In October 2008, Sladebrook Evangelical Church marked its 50th anniversary at its present location in Englishcombe Lane, with an exhibition of memorabilia and old photographs that told the story of the church.
This article presents a short history of Sladebrook Evangelical Church using materials that were on display at the exhibition.
Entrance to Sladebrook Evangelical Church today
Some time in about 1902, a canvas tent was erected in the field where Southdown Junior School is now situated, and gospel meetings were led by an evangelist named Mr Fred Glover. As a result several people who lived locally became Christians. The tent was damaged beyond repair during a severe storm but meetings continued in the home of Fred and Leah Bryant at 20 Mount Road.
By the summer of 1903, discussions were being held as to the possible construction of a church building for this new group of Christians. Some people were in favour of the initiative but others were against it. Feeling the increasing pressure of the situation, Mr Bryant wrote:
My position is not to be envied, as I stand between those who wonder and urge forward, and those seeking light that prayer and forethought may lead to no regret.
Aged only 23, Fred Bryant relied heavily upon advice from Dr Maclean of Manvers Hall. Mr Bryant and Thomas Wilcox went ahead and built the Sladebrook Gospel Hall at Mount Road themselves, at a cost of £275, 9s, 9d. The church opened in February 1904. Ownership transferred to the Western Counties and South West Evangelisation Trust, and the congregation rented the building for £10 per year.
The original Sladebrook Gospel Hall built in 1904
By the 1950s, the Gospel Hall at Mount Road had become too small for all the adults and children who were part of that church. A couple of extensions had already been made but there was no further room to expand the building.
Left: Sladebrook Gospel Hall held Kerbside Corner Children’s Services near Stirtingale Road in the 1950s
Right: An old photo of the former Sladebrook Gospel Hall at Mount Road
Land at Englishcombe Lane was purchased from the King family for the purpose of building a new church.
The cheapest option was to construct a prefabricated building, but advice from Mr John W. Laing led to plans for a permanent building. A contract for £7377 was signed early in 1958 and the new church opened in October the same year. The name was changed to Sladebrook Evangelical Church soon after.
Interestingly this plot of land had been occupied during the war by an Auxilliary Fire Service, which had set up base in the outbuildings of the old Sladebrook Farm. The firefighters were local volunteers who used an Austin motorcar to convey the water pump. They performed superbly during the Blitz, travelling as far as London and Birmingham to help out.
Left: the wartime Auxilliary Fire Service that used the land now occupied by Sladebrook Evangelical Church
Right: Sladebrook Evangelical Church under construction in 1958
The new church continued to be a focal point for increasing numbers of people.
By 1962 the Primary Sunday School was attended by nearly 40 children and 5 teachers, while the Main Sunday School had 80 children and 10 teachers. The Youth Fellowship averaged 20 on Saturdays and 30 to 40 on Wednesdays. The Bible Class had 20 regulars and the Women’s Meeting averaged 48.
The church has organised many other regular groups over the decades such as: the Lighthouse Club, Young Wives, Parents and Toddlers, Covenanteers and JUCOS. An upper storey was added in the 1970s and the porch reshaped in the 1990s.
The 2008 history of Sladebrook display and toys used by the Parents and Toddlers
Sladebrook Evangelical Church’s 50th anniversary celebration was intended not just as a glance into the past, but also as a showcase of existing groups and activities. These include: the Tuesday Fellowship, the Men’s Group, the Parent and Toddlers Group, the Refresh coffee morning, a football club and a youth group.
The church has its own website which you can visit at: www.sladebrook.org.uk.