tower Hamlets district. He
also "contributed liberally" to the cost of the
chapel's construction, which was said to be the first provision
for the "moral improvement" of the inhabitants of
the church's history, the Sunday School has played an important
part, and thousands of children have passed through its doors
over the years. In 1879 the number of scholars reached an
all-time high of 231, with 25 teachers.
Not all has gone smoothly, of course. In 1868, the Sunday
School Superintendent called for one boy to be dismissed because
of his bad behaviour. The Teachers' Meeting decided his behaviour
did not warrant dismissal, so the Superintendent resigned!
And in 1871, there was a big debate about whether the children
should kneel or stand for prayer.
In 1870 a number of the Sunday School children died as a result
of an epidemic of scarlet fever which swept through the town.
Throughout its history, there have been constant pleas for
more teachers to help with the Sunday School work.
Those who responded have included a number of people who were
very loyal to their calling. "Granny" Newlyn, for
example, became a teacher in 1868 and continued her work until
Sister Bessie Johncock died in 1947 after giving more than
25 years' service to the church. During the war years, she
had continued the work with the children who had not been
evacuated by holding classes in the caves at the bottom of
More recently, sisters Winnie and Edith Seelly, who both died
in 2003, had been stalwart members of the church, and particularly
with the Sunday School. Winnie, who was also an organist,
had become a teacher in 1925 and Edith served as assistant
superintendent and then superintendent from 1955.
After the church closed in 2003, planning permission was
given for the building to be re-developed, and it has now
been converted into homes.