August 5th 1874, Preacher Charles H. Spurgeon took a visit to the village of Merstham for the purpose of opening the first Baptist Chapel in the area.
Little is known about the first fifty years of the Merstham Chapel, which was then situated on the Brighton Road, Top Merstham. What is know is that during this early period, and for many years to come, Redhill Baptist Church would play a big part in the running and mission work within the Merstham Baptist Chapel, with many men and women took care of the work in Merstham, including women’s fellowship and the running of a children’s Sunday school.
Found inscribed in a sealed brick pillar was a proclamation, which only came to light when the first building was demolished, which read: ‘The Chapel was erected in the months of April, May, June and July 1874 for the purpose of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, (and) of meeting for prayer and praise.’ Bible references were also made to 1 Peter 1:25, Matthew 19:20 and Ephesians 2:8. (Bible Links here)
The event that changed everything in Merstham was the decision from the London County Council to build a London overspill housing estate on the other side of the London to Brighton railway line at Merstham. Between two and tree thousand new homes were proposed, which meant the Baptist Chapel faced a radically different situation. With the help of Redhill Baptist Church, the decision was made that a leader should be appointed for the work on the estate.
June 1959 saw Merstham Baptist become an independent Church and witnessed the new foundation stones laid on the new site, with the generosity of a Sir Cyril Black. The new building was ready before schedule in July of that year, but officially opened in the September.
With a sense of sadness the old chapel was sold. However, with great excitement and a new mission, the new building was built down Weldon Way. It had been clear for a while that the future of MBC was on the estate. Adding to the excitement, a new full time Minister was appointed; Rev Ronald Ayres.
Number’s increased and a ministry grew with the children’s work, which we are told that there were many on the estate at the time: “Here, amongst the children of Merstham is undoubtedly a tremendous opportunity for the church”. (Rev J. Aubrey Moore, 1959)
In 1960 a new church covenant was written up (link to it here? Or at bottom of page?) and in 1964 the Rev John Hopper took over the work of Rev R. Ayres. During these years, it is said that the estate ‘grew up’ and was decided by the council not to place families with young children in houses on the estate. This changed things and as Rev. J. Hopper stepped down, and new Minister was appointed to met the need on the estate; Rev. Dennis Floodgate. Throughout the 1960’s the church saw a thriving Girl’s and Boy’s Brigade, Sunday School and a Senior Citizens Club.
Rev. Floodgate moved to South Harrow 1983 this saw Merstham Baptist enter an interregnum period. Rev Colin Wheeler was called and supported the church on a part time basis spending half a week at Merstham and the other at his home in Shoreham. Rev Colin Wheeler over saw the calling of Student Pastor Iain Drummond who completed his training at Spurgeons College.
Merstham Baptist then entered a further interregnum, however the membership with God’s grace carried on faithfully especially with the children’s work holding summer holiday clubs where over 40 children attended. David Harvey spent two years as a minister in the early 1990s and could often been seen on Portland Drive with an easel and paint set witnessing to the community.
A further period of interregnum followed and Merstham Baptist Church was supported by David Rose who was on the leadership at North Cheam Baptist Church following his move to Dorset and a shorter period of interregnum Rev Judy McKenzie Dunn was called to the Church where she worked tirelessly building up links with the other Church’s in Merstham and offering outreach to the youth of Merstham through Time4.
Currently Merstham Baptist Church is in an interregnum and are currently seeking Gods guidance re the next Pastor to be called.
*Much of this is quoted from looking Back With Gratitude 1874-1974 booklet.