Our history

General Background

Farnham Congregational Church, photographed before 1929
Farnham Congregational Church, photographed before 1929

Our present building was built in 1872 for the Congregationalists of Farnham, although they began much earlier than that.

In Tudor times the Reformation reached England, and those who believed in that movement most strongly were known as Puritans. Many of the Puritans held Presbyterian views of church order, meaning that church was governed by councils of Ministers and Elders (elected lay people), rather than by Bishops.

In Farnham we know that there were many Presbyterians, and a large proportion of the tradesmen running the town were Presbyterians. During the commonwealth, following the English civil wars, Puritans took over the established church and from 1643-1660 Presbyterian ministers were in charge of St. Andrew’s Parish Church.

Upon the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Puritans were removed from the established church, and the Presbyterian Minister in Farnham, Samuel Stileman, was ejected on Christmas Eve 1660. Initially meeting in secret, for fear of persecution, the Presbyterians eventually built a Meeting House in West Street. During the eighteenth century their cause declined, so that by 1790 there were but a handful of members.

History repeated itself in 1792, when William Alphonus Gunn was expelled from St. Andrew’s Parish Church, where his evangelical preaching was disliked. Many went with Gunn, and gathered themselves as an Independent church. They built for themselves the Ebenezer Independent Chapel in East Street, which opened in 1793. Soon after the last few Presbyterians threw in their lot with the Independents. As Farnham was being developed a plot of land on what is now known as South Street became available, and the building opened in 1873, by which time the Independents had become known as Congregationalists.

What about the rest of the premises?

Other parts of the premises are in use by a wide variety of church and community groups. There is a large hall, constructed in 1893, and a number of smaller halls and rooms built in 1929.

What’s in a name?
United Reformed Church?

In 1972 the Congregational Church in England and Wales united with the Presbyterian Church of England to form the United Reformed Church.

In 1981 the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ joined, and in 2000 the Congregational Union of Scotland also joined.

Today we cherish the equality of ministers, government by councils not individuals (Bishops), the freedom to order our church and our worship as we see fit under God, and freedom from the state in all matters spiritual.

Tour of the building

The original plans included a gallery, but this was never built, perhaps because of a lack of funds. In 1995 the gallery was eventually built, and the area under it created the space used for the Spire Cafe. Walking up the left hand side there is a stained glass window by the grand piano which commemorates two brothers – Lewis and Walter Tily – who were organists between them for forty nine years from 1870 – 1919. The main image is St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, playing an organ. She must have been very clever, as there is no music!

Looking across is the large stone pulpit, original to the building, and the organ built in 1906. The choir stalls, with their impressive wood and brasswork, date from the same time. Feel free to climb up if you wish. The font, used for Baptism was constructed in 2003 by James Richardson-Jones, with additional carving by Peter Weller, both Elders of this church.

The Communion Table and chairs are original. The brass Eagle Lectern (which is very heavy!) is used for the Bible readings during services.

Crossing to the far side of the church is the original font, preserved in safety. Alongside this is the Prayer Chapel, created in 2007 as an area always available for peace, quiet, and prayer. Feel free to stop here a while if you wish. Do admire our statue, designed especially for this space.

Walking back to the entrance, feel free to go upstairs and see the church from the balcony.

Toilets and refreshments are available in the foyer.

What about today?

Important as an historic building is, we are a living church made up of people.

We worship on Sundays at 10.30 am and 6.30 pm, with an extra service from 9.30 am – 10.00 am on the first Sunday of each month especially for children and young people. We have a number of activities for children and young people through the week, and a variety of social and fellowship activities for all ages.

We are a living church, living people in a living people, who worship the living God. Why not come and join us?