May 22 2011

History of South Harrow Baptist Church

I spotted this interesting snippet of history about South Harrow Baptist Church a few weeks back, posted – along with some photographs – on a notice board in the lobby of the South Harrow Baptist Church Hall.  Home to a number of groups and organisations in the area, it’s an interesting look back at the history of St Hildas.

“South Harrow Baptist Church” was founded in 1926. In 1928, a 380-seat church was built on the corner of Scarsdale Road. By the early 1930s, that site was inadequate, and the present site, “St. Hilda’s”, was acquired. The big old house was demolished, and a 550-seat church built. St. Hilda’s Hall, a former dance hall, escaped demolition and became the Church Hall. Mainly to accommodate the growing Sunday School, the Hall complex was extended north-eastward from the corridor steps, providing three spacious classrooms, washrooms and a caretaker’s flat. The church and school were opened on 14th December, 1935. The foundation stone dated “1928” had been transferred from the first church along with the 35 initialled red bricks set in the corridor wall, commemorating those who helped to provide the first church. The facing bricks of the “old” and “new” sections are perfectly matched. The corridor windows are the only ones in their original form. In an era when solid-fuel systems were widely used in similar premises, cleaner and more convenient gas heating was installed, with non-flued yellow-flame convectors which survived into the 1960s. However, the Caretaker had a coal fire with a back boiler!

The rooms were “Christened” in 1935. Replacement engraved mahogany name boards were made in 1984.

WILLIAM CAREY (1761-1834) Founded The Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.
KEN BUNYAN (1628-1688) Non-Conformist Preacher; wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
ROBERT RATITS (1735-1811) English promoter of Sunday Schools.
JOHN CLIFFORD (1836-1923) Baptist social reformer.
LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885) Social reformer. Attended Harrow School.

The “School Block” is still used by the Sunday School (now called “Junior Church”). It is also used by every other church organisation, and several local ones. During the war, an evening Soldiers’ Club occupied the Bunyan and Raikes Rooms, and the latter served as a temporary Post Office following a nearby air-raid. A Clinic operated in the Clifford and Shaftesbury Rooms (near the Hall) in the immediate post-war period. One of our longest-standing “lettings” is the Rooks Heath Nursery School, commenced (we think) in the 1950s. When local citizens “go to the poll”, they usually came to this building, which, though lacking the architectural elegance of the church, or the opulence of many modern edifices, does have a certain charm and a colourful history. A rolling programme of renovation ensures that we can continue to provide a safe and attractive environment for all whom meet here, in the heart of Roxeth.

DJS – January 2001

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