The Baptist cause here was started by Pastor James Thomas Cole who came to the neighbourhood in 1898 and lived at 7 Bungalow Road, South Norwood before moving to Highbarrow Road. He believed that there was a good opening for Baptist effort and started a series of open-air services on Sunday evenings at a private house in Edward Road. In this endeavour he was aided by his wife and two daughters and combined house-to-house visitation with the distribution of C.H.Spurgeon’s sermons. At the end of the summer a room was rented in a cottage and here he started his successful Sunday evening services. This was followed by a Sunday School, a Band of Hope, a Christian Endeavour Society and a Girls Life Brigade.
Several Baptists joined the work and it was decided to form an open communion Baptist Church, upon the lines laid down by the Home Counties Baptist Association. The Church was duly formed with nine members, these being:
Reverend Edward William Tarbox, Francis John Marnham, James Thomas Cole, Harry Edgar Bryant, Charles Deayton, William Henry Hunt, William Hart, Frederick Lewis Edwards and Frederick Charles Carter.
From this time the work gradually grew, until the cottage became too small. It was then imperative that larger premises be obtained.
No building being available, there was nothing else for the friends to do than to procure a plot of land and erect an iron building. After a week of prayer, this was decided upon with the help of the Baptist Prospective Sites Syndicate. A splendid site was obtained in Morland Road from a George Badham for £550. The ground was large enough to erect a large chapel and school as the neighbourhood grew. Upon this site was speedily erected an iron building to seat 264 persons; with adjoining classrooms, at a total cost of £475. The building was opened in December 1901 and from then on the work grew steadily. By 1907 the members had not only paid their way, but also cleared £283 off the debt.
Also at this time Rev. Cole moved to 25 Stroud Road, Woodside where he remained until 1906.
There is little documented history of our church; however Florrie Garth, who attended Addiscombe Baptist Church for over 80 years, remembered that as a child she used to pump the organ (in the corner where we now have a heating system) every Sunday and received threepence for this. She remembered that there used to be Sunday School in the morning before the 11 o’clock service and another Sunday School at 3pm. During the 20’s Miss Miles was the organist and there was a very active Girls Life Brigade.
During the Second World War the church was frequently closed as people were advised to stay at home during the bombings. However, Florrie Garth remembered that they had a fireman for a time as their minister.
Harry Keeble was minister at Addiscombe Baptist Church for several years during the 1950’s, though never ordained. His daughter still lives in Worthing, Sussex. During his time as minister the church had a very large Sunday School; on one occasion there was a trip to the coast with 6 coach loads of children. At this time a Mrs Lowe used to run a Ladies’ Choir.
Below is a photo of Harry Keeble and the Sunday School in the church hall (early 50’s) .
It was during the 50’s that Charlie Bannard made the communion table in memory of his mother. He also made the cross which now hangs in front of a banner recently made by our Crafts Club saying ‘Shine Jesus Shine’.
The Reverend Leonard Durrant led Addiscombe Baptist Church for more than five years before moving to the Countess Huntingdon Church at Bath with his wife Gladys.
He was presented with a radio as a leaving gift from his parishioners after the evening fellowship. While Minister at ABC he instigated improvements including the extension at the rear of the church and the new roof.
There have been many long serving members of Addiscombe Baptist Church over the years; one such person was Joan Ashman who was the church pianist for over 25 years between the 60’s and the 80’s.
During the early 80’s Mr K Knott, Mr K Clarke and Mr C Barnard were all deacons and helped keep the church together. At one point Florrie Garth remembers Mr Barnard telling the congregation that the church needed to ensure an income of £3 a week in order to keep it open.
There have been several ministers (all part-time) over the years and regular input from Spurgeons College which is situated close by. From the early 1980’s till 1996 the church was supported by student pastors from Spurgeon’s College, partly because the small membership could not afford to pay to have a minister. These included Ken Mulles, Miss Heatherton, Ken Brown, Peter Pearmaine and Phil Robinson. Bill Turner was minister at ABC during part of the 80’s. However, it became clear that a manse was needed for a future minister so the church took on the seemingly impossible project of building a house next to the church hall in Northway Road. Peter Wren played a key role as designer, architect and builder of the manse
It took 6 years to build but it was finished by 1997 and all paid for shortly after. An amazing achievement.
1996 saw the arrival of ABC’s present minister Stephen Early and his wife Gill. Stephen originally comes from New Zealand, but once he had met Gill it was not long before he followed his calling to ABC and moved into the new manse. Through their hard work and commitment Stephen and Gill have helped continue to made Addiscombe Baptist Church a very welcoming and friendly place to be.