Welcome to the history of the London Road Methodist Church, Dover

 

 


 

The church, situated at the corner of London Road and Beaconsfield Road in Dover, was built in 1901 by the Primitive Methodists at a cost of £5,500. It had accommodation for 600 people.

 

Before that, the Methodists had been meeting in a cottage in Paul's Place (off Bridge Street) since 1848 and then they moved into a loft in Round Tower Lane and then a room in Brook Street. It was inh 1860 that a chapel was opened in Peter Street. But there was a rapid growth in church members and also in the Sunday School, so the building was too small for them A plan was drawn up for a new church.

 

The stonelaying (pictured above) took place on 6 May 1901 and the church was opened on New Year's Day 1902. It had 74 members and a growing Sunday School.

 

The church was built by G Lewis and Sons, a Dover building firm which had links with the church. The firm's founder, Mr George Lewis, had been very much involved with the Peter Street Chapel. When the London Road church was sold in 2016, and items were removed, some of the original wood shavings from the construction of the communion area were found beneath it!

 

The Rev Isaac Dorricott was the minister of the church when it opened.

 

Originally, as you can see from the photo on the left, there was a pipe organ on the right side of the choir gallery. This was replaced by a central organ by the early 1920s.

 

Once again, the Sunday School grew so quickly that in 1928 the building was enlarged to provide extra schoolrooms. Below were some shops, including Igglesden and Graves and the Westminster Bank.

 

Many of the men of the church served in the Second World War but the rest of the congregation continued to meet, sometimes in a reinforced basement. In September 1944, very serious damage was caused to the extended premises by a shell, and that led to the demolition of the part nearest London Road, leaving a church that could seat about 350. That land was sold to the local authority, and a lay-by was created on that side of the church, with additional street parking.

 

On 21 May 1960 the stonelaying ceremony took place for a new church hall and rooms in Bartholomew Street, linking up with the back of the church. Mr Walter S Lewis laid the stone, and is pictured with his wife Ethel, the Rev F Ronald Ducker (chairman of the London

South East Methodist District), Mayor of Dover Alderman Roly Eckhoff, the Rev William T Joyndon, and the Rev Percy Townend who was the minister of the church at the time. On the left is church steward Mr William J King, Miss Annie Hinchliffe (sister of Mr Walter Lewis and widow of the Rev Wilfred S Hinchliffe), and the Mayoress, Mrs Eckhoff. Following the stonelaying, a tea was held in the Buckland Hall just nearby in London Road. Tickets for the tea were 1s 6d, the equivalent of 7½ pence in today's money! In the evening, an organ recital by two of the church's organists, Mr Archie Lewis and Mr Don Fisher, preceded a circuit rally and thanksgiving. The new hall and rooms were opened in 1961.

 

Over the years, the condition of the church building deteriorated, partly due to the damp, and in 1998 we were faced with the decision of whether to draw up a major restoration scheme, or demolish the existing church and build a new one.

 

This was not an easy decision and, in any case, Dover District Council turned down an application for the demolition of the church. During the following few years it became clear that we could not afford to go ahead with our redevelopment plans..

 

Having become The Beacon Church (joining with our friends from St Columba United Reformed Church and Tower Hamlets Methodist Church) we decided to sell the old church building and move our services into the church hall.

 

Unusually for a Methodist Church - and especially one that began life as a Primitive Methodist Church - the old building had stained glass windows, many of them given in memory of people who devoted their lives in the service of their Lord, and of our church. And we had a fine pipe organ and many other furnishings.

 

We are delighted that we were able to remove the stained glass windows and fit them into new frames and install them, back lit, in our church hall which has helped create our new sactuary area, as you will see from the photo on the home page of this website.

 

The front of our pipe organ was removed to make an impressive surround for a new digital organ elsewhere, and the pulpit was bought by an auctioneer to be used as a new rostrum in his sale room.

 

The building was sold at auction in 2016 and planning plermission has been given for it to be converted into nine apartments.

 

For more details of the history of our church click here

 

For a list of our Ministers click here

 

For a history of the beginnings and growth of Primitive Methodism in the area click here

 

For the history of Methodism in Dover click here