The Methodist Church in South Benfleet 1856 - 2011 Part 2
The need for a new Chapel
The site and the 1877 Chapel itself were financed by Mr Christopher Walton and a stone tablet was erected to record this generosity. He also donated the Communion Plate that is still in use. the salver, chalice and flagon are inscribed accordingly. (The tablet was repositioned by the new rear entrance of the premises in March 2009).
In spite of extensive renovations in 1927 it was clear that the Chapel had a limited life. A huge crack had appeared above the pulpit and, whilst collapse was not imminent, the building was gradually becoming structurally insecure.
One site on offer for a replacement building was opposite the bottom of Vicarage Hill. After much discussion and with the promise of interest free loans, an offer was made for a 60 foot frontage at £10.00 a foot for the full site right through to Church Road (now Hall Farm Road) a depth of 360 feet. It is recorded that “the back part …being then available for sports or extension purposes”. We have benefitted greatly from this amazing foresight by the then Trustees.
By September 1930 the architect had been appointed, the tender accepted (£2750) and the contractors started work on a new Church and Schoolroom. The Stone Laying took place in September 1930 and the Church was formally opened by Mr A W Cox on 4 th April 1931.
The site of the old Chapel was eventually sold for £400.
In 1931 legislation was taken through Parliament to unite the several branches of Methodism to bring into being The Methodist Church. The new Church, comprised a worship area (much as it is now), a schoolroom with sliding doors to make two rooms (later named the Cox Room), two vestries, a small kitchen and toilet facilities. The heating of the Church itself was by a coke furnace that had to be stoked up whenever the building was to be used. In the halls and vestries gas radiators provided the heating and the lighting of them was a far from safe pastime!
The work and witness of South Benfleet Methodist Church increased as new youth groups and social activities sprang up to bring life into the new building.
As mentioned earlier, the harmonium from the original Church was moved to the new building in 1931 and provided accompaniment for the next 18 years. In 1949 a small pipe organ was given to the Church and, after some enlargement in the 1980s, it led the singing and accompanied various choral concerts, until it was found to be in need of major work at the end of 2004. It was replaced by a digital instrument in 2005, again presented to the Church in memory of two past members.